Project of the Month, May 2004

eGroupWare

eGroupWare is a web-based Open Source collaboration suite similar to Lotus Notes. This software is a complete framework of core tools that includes a calendar, Wiki and a powerful content management system. With it's open framework, and published API's, it can be expanded easily using third party modules. eGroupWare has been a runaway success on SourceForge.net (SF.net). Launched only 12 months ago (in April, 2003), the project is currently listed in SF.net top ten most active projects and has had over 150,000 downloads. With its easy-to-use interface and devoted community of developers, it's no wonder that many large organizations, including the government of Brazil, have embraced eGroupWare. The SF.net is proud to make eGroupWare SourceForge.net's May 2004 project of the month.

Project Name: eGroupWare
Founded / Started:
13 April, 2003

URL: http://egroupware.org/
Project page: https://sourceforge.net/projects/egroupware/

Description of project:
eGroupWare is a groupware suite like Notes/Domino but open source. It is not simply a calender with notes and to-dos and email like Microsoft Exchange.

eGroupWare is a flexible pluggable framework capable of hosting applications like a group calender, address book, email, infolog (notes, to-dos, phone calls), content management, trouble ticket system, forum, and more. These applications can share a common user store and a flexible access control list (ACL) system to control access and information sharing.

The core of eGroupWare is the groupware API written in PHP. eGW API includes a user store, has several back ends, and offers database abstraction and a flexible templating system.

Trove info:

eGroupWare runs on both Windows and any Unix-like operation system. It offers both GPL and LGPL licenses. It is completely written in PHP. It requires a Web server, DB server, and a PHP version greater than 4.1. Hardware requirements depend on the count of users. At the moment, it is available in more then 15 languages.

Why and how did you get started?
Ralf, Lars and I (Reiner Jung) are former developers of the phpGroupWare project. The developers there decided to follow their own interpretation of free software. We decided to leave the project, with the vision to build an enterprise-ready open source groupware application. For the development process we chose a more open development. We have no classical project leaders. The project is organized in development groups with the three founders in the role of coordinators.

What is the intended audience?
We want to offer small to middle-sized companies around the world free and customizable groupware. eGroupWare works in installations of from 2 to 2,000 users.

How many people do you believe are using your software?
It is hard to say. eGroupWare is available for download from SF.net and as a package for Mandrake and Gentoo Linux. We have nearly 100,000 downloads from SF.net.

What are a couple of notable examples of how people are using your software?

  • Many universities use eGroupWare as a communication platform.
  • A part of the Brazilian government and a department of the City of Berlin use it as groupware.
  • Some companies set it up for project management and organization.

What gave you an indication that your project was becoming successful?
Seeing the SF.net statistic that we reached 40.000 downloads two months after the first release, and watching more and more people joining as developers, translators, and documentation writers.

What has been your biggest surprise?
That we have so many installations on different operation systems where people use eGroupWare with different databases, Web servers, mail servers, and PHP versions, with only few bugs. We can't test the software on all platforms and in all possible software combinations ourselves, yet in March we had 110,000 downloads and only ~550 committed bugs.

What has been your biggest challenge?
In nine months the development crew increased from 4 developers to 29. We need to integrate the new developers into the development process and merge their ideas with our development plan.

Why do you think your project has been so well received?
It is easy to set up and has a clear and easy user interface. You don't need to be a PHP programmer or system administrator to install eGroupWare -- a basic installation takes less than 10 minutes. When we started, we had a very basic install document and the setup process was a little hard. Pim and Ralf changed the installation process and its layout so that it is more easy to use. A new simple install howto is now available in version 0.4 under the name "Install and Security Howto" and got ~40,000 downloads in this version.

Where do you see your project going?
One of our main to-dos for the next releases is giving the user a desktop feeling by offering drag and drop, automatic screen resize, and a fully customizable interface. We hope to extend and better integrate the applications. It must be possible to install all applications separately, but if they are installed together, we want them to work together like one big application.

