If you followed Part 1, you have a Cloudrun server set up with all the new tools you’ll use to work with your team. But how can you make these tools work more effectively for your organization, and be easier for people to use? This guide will go a little more in-depth on what you can do with Cloudron, and will focus on features you are likely to need that haven’t been covered yet and quick ways to make your server easier to use.

Email

Autodiscovery

If you set up an email client (like Apple Mail or Thunderbird) already, you may have found out that there’s a lot of settings to configure! Modern email servers use a file called autodiscover.xml that tells email clients how best to connect to them. Cloudron has instructions for creating this file but doesn’t do it automatically. I recommend editing the XML file on your computer. I use Notepad++ on Windows to edit plain text files like this, and it will highlight syntax for you (after saving the file as XML – you need to change that from TXT using the dropdown when saving).

As an example, here’s my configuration file:

If you need some help, check out the Mozilla documentation on the autoconfig file.

If you’re comfortable SSHing into your server to change the file in the documentation, do that. If you don’t know what that means or are lazy (like me), go to your Cloudron App Store and install Surfer. Enter “autodiscover” as the subdomain (for example, mine is autodiscover.socialism.tools). Log in (you will need to click Surfer and add /_admin at the end of the URL to access the admin panel) with your Cloudron credentials. Then create a folder called mail:

Open it and upload your file, making sure it’s named config-v1.1.xml.

Now it’s much easier for you and any users to login to their email accounts – they just need the domain name and their Cloudron password to login.

Note: For whatever reason, the curl test command listed in the Cloudron documentation failed for me, but the autodiscover still worked in Windows Mail and K-9 Mail. Additionally, autodiscover will not work with some other email clients, like Microsoft Outlook.

It’s still recommend that you have manual connection information available somewhere for users that need it. You can host it on your WordPress blog with a Page, or start a new Surfer app called “files” or something and use the HTML template from Part 1’s instructions on Matrix to display a webpage with the information.

Mailbox Management

When on your Cloudron management page, click your username in the top right and select Email to view your email settings. For each domain on your Cloudron server, you can select the paper plane icon to send a test message to your Cloudron email, or the pencil icon to make changes. Click the pencil icon on your main domain.

If it’s not turned on already, ensure Incoming Email is on. Cloudron should do all the configuration changes for you, but if not, review the docs or ask for help.

You already know how to get your email, but there’s more you can do with Cloudron’s mail, like sharing inboxes or creating distribution lists.

Shared Inboxes

Important: If you installed Cloudron before version 6 (Around Dec. 2020 or earlier) you will need to perform a manual step to enable mailbox sharing.

Shared Inboxes allow a single user account to be shared with multiple people. Only some applications support this feature. SoGo and Roundcube both support mailbox sharing. In Roundcube, sharing is configured on a per-folder basis. Find your folder in Settings > Folders to configure sharing. I reccomend sharing folders only with individuals and giving them the fewest possible permissions they need to work effectively for your organization.

Filters

You can also configure filters (known in Outlook as Rules) for your email. Filters are shared across mail clients, so creating a filter in Roundcube will still work for users using Sogo to access their mail. To create a filter in Roundcube, go to Settings > Filters. Filters can be helpful for routing large amounts of mail to the right people when combined with shared folders.

Canned Responses

Roundcube also offers canned responses. This makes replying to many emails with the same repsonse easier. You can find the canned responses setting under Settings > Responses.

There’s even more features available in Roundcube, we’ll move on for now.

Calendar

There are two apps that can be your calendar server in Cloudron – Radicale and Nextcloud. I reccomend Nextcloud as it’s easier, and you can also add an appointment scheduling feature.

To get started with calendaring in Nextcloud, make sure your Calendar app is active – if you don’t see it in the App Bar in next cloud, click your profile menu (located in the top-right of the page), click Apps, then find and install/enable Nextcloud Calendar.

a screenshot of the Nextcloud calendar app

Nextcloud calendar makes it easy to collaborate on calendaring activities with other Nextcloud users, but it becomes much more difficult when trying to collaborate with Google, Microsoft’s or Apple’s unique calendaring systems. Sending out invitations works just fine, howevever. This is what invitees will see:

screenshot of a Nextcloud calendar invite

Nextcloud Calendar works on mobile, too. You can choose to use the Nextcloud app (Android) (iOS). You don’t have to use the app, though. You can also sync your calendar to your native Calendar/ app on iOS (you can do it for contacts, too). Doing this procedure on Android unfortunately requires a third party app.

Contacts

As with Calendar, the Contacts Nextcloud app should have everything you need. If you use Google Contacts, you can click export on contacts.google.com to get a file you can then upload into Nextcloud to move all your contacts.

Files

I’m going to cover just file management here – not editors like Word or Google Docs – becuase they need their own section. That said, Nextcloud’s support for file syncing is supriningly great. It has everything you expect to find, with the exclusion of so-called “selective sync” or “on-demand” sycning, where files are only downloaded when you try to open them. It was announced in 2019 but appears to have not been integrated into the stable desktop client on Windows yet as of April 2021. Development appears to have been delayed at some point and then restarted in mid-2020.

You can also utilize end-to-end encryption to protect files or foldes from even your server administrator from being able to see them. This can be a little more involved to use, but there’s a start guide here.

Checking in

At this point in the guide, we’ve built on the server and communication structure we built in Part 1 by making email easier, setting up calendaring capability, and learning how to utilize Nextcloud as a file and contacts server. There’s two major things that we have yet to cover in detial that orgs need – a way to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations; and a website. In (the soon-to-come) Part 3, I’ll consolidate the WordPress guidance here into a walkthrough to take you from WordPress newbie to expert, Part 4 will finally approach the hardest question of all: how we can replace Google Docs or Office?

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