Hands On: Yahoo Zimbra Desktop

Don’t feel like shelling out extra for a version of Office with Outlook? Yahoo’s Zimbra Desktop, announced today, is a free desktop program that syncs with a variety of Web-based e-mail clients. Compatible services include Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, and other POP/IMAP accounts. I used Zimbra to connect to my AOL and Yahoo accounts and took it for a brief spin. Here are my first impressions: It’s Not the Smallest Download on the Block At 38MB for Windows (and 34MB for Apple), it’s huge compared to the 6.4MB Mozilla Thunderbird (also free). That’s not deal-breakingly large, but Mozilla’s program is clearly more space-efficient. Dead-Simple Setup After clicking through an onscreen wizard, configuring e-mail accounts was as simple as typing in our username, password, and clicking Save Settings. Pointer: if you check the box “Sync all server folders” the program might run more slowly if your inbox has a large volume of messages. It’s remarkably simpler than Thunderbird’s setup, which asks you to specify the incoming and outgoing servers, which confuses even us sometimes. Easy-to-Learn Interface Do Gmail’s grouped conversations and hidden reply and forward buttons ever piss you off? Google users will find Zimbra’s interface intuitive and refreshing. Designed much like Outlook, it has a white background, with a left hand pane of folders, including, most prominently, your inbox. In the left-hand pane you can also click on various e-mail accounts to display their inboxes and folders. Most of the icons are labeled, and those that aren’t have rollover text so no guesswork is required. Also like Outlook, there’s a large space in the middle, with messages listed on top and a reading pane below. In the top nav, you’ll see tabs for organizing contacts, tasks, documents, and calendars. Although Thunderbird’s interface is cleaner and easier on the eyes, it’s mainly a mail program (organization? not so much). Integrated Web search Here’s something Outlook and Thunderbird don’t have: an integrated search bar with options for Web and local searches. When you do a search, it automatically appears as a new tab in your default browser. Early Verdict Although its interface isn’t as pretty as Mozilla Thunderbird’s and it takes up more space on the hard drive, Yahoo Zimbra is a good choice for people who want a free solution that also doubles as an organizer. It’s also dead-simple to set up and works with almost every e-mail client you’re likely using. Those are our first thoughts; stay tuned for a review.

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  1. peaceonearth1 Says:

    The Zimbra Desktop client, which is still in Beta, is slow and sluggish and takes 165k of RAM! The downloaded file was more like 50MB.

    It cannot display both the date and time that an email was received at. It shows the time for emails for that day day and the date only for all others days.

    On the other hand, it automated the transfer of my Yahoo mail, in Folders, to GMail, using Labels instead of Folders.

    You win some and you lose some!

  2. well... Says:

    I have used both thunderbird and zimbra. I like the zimbra desktop for its feature set. And I will admit the setup is a little easier than thunderbird, but on an aging xp machine (~512mb of ram) the zimbra desktop will infuriate its user with its lack of responsiveness (I uninstalled within a week). However, my thunderbird is lightning fast and has the ability to search/surf the internet (contrary to the article above. The feature is in an add-on called thunderbrowse.) btw: I find the extensibility of thunderbird extremely useful, but with a new laptop on the way I am seriously considering zimbra again.

  3. Paul Says:

    Thing is, Zimbra is only capable of pop/smtp or imap with Exchange, whereas Outlook can connect to a properly set up front/back end Exchange server with full MAPI capabilities.

    btw: RAM is cheap, I just put 4GB of to quality Kingston RAM in my laptop (3.37 usable on 32-bit OS) for $80 including taxes and s&h.

  4. polocanada Says:

    As of March 2010:
    Zimbra is a very impressive and mature product. Liked the integrated search as well, it’s like wow.. this is what I was looking for. Besides the comments above with memory etc, all all true. Thunderbird has a automated configuration process for web email accounts, which in my case didn’t work for Yahoo, so I ended setting up it manually. Might be confusing for many people since it is trial and error even for myself. In Zimbra it’s a breeze. Very well done. Another difference is in mail box design for multiple accounts. The mailbox is Zimbra is different than Thunderbird, in Z. the accounts are separate, with in/out box trash etc.. In Thunderbird, the mailboxes are listed under each of mail core folders (inbox, outbox etc). It’s a matter of preference which one you like. However, for me the clear winner is Thunderbird. Here is why: If you have accounts like Yahoo, which allow you to not only forward email to different account (even another Yahoo account) you will appreciate the option to handle SEND-FROM (identity/allias) option in Thunderbird. Let’s say you have one yahoo account where email from other 2 yahoo accounts is forwarded. In Thunderbird it’s much easier to select identity (send-from) than in Zimbra. Sure, you can do this in Zimbra as well, but you have to manually configure the identities. Selecting identity is much easier in Thunderbird with add-ons. And this is where Thunderbird has an edge over Zimbra. There are 100s of add-ons for TB to choose from. Some of them have been specially designed to handle identities for incoming email and associate the right identity for replies. That’s where TB is a clear winner. So unless you work for a company which has Zimbra Server, I would recommend TB over Zimbra.

  5. polocanada Says:

    By the way VM Ware acquired Zimbra from Yahoo in January 2010. Who knows where they are going to take it from now, but I see it becoming less a consumer product. Thats’s a good move at a bargain price from VMWare.

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