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anyways... here's the underlying problem:
I have been playing with an open alternative to exchange server. i have seen things like SuSE's open exchange, and the likes, but this does not accomplish my goals (free 'n' easy)... i have been trying to find a software solution to run on a linux server that will allow outlook calendar/contact sharing.
being open minded, i have found an alternative solution to the calendar problem by using ical files and both phpIcalendar and mozilla sunbird -- just share a calendar directory on samba, and it works great.
but i have not found a similar solution to the contact problem. moreover, exporting calendars from outlook to be converted to ical format is mostly easy... contacts, from what i've been exploring, is not.
the end goal:
find a cheap-as-free solution to the calendar/contact sharing functionality of exchange server, and be able to convert existing outlook users to this soultion without data loss...
As far as I'm aware there isn't really a complete, viable replacement for Exchange/Groupwise/Notes that is Open Source. If you look at the OSDL Website (the big industry consortium for Linux) you should find the study that they did last year on finding an Exchange equivalent, and they couldn't find a full solution.
I think that the issue you've hit is there is a file format standard for storing contact data (vCard), but there isn't a dedicated network protocol for sharing the data, so the methods are specific to each client/server combination. Outlook supports vCard, so you can probably get the data out that way, with scripting to automate the process.
All of the viable-looking Open Source groupware products I have seen are Web server products, and there is no integration with a client - it's all done through the Web interface. Evolution plug-in infrastructure, Sunbird and Chandler are all in early stages, so there isn't a fully fledged client that can be integrated with yet. The closest Open Source answer is to probably to dump the idea of having a client and switch to a Web-based system. FWIW, as far as I can tell the most credible of the zillion Apache/PostGresQL/PHP Open Source groupware products are eGroupware and The Horde.
The answer SUSE/Novell, Sun and IBM would give you is "use our particular proprietary groupware product".
Lots of people are hoping to see some solution, so if you do proceed to a successful migration, please, please document it !
i thank you for your mention to vcard -- that is the road i've been looking at going down... i can see that outlook contacts should be able to be exported to this format (one at a time using outlook, though)... but i hit a snag trying to find a windows application to make use of vCards...
said application would need to have functionality to save in vcard format automatically, and preferably utilize a directory structure for orginization...
i've seen applications for vcards/windows, but all that i've seen requires DB connectivity, and info must be exported to get the actual vcard... which seems like an unnecessary step to me, and the end result i seek...
and in regards to migration off exchange, just so everyone watching is on the same page... i'm not looking for a full exchange replacement, per-say... what i really want is to migrate to open standards -- hence ical/vcard...
the e-mail i can handle other ways, but i need client-side ease of use for calendar/contact sharing... that's the real goal...
I vaguely remembered that Outlook's vCard support was odd, which is why I suggested scripting - presumably you could write some VBA or VBScript that runs through a Contacts list and exports each item in turn.
As I said, the options for clients are work-in-progress - I know that the Mozilla programs have an addressbook, but I've heard that it isn't fully-featured enough to replace Outlook, and Chandler is some way off being ready. There's Evolution, but obviously you have to run UNIX rather than Windows. There is a project for porting Evolution to Windows, but that hasn't released anything yet.
Chandler might be particularly interesting to you - it's a cross-platform desktop app with peer-to-peer data sharing. The mastermind is Mr. Lotus (Mitch Kapour), Website is here:
I've been looking for a similar solution myself. Not so much specifically for Outlook, but some sort of server that would allow access to contacts and calendaring anywhere and specifically would provide iCal support with the intent of getting my calendar into Apple's iCal so I can sync it with my Palm.
I've not found anything that addresses all of these for free. Some things I've looked into:
LDAP: All of the big email clients support using an LDAP addressbook for address lookups. The nature of LDAP is that it's meant to be read often and edited rarely - as such, there's not a ton of database editing tools out there. I've yet to find a good "end user" addressbook manager (rolodap was the only one I could find and it's not been maintained to keep up with the latest libs). PHPLdapAdmin is a good LDAP database editor, but it's not for the timid. Several of the more popular groupware packages (eGroupware is one I've tried) will read from the LDAP database, allowing you to access the addressbook from any web connection. LDAP installation and configuration is a bit daunting as well. It took me a few weeks to wrap my head around the concepts and get a working install. There was a thread on Slashdot many moons ago about moving Outlook contacts into an LDAP database: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/26/1917255
eGroupware (http://www.egroupware.org): A nice groupware application with a variety of optional plugins, can read contacts from and LDAP database. Both iCal support and Outlook syncronization are in progress, but I dont expect either to be ready for many months. eGroupware installation is fairly easy, they've got great documentation and support. Getting it to talk to LDAP isn't too difficult. I had eGroupware working in a couple of hours.
Open-Xchange (http://www.open-exchange.org): This is an open source/commercial product that supposedly supports iCal for calendars and vCard for contacts. There is a free version with these features, or a pay version with extended features and support. There's also an Outlook and Palm syncronization plugin for ~$20USD. Open-Xchange relies on webdav, Java and Tomcat, which is a hassle to install due mainly to licensing restrictions on Java. I haven't tried this out yet, but it's on my list. I wish they had a demo site.
Horde (http://www.horde.org): Horde is another piece of groupware with many plugins. I'd run it in the past for webmail, calendaring, and task management before I had the data exchange requirements I have now. I remember it being a bit of a hassle to set up on OpenBSD, but that was a while ago and that was OpenBSD . Supposedly, there is an LDAP module that will enable an LDAP addressbook. According to the web page, it looks like you can edit the LDAP database from within Horde. Maybe it's time to re-evaluate this.
What are other people using? I'd love to find an all-in-one solution.
I'm now evaluating solutions for a fairly large deployment, and will probably recommend Horde.
I think that Hula is really going to hit the spot for most people - easy to install, cross-platform, self-contained and the code is proven to scale to very large deployments. It has SMTP, IMAP, webmail, calendering and contact components. Client integration is a stated priority. Unfortunately it's still being developed and isn't stable or complete yet.
Since there won't be a stable release of Hula in time for this particular project I've had to look at the other software, and the Horde is the closest. Still a Web interface without client integration though. It does require a fair amount of setup, because it has lots of prerequisite PHP modules and the setup screens assume that you know what the settings do - it won't work with default settings. I've been writing notes as I go along which are here: