Jefferson Lab: Zimbra Calendar Update

Posted Sept. 6, 2012

On Tuesday, the lab moved to a new calendar system, replacing the Oracle Calendar. This is a significant transition, moving away from an older centralized calendar to one more distributed, using a modern "Microsoft Outlook" model of managing meetings via e-mail messages.

Dedicated help

We have people dedicated to help with any issues at the help desk this week. Please call x7155 or e-mail helpdesk@jlab.org.

Why did we transition?

The new software will enhance productivity at the lab. At the core of the transition was the fact that the Oracle Calendar is no longer being supported, no longer works on some operating systems and will fail to function at some point. In evaluating the options, we found that Zimbra was most beneficial due to its low cost, widespread use, integrated mail/calendar, integration with Microsoft Exchange protocols, and enhanced support for mobile devices and other clients.

What are the biggest changes?

Zimbra Calendar is fundamentally a different product than the old Oracle Calendar so that modern protocols can be used. Even the basic language and colors used in the application may be unfamiliar or unexpected.

* Folders: In Zimbra, folders are storage containers, and everything is stored in a folder. Under the hood, even your calendar events are stored in a folder called "/calendar".

* Shares: In Zimbra, the way to view others' calendars (and let others view your calendar) is via "Shares". Like folders, these are the objects in which calendar events are stored, and you can customize permissions to each calendar that you have. For most people, a single Calendar (called "Calendar" by default) is sufficient. For tips on how to share your calendar, visit the Calendar FAQ. (https://cc.jlab.org/zimbra/calendarFAQ)

* Appointments: Meetings are managed via e-mail. This is very useful, especially if you are trying to collaborate with people outside of the lab. But it can be confusing. If you want to invite someone to a meeting you have created, you must "Send" and not just "Save," because the invitation must be delivered to the invitee via e-mail. Invitation replies are also sent via e-mail, which means that if you are not using the Zimbra web client, which performs some filtering, then you will get unexpected e-mail messages in reply to invitation requests.

* Appointment color-scheme: It's a small detail, but important because it is counter-intuitive to those who have used Oracle Calendar. Whereas in Oracle Calendar, the color red signified "declined", the Zimbra web client uses this color to signify meetings invitations that you have not responded to. Blue is used to signify meetings that you have accepted, and when you decline a meeting, it shows up semi-transparent. Similarly, for daily notes, if the "Free-Busy" status is "free," the color shows up semi-transparent, and if that status is "Busy," the color will be solid.

* Reminders/Notifications: The reminder scheme has changed in Zimbra from Oracle Calendar, giving users a more limited list of options. You can choose from a drop-down list of options for how many minutes/hours/etc. in advance of a meeting that you want to be reminded, and you can also type in an arbitrary number as well. In addition, you can send a notification to your e-mail address – if you have a pager and would like to be paged, you can use your JLab pager address username-page@jlab.org, or any paging e-mail address from your mobile phone provider. Also, if you are sitting at your desktop, the reminder does not pop up a window to notify you, as it did in Oracle Calendar. The Zimbra web page will sound an audible alarm and pop-up a reminder within the page, but if you are on another active open tab or window, you might not see a notification. If you have a mobile device, you can configure it to remind you as well.

Is the migration of meetings completed?

The migration was almost entirely complete by Tuesday morning. In a few cases (resources "Bldg 35" and "CC L102", as well as a handful of other resources and users) the meetings did not get migrated until Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Also, we made a change to the "Free-Busy" status of daily notes mid-morning on Tuesday, which you might have noticed if you tried to schedule someone for a meeting and they appeared to be busy.

At this point, all data has been migrated. If you notice that you are missing meetings, or that your meetings are missing attendees, let us know as soon as possible so that we can resolve any issues.

In migrating the data, we made some design choices that might not be clear. Multi-day meetings were not moved over as a series, but as individual meetings. All meetings were migrated as private, so although by default you can view migrated meetings on another person's calendar share, you will not be able to see details. We also moved over group calendars as "resources" in Zimbra, and meeting rooms were set to not share details of meetings, (although this is being changed so that meeting room appointment details will be viewable by all Zimbra users).

Items under development:

* Printable calendars: A few users and groups onsite use printable calendars for easy access to their schedules. The Oracle Calendar provided an easy-to-use tool for printing calendars for this purpose. We hope to have a replacement solution in place in the next day or so.

* Tasks: A few users have asked that their tasks be migrated from Oracle Calendar to Zimbra. We are currently developing the process to do this, and expect to be able to start migrating in the next couple of days. If you would like your tasks migrated, please let us know by submitting a CCPR or contacting the Helpdesk (please specify how far back you want to go).

* Reminders: We did not migrate any reminder data from Oracle Calendar. Reminder settings in Zimbra will depend on the defaults set up by organizers and attendees.

* Notifications: We are looking into additional options for desktop notification, to make it more obvious than the current sound and subtle visual notification of a flashing tab in the web browser.

* Offsite calendars: The option of integration with certain offsite calendars is being investigated.

We realize that the transition has been involved for some users due to the complex ways they used the old Oracle Calendar, and we expect that things will improve soon, as we implement new solutions and as the new software becomes more familiar. We want to hear your feedback - please send us any comments and questions you might have to: Andy Kowalski: kowalski@jlab.org and Kari Heffner: heffner@jlab.org.

This message was sent on Sept. 5, 2012 on behalf of Jefferson Lab's Information Technology Division.



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