DIY: Deploy the Zimbra Desktop Client for a solid groupware experience

The open source Zimbra Desktop Client offers all of the email/calendaring/task/social networking functionalities that small businesses need to make a groupware solution useful.

Most small businesses don't have the budget for a tool like Exchange, and the tools within their budget don't usually offer the necessary features. One exception is the open source VMware Zimbra Desktop Client, which has many of the features that are available in the standard groupware clients and a little more. The tool can do Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Briefcase, and Social networking. The feature list includes:

  • General: Cross platform (Windows, Linux, Mac), no email storage limit, tagging system for all features, powerful filtering system.
  • Email: Connect to most POP/IMAP accounts (including Exchange IMAP), supports plain text and HTML, on-line and off-line composition.
  • Calendar: Syncs Zimbra, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail email calendars, manages multiple calendars, "fisheye" month view for quick edits, imports iCal calendars, invites others to meetings and events.
  • Contacts: Syncs Zimbra, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail email contacts, creates groups, adds photos to contacts
  • Documents/Tasks/Briefcase: Edits documents, tracks to-do progress, saves attachments in briefcase.

You can also upload files, check in files, tag files, include social network accounts, and more.

Zimbra Desktop Client was created to work seamlessly with the Zimbra Collaboration Server, but it's not limited to that one tool; you can use Zimbra Desktop Client with most POP/IMAP accounts, as well as Gmail, Hotmail, AOL, and more. If you're using Zimbra Desktop Client with a Zimbra Collaboration Server, there will, however, be even more features. Let's take a look at Zimbra as used with IMAP or Gmail.


The desktop requirements are:

  • At least 200 MB free disk space is required to install the software.
  • Additional disk space is required to download account data.
  • At least 512 MB free memory is required to run Zimbra Desktop.
  • The computer must have network connectivity at account setup and to synchronize accounts with servers.

Supported platforms

  • Windows XP Professional SP2 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard, 10.6.x
  • Linux Kernel 2.6.x and above for Intel x86 architecture
  • A variety of Linux i686 including Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, SUSE, etc.

Zimbra Desktop Client relies on under-the-hood tools that are included with the installation. The tools are a mini Zimbra server and the Java framework.


  1. Download the latest build of the Zimbra Desktop Client to fit your platform.
  2. Unpack the archive.
  3. Change into the newly created directory.
  4. Run the installer.

If you're installing it on Windows, you should double-click the .msi files to start the download process. If you're installing it on Linux, you will need to install with root access (by either su'ing to the root user or using sudo) and issue the command ./

The Windows installation is very straight-forward. The Linux installation has some unusual twists and turns. During the installation, you will be asked a couple of simple questions (EULA and installation destination). One very important question is if you want to install the user files for a particular user; select No because if you don't, the user data will be installed as the root user and the non-root user will not be able to run the application. After you answer No to the question, the installer will drop you to a prompt. As the standard user, issue the command: /opt/zimbra/zdesktop/linux/ You'll be asked the destinations for the installation and for the desktop icon; the defaults should work on both accounts.

Upon completing the installation, the Zimbra Desktop Client will launch. In this first window, click the Add New Account button (Figure A) to launch the Add New Account window (Figure B), where you can select the type of account you want to set up from these choices: Zimbra, Gmail, Yahoo, MS Exchange IMAP, IMAP, POP. Figure A

Figure B

A simple IMAP account setup
After you enter all of the details for the account, click the Validate and Save button in the bottom left corner. When there is a successful authentication, you will be greeted by your new Zimbra Destkop Client  (Figure C). Figure C

The Zimbra UI has a very shallow learning curve.

Depending on the size of your account, the initial sync could take a while. Once the syncing is complete, you can start the process of setting up your Zimbra Desktop.

In our next DIY post about the Zimbra Desktop Client, we'll focus on the social settings, the briefcase, and tagging.