Helping a group of people coordinate their work or private lives—their calendars and task lists, their notes and address books, and so forth—presents one of the rare opportunities for computers to actually solve a real, everyday problem. Imagine being able to change a meeting by dragging a text box to a new time slot in the calendar application, and having the software system automatically inform all other attendees of the change, ask them whether they still want to attend, and update their own calendars automatically. Such software, which supports groups of people who are interacting, coordinating with each other, and cooperating, is commonly referred to as groupware .
For all but the simplest needs of very small groups, it is usually sensible to store the information that is to be shared or exchanged between the members at a central location on the network. Often a computer is dedicated to this purpose; it is then referred to as a groupware server. Access to this server is managed in different ways by different groupware projects. Most offer access via web browsers. Many also allow users to work with full-fledged client applications such as Kontact or Evolution, which then connect to the server using various protocols to read and manipulate the data stored there. In this context such applications are often referred to as groupware suites.
We first look at what is possible using only client capabilites, without access to a groupware server, and then examine the different ...