Zimbra is a free, open source software webmail system that was developed by VMware of Palo Alto, California. Zimbra was extensively tested at NCF during 2011 and rolled out as NCF's new e-mail system in February, 2012.
Zimbra replaced the old "Messenger Express" interface which was becoming unsupportable due to its age and also which did not support modern mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets very well.
The Zimbra mail system provides many features not previously available at NCF. For a brief rundown of some of those features, read the Introduction to Zimbra page.
Accessing the Zimbra Web Client
The standard webmail features are all there - read, reply, compose new e-mail, and manage addresses. However, Zimbra has much more to offer.
There are three versions of Zimbra:
- for users with slow connections such as dial-up (no spell-checking)
- for users with highspeed (with spell-checking that can be enabled at Preferences→ Mail→ Composing→ Mandatory spellcheck)
- for phones, tablets and other mobile devices using 3G and other phone networks for connection
You can select between standard and advanced versions at Zimbra Preferences→General→Login Options.
Zimbra should automatically detect mobile devices and provide the mobile version to them.
Zimbra includes a large number of built-in help files that explain many features and how they work, which can be found at "Help".
Zimbra doesn't look right
If the Zimbra webmail interface doesn't look right, with elements overlapped, "squashed", interfering with each other, or just plain don't work then the problem is likely that you are using a very old browser, such as Internet Explorer 6, 7 or 8, Firefox 3 or similar old browsers. Zimbra has a modern web-standards-compliant interface and will display properly in modern standards-compliant browsers.
Zimbra has been tested and works very well in the current versions of the following browsers:
- Apple Safari
- Gnome Epiphany
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Mozilla SeaMonkey
- SRWare Iron
All of these are recommended for use with Zimbra.
Testing with Internet Explorer 9 and 10 has shown that these browsers don't always display properly even though Zimbra is standards compliant and IE9 and 10 are both supposed to be standards compliant browsers as well. If you are using IE9 or 10 and and Zimbra doesn't display properly do try one of the browsers listed above - they are all free downloads.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 10
Microsoft Internet Explorer 10 Is a very problematic browser for displaying standards complient web pages, like Zimbra. After extensive testing, NCF's system administrator concluded that it acts very erratically, sometimes rendering Zimbra right and other times not. He concluded "clearly IE10 can't be safely used with Zimbra right now".
There is a workaround that might work for those who do not wish to switch to Firefox or Chrome. If Zimbra does not appear to load correctly in IE10, try the following steps:
In IE, press F12 to activate Developer Tools. Or select it from the options menu:
Then click on 'Browser Mode' and set the browser mode to Internet Explorer 9:
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 and other very old browsers
If you try to sign into Zimbra with an old web browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), which was first released on 27 August 2001, you will get a warning page like this:
If you proceed anyway by clicking "Skip To Webmail" you will find that it loads the "standard" version and that many features don't work, like pane resizing. Also, in our testing, trying to use features such as adding attachments results in the browser crashing.
Zimbra in IE6:
Basically IE6 is too old a browser to use with modern webpages and services, such as Zimbra. Get a newer browser, such as:
- Apple Safari
- Gnome Epiphany
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Mozilla SeaMonkey
- SRWare Iron
I can't find my messages, or I can't see the message size!
Zimbra by default groups messages into conversations, just like Google's Gmail does. This is called "By Conversation" and can be confusing to people who have not used this before. In some cases, you won't see as much detail for each message.
In conversation view you can expand a conversation (collection of related e-mails) to see the individual e-mails, by just double clicking them. You can then restore them to a single conversation by clicking "Inbox" again. You can also show them by clicking on the arrow on the left side of the conversation to open the list of messages and then click the arrow again to collapse them. Conversation view actually works quite well once you get used to it.
If you are having trouble with conversation view, try changing the view to the more traditional "By Message" view.
Message size (in KB) is now shown in Zimbra for all messages when in "by message" view and single messages when in "by conversation" view. In "by conversation" view when a conversation consists of more than one message Zimbra will show the number of messages in brackets under "size". The message sizes can easily be seen in "by conversation" view by clicking the left arrow for the conversation, which expands to show each message and its size.