What's on your project wish list?
To have migration tools to migrate users from Exchange, openExchange, and Groupwise directly to eGroupWare. We also want better integration of native clients. The KDE PIM is ready, but we also need plugins for Outlook and Evolution so they can use eGroupWare as a server back-end.

What are you most proud of?
That people all around the world use our software. We have installations from Taiwan to Brazil, and many people replace Exchange servers with eGroupWare. People compare eGroupWare with commercial solutions and see that we offer better possibilities for their business.

How do you coordinate the project?
Users report bugs using the bug tracker on sf.net. The bug admin then assigns them to developers. For general communication we use use the mailing lists at SourceForge.net. We use the eGroupWare developer Wiki to define our next development steps and how we implement them, after discussing it publicly first.

We use CVS and the other available tools which SourceForge.net provides.

We don't have automatic testing tools for quality management. Once major changes have been implemented, different developers test them locally on their installations. If we do not find any problems we test the changes on our demo installation and inform some testers, who may report any bug.

Do you work on the project full-time, or do you have another job?
Reiner: I have another job. In normal life, I work as a project manager for open source and security projects.

Lars: I have another job as well. But I try to earn some money by selling eGroupWare support.

If you work on the project part-time, how much time would you say you spend, per week, on it?
Reiner: I spend more than 30 hours per week on the project. Lars: I spend 10 to 15 hours per week on the project. Ralf: I spend, on average, more then 40 hours per week on eGroupWare.

What is your development environment like?
Reiner: 2 Dell Pentium III servers and my notebook. Red Hat, Debian, and OpenBSD and all the open source tools they include.

Lars: I'm developing on a P4 running Gentoo-Linux.

Ralf: Notebook, desktop box, and some servers under SuSE Linux. I use KDE, Quanta, and Mozilla for the PHP development.

Milestones

  • eGroupWare project started May 2003
  • eGroupWare 1.0 May 2004
  • eGroupWare 1.2 (next stable)
    • Support for SyncML to sync with mobile phone, Palm, and other devices
    • Intelligent Web Attendant Ticket System (IWATS) is the next step for our Trouble Ticket System Version 1
    • The new ACL class
    • Knowledge base will be extended
    • First rewrite of Calendar
    • Personalizer, a general wizard app to which every app can hook and which helps the admin/user to select the most used and probably working configuration options.
    • Contacts center (rewrite from address book)
  • eGroupWare 1.4
    • Workflow engine
    • IWATS Version 2
    • Rewrite of user interface for all applications
    • Internal certificate authority for eGroupWare
    • Administration control center

Other applications like Site Manager CMS and JiNN CMS are under ongoing development.

How can others contribute?
We have a good team of developers, and we welcome others who are team players. The project also needs help from people who want to work on the user manual/documentation and translation.

Anybody who wants to join the team should send some patches to the SF.net patch manager. If they get approved, we will add them to the project. The best way to contact the developers is the developer's mailing list or the IRC channel #egroupware.


More projects of the month


Project Name: eGroupWare

Background of Project Leader:

Name: Reiner JungReiner Jung
Age: 39
Occupation or experience: Consultant/ Project Manager for Security Open Source
Location: Germany

Name: Ralf BeckerRalf Becker
Age: 38
Location: Germany

Name: Lars KnesckeLars Knescke
Age: 29
Occupation or experience: Network Engineer (Cisco, Linux, Firewall, VPN), PHP developer
Location: Germany

Key Developers:
Milos Lott, Andy Kraus, Alejandro Pedraza, Tony Angles Puglisi, Drago Bokal, Ilia Alshanetsky, João, Pim Snel, Greg Haygood

Quote about SF.net?
SourceForge.net offers all the tools necessary to start and realize a open source project.

Why did you place the project on SF.net?
We don't have to invest in hardware and maintain our own servers. We only had to register the project and we were able to start.

How has SourceForge.net helped you?
We can use CVS, mailing lists, and a download area in an easy to maintain environment. SourceForge.net helped more and more users find the project pages and download the software. If you develop on our own server, who will find you?

The number one benefit of using SourceForge.net is:
A free service which offer a fantastic combination of tools.