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Open Source AJAX Webmail 311

scrasher writes "It seems AJAX webmail is all the craze. Right on the heels of both Microsoft and Yahoo launching beta versions of their new AJAX webmail clients, an Open Source startup RoundCube has released an alpha of a GPLed AJAX webmail client. While there are still many features missing (like search!), the demo they have is completely cross-browser compliant and overall very impressive."
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Open Source AJAX Webmail

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  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:13AM (#13781395) Homepage Journal
    For anyone who wants this fix, I made a q&d change to the folder listing code so that it truncates long folder names in the middle so that they don't run over and screw up your display. I submitted this patch to the author a month ago, but it hasn't made it into the trunk yet I guess. []

    Roundcube is pretty neat, but it still has some bugs. The IMAP client caches everything so that it is faster on subsequent tries, but on large mailboxes it can be a real pain the first time. It makes for a good program to hack on though. Its just what I've been looking for to replace squirrelmail on [].
    • by mottie ( 807927 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:00AM (#13781784)
      I have just installed it for the first time, but it appears that the caching portion is completely optional.
      // enable caching of messages and mailbox data in the local database.
      // this is recommended if the IMAP server does not run on the same machine

      $rcmail_config['enable_caching'] = FALSE;

  • Zimbra (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cally ( 10873 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:19AM (#13781432) Homepage
    There's also the Zimbra [] product, which is open source. It's on my list to eval - the Flash demo (see the webpage) looks pretty slick.

    Ajax is the first genuinely new thing I can think of this century.

    • Re:Zimbra (Score:2, Interesting)

      Ajax is not a technology in itself, but a term that refers to the use of a group of technologies together. (
    • Re:Zimbra (Score:3, Informative)

      except that is just another fancy name for a bundle of not so recent technologies
    • Re:Zimbra (Score:3, Funny)

      by Red Flayer ( 890720 )
      "Ajax is the first genuinely new thing I can think of this century."

      Wow, that's a hell of a thinking block... I've managed to have several new ideas since 1999. :)

      "Quick, better to live or die, once and for all, than die by inches, slowly crushed to death--helpless against the hulls in the bloody press--by far inferior men!"

      Telamonian Ajax, The Iliad, Homer
    • Re:Zimbra (Score:5, Informative)

      by fak3r ( 917687 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:32AM (#13781537) Homepage
      Zimbra is pretty much full featured, and does allot more (AJAX wise and otherwise) than Roundcube. Give it a look too. Having said that, Roundcube is basically one person, and it's a very impressive project in that regards; nice clean UI, and a somewhat new way to deal with 'webmail'. I see Zimbra as being a great comapany (all stuff is 'ZPL' btw) but Roundcube should attract some devs now, and I expect it to be a real nice 'light' solution for us home mailserver folks.
    • Re:Zimbra (Score:4, Informative)

      by Wornstrom ( 920197 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:39AM (#13781607)
      I would recommend that you use a system that has some horsepower. I installed Zimbra on a p4 3.0 Ghz HT 1GB ram box (my workstation), and experienced some heavy load. Not only that but it takes the liberty of rewriting your firewall ruleset, so I wouldn't use an existing system without being prepared for service / connectivity interruptions (linux gateway/firewalls). Sure, it is still in beta, so I will give it that excuse, I couldn't imagine releasing the horde on it for production use yet. If this one doesn't require all sorts of backends, I might give it a try.
    • Re:Zimbra (Score:3, Interesting)

      by porneL ( 674499 )
      Ajax is the first genuinely new thing I can think of this century.
      AJAX is not a new thing. It's new name for technologies of last century. Read Hixie's post [] about how old and inappropriately named AJAX is.
      • Re:Zimbra (Score:3, Funny)

        by hey ( 83763 )
        Good luck changing the name of AJAX to REST.
      • That post argued that AJAX was an inappropriate name because it was a new name for a collection of older technologies, and finally proposes we call it "XML and script" instead. That's a really generic term, what about being more specific like Asynchronous Javascript and XML? And if that's too long to say you could shorten it in to an acronym, like... AJAX!
    • Good lord, this thing needs a dedicated server practically. Slick as hell, but it sure takes a lot of liberties with your box. That's right, I'm not the market for this product... This roundcube thing is right up my alley.
    • Re:Zimbra (Score:2, Funny)

      by qray ( 805206 )
      New? I remember my grandmother using it clean her sink.
    • Actually, AJAX was last century. They only thing "this century" about it is the name. (and the fact that it is finally just now gaining widespread popularity, i suppose)
      • Widespread popularity is a very important distinction. While the automobile was invented in the late 1800s, everyone thinks of the automobile as a product of the early 1900s. I think "product of" is actually more important than when it was originally invented.