Zimbra enables a number of language choices at Perferences→General→Login Options.
The advanced version of Zimbra includes spell-checking, which can be selected on at Preferences→Mail→Composing→Mandatory spellcheck
Users with slow connections, using the standard version of Zimbra, who desire spell checking should use a browser that provides built-in spell checking, such as:
or basically any modern browser except Microsoft Internet Explorer.
By default, your Zimbra account has a single calendar, named "Calendar". You might want to add some basic things, like Canadian or US holidays, or maybe you have a Google calendar you'd like to view.
For step-by-step instructions on adding calendars, see Zimbra: Google Calendar.
Contact and Calendar Sync
Zimbra provides CalDAV and CardDAV services for 2-way synchronization of contacts and calendars. This allows you to benefit from network-accessible calendars viewable in the Zimbra web client while still using your favourite native clients.
Examples of clients that support CalDAV (for calendar sync):
- Mozilla Thunderbird (with the Lightning calender extension)
- Mozilla Sunbird
- Apple iCal
- Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod
Unfortunately, Microsoft Outlook does not include support for CalDAV. Windows users will need to use a specialized calendar app (eg. Mozilla Sunbird), or consider switching to Mozilla Thunderbird.
Examples of clients that support CardDAV (for contacts sync):
- Mozilla Thunderbird (w/Zindus extension)
- Apple Address Book
- Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod
Generally, the details are as follows.CardDAV URL:
Note that the final bit of the URL is important, it denotes the name of the Contact or Calendar folder. If you have a Contact folder named "Work", the URL would be:
If you have a Calendar named "Soccer Practice", the URL would be:
Zimbra address book
Zimbra includes an address book with no limits on the number of addresses you can enter.
See Zimbra: Thunderbird Contacts for information on synchronizing lists of contacts in Thunderbird and Zimbra using the Zindus add-on.
Contacts can be imported into Zimbra from other e-mail clients quickly.
Save the contacts from your existing e-mail client in a common Comma Separated Variable (CSV) format, such as "Outlook Contacts". To import them into Zimbra go to Preferences→Import/Export→Import. From here you can click though to the CSV file, designate what type of file format it is in (ie "Outlook Contacts" format) and then which address book you want the contacts to go into, such as "Contacts".
You should note that some formats work better than others. For instance if you are exporting an address book from Gmail to import it into Zimbra, do not use "Google CSV format" as it will result in all your Zimra contacts having no names attached to them. Instead, export the contacts from Gmail in "Outlook CSV Format", and then import them into Zimbra as "Outlook Contacts".
Every e-mail address that you exchange e-mail with will be automatically saved under "Emailed contacts". You can leave them there or transfer them to your "Contacts" address book by going to Address book→Emailed contacts→ Check name to be move→"Move selected item" (folder with arrow icon)→ select address book.
To delete contacts in Zimbra just go to Address Book→Emailed Contacts (or Contacts)→right click on the desired email address and select "delete". Alternatively you can also check the contact to be deleted and then click "delete".
If you don't want new contacts added to "Emailed Contacts"
By default Zimbra collects the addresses of new people who you send emails to to in "Emailed Contacts". If you don't want it to do this you can select it off at Preferences→Address Book→Options→uncheck: Add new contacts to "Emailed Contacts".
If you already have collected email addresses in "Emailed Contacts", you can delete them at Address Book→Emailed Contacts→Ctrl+A→Delete. You can also move all these contacts to you address book by selecting them all and them right click→Move→Contacts.
You may want to export your contacts to install them in a different mail client, such as Microsoft Outlook, or just to back them up. You can export your contacts in Comma-Separated Variable (CSV) format by going to Preferences→Import/Export→Export" and then selecting what to export (contacts), format (for example Outlook Contacts) and then the source Contacts or Emailed Contacts. Note that the general selection of All Folders is inoperative and will produce an error "Not allowed to export from root folder for this type".
