A History of GroupWise
GroupWise Cool Solutions Article
Reader Rating    from ratings rate this article
View a Printer Friendly Version of this Page Send this page to a friend

GroupWise 5.5 is the latest version of Novell’s premier collaboration product for corporate networks and intranets. An enhanced business-class, collaboration tool, GroupWise 5.5 gives network users immediate value through improved tools that gather, access and communicate corporate information through expanded information manageability and inter-company collaboration capabilities. Users will benefit from support of industry-standard Internet security, improved open Internet standards support and Novell’s continued commitment to offer the lowest cost of ownership for its networking solutions. GroupWise 5.5 includes increased functionality of E-mail, calendaring and scheduling, and enhanced performance and administrative capabilities while remaining one of the easiest collaboration solutions to use.

GroupWise has evolved from a stand-alone desktop library program from WordPerfect in 1986 to the cross-platform, Internet-ready collaboration solution it is today. WordPerfect Library and its successor, WordPerfect Office, moved desktop technology toward the vision of single-point access to all modes of communication. After WordPerfect’s purchase by Novell in 1994, the renamed product, GroupWise, acquired the unique Universal Mailbox that established a new standard for the groupware industry. GroupWise continues to win industry awards for its ease of use, scalability, powerful collaborative capabilities and lower cost of ownership. The following time line traces GroupWise from its inception to the latest release of version 5.5.


Date Product/
Brief Description
Summer 1998 GroupWise 5.5 Enhanced calendaring, scheduling and task functionality;full-text indexing; dynamic references/attachments; related fields; document echoing; GroupWise WorkFlow Professional integration; enhanced Internet security; improved Internet standards support
July 1997 GroupWise 5.2 Internet support, including IMAP4, POP3 and LDAP; dial-up SMTP; Java-enabled WebAccess; WorkFlow; Imaging; ManageWise monitor
Sept. 1996 GroupWise 5 Universal Mailbox introduced; first groupware offering to include full document management functionality; strong, open set of development tools; client/server; shared folders; conferencing; NDS is master directory; NWAdmin is administration tool for both NetWare and GroupWise; Conversation Place
June 1996 GroupWise WebAccess Internet-based access to GroupWise functionality from any HTML 1.0-compliant browser
August 1994 GroupWise 4.1 NetWare integration; NLM servers and gateways; Telephone Access Server; SNMP support; 24x7 uptime maintenance; MAPI; AOCE & AppleScript; custom message capabilities; ListServer
June 1994 Novell Acquisition GroupWise is the "technology jewel" of the dealJune 1993 WordPerfect Office 4.0 Universal In Box; single-engine technology across platforms; new database technology; calendaring, scheduling and mail stores integrated; outbound fax; simultaneous release of product (including gateways) on all platforms; centralized administration; server-based rules; first 32-bit, multi-threaded servers
Jan. 1992 WordPerfect Office 3.1 Mail client for Windows release (March 1992) rounds out multi-platform client offerings; remote mail connectivity; scheduler shared code; folders; VMS
June 1990 WordPerfect Office 3.0 First LAN-based system to provide E-mail across multiple platforms and servers; versions for Macintosh, Data General and UNIX follow DOS release
Aug. 1988 WordPerfect Office 2.0 Addition of E-mail and group scheduling (for both people and resources on a single file server or post office) to Library functionality
Feb. 1987 WordPerfect Library 1.0 First PC version includes Personal Calendar, Editor, Notebook, Calculator, File Manager and Shell
May 1986 WordPerfect Library 1.0 First version released for Data General


WordPerfect Library and the Department of Justice
GroupWise had its beginnings in a product named WordPerfect Library, which was first released on Data General and Amiga platforms before becoming available for stand-alone PCS. The collection of products that formed Library (Calculator, Calendar, Notebook, File Manager, Editor and Shell, a menu-based switching program from which the other products were launched) were developed in order to organize, simplify and enhance the stand-alone computer environment in which WordPerfect Corp. customers worked.

