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Is it really that hard?

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 30 May 2011.
Planet PHP
It's 2011. Computers are here for a couple of decades now, but they still don't help me with the most simple problems. I've been asked once again about a recommendation for a GroupWare and still don't know what to say. This are the simple requirements:

Manage my Mails, Calendar, Contacts, Files, Knowledge (Wiki) and ToDos (including IssueTracker). Let me synchronize these informations with mobile devices and for offline work. Allow collaboration and sharing.

I started professional programming in 2006 with the eGroupWare project, which provides the above functionality more or less, but I still can't recommend it. Neither could I recommend any other system I know of (Tine 2.0, OpenGroupWare, OpenExchange, Horde, Kolab, ...?) since they violate one or more of my secondary requirements:

  • a maintainable code base (this rules out PHP IMHO)
  • free software (there's certainly enough to earn with support/service for such a system!)
  • no relational database! they're just not made for this kind of data or why do you think system X allows only for N numbers of mails/addresses/phone numbers per contact?
  • reusable components / libraries
  • no dependency on antique technology (yes, I mean Kolab depending on Cyrus)
  • and as the cream: easy installation at least for test setups


This kind of software is on the top position on my Things-To-Do-When-I-Have-Time. But on the other hand I know that many have already started such projects and either they did not deliver sufficient functionality or there code base is a PITA.

Yes, I'm ranting once again. But please show me a decent GroupWare and I'll praise you on any occassion!

Or should I make this my project for my bachelor thesis: A Contacts+Mail server/web frontend in Scala using CouchDB, Dovecot? What do you think?