Composing an e-mail with formatting
E-mails can be composed in plain text or in HTML. HTML allows underlining, bold text, changing text size and font and other formatting to be used.
To select HTML as your default for composing an e-mail in the advanced version of Zimbra go to Preferences→Mail→Composing.
To select HTML as your default for composing an e-mail in the standard version of Zimbra go to Preferences→Composing→Compose→As HTML.
Adding addresses to a message
In Zimbra addresses can be added to an outgoing e-mail message by typing the address in manually or by clicking on "To", "CC" or "Show BCC" and then "BCC", which opens your address list and allows selecting the addresses.
Adding groups of addresses to a message
Adding a group of contacts to an e-mail is easy in Zimbra. First create a contact group, by going to Address Book→Emailed Contacts (or Contacts) and then select New→down arrow→Contact Group and complete the form to select members and name for your group. When composing an e-mail you may now select the group as if it were a single address, by clicking "To", "CC" or "BCC" in the e-mail.
Saving and sending drafts
Zimbra allows saving partially completed e-mails so you can work on them and send them later. When you are ready to save, just click "Save Draft". When you want to work on the e-mail again select the "Drafts" folder, double click on the e-mail and it will open for editing. When you are ready to send it just click "Send", or "Save Draft" again to continue working on it later.
Adding an attachment is very simple in Zimbra. In the message composition view just click on "Add Attachment" and select where the attachment is to be added from your computer, your briefcase or your contacts. When located click "attach" and the attachment will be sent with the e-mail.
Once attached, an attachment can be omitted from being sent with the e-mail by simply unchecking the attachment in the message composition view.
Requesting e-mail receipts
Zimbra has the capability to request receipts from the person receiving the e-mail. To enable this for a specific e-mail being composed, while editing the e-mail go to Options→Down Arrow→Request Read Receipt.
Zimbra allows sending from registered Email Alias. When composing a message simply click the down arrow under "from" and select which address Zimbra should show the message as coming from.
Using NCF disposable e-mail addresses
Disposable e-mail addresses that you create on the NCF website can then be managed in Zimbra from Preferences→Accounts.
Have Zimbra get your e-mail from other accounts
Zimbra can get your e-mail from your Gmail, Hotmail or other POP or IMAP accounts. You can set this up at Preferences→Mail→Account→External Account Settings.
Of course you can always go into your external account and just it forward you mail to your NCF e-mail address as well.
Changing your "from" name used in outgoing e-mail
Zimbra allows changing who the e-mail is from, so you can show only your first name, last name or any other text you like. To select this in Zimbra just go to Preferences→Accounts→Primary Account Settings and enter your preferred text.
One of Zimbra's strongest features is its ability to find e-mail, people in your address book, briefcase items and other things using its built-in search function. No more manually poring though your inbox, sent message lists or trash for messages!
To search for something just enter the search term (for example, an e-mail address) in the search box on any page. Select where you want to search on the pull-down menus (All Item types, Mail, Contacts, Appointments, Files and can include shared items) and then click "search".
Searches you want to run again in the future can also be saved, by just clicking "save".
The "Advanced" button gives access to more advanced search features, allowing you to narrow down a search by date, domain, flagged status, etc. To cancel the advanced search just click the "Advanced" button a second time.
Searching for unread messages
Zimbra makes it easy to list your unread messages. In the Zimbra mail search box enter "in:inbox is:unread" and this will show all unread messages in your inbox.
You can also click on 'Save' to save the search, and call it "Inbox Unread". Next time you want this search view, I just click on "Inbox Unread" under saved searches.
When an e-mail arriving in Zimbra includes an attachment this may be downloaded and then opened by reading the e-mail and then in that view at the top of the e-mail, between the addresses and the text, by clicking on "Download". You can also choose to "Remove" it from the e-mail or send it to the "Briefcase" for saving or sharing.
