Zimbra Improves with Sharing, Device Compatibility

By Troy Dreier
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Zimbra Inc., the company behind the all-in-one hosted messaging and collaboration suite of the same name, has just released the product's 4.0 version. An already strong product, it's now even more useful with online document creation and mobile device compatibility.

Zimbra, based in San Mateo, Calif., was founded three years ago. It provides customers with a browser-based office communication system that includes e-mail, contact and calendar functions, all wrapped up in a colorful, easy-to-use interface.

While it works through a browser — including Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari on a Windows or Apple computer — it uses Ajax for rich interactivity, making it easy enough for even the most techno-phobic person in your organization.

Zimbra screen shot
Zimbra Documents lets you create rich, sharable documents right in your browser.
(Click for larger image)

The biggest improvement with this new release is the addition of Documents, which lets you create shared docs directly within Zimbra. These documents can than be read and even edited by other people in your company. If that sounds a lot like a Wiki , you're right. As with other companies we've seen, Zimbra is avoiding the word "Wiki," since it tends to frighten people off and sounds more complicated than it is.

Working with Documents is flexible since you can change the basic font and formatting settings, add images and embed HTML links. You can set the sharing level on each document so that everyone in the organization can or let only select team members view it. You can also share with people outside the company, by providing them with a URL for that document.

There's a little room for Documents to improve, though. One thing you can't do with them is save docs to your desktop. There's no check-in, checkout system and no way to take documents with you, which is a nuisance. There's also no file manager view and no versioning system, which would let you see when changes were made and even roll back to a previous version.

A representative told us that the product is actually in beta, something not mentioned on the site or in the press release, and that there might be changes in the gold version when it's released in a couple of weeks.

Zimbra Assistant
To get information into your Zimbra suite quickly, use the new Zimbra Assistant. Call up this pop-up helper by pressing a hot key, and then begin entering the contact, appointment or note that you want to save. Don't worry about formatting, the assistant figures it out.

The Zimbra suite includes a collection of helpful mini-apps called Zimlets, and with this release more useful Zimlets have been added. There are now ones that access Google's translation engine, check flight and travel info, send SMS messages, and subscribe to RSS feeds. Zimlets are accessible from any Zimbra page and are as easy as they are useful.

Zimbra has also announced the release of Zimbra Mobile, which lets remote workers plug into the company Zimbra system using most popular smartphones, including the Motorola Q, Nokia E series phones, products running the Symbian OS, Palm models and Windows Mobile devices.

The BlackBerry can also connect, but only with the help of a third-party add-on. By using Zimbra Mobile, workers can get access Zimbra e-mail, calendar and contact information anywhere.

The standard Zimbra package starts at $18 per user per year, while the advanced package starts at $28 per user per year. There's an open source version, but that doesn't include technical support. The company offers a 60-day free trial. If you're looking for an instant collaboration system for your intranet, give Zimbra a try.

Adapted from intranetjournal.com.

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This article was originally published on October 03, 2006
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