        Also, a good name for something can have a serious impact on its popularity. (For one, it makes it easier to communicate about it.) And a good name in this case is more about having a clear (and hopefully easily-expressed) meaning, much more than the n
  • by jbellis ( 142590 ) <`moc.rednelbeganrac' `ta' `nahtanoj'> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:19AM (#13781441) Homepage
    When you stay "startup," it makes people think they're trying to start a business around this. They're not, at least not from what I read. It's just one guy's project on sourceforge.
  • The big question is: Does it run on Lynx and Links?
    • Re:Cross-browser? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by narrowhouse ( 1949 )
      Actually that is a good question. AJAX is great but it needs to gracefully fall back to solid useable HTML for clients that can't handle javascript or whatever.
      • Browsers that don't handle JS? That's so "last century"...
      • > Actually that is a good question. AJAX is great but it needs to gracefully fall back to solid useable HTML for clients that can't handle
        > javascript or whatever.

          And they also need to fall back to printed paper for people without computers. And spoken word for people who can't read.

        Javascript is an accepted WWW standard. There is no reason for any app developer to not use javascript to his heart's content.


        • by DrYak ( 748999 )

          There is no reason for any app developer to not use javascript to his heart's content.

          Ultra-light hand held clients.
          Like a lot of other people, I do use my Palm to surf the web.
          Some browser for Palm don't have all the bells and whistle like full Javascript etc.

          For some application, like E-Mails, there's (thankfully) still alternate ways to use content that are handheld friendly : E-Mail POP/IMAP software.
          But there other application that are only accessible from the website, like train timetables. And if the

        • Ever read this [] thingy? Or any of the other publications from this w3c thing?
          They pay a lot of attention to ensuring things keep working, and dgrade in a nice gracefull way instead of just borking.

          And yes, in 2005 there are still quite a few relevant browsers that do not support JS, and which would be extremely usable with a webmail application still. This concerns virtually all browsers on handheld devices.
        • Re:Cross-browser? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by booch ( 4157 )

          Javascript is an accepted WWW standard. There is no reason for any app developer to not use javascript to his heart's content.

          That's ridiculous. JavaScript may be a standard, but that doesn't mean that you should expect every user's browser to support it. How about blind people using screen-reader? How about search engines? Don't you want them to be able to read your page? (Well, perhaps not if it's personal email sitting behind a login screen.)

          And may I remind you that the whole basis of AJAX - XMLHttpRe []

        • Depends who you target with your Web site. I am in the biotech field and there are lots of companies and not too few large University hospitals having ultra-paranoically configured firewalls and Web proxies that just strip your nice javascript code from the Web request. So if you target a population like that you have to have a reasonable fallback or it means using and pissing off lots of visitors/customers etc.
        • Javascript is an accepted WWW standard.

          By whom?

          • Actually, he should have said ECMAScript, which is what is referred to as JavaScript.

            It's standardized and accepted by the ECMA (European Computer Manufacturor's Association)

            Standard 262 []

            And the W3C provides a binding specification for it: for example []

            So, yeah, it very much is an accepted internet standard.
        • Real-life counter-argument:

          From time to time, I have to surf the web via my PSP.

          Yahoo Mail does not work with my PSP.
          GMail does, since it gracefully degrades if you don't have JavaScript.

          Despite my preference for my yahoo account (Had it forever), Google now gets my business.

          Consider this: With tools for the disabled, those who turn JavaScript off, and lightweight clients, about 10% of the surfing world is incapable/unwilling to use JavaScript. If I were a business, I wouldn't want to turn away 10% of my cl
    • Re:Cross-browser? (Score:2, Informative)

      by freshman_a ( 136603 )

      The big question is: Does it run on Lynx and Links?

      Although the summary states that it is "completely cross-browser compliant", RoundCube's website lists it as having been tested with Firefox, Opera, Safari, and IE. Some people still do use Lynx and Links.

      Anyway, I tried it with Lynx and Links and didn't have any trouble logging into the demo. However, it appears that the Compose, Reply, Forward, etc., commands are all represented as images without alt tags, because I was shown the folder list and a bunch
  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:20AM (#13781449) Homepage Journal
    A new record?

