Inside Apple's iCal Server

Leopard Server, Apple's newly released update to Mac OS X Server, is packed with new features. One of the most long-awaited features is iCal Server, Apple's first shared calendaring software, which offers a lot of promise for businesses and schools of all shapes and sizes.

The software is based on the open CalDAV standard and can work with any CalDAV-compliant calendar or personal information management tool. But as its name implies, iCal Server was engineered specifically to complement the Mac OS X client version of iCal.

iCal Server and Leopard Server

Like many of the technologies that Apple develops as part of its open-source efforts, including the core technologies of Mac OS X known as Darwin, Apple has added its own commercial polish to Darwin Calendar Server to create iCal Server. Much of this work has been to make iCal Server easy to use with Leopard Server, and to integrate it with Apple's native directory services platform, Open Directory.

Directory services are actually a core requirement of iCal Server as well as its open-source brother. In Leopard Server, iCal Server integrates transparently with Open Directory. And through Open Directory, iCal Server can also be integrated into more complex environments involving other directory services, including Microsoft's Active Directory.

Apple has done a great deal to integrate iCal Server seamlessly with iCal 3.0, which is included with the Leopard client. Even Leopard Server's new simplified standard and workgroup modes, designed to be easily accessible to users with limited server administration backgrounds, fully support iCal Server. These new setup modes offer the option to automatically configure iCal, along with other Apple applications, in Leopard for access to shared calendars.

From the introduction of Darwin Calendar Server through the release of iCal Server as a component of Leopard Server, Apple has also done a great job ensuring interoperability with other CalDAV clients.

Setting up the iCal Server service

If you are working under Leopard Server's standard or workgroup modes (the new simplified setup modes that are managed using Server Preferences), the process for setting up iCal Server is amazing simple. Essentially, the only task is to choose to enable shared calendars in Server Assistant, which runs immediately following installation. The majority of the options are configured according to their default settings.

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