Now that domain names are priced in nickel and dimes, it is absolutely irresponsible for a brand not to have a custom email address. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t cost much to set up your own webmail. Eons before Gmail, Google Apps and Outlook Web Access, open source webmail solutions like SquirrelMail were widely in use.
Introduced in 1999, SquirrelMail is a pioneer of open source webmail but sadly its UI is still stuck in the Web 1.0 era. Considering how boring office email communication already is, employees could use a breath of fresh air. Notable among the new age open source webmail software is Roundcube and join me after the jump for a installation & features walkthrough.
Roundcube is an open source, browser-based multilingual IMAP client with a gorgeous Web 2.0 user interface. It provides full functionality you have come to expect from an e-mail client, including MIME support, address book, folder manipulation, message searching and spell check.
Roundcube is available in 67 languages with a desktop-like user interface which is easy to install/configure and runs on a standard LAMP server.
Setting Up the Mail Server
Download and extract the installer script that fits your server configuration. Extract the files in your computer and name the directory to align with the sub domain you have created or based on the naming conventions used in your server.
Adding a Database
Navigate to the folder named Config and rename the two files – db.inc.php.dist & main.inc.php.dist – to db.inc.php and main.inc.php respectively. Now these files can be edited using a text editor. Create a new database that is compatible with Roundcube (MySQL, PostgreSQL, SQLite or MSSQL database) and add the username, password & localhost information as per the syntax.
As the next step, open the main.inc.php file using the text editor and set:
$rcmail_config[‘enable_installer’] = true;
Now we are good to go. Upload the folder to your webserver using a FTP server.Once the upload is complete, point your browser to http://domain.com/installer to begin the installation.
RoundCube Webmail Installer
In the first step Roundcube check if all the installation requirements are available in you server. If there are any deficiencies, the script will warn you and you can fix them appropriately.
Accessing the Inbox
Roundcube Webmail Inbox
Once the installation is done, be sure to rename or delete the Installer folder. Once you have done that, type in the domain where Roundcube is installed. We will have a login screen waiting for us. Enter the login credentials along with the IMAP server address and we will be taken to the stellar Inbox.
Roundcube webmail has a familiar three pane user interface. The left pane supports unlimited folders and you can drag & drop emails into folders. HTML emails and inline image viewing are fully supported.
Composing a Message
Composing a message
Compose window can be toggled to use a WYSIWYG editor or a plain text editor from the drop down at the lower left corner. With the WYSIWYG editor, you can add styles to the text and add images inline.
Attachments can be added while composing the message. Uploading attachments happen by browsing for the file & uploading it and Gmail like drag & drop is not supported. However, Gmail like sending emails using multiple identities, without having to switching the accounts is possible and can enable from the Settings page. Unlike other popular webmail services, with Roundcube you can set priority to a message and request for a read receipt.
Incoming messages can be subjected to multiple filters to avoid clogging the inbox. Rules of the filter can be applied to the address fields, subject lines, body of the text or a combination of all of these just like in Gmail.
Eventhough Roundcube is in version 0.4, it is stable and can be used in production without any issues. Since it runs on top of a LAMP stack, it is very much affordable and can even run from an age old machine inside a corporate firewall.
A complete admin control panel, import/export functions, keyboard shortcuts & PGP encryption are in development and if you are very particular about these features then Roundcube may not be right for you. On the other hand, if you are tired of the feature less, dinosaur era UI theme, then you will find Roundcube to be an Oasis in the midst of the webmail desert.