    Free, open-source AJAX webmail--it seems we've discovered the secret formula to get slashdotters to read articles!
    • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:27AM (#13781494) Homepage Journal
      Ack! The one time I'm around early enough to make a comment like that and it turns out it's not down. (Or if it was, they recovered quickly.) In any case, it looks great. And being MySQL-based, the big missing feature--search--should be pretty easy to add. In fact, all I've ever wanted was an SQL query window I can run against my email--`select * from inbox where (sender='mom' or sender='dad') and date>20041225 and date20041230 and subject like '%party%'`
      • And, of course, the one time I don't preview is the one time I have a '<' for slashdot to swallow--there's supposed to be one in 'and date<20041230'
      • If you have a Gmail account, next to the search buttons there's the "Show search options" link that opens a query form that does all that and some more :) If you don't have a Gmail account I can give you one ;)
      • If the only parties you attend to are with your mom and/or dad, you won't need a database to tell you there are 0 results if you do:

        WHERE sender_gender='F' AND sender <> 'mom' AND subject like '%party%'

      • And being MySQL-based,...

        Fortunately, it is MySQL-based. Imagine what might have happened to the poor thing if it was SQL-server based instead...

      • I agree that it looks spiffy, but I'd name another missing feature: PostgreSQL compatibility.

        Leaving aside all ranting about PG's superiority, most folks should be able to agree that if you already have a working database server installed it's not desirable to install another just to support one product.

        The PHP+MySQL mix actually seems like a good idea for starters - most shared-hosting packages will have this out of the box. But when you consider how simple the SQL is for something like a webmail client,
      • This is where having an understand of where IMAP, SMTP, and POP3 are very helpful. MySQL is only used for storing preferences and very limited amounts of data relating to user specific settings in RoundCube. The actual mail retrieval and sotrage is all handled via IMAP. This means that this program is really nothing more a stand alone mail client, only as a web application. SMTP pushes mail around. It is then stored somewhere. On Unix type systems that is typically maildir or the mbox format. Then IMAP and
  • Unfortunatly, I can not try the demo because the mac specific Mozilla browser - Camino- is not supported. I may be able to spoof my browser and access the mail client without any problems but isnt that what we are trying to get away from?
  • Irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by karvind ( 833059 ) <karvind AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:24AM (#13781482) Journal
    Does anyone else find it ironic ? The contact email address is : roundcube@AJAXgmail.comREMOVEAJAX
  • This really looks cool, but is it as extensible as Squirrelmail?

    We have found that we can extend Squirrelmail to present a very lite webmail presence, yet keep the functionality simple so that basic features will still work in a syncronized fashion with a heavy remote client (IMAPS).

    Roundcube still needs some kind of anti-spam integration and automated signup routines, but we will certainly keep an eye on it.
  • AJAX Security (Score:2, Informative)

    by webappsec ( 854813 )

    AJAX Security []
    • Re:AJAX Security (Score:3, Informative)

      by booch ( 4157 )
      First of all, I don't see much security-related content on that site. Second, the issues that are raised all seem to be issues in non-AJAX web development as well.

      For example, in AJAX Considered Harmful [], using HTTP GETs to change state is a well-known no-no. (Google Accelerator recently broke some sites that violate this principle, but it's been known since at least HTTP 1.0 times that infrastructure would break sites that were coded incorrectly.) But XMLHttpRequest supports POSTs (and PUT, and probably all
  • what communik8r? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    communik8r [] beat yahoo, hotmail and roundcube with the idea. Sadly it looks like it has stalled. It shows a lot of promise when I played with it, but it was way too unstable for production.
  • by WhoDey ( 629879 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:35AM (#13781568) Homepage
    ...but am I the only one who still prefers pine? []
  • by nuxx ( 10153 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:40AM (#13781618) Homepage
    I just installed it, and it seems pretty slick thus far. I think they still have a few things to add beyond search, namely:

    - Server-side sorting so that all messages don't need to be downloaded in order to view, say, the 15 newest.
    - Special folder support, such as Junk, Sent, Trash, etc. Currently send mail just goes off into the ether.

