posted by Bob Minvielle on Mon 17th May 2004 18:51 UTC
IconThe world has changed due to the humble (and sometimes not so humble) creations in the past. It can be argued that NCSA Mosaic changed the world. Some would argue that it was actually Netscape, but whatever the actual case may be, the web browser has in some way changed the way we look at electronic information.

Click for a larger version Since that not so long ago time, many have tried to incorporate more and more into what we view and do with a web browser. The web browser was (in my mind) designed to be a simple way to view information from any computer with a connection to the network. People have also transformed the web browser into a front end tool to other tools, many of which are in fact front ends themselves to yet more tools (e.g. a shopping cart), but many pointy haired bosses wish for the day that the "expensive" PC[1] on the desk can be replaced by a machine that has only a web browser, and therefore saves money in hardware. Software developers and employees also may benefit from a tool that has a central location, can access email, projects, calendars, etc and can be backed up by the company or another central entity so that information loss due to hardware failures is minimized. Many companies claim to have such a software entity, and ome claim that you do not need the extra software due to the built in tools available now. Group-Office 2.2 is such a software entity that is accessible through a web browser and strives to take all of the independent "business office" applications (email, calendars, etc) off the desktop and onto a central location.

As hinted in the introduction, I must admit that I have worked in industry in the past. I was a Systems Administrator for a large (worldwide) company. I mainly handled the UNIX and networking side of things, and we had another Systems Administrator to handle the internal email, backups and PC software upgrades. I can say that on several occasions we all sat down with the boss(es) and talked about how it would be interesting to pull email, calendars, projects and such from the desktop and put them on a central server. This would be good for a few reasons, but mostly it would be to keep good backups (our employees were all over North America with laptops and desktops, etc and it could be a long time before a backup for them), and have a central location for all projects, reports, etc. The boss(es) of course saw this as a way to purchase minimal hardware (with a huge number of employees, dropping the price of hardware even by say $100 per machine is a huge cost savings overall). In this way the hardware would only need to support a web browser and perhaps a few small applications for specific employees. This was never realized where I was, which had more to do with the sales representatives that wanted to give us a huge package deal for some very large software to do this, but I digress.

Before we get into the software itself, I must say that at first (years ago) I did not see the point, more or less. I felt that email and personal planning and group projects notes and deadlines should be on the users machine, after all, they were the ones with the deadlines, etc. After a few years in industry, this outlook changed slightly as I saw more and more users who were not really disorganized, but burdened with so many applications just to keep track of what they were doing and where they were going, so to speak. I see value in a centralized system, if done right, but of course this is all contingent upon if the end user will actually see it as functional, easy to use, and perhaps even more importantly, a solution to a problem. After all, if using what they have now is not a problem, most people will not switch, even to something better. Habits are hard to break.

So, this brings us to a review of Group-Office 2.2 Pro. From the authors, this is what Group-Office is:

"Group Office is a group-ware suite written in PHP, by Merijn Schering. It is meant to be an on-line collaboration engine for large and small businesses. It boasts an easy to use interface with a powerful and extensive list of features. These feature include E-mail, Project Management, Scheduling, Address Book, Web Site Management, and on-line personal file manager. Group Office can be installed on a SSL secured server, for added security. It integrates with local mail servers using IMAP and POP3 as well as remote servers. Overall, this is the ultimate group-ware suite for any business."

Requirements for installing Group-Office are:

Linux Operating System
Apache Web Server - 1.3x or 2.0x
MySQL database server
PHP 4.3.x

Installation is straightforward, but with one point of confusion: To install, this is the procedure I took: Downloaded the package, uncompressed and un-tarred the package, read the INSTALL file located in the Group-Office directory tree that was created, followed the steps therein. After installation, I loaded up a web browser and finalized the install, then loaded up Group-Office. I then load up the on line "Help" to look through it, which quite nicely, is located at the top right of every window in every page of Group-Office. When I look at it I notice that it has the installation instructions in it (the first part of the help page is installation and configuration) and then I note that they do not match up with the installation instructions that I followed with the included INSTALL file in the package. So which one was correct? Did I do something wrong? Its working, so I _assume_ that it's alright, but I am now unsure. This point of confusion needs to be cleared up by the maintainers.

Table of contents
  1. "Group Office 2.2 Pro, Page 1/3"
  2. "Group Office 2.2 Pro, Page 2/3"
  3. "Group Office 2.2 Pro, Page 3/3"
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