Using Zimbra Desktop as a custom remote email app

Zimbra Desktop runs just fine on the desktop. But if you want to use it as your own private remote email-access method (for instance, because your employer-provided webmail sucks)? Easy enough, although not the most elegant:

  • enable SSH access to the desktop you are accessing
  • create a tunnel from your local system (your laptop on the road? your mother-in-law’s desktop?) using Putty or SSH as ‘ssh -L 7633:localhost:7633 my-zimbra-system’
  • open a web browser (or a Prism webapp) to “http://localhost:7633”

There must be a way to reconfigure the different components that make up Zimbra Desktop (jetty, derby, etc.) to accept connections from non-localhost machines, but in my testing, I must have missed a parameter. So this works (and is actually much more secure, since Zimbra desktop by default does not ask for a password – I presume that’s another parameter to search for).


  1. Lars - 17 December 2008 @ 11:44

    Why not just use Gmail for the remote access part? In part, because with Gmail, you must use the Google SMTP servers, and Gmail sticks that Sender: field onto every outgoing email that confuses about 50% of all clients out there, leading to the reply coming back to Gmail directly, rather than the original inbox. As the sole solution, that works just fine, but as a fallback solution, that doesn’t cut it. Zimbra Desktop allows you to use your usual SMTP server, and also to save outgoing emails and drafts back into the original IMAP store.

  2. Lars - 20 February 2009 @ 13:57

    On build 1433 (0.92) a protection measure was introduced that breaks the above method. A key is generated at install time that has to be referenced by the client accessing Zimbra Desktop in order to connect. To find that key, got to INSTALLDIR/zdesktop/zdesktop.webapp/, and open up webapp.ini. You will find the URL (with the key) in the URI field. Pop that into your browser (assuming you are on the same system, or have successfully tunneled), and you should be fine.

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