One of these customers, the U.S. Department of Justice (which used WordPerfect for Data General), had offices in Washington D.C. and San Francisco that needed a way to exchange documents. After failing to find an E-mail system that met their needs, they approached WordPerfect Corp. executives and asked them to produce a product capable of handling E-mail, personal calendaring and group scheduling. An agreement was reached, and WordPerfect developers collaborated with Department of Justice officials to produce specifications for the new product.

In 1987, the group scheduling project began with a veteran IBM programmer at the helm. Having experienced the frustration associated with scheduling meeting rooms at IBM (this programmer had to go through a secretary in a building three miles away to schedule a conference room that was just across the hall from his office), it made sense to include resources such as meeting rooms as objects that could be scheduled. The scheduling product was also the first at WordPerfect to be written in C code (instead of assembly code), part of an effort to determine if products written in C could be efficiently ported to different platforms. WordPerfect Office 2.0
On August 8, 1988, the first offering to include E-mail and group scheduling capabilities in addition to previous Library functionality was released. WordPerfect Office 2.0 gave users the ability to schedule both people and resources, and its Out Box status tracking, part of the initial design resulting from the Department of Justice discussions, was also offered for the first time.The product’s capabilities, however, limited users to scheduling only over a single file server or post office - good enough for small installations, but leading planners to the obvious next step of supporting multiple file servers.

WordPerfect Office 3.0
In 1988, work began on a product that would surmount the single post office problem, as well as support multiple platforms on both the server and client sides. The majority of customers had multiple platforms to deal with, and cross-platform support was critical for an efficient and painless installation of the product. Released on June 14, 1990, WordPerfect Office 3.0 was the first LAN-based, multi-server product to offer E-mail, calendaring and scheduling across multiple platforms. Also included was the ability to perform cross-host busy searching (across many file servers, anywhere in the world), which is still a unique feature in GroupWise today. Investment in the development of various gateways to different E-mail systems also made it easier for customers to implement Office; development of a gateway and "moving van" for PROFS, for instance, marked the first time that users of that system could migrate to or co-exist with a LAN-based E-mail system.

WordPerfect Office 3.1
With the addition of a Windows Mail Client in early 1992, WordPerfect Office 3.1 was touted as the only E-mail system that worked across a heterogenous network of DOS, Windows, Macintosh, UNIX and VAX/VMS machines. The product also added remote capabilities, allowing users to connect to the GroupWise system through direct, asynchronous, or wireless connections; folders for organizing both the In Box and Out Box decreased its need for disk space by having the scheduler application share code with other applications. Before the time of this release, however, pressures from the word processing business in 1991 helped executives realize the importance of broadening the company’s product offerings. Development and marketing management for Office underwent major changes, and well before version 3.1 shipped, planning was underway for a major rewrite of the code.

Intended to be a "PROFS for the LAN," the new product would resolve scalability issues, integrate the functionality now divided between separate applications, support multiple platforms, and centralize administration. With the trend toward downsizing, executives hoped to catch the attention of the audience moving off mainframes. More than 25 million PROFS users, already familiar with integrated E-mail, calendaring and scheduling, presented a promising pool to draw from.

WordPerfect Office 4.0
When WordPerfect Office 4.0 shipped on June 4, 1993, its new interface and functionality reflected the wholesale re-evaluation it had gone through in taking its first step into the groupware marketplace. Version 4.0 was about making things simpler, bringing calendaring and scheduling to the masses, and allowing people to deal with everything in one place. Customers saw the improvements they had asked for, and sales more than doubled from 1993 to 1994.

Users could now go to a single location (or Universal In Box, as it came to be called) to access and manage E-mail, calendar appointments, tasks and notes. For the first time, a LAN-based product offered integrated task management and scheduling, as well as user-defined server-based rules (intelligent agents that could act on all message types).

