In the third and final instalment of the Zimbra Adventures blog series, we focus on the deployment and use of a Zimbra instance to facilitate easier calendaring and scheduling.
We detail how to setup an IMAP and CalDAV communication protocols to connect your Zimbra mailbox to the Thunderbird desktop email client, and how to access the Zimbra mailbox and calendar from a mobile device. We also demonstrate how to link the calendars of both applications for collaborative and shared calendaring functions. This guide assumes that you have already setup a working Zimbra instance and have installed the Thunderbird desktop application. We recommend that you have some emails in your Zimbra mailbox and events in your Zimbra calendar before you begin; this will make it easy to tell if your connection with Thunderbird has worked.
The first step is to connect your new Zimbra mailbox to Thunderbird using IMAP. IMAP is the communication protocol that allows an email client to communicate with a mail server and retrieve your messages from it, which is what Thunderbird will be able to do by the end of this process.
From your Thunderbird interface:
After entering the required information, Thunderbird will display the settings it found at the email provider. These settings likely require modification:
Now that you have connected your Thunderbird client to your Zimbra mailbox, the process of using CalDAV to connect your calendars is simple. Ensure that you have enabled the Lightning Calendar extension for Thunderbird. This extension has been a standard feature of Thunderbird since 2011, and should already be present on your Thunderbird client.
Now your calendar will appear in the left-hand column in the Lightning Calendar tab. If the connection has worked properly, the calendar should immediately have a checkmark in the box next to it, and should sync any events you had in your Zimbra calendar with your Lightning calendar. If something went wrong, the calendar name will still appear in the left-hand column, but will not have a checkmark beside it and will appear faded. If this is the case, we recommend that you begin the calendar connection process again and double-check that the URL for your Zimbra calendar was entered properly. If you are unsure about whether or not the connection worked, make an event in your Zimbra Calendar and then refresh Thunderbird/Lightning; if the connection was successful the event will appear in your Lightning Calendar.
Once your calendar has been connected, you will have a two-way connection between your Zimbra account and your Thunderbird/Lightning client. You can now add a calendar event through either of these interfaces, and it will appear in the other almost immediately. Any changes you make to existing events, whether this be adjusting the time, location, or cancelling an event completely, will also be reflected in both interfaces. When making or editing events, ensure that you have selected the proper calendar to display it in, as you will have multiple options.
To have a shared collaborative calendar with all of the users on your Zimbra server, from your calendar tab in Zimbra:
If a shared calendar where all users on your server can see each others' events doesn't appeal to you, you can still use Zimbra and Thunderbird for free/busy scheduling. Zimbra will automatically track all users' schedules regardless of whether or not they have shared their calendars with others. This means that when you invite another user to a meeting in either Zimbra or Thunderbird, their scheduled events will appear as either busy or scheduled time blocks, indicating when they are free.
Scheduling is further simplified since your email account has also been connected. Now, when you create an event in Thunderbird and invite other users to attend, they will receive an email with an iCal file. This allows the recipient to respond to an invitation, which will automatically add that event to their calendar if accepted. The recipients can also reply by suggesting an alternate time, resulting in the original sender receiving their own iCal file to respond to. This automates much of the scheduling process associated with setting meetings, and ensures that you and your invitees are all on the same page.
Utilizing the same IMAP communication protocol that CalDAV relies on, we can connect a mobile email client to your Zimbra mailbox. This will allow you to access your mail from anywhere and respond to iCal meeting invitations from your phone. These were features that StormFree needed for our users, and we chose to use an application called K-9 Mail to enable them. K-9 Mail is a free app made by K-9 Dog Walkers, and can be found in the App Store on iOS and the Google Play Store on Android.
After downloading and opening the K-9 app:
Now you will be able to set your notification preferences, and enter a name for the account that will appear in sent emails (your own name). Your email account will now appear in the app's main screen. Hit the "+" symbol at the bottom of the screen to add additional accounts. By doing so, you can consolidate your work and personal email accounts in one easy-to-access location on your mobile device.
Now that you can access all of your email from your phone, the last step is to make your calendar fully accessible and interactive from your mobile device. To do this, we recommend using an application called CalDAV Sync Adapter, made by gege and available on iOS and Android. The following steps were taken on an Android device, but setup should be similar on a device running iOS.
Once you have downloaded and installed the application:
Now you can add, delete, and edit events in your calendar straight from your mobile device, and any changes will be automatically reflected in both Zimbra and Lightning.
This toolstack is a free and open source service so you can accomplish this entirely without paying subscription fees. You can also accomplish this using a non-community edition of Zimbra.