Checkout a few Open Source e-Commerce tools

From the word itself we are getting the impression that it is a type of trading through electronic media such as internet and other computer networks. In the common scenario it is buying or selling of products or services. It will have a virtual store in the form of web sites having online catalogs and their data which will impress the customers. It is simply online shopping of the products that we need from the home in front of a computer or mobile devices.

We are mentioning only the PHP Driven e-commerce platforms that are very common nowadays.

1. Oscommerce:

This is the basis for both zencart and creloaded and in other words we can tell it initiated the PHP ecommerce era. It has got a simple structure and is easy to learn in comparison with other e-commerce tools available. Latest version is 2.3.3 and has got css-based styles and an object oriented back end.

It has got lot of contributors compared to other tools and an active community.

Main disadvantage is that it is hard to modify the design since it has got in-line styles within each page. The older version does not even had administrator-area protection in the original pack. Oscommerce had some security breaches which would have made it easy for the hackers to do their job.

2. Zencart:

This was originally based on oscommerce code from June 2003 and has undergone rapid development from there. Main change with oscommerce is in the architecture where zencart provides template system and additional features in the core. Current Stable version is 1.5.0. From 1.3.x version they give the CSS- based template system rather than its tables based layout approach.

Some of the good features include product attributes managers, template system, built in coupon code system, ability to select what credit cards you accept, Reward points system etc. A lot of contributions are available since it has got a good forum and many supporters who are developing modules for the tool. Forum is also active for zencart and it is easy to learn. It has got support for numerous languages and currencies.

One of the main disadvantage is that export/import of data will not work fine for the tool.

3. Magento:

It is a new shopping cart software but has already attracted a lot of people in the market. The coding is based on the latest PHP 5 object oriented coding standards and the Zend framework. Mainly it has three editions – community, professional and enterprise. Only community edition is free version.

Main advantages include updating the code and fixing bugs relatively faster than any other e-commerce tools available in the market, it has got multi store feature which eases the owner to have different language store end from the same admin end, a huge variety of extensions are available which will help to include many more features in the system and it is easy to install.It has got a very active forum too. As of June 6, 2011 eBay owns 100% of Magento. eBay announced that Magento would join eBay’s new X.Commerce initiative.

Magento is well known in its developer community for its use of Object oriented Programming and especially for its use of the EAV model. This allows Magento to be much more versatile than most e-commerce platforms at storing a large range of data. In September 2010, Magento launched Magento Mobile, an extension platform used to build native applications for iOS. One page checkout and Multishipping are added advantage.

These features give the system versatility and adaptability. Allowing multiple websites and themes to be run on the same set of layout commands, same set of blocks and even the same database. However, the drawback of these systems is that they result in slow load times, for which Magento compensates with additional caching and database indexing.

Main disadvantage is that it has got a steeper learning curve than other softwares available in the market. The admin side is a little complicated compared to other shopping carts.

4. Prestashop:

It was officially launched in August 2007 which was based on smarty template engine. It has got a good collection of language packs. It has got a good forum consisting of more than 350000 active members. This makes use of AJAX extensively in the admin side. It has got a number of features available in the default package. There are numerous addons available, both free and priced.

It is less complex in the admin end compared to other tools available. Still there are bug fixes coming up which make the system a little shaky like the releasing of bug fixes makes the hackers know the vulnerabilities in the system and can attack the older versions. It is not advisable for a large shopping system, but for a beginner it is much efficient and consists of many features.

5. CS-Cart:

This is also based on the smarty template engine having MVC structure. Two editions are available in which community edition is free which is a feature rich tool in this type. Extensive use of AJAX, both in admin and front end, makes the system more efficient and customer friendly so that minimum screen refreshes are needed. One of the main feature of cs-cart is that it has got block management in the admin end, which makes the admin to have the template changes which is missing in other tolls of this grade. Multishop functionality is missing in the core, but is available as an addon. Upgrades are relatively easy too.

Disadvantages consists of high learning curve , a little slow because of the architecture, and less addons availble. The admin is also a little confusing for a beginner compared to other tools.

6. OpenCart

OpenCart also is based on Codeigniter Framework which provides a professional and reliable foundation from which to build a successful online store. This foundation appeals to a wide variety of users, ranging from seasoned web developers looking for a user-friendly interface to use to shop owners just launching their business online for the first time. OpenCart has an extensive amount of features that gives you a strong hold over the customization of store. Compared to other tools which is using MVC model, this is much easier to learn. This is also making use of AJAX extensively so that functionality looks much interesting to the user.

This has also got a good community and an active forum where we get more help and more extensions. This has got multi store feature in the default installation.

7. Cubecart

It is a paid ecommerce tool, free version is available with some limitations. The major differences from a normal shopping cart include the help desk under default installation, the improved search and the ability to set more than one e-shop using a single database. It has a state of the art security system that can set the administrative access by IP address and the ability to ban client IPs if needed. It has great customization capabilities ie., it has a user friendly control panel from where the overall appearance of the e-store can be controlled by arranging products in required display format, set product pictures in several formats. It has got a search system that tracks certain keyword helping in understanding what your clients are looking for. Unlimited site document pages can be created from admin end. This is using MVC model and it is easy to learn and modify code.

8. VirtueMart

VirtueMart is an Open Source eCommerce solution to be used together with Joomla CMS. VirtueMart supports multiple prices for a single product, based around shopper groups or a quantity range. It has got a good template section which can be modified to the original design of Joomla using standard HTML and CSS. It is also using Ajax extensively which makes it more user-friendly.

9. WooCommerce

Woocommerce is a powerful, extendable ecommerce plugin for wordpress CMS. Built upon core WordPress functionality for stability, with enough hooks and filters, it has a smart dashboard that keeps view of incoming sales, reviews, stock levels, general store performance and statistics all from within the WordPress dashboard. Built in shortcodes and widgets in wordpress themes help to customize the view as required. Ability to extend functionality by using paid/free extensions is available. Since wordpress is a famous CMS used all over the world this tool has got lot of importance if a person likes to add online shopping with his CMS site.

In general for a beginner who is having hundreds of products and need less features, go for oscommerce or zencart. If he/she needs a feature rich shopping cart having a small product database, he/she should certainly go for prestashop or opencart. If the product is in thousands range and the person is able to do with some complex admin side functionalities, then cs-cart will be a good choice. If the person has some knowledge in maintaining some shopping carts and has a huge number of products or if he/she is going to upgrade the store to a more stable version, then with no doubt Magento is the best buy.

Authors: Rajesh Thomas P and Noble J Thayyil

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