A new database technology replaced the flat-file store used in previous versions, overcoming performance issues and LAN limitations. The data stores for calendaring, scheduling and E-mail were now integrated through the new database technology, which was hierarchical, object-oriented, extendable, cross-platform and could be maintained on the fly. Replication capabilities (for remote synchronization, directory synchronization and messaging replication) were also part of the new database design. Another goal with version 4.0 was to be the first to do a concurrent release of all products on all platforms. Making it possible was a new single engine technology; instead of having to develop different engines for different platforms, programmers could now utilize a single platform-independent, language-independent engine written entirely in C.

The new engine encapsulated all functionality not associated with the user interface or presentation of information, and programmers only needed to write front and back-end platform-specific pieces. Ports to various platforms now took only hours or days. Servers shared between 80 and 90 percent of the same code at run-time. Whether the product was written for an English, German or Japanese audience was irrelevant. Proof that the engine technology was a success came when all of the servers and clients released on the same day, along with gateways for X.400, SMTP, Fax, Pager and PROFS.

The single engine concept also made it possible for customers to choose client platforms independent of the back-end platform being implemented; any mix-and-match scheme, such as Macintosh clients running on DOS servers, was allowed.

New administration capabilities in version 4.0 were the first in a LAN-based system to give administrators the ability to manage the system from a single, central location or to distribute administration responsibilities to various sites within a WAN. 80 percent of all system maintenance could be performed while the system was live, and because the administration functionality was included as part of the single engine design, servers could also help administrators watch the system and provide early notification of problems.

High performance, 32-bit servers were introduced in version 4.0 (again, a first for LAN-based systems) to ensure scalability. In addition to the DOS platform, Office now offered 32-bit, multi-threaded servers on OS/2 and UNIX. It was also during this time that WordPerfect began porting its server products to NLMs. To show off its scalability, the product was used as the messaging system at several events such as the 1994 NetWorld+Interop show in Las Vegas, Nev., where approximately 88,000 users were set up (many through on-site registration) and more than 2.2 million messages were handled.

Even with its proven scalability and many "firsts" among LAN-based messaging systems, WordPerfect Office 4.0 was still not widely recognized; most customers that didn’t have a direct relationship with WordPerfect Corp. simply didn’t believe that the company could deliver a mail system. Novell’s acquisition of WordPerfect Corp. finally lent the product the credibility it deserved as a groupware solution; in fact, of all the synergies between the two companies, WordPerfect Office presented the tightest fit in terms of exposing the benefits of the network.

GroupWise 4.1
To eliminate confusion with suite offerings from Novell and others, WordPerfect Office was given a new name for its August 30, 1994 release. GroupWise 4.1 again shipped on multiple platforms simultaneously, this time with more than 50 new and enhanced products shipping on the same day.

Heavy investment in NLMs and gateways provided users with a complete set of back-end servers and connectivity options (including a new gateway to Lotus Notes), and features such as inbound fax, voice mail, and links to objects on the World Wide Web enriched the Universal In Box. Through "custom message" and "custom command" capabilities, third-party developers could also add their own items with unique message-type icons to the Universal In Box.

By incorporating PerfectFit technology, GroupWise maintained its close identity with other Novell applications. In addition, the release of a GroupWise NetWare Integration Pack provided tighter integration with NetWare through a GroupWise snap-in module for NetWare 4 Administrator (NWAdmin) and a Novell Directory Services (NDS) synchronization NLM.

GroupWise 4.1 became the first LAN-based messaging system to support Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) capabilities. In addition, new administration capabilities meant that 100 percent of all maintenance could be performed while the system was live, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

An "Internet-style" ListServer also became available in the 4.1 time frame, allowing users to subscribe to published lists within the GroupWise system and receive information in the Universal In Box about topics of interest. As part of its 4.1 release, GroupWise also provided support for remote access through any touch-tone telephone, allowing users to keep up to date while on the road or away from their computer.

