Here's our review of Apple's latest Mac OS X Server operating system.

If you asked Mac IT people what previous versions of Mac OS X Server have been missing, a calendar server would be at the top of most lists. Mac OS X 10.5 Server fills that gap.

For the most part, iCal Server is easy to set up. The only big problem we had was trying to get delegation - which enables users to access and edit each others' calendars - to work.

Part of the problem could have been our particular setup (we had Mac OS X Server participating in a Windows Active Directory network). Even though the problems aren't endemic to iCal Server, be aware that delegation in iCal Server can be fragile.

The other big issue with iCal Server is in its support for the CalDAV group-scheduling standard. Right now, iCal 3.0 - the version that comes with OS X 10.5 Leopard - is the best CalDAV client for the Mac. That means clients on your network will have to be running OS X 10.5 to get the full benefits of OS X 10.5 Server's calendaring services.

If your company is all-Mac, that iCal-requirement probably won't be a big issue; just make sure all your clients have upgraded to Leopard. But if you're in a mixed environment, or if you're switching from some other group-calendaring platform (such as Exchange), iCal Server could be limiting. Microsoft Outlook doesn't directly support CalDAV; the plug-ins that would allow this are still being developed. Without Outlook support, trying to combine Windows calendaring clients with iCal Server is more work that many small- or medium-sized companies will want to take on.

Mac OS X 10.5 Server also provides several improvements to its iChat service. For many companies, its new logging tools will be the biggest change. If you have to deal with the myriad corporate regulations about data retention, chat logs are a requirement if you're going to provide IM services on your network. You could log chats in Mac OS X 10.4 Server, but it required third-party software and setup was not simple.

With Mac OS X 10.5, logging just another option in the administration interface. The new iChat Server also offers "store and forward" messaging, so offline users can collect instant messages. Finally, you can set up iChat server to talk to other IM services via federation; unfortunately, the only major public IM services with which iChat Server can currently federate is Google's.

For simple and workgroup installations, you can now use Server Preferences.

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