Open Source: Noteworthy Newcomers PrestaShop, Ubercart

While the Big Three of the old guard — osCommerce, Zen Cart, and CRE Loaded — continue to duke it out among themselves, new-generation open source e-commerce projects are nudging into center stage. Most noteworthy are Prestashop and Ubercart.
This is one in a series of columns by Kerry Watson on the open-source commerce (OSC) industry.

While the Big Three of the old guard — osCommerce, Zen Cart, and CRE Loaded — continue to duke it out among themselves, new-generation open source commerce projects have begun to spring up with new ideas and new ways of thinking. Most noteworthy of the new crop are France-based Prestashop and US-based programs Ubercart and Magento.

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These fresh Web 2.0-style carts are mature and production-ready contenders, and all are at or beyond version 1.0 in their production cycle. These carts are equal or superior to many commercial e-commerce programs, and are available for free under the GNU or OSL 3.0 Public License. We've previously reviewed Magento, so this column will focus on the other two next-generation carts: PrestaShop and Ubercart.

PrestaShop

Paris-based PrestaShop, aimed at small- to medium-sized businesses, was released on August 4 after two years of development. Eager acceptance by the user community has led to the new program being downloaded at a rate of over 25,000 copies per month. PrestaShop is licensed under the least restrictive open source licenses, OSL 3.0, which does not even require users to register before downloading. An engaged and enthusiastic programmer community is contributing to updating the program at a rapid rate. This active community has translated the program into over 20 languages.

Stand Out Features

Web 2.0 features offered by PrestaShop include product tagging and tag cloud, text-message alerts and RSS feeds. Other features include gift-wrapping and recycled packaging options, free shipping offers, multiple-recipient contact forms, PDF customer invoices, sale of services and virtual goods and pick-up in store options.

The clean, attractive and fun-to-use cart was designed to be easy for online shop owners to manage. Not satisfied to stop there, the program is powerful and scalable — meaning that your business will not outgrow the program, it can grow with you as your needs grow. For example, by using the program's "Back Office" or password-protected Administration part of the Web site, the store owner can control an unlimited number of products, sub-categories and product pictures, as well as unlimited currencies, tax settings, shipping options and languages. The Back Office can be configured for users with different permissions, so for example, the store owner may limit one employee to order processing while another employee can be limited to tracking inventory.

For programmers, the program is also modular, meaning that it is easy for them to meet the business owner's needs by adding or removing functionality. To these developers the company touts its "uncluttered framework and clean PrestaShop code."

For customers, slow bandwidth does not mean slow shopping, thanks to the lightweight file size and technical sophistication. The program is very intuitive, easy to use and pleasing to the eye.

In addition to the standard features expected of any e-commerce program, such as gift vouchers, free shipping minimums, and specials, the program has premium features as well. These include cross-selling ("recommended accessories"), ability to order items that are out of stock and quantity discounts.

Installing PrestaShop

PrestaShop installation is typical of any e-commerce program: download the file, decompress, upload to the Web server, create a MySQL database and user, run the Install Wizard and then delete the install directory. Configuration is simple and intuitive.

The PrestaShop Company

PrestaShop is one of a growing number of open source e-commerce solutions created and promoted by private enterprise. CEO Igor Schlumberger and President Bruno Lévêque expect to make up what they give away by offering customization services, professionally-designed storefronts and search engine optimization, as well as hosted solutions.

The next version of the program, v1.1, is due out in early fall and is expected to offer customized products (text only), wish-list functionality, customer reviews with rating stars and a sponsor-a-friend program. The program runs on any Apache Web server with PHP and MySQL versions 5.0 or greater.

(Continue to Page 2 for Ubercart)


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