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Webmailer for the Thecus

Posted by coldtobi | 30 May, 2008, 09:53
Currently I am working on my "frostynas" NAS Framework for services I personally host on my Thecus NAS. And for that I need want a WebMailer frontend.

The candidated so far are
  • sqirrelmail (http://squirrelmai.org)
  • horde Webmail Project (http://www.horde.org/webmail/)
  • openwebmail (http://www.openwebmail.org/)
  • roundcube (http://www.roundcube.net/) 
Lets start with the decission finding.
Squirrelmail -- Webmail for the nuts.

Let's quote the "About":
What is SquirrelMail?

SquirrelMail is a standards-based webmail package written in PHP. It includes
built-in pure PHP support for the IMAP and SMTP protocols, and all pages render
in pure HTML 4.0 (with no JavaScript required) for maximum compatibility across
browsers. It has very few requirements and is very easy to configure and
install. SquirrelMail has all the functionality you would want from an email
client, including strong MIME support, address books, and folder manipulation.

So the squirrel is working on PHP, which will -- of course -- take some computation power out the poor Thecus. But as my framework is also based on PHP, and my system will be used by only a few people -- and then probably not concurrently -- this is perfectly fine with me. Squireelmail is definitely capable of handling my case, as has proved to work on much bigger systems.

On point to the plus side is, that is has lots of plugins. You can find lots of interesting things there, and that also implies -- if something is missing -- it is doable to extend it to your needs.

It becomes also a calender system using one of the plugins. A Calender is also on my whishlist for the Thecus, so this would also go on the positive side.

The Horde Webmailer

Horde is basically a PHP Framwork. But they also have a Webmailer project. Webmailer is -- well -- not precise. "Groupware" would be a better hit. (I will focus on this, so if I talk about horde I am thinking of the Mail project.)

Lets also quote their features:

  • IMAP and POP3 webmail client
  • Message filtering
  • Message searching
  • HTML message composition with WYSIWIG editor
  • Spell checking
  • Built in attachment viewers
  • Encrypting and signing of messages (S/MIME and PGP)
  • Quota support
  • Keyboard navigation
  • Full character set support for folders names and email messages
  • Conversation view of all messages in a thread
  • Folder tree in left menu pane
  • Message previews in mailbox view
  • Downloading of message attachments in a ZIP file
  • Fetching of messages from external email accounts
  • Flexible, individual alias addresses
  • IMAP folder subscriptions
  • Shared IMAP folders
  • Graphical emoticons
  • Support for mailing list headers
  • Forwarding of multiple messages at once
  • Attachments sent as links
Looks good. Also if you look at the screenshots, the eye-candy is also ok. ;-)

On the otherside, the calender part uses SQL (it is abstracted to use also other (database) backends. SQL is doeable by the Thecus, but this is something I wanted to avoid: The NAS should be idle (with harddrives spun down) most of the time, and the SQL part could jeopardize this requirement.
But on the other side, the horde framework priovides some interesting add-ons, which would for sure round up the application. 


Looking at openwebmail...

One plus is, that they have a demo running here. But first also the features list:

For Users:
  • Auto Login
  • Multiple Languages/Multiple Charsets
  • Strong MIME Message Capability
  • Full Content Search
  • Draft Folder Support
  • Confirm Reading Support
  • Spelling Check Support
  • vCard compliant Addressbook
  • POP3 Support
  • Mail Filter Support
  • AntiSpam Support through SpamAssassin (http://www.spamassassin.org)
  • AntiVirus Support through ClamAV (http://www.clamav.net)
  • Calendar with Reminder/Notification Support
  • Webdisk Support
  • HTTP Compression
For System:
  • Fast Folder Access
  • Efficient Message Movement
  • Smaller Memory Footprint
  • Graceful File Lock
  • Various Authentication Modules
  • PAM support
  • Remote SMTP Relaying
  • Virtual Hosting
  • User Alias
  • Pure Virtual User Support
  • Per User Capability Configuration
  • Persistent Running through SpeedyCGI
Impressive. But the list misses IMAP. Also it is written in Perl, which is not the way I wanted to go. Nothing against perl, but  I simply do not want to leran this language at this point of time. And if I use software frequently, I also want to be able to hack on it.
Though the project is not orphaned, the website is spartanic, and not looks like from a modern, well maintained project. For example, the screenshot page is just a apache directory listing. That is not very helpful for getting a quick gasp about the project.

Summing it up, this is one candiate less.

Roundcube is a email-only suite, and was programmed to provide some application like handling. It uses beside PHP also SQL. The project does not include any other "nice to have" features.

Also, here is the project's features list:

Released features

  • Multilingual capabilities
  • Full support for MIME and HTML messages
  • Compose messages with attachments
  • Multiple sender identities
  • Basic address book
  • Find-as-you-type address book integration
  • Forwarding messages with attachments
  • Create or remove custom message folders
  • Built-in caching for fast mailbox access
  • Support for external SMTP server
  • Searching messages and contacts
  • Spell checking
  • Advanced user interface
  • Unlimited users and messages
  • Complete customization with skins

Planned features

  • Richtext/HTML composing
  • Message filters and rules
  • Full featured address book based on VCard standard
  • Import/export functions
  • Support for GPG/PGP encryption
  • Threaded message listing
  • Plug-in API for flexible exensions
Mmm, compared to the other two in the final round, this application misses some features I'd like to see. Espcially the calendar intergrated would be really nice.
Okay, so much candiated to choose from. As usual, the choice is not easy. I think, I have to try them.
Upate1: Horde runs ok on the Thecus. A bit hard to configure first, but then running ok. The IMP Mail frontend's speed is ok.
Update2: Roundcube has been previously installed by my hoster. Even if they did something wrong (You cannot delete a mail -- it just brings a error message), the interface was ok but I am not too enthusiastic.
That leaves two: Horde and Squirrelmail  

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