Zimbra indicates an attachment but the e-mail doesn't have one
Zimbra may sometimes indicate an attachment is present when the sender has embedded a small file in the e-mail, like an emoticon. When the receiver tries to locate the attachment it seems to be missing, but it is actually there, embedded in the e-mail. ;-)
In the example below Zimbra shows an attachment, but the e-mail only has embedded emoticons. Also because the e-mail contains no text, the "fragment" preview feature only shows [?] for each emoticon.
What's That "Find Shares" link in the Folders?
The "Find Shares" link allows you to quickly find and add folders that have been shared by others with you.
NCF provides 200 MB of storage with your e-mail account. For the average user this is probably enough for three months worth of mail, so you may want to keep some mail and delete other items. Some members have been storing mail they want to keep in their "Trash" file. Even though the trash file does not count towards your 200 MB, the problem with doing this is that if you empty the trash then it is gone. It may make more sense to save the e-mail that you want to keep in a new folder.
New folders are easy to create, just click on the new folder icon in the folder pane, as shown and then name it and decide where to put the new folder in relation to the existing folders. The illustration below shows where to click to create a new folder and shows a new custom folder that was created called "Archive".
By right clicking on any existing e-mail message you can select "Move" and send it to your new folder for safe keeping.
The current NCF implementation of Zimbra has the spam control, found at Preferences→Mail, disabled so that e-mail messages will not be delivered to Junk folders, or otherwise blocked when sent through from NCF yellowmail.
Showing message headers
Headers for e-mail can give you a lot of information about where the e-mail came from, like its originating IP address. To see the raw header text: mouse over the message title→right click→Show Original and the raw headers will open in a new text-only browser window.
Setting vacation messages is not recommended for security reasons. Complete information on this is found in the Tips (Email) article.
Currently NCF provides 200MB of storage space for your email. When you use this up you will want to delete some old and large messages to make room for newer ones. The easiest way to do this is to sort the messages in each folder by size and then delete the largest ones, normally those with lots of attachments.
This is most easily accomplished by using the "Reading Pane At The Bottom" view, as it allows sorting by message size. This is the default view, but if you are using another view you can switch to this view at View→Reading Pane At The Bottom.
Once you have this view, sort by message size in each folder, by clicking Size and then selecting the arrow down to show largest at the top. The messages you want to delete can then be checked in the check-box on the left of the message line and deleted, but clicking delete.
To complete deleting email, you will need to check all the email folders you have and delete any messages desired.
Recovering deleted e-mail
E-mail that has been deleted from Zimbra or that has been taken off the server by a POP client can usually be recovered at Trash→right click→recover deleted items.
By default Zimbra shows a mini calendar in its bottom left corner. If you want to turn this off you can at Preferences→Calender→Always Show the Mini Calender→uncheck.
Zimbra allows you to share files or access your own files remotely via a briefcase. For complete information see Zimbra: Briefcase.
I don't like the way Zimbra looks
Then change it. Zimbra has 16 themes you can choose from, ranging from dull and serious, to whimsical, to bold, like the Hot Rod theme shown below. Next time you sign in Zimbra will remember your preferences and display your chosen theme.
To select a new theme go to Preferences→General→Login Options→Theme and chose one from the pull-down menu. They mostly look like what they sound like.
Incidentally if you try them all and forget which one is the basic default theme, it is called Carbon.
Why is it called that?
Rumour has it that Zimbra webmail and the Zimbra Collaboration Server is named for the Talking Heads song I Zimbra and that the song is in turn an adaptation of Dada poet Hugo Ball's poem "Gadji beri bimba."
Other pages with information about the Zimbra mail client:
- Introduction to Zimbra - the basics and how-to screenshots
- Zimbra: Google Calendar - information on using Google calendars in Zimbra
- Zimbra: Thunderbird Calendar - information on importing a calendar from Zimbra to Thunderbird
- Zimbra: Thunderbird Contacts - information on synchronizing lists of contacts in Thunderbird and Zimbra using the Zindus add-on.
- Blackberry PlayBook - configuring for email
- Graph of the current NCF mail queue backlog