Pre-Launch Set for New Student E-Mail Application
Service Facilities Connection to Handheld Devices, Social Networking Sites
A new student e-mail service has yet to be unveiled at UT Dallas, but curious students can now take a peek behind the curtain.
The next generation of student e-mail, dubbed Zmail, is replacing the service that UT Dallas students—and some faculty members—have used for more than a decade.
“Information Resources has been engaged with various student groups for a long time investigating replacement options for our Cyrus/IMAP service, and we are extremely pleased to be rolling out Zmail as the result,” said Jim Gary, vice president and chief information officer. “It's a great platform, feature-rich and beautifully extensible. I am very proud of the implementation effort, and look forward to seeing how Zmail develops once the roll-out is done.”
Zmail's features include shared calendaring and synchronization of mail to hand-held devices.
Although the official launch date for Zmail is not until Jan 11, tech-minded students who can’t wait to try all of the new functions available in Zmail can sign up during the pre-launch and begin using it immediately. By May 30, Zmail will have phased out the old e-mail service.
Zmail is a substantial leap forward in terms of usability. The Web interface offers a wide array of advanced features and capabilities that today’s students have come to expect, such as synchronization of mail to hand-held devices, task lists, instant messaging, document sharing, multiple address books and shared calendaring.
Zmail is based on the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, a Web 2.0, browser-based messaging and collaboration application that has been rebranded for UT Dallas. Zimbra is currently being used by more than 500 academic institutions, including Texas A&M, Stanford and Kansas State. It works well with all major desktop environments, including Windows, Mac and Linux.
The UT Dallas Information Resources Department needed a new student e-mail system because the existing service, called Cyrus, was lagging behind as a package solution for current technology demands.
The best news for today’s tech-savvy students may be its integration capabilities. Zmail has the ability to synchronize with iPhone, Blackberry and other WAP and ActiveSync-compatible Smartphones, letting students check their e-mail on the go. It also can be integrated with such social media as Facebook and Twitter.
Zmail is compatible with desktop e-mail applications such as Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Desktop and Novell Evolution and has increased storage capabilities for high-res audio and video files. Attachments can be viewed immediately as HTML. Other features available in Zmail are RSS, a powerful search capability, tagging, and conversation views that help prevent inbox clutter.
One particularly intriguing feature that sets Zimbra apart from some of its competitors is the ability for administrators to install Zimlets, which are, according to the Zimbra Web site, “a mechanism for integrating Zimbra with third-party information systems and content as well as creating “mash-up” user interfaces within the Zimbra suite itself.”
A social networking Zimlet has already been added to Zmail. Students can follow and send updates to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. They can check out Digg for hot topics in their favorite areas and forward them to their friends. They can search Twitter for any topic and, since it’s auto-saved, see what people are saying on a daily basis. They can use Twitter Trends to always be on top of latest news in the twitterverse. They can check out TweetMeme to see what urls people are forwarding (retweeting) each other on Twitter.
Once Zmail is deployed, students will be treated to another benefit: a full 1GB of drive space that can accommodate the high-res attachments that are so prevalent today. Capacity is way up from the 300MB that is available on the current Cyrus system.