    Other than that, I'm pretty impressed. I personally currently use Squirrelmail [] for my webmail needs, but it feels a bit clunky. If they can meet Squirrelmail's features (at a minimum) I can see this being used all over the place. I find the use of a DB for things like user/session/whatever management to be a bit odd, but at least actual files don't have to be used then.
    • by rabel ( 531545 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:46AM (#13781669)
      I haven't yet installed it, but it sure looks slick. Damn, and the installation requirements are just this simple. 1. Decompress and put this folder somewhere inside your document root 2. Make shure that the following directories are writable by the webserver - /temp - /logs 3. Create a new database and a database user for RoundCube 4. Create database tables using the queries in file 'SQL/*.initial.sql' 5. Modify the files in config/* to suit your local environment 6. Done!
      • I did install it, and it is slick-looking. Off the top, it needs collapsable folder display and either a 'next new' and/or 'show all new'. Oh, and the folder list should scroll independently of the display area.

        Otherwise, not a bad start!

    • Agreed. Squirrelmail really isn't cutting it for my needs any more. But even more than that, I really need server-side rules to sort my messages into folders for me. The only web-based app I've seen that does that is Horde's Ingo [], which works with Sieve [].
    • it does look slick, but they obviously took the icons from OSX.. i wonder if they realise the legal implications of that..
  • Went ahead and tried it out, it's not bad looking at all. Has a way to go to replace some of the other webmail clients I've used (currently using squirrelmail on my server. Nice, simple, straightforward) but the install was quick and easy and it does look pretty. Might could use a howto on the mysql part for newbs, but I didn't have any trouble and I'm still pretty new to mysql myself. Does seem a bit slow on low-bandwidth servers like mine, but might be my fault.

    Definitely keeping an eye on this, though
    • I have to agree. It took about 3 minutes to get up and running after the download on my linux box. Those just starting out will probably need a bit more time. A setup program would be in order, either via browser or just on the command-line.

      Definitely more eye candy than SquirrelMail - - (which hasn't had a real update in how long?), but the initial hit on the IMAP server did go quite slowly. I'm running UW IMAP and it looks like the RoundCube backend doesn't know enough (not a dig at a
  • AJA not AJAX (Score:4, Informative)

    by minddog ( 460206 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:55AM (#13781738) Journal
    Whats commonly confused in the community, if there is no client-side xsl transformations using the browser, their is still interface load. This is not a true AJAX imap client, it is an AJA, and the xml is rendered server-side to xhtml standards.

    If you are interested in a pure implementation that has been around longer thats true ajax, check out []

  • by Nate Fox ( 1271 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @10:57AM (#13781759)
    Anyone got a somewhat comprehensive list of AJAX Webmail packages? Doesnt have to be only OSS.
  • Yes, this does look very impressive. I thought the ideal use for this would be: an extension for Mozilla Thunderbird that installs a web server so you can use this interface to access the email on your home computer when you're not there. Would this sort of thing be at all feasible? Because if it were, it would really be a killer feature!

    For a while now I've been using the web server interface on eMule, which is designed very nicely and really adds functionality.

  • alt tags (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mottie ( 807927 )
    another thing it's missing is alt tags. it has a bunch of pretty buttons at the bottom of the screen, but i have no idea what any of them do. i'm guessing one of them is the logout button (as i can't seem to find one) but i have no idea.
  • by cbovasso ( 608431 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @11:23AM (#13781976)
    From the Demo:

    Too many users!
    Please check back later!

    I love how simple it is to navigate! The features leave something to be desired though. Hey check me out, I just wrote a CNet review!
  • AJAX or not, that's a pretty sweet GUI on that gal.

    Excellent work, I will definately try out this mail client on my web site!


  • If the demo site is currently overloaded, has it changed significantly from the way it was a month or so ago (when I first saw it posted in a /. comments thread)?
  • by jerkychew ( 80913 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:05PM (#13782245) Homepage
    Kerio MailServer [] is a nice Exchange replacement that runs on Linux and Mac OS X. It has a really nice AJAX webmail app that is a feasible replacement for a desktop app. It's not free, but it is cheap, and it's not Exchange :-)
  • Nice to see (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ndansmith ( 582590 ) on Thursday October 13, 2005 @12:32PM (#13782446)
    This makes me wonder (quite on the other side of the coin) if Google will ever sell a stipped down version of Gmail for deployment on private systems. I know I would love to secure a gmail-type AJAX mail client. Luckily now it looks like that will happen for free before too long. Still, I think there is a lot of money to be made for Gogle if they sell the software.

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