I'm setting up a Debian server, and one of the things I need on it is an MTA. I don't want to use something like Exim or Postfix because I want something that ties in SMTP, POP3, and IMAP all in one (a la Microsoft Exchange). Most MTAs also seem to be hellishly difficult to configure. Try and read the Exim documentation; you could do a university degree on it (I'm not kidding).

When you can get an HTTP server like Cherokee which is easy to configure and has a nice web interface, do MTAs or groupware solutions need to be that hard? I'm aware that some people think "the Unix way" is to have lots of different interacting pieces of software (like maybe an SMTP MTA, POP3 service, webmail service, and overarching manager to tie them all together), but I think this is a situation where that just makes things a lot harder to deal with and one large software suite fits in much more nicely. So, I'm looking for good open source software suites that will run on Debian that:

  • Combine (at least) SMTP, POP3, and IMAP
  • Are easy(ish) to configure
  • Have a nice configuration web interface or GUI
  • Are not defunct projects

I don't mind if it's groupware and offers calendaring too, but I would only be using the e-mail functionality for now. Another nice-to-have would be built-in webmail (if we're combining a bunch of functionality, why not?)

The suites I've found so far that seem to match the above criteria (and have appropriate licenses) are Citadel, Kolab, and Zimbra. I'd appreciate anyone who has experience with any of these giving me the pros and cons of them, such as how easy they are to configure and what their performance is like. I'd also appreciate any other suggestions for solutions that fulfil my criteria that I may have missed out.

  • 1
    "Combines SMTP, POP3, and IMAP" -- why? This violates the single responsibility principle. A tool that does everything simply does not fit in the Unix/Linux state of mind.
    – gertvdijk
    Dec 5, 2012 at 11:39
  • Well I think that principle has its place, but in this instance it's just downright annoying. I don't want to bother configuring 3 pieces of software to get what I consider to be full e-mail functionality (SMTP, POP3, and webmail). So yeah, in short: screw that principle. :-)
    – Jez
    Dec 5, 2012 at 11:56
  • Most Groupware software I have used on Linux are mostly just a gui on top of a Postfix, MySQL, Dovecot/Courier stack. Eg Zimbra and SOGo both very good by the way.
    – squareborg
    Dec 5, 2012 at 13:08
  • Most..... but not all. Most software in this area is, IMHO, crap.
    – Jez
    Dec 5, 2012 at 13:17

2 Answers 2


In the Unix/Linux world you won't find tools that "do everything", as that violates the single responsibility principle. However, to "orchestrate" all the tools together in a single configuration panel, there are projects like Webmin that provide this functionality. For this specific task of mail/groupware, I have the following suggestion.

You could look at Zarafa Collaboration Suite (ZCP) in combination with Postfix and Z-Admin. This is just one out of many other options.

ZCP offers all the 'features', Postfix will do the MTA-work and Z-Admin is capable of managing and configuring all the services (also MySQL and network interfaces) in a nice web interface. Read the Z-Admin docs here to see if it fits your needs.

Disclaimer: I worked for Zarafa in the past.

  • 1
    Sorry, but this answer is nonsense. I've already pointed out one tool, Citadel, that does indeed do all this stuff in one. The single responsibility principle has its place, but sometimes it makes no sense to separate concerns and in fact separation just makes things a lot more complicated to configure. I'd say that this (e-mail and MTA functionality) is one such example. Why do you think Exchange is so popular? It combines a lot of useful functionality into one solution, and it makes a lot of sense to do so.
    – Jez
    Dec 5, 2012 at 11:58
  • Just have it your way, mate. Reading your arguments I sicerely doubt that Linux is your piece of cake. I think most Unix/Linux engineers will disagree with your opinion "combines a lot of useful functionality into one solution, and it makes a lot of sense to do so". Nothing's keeping you from running MS Exchange in virtual machine in Debian, I'd say.
    – gertvdijk
    Dec 5, 2012 at 12:10
  • 1
    People voting this answer up, please consider that my question was asking about suites that combined the functionality I want. It was not asking to be told what the "Unix way" traditionally was.
    – Jez
    Dec 5, 2012 at 13:18
  • If he's attached to all-in-one systems you might just want to delete this; he's not looking for combinations of software, even if it's the normal way of doing things Dec 5, 2012 at 15:23

One of the few suites I've found that actually bundles this functionality into one and has a mostly graphical interface is Citadel. It's not perfect but it does somewhat fit the bill.

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