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Kroupware in Your (Near) Future

Kroupware in Your (Near) Future

The name sounds like it might be a disease, but thanks to the German IT-Security Agency, KDE users will soon have a functioning open-source groupware application suite. Building on and integrating existing personal information management tools, the Kroupware project is beta testing a server component to compete with Microsoft Exchange. The suite will be integrated into KDE 3.2.

The K Desktop Environment is still the most popular Linux desktop, included in all the major distributions and the primary desktop in SuSE, Mandrake, and other popular distributions.

A consortium of German and Swedish firms (Efrakon, Intevation, and Klarälvdalens Datakonsult) got the contract in September 2002 to produce a free software groupware application allowing German government entities using both Linux and Windows to communicate with each other.

With a tight timeline, the consortium opened up the development process quickly. The Kroupware project launched on September 10, 2002. The goal: to create a mail server that Microsoft Outlook could connect to from Windows, and to enhance the existing KDE tools (KMail, KOrganizer, KaddressBook, and KNotes) to work with the new server.

The Kolab server went beta in English and German December 9, 2002. Kroupware developers met at a "hackfest" in Osnabrück, Germany the first weekend in January to make final decisions about the future of personal information management in KDE and make progress toward the final release. This release should be out in the next few weeks.

So What Does It Do?
The Kolab server stores messages in IMAP folders and delivers them to the user's e-mail client, whether that is Outlook on Windows or KMail on KDE/Linux. This allows users to read and process e-mail offline, then synchronize with the server later. Because the mail is stored on the server, it doesn't take up permanent space on the user's PC. Kolab also stores a private contact list for each user and a public address book (using LDAP) accessible to everyone on the server.

On the client side, KDE users will benefit by an integrated KMail and KOrganizer. Now you can create a calendar event or to-do item from an e-mail message and attach the message to the item. Kolab maintains the calendar as well to allow anyone to organize meetings, check other people's calendars, and invite them to participate. Users can add private events to their calendars to indicate when they are unavailable for meetings without telling the whole world about their kid's soccer game or inviolable lunch hour. Kroupware supports Palm HotSync, so you can download e-mail, tasks, and events to your PalmOS PDA without hassle.

One unfortunate result of the timing of the project is that the Kroupware functionality was not ready for the release of KDE v3.1. Kroupware is already incorporated into the current development cycle for KDE, and will be in v3.2, due later this year.

Can't wait? You can download Kolab Beta 1 from ftp://master.kde.org/pub/kde/unstable/server/kolab/kolab-1.0-beta1. Experts at dealing with unstable apps who want to try out the KDE client with the enhanced components should visit the HOWTO page at http://kroupware.kde.org/howto-kolab-kde-client.html.

Oh, and about that name. Since almost everything related to KDE (which is, after all, the K Desktop Environment) has a name starting with K, it seemed natural to the original development team to simply replace the G in "groupware" with a K. Almost immediately, people started suggesting replacements. To date, none have caught on, and January's hackfest never even discussed a name change. So Kroupware it is.

For more information on the Kroupware Project, see http://kroupware.kde.org.

More Stories By Mike McCallister

Mike McCallister is a freelance Linux writer based in Milwaukee and is constantly on the lookout for interesting documentation projects. Mike is the author of Computer Certification Handbook (2000, Arco Press).

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