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osCommerce - A Great Open-Source E-commerce System

What is osCommerce?

There are a lot of e-commerce platforms available on the web, many of which are completely free to download and use. If you aren't familiar with e-commerce in general, you may want to start here. osCommerce is one of the most popular free e-commerce systems available and is relatively easy to set up and use. It has a lot of good plugins and modules available for download that can add functionality and convenient payment processing to your site. osCommerce has good online support forums where you can get technical advice from expert users (they're happy to answer anything from the most basic questions to advanced coding inquiries). There are also free osCommerce templates available on this website.

Familiarizing yourself with osCommerce.

The first thing you should do when thinking about starting up an online store is make a list of all of your needs. What products or services are you going to sell? How do you want to process payments? How much time do you have to set up and maintain an online store? What is your budget? In addition to selling products, what else do you want your store to do? Newsletters? Register customer accounts? Manage stock levels? Allow for customers to review products? Fully understanding your needs before choosing the e-commerce platform that's right for you will help ensure you're getting the functionality you need. There are a lot of good (and free) e-commerce platforms, so you should absolutely investigate all of them before committing to use a specific one. If you want to learn more about osCommerce, a good starting point is the osCommerce website.

If you're left with any questions or concerns, you may want to visit the osCommerce community support forum to meet some of the other osCommerce users to discuss your individual needs and concerns.

There's also a demo installation of osCommerce on the osCommerce website that you may want to check out. Keep in mind that the core-functionality is what's more important -- the look and feel of the website can be completely customized to appear however you want it using any of the widely available free osCommerce templates.

osCommerce features

osCommerce is one of the most feature-rich e-commerce platforms available. In addition to allowing you to create categories and list products for sale, it has a plethora of other useful features that help you manage orders and customers, send newsletters, track and analyze people's shopping habits and much more. Here's a partial list of what osCommerce has to offer:

  • Unlimited categories
  • Unlimited products
  • Unlimited manufacturers
  • Product search
  • Easy design customization (with free osCommerce templates)
  • Support for physical (shippable) products and virtual (downloadable) products
  • Secure admin area
  • Customer management
  • Order management
  • Stock level management
  • Newsletter manager
  • Invoices
  • Statistics
  • Customer login area for checking order status
  • Product reviews
  • Secure transactions with SSL
  • Many modules/plugins available to upgrade store
  • Temporary shopping cart for guests
  • Permanent shopping cart for members
  • Purchase without account or register (as of v3)
  • Display what other customers have ordered
  • Display breadcrumbs and viewing history
  • Much more...
For a complete list of features, visit the osCommerce website.

 

osCommerce requirements.

As already mentioned, osCommerce is completely free to use. It's pretty easy to set up and the server requirements are within the bounds of what your average hosting service provider offers. You'll need a domain name (www.domainname.com) and a hosting account that supports PHP and MySQL, and if you're looking to process credit cards directly through your site you'll need a SSL certificate (for encrypting your customers' sensitive data).

For a more specific list of requirements, visit the osCommerce website.

osCommerce 2.2 vs osCommerce 3

There are currently two version of osCommerce that are used on a regular basis by the community; osCommerce 2.2 and the more-recent osCommerce 3.  Your website's requirements and your own preferences will determine which system is better for you.  osCommerce 3 is newer and has a more advanced, object-oriented coding approach, but it has not been supported by the community in the way 2.2 has, and therefore doesn't yet have as many modules or as much support documentation on the forums.

osCommerce 3 has a template system by default that allows you to manage the look of the website, while osCommerce 2.2 requires that you either edit every individual file or install a template system liks STS (which is what the templates on this website use).  This shouldn't keep you from considering 2.2, however, as installing STS is relatively quick and easy.

If you need help deciding which installation is best for you, you may want to check out the osCommerce forums.

Customizing your osCommerce online store.

While osCommerce is an extremely powerful e-commerce tool with a boat load of available plugins and modules to do just about whatever you want, the appearance of the default osCommerce installation leaves a little bit to be desired. The good news is that's okay -- the look of your osCommerce website can be completely customized using a free osCommerce template. Your store can go from looking amateurish and simplistic to sleek, sexy and professional in minutes, and you'll still retain all of the impressive e-commerce features included in the osCommerce package.

To view available free osCommerce templates go here.

Downloading and installing osCommerce.

To set up an osCommerce online store, you first need to register a domain name (www.yourname.com) and get a hosting account. Once that's done, installing osCommerce is as simple as downloading it, uploading it to your web server, creating a database and following the install process. A complete osCommerce installation should only take about fifteen minutes.

Here are complete installation instructions.

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What is STS?

The Simple Template System (STS), a free osCommerce add-on, is the template system osCommerce 2.2 should have come with. It makes using templates and editing your store's appearance easy. Read more.

Installation Help

Need help installing STS or an STS template? Contact us with your needs and we'll quote you a reasonable price.

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