GroupWise 5
GroupWise 5, launched in September 1996, introduced the industry’s first client/server-based Universal Mailbox, which gave users a customizable work environment with single-point access to personal calendaring, group scheduling, tasks, voice mail, faxes and other message types from the desktop. As a sign of Novell’s early commitment to remote, Internet-based communication, GroupWise 5 also offered users that same single-point access to all messages and GroupWise functionality via any computer with a Web browser and access to the Internet through GroupWise WebAccess. In addition, Novell now gave users the ability to access their Universal Mailboxes via phone and listen to any message. In fact, new gateways would allow GroupWise to page a user when important messages came through or call them on their cellular phones to read them an urgent message.

GroupWise 5 further demonstrated Novell’s commitment to simplifying and streamlining the complexity of collaboration across the network by being the first E-mail product to include full document management, allowing users to easily share and keep track of documents across the network. GroupWise document management offered such features as version control, check-in/check-out and the ability for multiple users to work on documents collaboratively. With this release, Novell also showed its understanding of the increasing complexity of collaborative documents by offering the ability to view, edit, store and forward scanned images across corporate networks and intranets via the GroupWise Universal Mailbox through GroupWise Imaging.

The new GroupWise Open Object API introduced with 5 demonstrated Novell’s commitment to open standards and leveraging the power of the corporate network by supporting third-party development of complementary applications written in any standard language, including Java. This development support gave GroupWise the added dimension and depth to address the broadest possible range of business needs.

GroupWise 5 also lowered the cost of ownership for users through its integration with Novell Directory Services, offering a single point of administration for both GroupWise and NetWare across the network.

GroupWise 5.2
GroupWise 5.2, released in July 1997, marked the introduction of key Internet functionality and protocols support that positioned GroupWise to help customers extend their networks to the Internet and intranets. The feature enhancements included support for IMAP4, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), POP3, embedded Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) and continued Native TCP/IP. With embedded URLs, Novell acknowledged the increasing reliance of GroupWise users on the Internet by allowing them to send URLs in the body of a GroupWise message that would be automatically detected and hyperlinked to the recipient’s default browser, creating a seamless interface between GroupWise and the Web.

GroupWise 5.2 offered cross-platform, expanded E-mail solutions, including full document management and automated workflow capabilities, as part of its Universal Mailbox. Additional GroupWise 5.2 enhancements included GroupWise WorkFlow, which gave users the ability to efficiently view and track workflow processes to ensure smooth execution.

GroupWise 5.5, the newest version of GroupWise, includes improved integration of the calendaring, scheduling and task functionality and enhanced performance and administrative capabilities, while remaining the easiest collaboration solution to use. As Novell’s premier application for NetWare® and Novell Directory Services™ (NDS™), GroupWise 5.5 continues to expand upon the Internet standards support introduced in GroupWise 5.2, and offers sophisticated collaboration functionality through GroupWise WebPublisher™ and GroupWise WorkFlow Professional™ capabilities. GroupWise remains one of the most scalable collaboration solutions in the market, powerful enough to easily meet large-scale enterprise needs, yet easy enough for small businesses to use and maintain. Further addressing network users’ concerns, GroupWise 5.5 has been thoroughly tested and meets all Novell Year 2000 readiness specifications.


To date, 13 million users have embraced GroupWise as their messaging and groupware solution, giving the product the largest installed base among groupware products worldwide. Its rich set of capabilities is available to users straight “out-of-the-box” and is open to third-party development, which means that GroupWise 5.5 offers users rich functionality as well as freedom of choice.

As an expanded E-mail and collaboration system for traditional networks or intranets, GroupWise was the first groupware platform in the industry to include full document management capabilities in an environment that everyone is familiar with — E-mail. It is the best solution for mixed environments since it runs on Novell platforms, Microsoft NT and UNIX and is fully integrated with NDS. Virtually any client or device that adheres to the open standards of the Internet can exploit the rich services of GroupWise. Simply put, GroupWise is the best solution for today’s mixed and evolving environments.