BeeBEEP open source office messenger

Messenger Bee

Article from Issue 240/2020

BeeBEEP offers a complete chat solution for small businesses or projects, allowing you to send messages and share files within your network without relying on the cloud or complicated office infrastructure.

Keeping office communication both simple and secure can be a challenge. No matter whether it's email, modern short messages and voice messages, or sharing your desktop, too many communication paths travel through the cloud and across the Internet on paths that are not transparent. The classic email in particular is a dinosaur. Encrypted messages involve undesirable overhead for most users, and even strategically important information often crosses the web without protection.

Solutions hosted in-house are one alternative. A separate Jabber server removes the need for WhatsApp. Your own mail server enables secure communication – at least within your own organization. And there are a number of open source programs that let colleagues share your desktop.

But independence from major vendors and doing without commercial services often requires a great deal of time and work. Among other things, it usually includes configuring, administering, and maintaining servers and software.

That's where small organizations and workgroups may appreciate the simplicity of the open source BeeBEEP program [1]. It makes it easier to share messages, files, and even your desktop while keeping this information within your network.

Ready to Launch

The current version, BeeBEEP 5.8.2, is available for download from the project homepage [2]. The software is available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. The developer also maintains variants for the Raspberry Pi and OS/2.

For Linux, the software is available as a deb package (for Ubuntu 18.04 or newer) and via Snapcraft [3]. You can install the deb package on Ubuntu with a double-click (see also the "Ubuntu 20.04" box). Information on how to import the Snap variant can be found on the Snapcraft project page. Users of Arch Linux can also find the program in the Arch User Repository.

Ubuntu 20.04

Our test on Ubuntu 20.04 showed that the deb package does not fulfill the dependency on the libxcb-screensaver0 library. Accordingly, an error message appears when calling beebeep in a terminal window. The same thing happens with the statically built variant, which you can access in the form of a tarball. Make sure you manually add the library during the install as follows:

$ sudo apt install ./beebeep*.deb
$ sudo apt install libxcb-screensaver0

When first launched, the program asks you to choose a nickname. If necessary, you can change this information later using Start | Edit Profile…; you can also enter or change other personal information there. After entering your nickname, BeeBEEP is immediately ready to launch. You do not need to configure servers or create accounts. The Messenger automatically lists all other users active on the local network (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The contact list is automatically filled with the program users who are active on the local network.

BeeBEEP does not require an Internet connection. All messages and files to be transferred remain completely on your network [4]. The system secures the communication with a 256-bit AES key, so the data on the local network remains protected.

If there is a connection to the Internet, the software checks at startup to see whether a newer version is available. In addition, the developer uses Google Analytics to anonymize the user data. If necessary, you can disable the update check in the settings. However, there is no such switch for analysis of the data by Google.

Start Chatting

You can start a chat by double-clicking on the icon of the desired partner. This opens a dialog in which you type your message (Figure 2). The tabs at the bottom of the window let you select emoticons, format the text with colors and fonts, and transfer individual files or entire folders.

Figure 2: If the target user is currently offline, BeeBEEP delivers the messages as soon as they become available.

You will also find an option for sending a screenshot of your desktop as well as a screencast of the current events on the screen – technically speaking BeeBEEP transmits a series of new screenshots (see also the "Wayland" box). You can record a voice message via the microphone icon next to the input field.


The successor to the classic X11 display server, Wayland, makes life difficult for users who want to grab screenshots or create screencasts of their desktop – this also applies to BeeBEEP.

If you launch BeeBEEP in a Wayland session in Gnome, you will only see a black image when you grab a screenshot. In this case, you have no choice but to log out of the desktop and select a classic X11 session in the login manager.

Your contact does not need to be currently online. In the list, the status is shown by the color of the icon in front of the name and the color of the name itself. A gray icon means that the contact's client is not currently active. However, you can still write a message to this user. As soon as the user starts their client, they will automatically receive the messages sent while they were offline.

In the main window, you will find a row of tabs at the bottom. On the far left, the Activities tab shows an overview of what is happening on the BeeBEEP network. In the Chats tab, you will find the history of your previous conversations. To start a group chat, press the Search Users button to the left of the Show Options field, and select Create New Group Chat (Figure 3). You can write to each user of the network in a single action using the ALL USERS entry.

Figure 3: If you have a large number of users, you can simplify messaging by combining contacts into groups.

Sharing Files and Folders

When transferring data, the program goes beyond sending files through the chat. In Settings | File Transfer, you can use the Enable File Sharing option to transfer files in the style of a network share.

When you enable the function, it activates an icon titled Show file sharing window on the far right in the top bar. This is a dialog that lets you share a file or an entire folder with other users. However, the folders should not be too large; the system supports a maximum of just 8,192 files in folders and subfolders.

The other BeeBEEP users on the LAN get access to shared data in the same dialog on your client. To do this, simply go to the Files and folders shared on your network function via the icon in the header of the dialog. You can then look through the shared folders in a file browser and download data by clicking on the corresponding icon in the footer of the data dialog (Figure 4). However, this mode only supports access in one direction: Downloads work; uploads do not. The system also does not let you edit the existing data.

Figure 4: No matter which operating system you are using, you can easily access data shared on the local network. The example shows a system with Windows 10.

BeeBEEP offers an extended function for sharing files in the form of BeeBOX. To enable this, click on the blue Show BeeBOX icon and then check Activate my BeeBOX in the dialog. The software then prompts you to select a folder for the transfer. In this mode, you see a two-column file manager that shows the data in the BeeBOX folder you selected on the left and the data that a contact has shared on the right. You can select this from the drop-down list below (Figure 5).

Figure 5: BeeBOX, which can be optionally enabled, lets you write files to a network share on a remote computer.

Once you have selected the remote device, transfers in both directions are possible. In same manner as a normal file manager, simply drag the data to be transferred to the other half of the window.

The program only lets you copy files and folders from A to B. If you try to transfer a file that already exists on the target system, it appends a time stamp to the copied file. It is not possible to delete files on the target computer. This helps to avoid nasty surprises.

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