Practical Ecommerce

New osCmax 2.5 is osCommerce, maximized for power users

Open source eCommerce maker osCmax came out with a new release last week, Version 2.5, and it’s really good. osCmax is “osCommerce, maximized” meaning that it maintains compatibility with the thousands of osCommerce add-on modules. Nearly two dozen new add-on contributions geared for the needs of power users with large online stores are installed and tested in this new release.

Super-clean Admin organization

osCmax has done an Admin menu reorganization that makes a lot of sense to me. Basically an online store is in one of two main modes: initial setup/configuration, and then long-term store maintenance. Years ago I created an add-on contribution called Super-Friendly Admin Home Page that did exactly that – separated out the tasks between initial start-up and daily maintenance. Well, osCmax creator Michael Sasek has done much the same thing by pushing most of the initial start-up tasks into very large Configuration and Administration menus. This slims down the rest of the menus that a store administrator uses on a daily basis, making life much simpler. Very practical; I like it.

The osCmax 2.5 Admin is clean and uncluttered, the main navigation menus all drop down from the top which eliminates many extra clicks compared to the traditional left-column navigation in osCommerce-type programs. The osCmax Admin feels as if it is engineered, rather than designed. There is a short, handy Quick Links menu that can be customized to go anywhere you want. Many other open source programs I review feel as if they were made by volunteers – because of course they are – who don’t do anything they don’t feel like doing. osCmax feels the opposite – it is made by people who use it heavily, and it is made to work to maximize efficiency. Sasek touts the “Secure/Stable code base” as a marketing plus – and unlike a marketer, he really means it. This version has already been in production use for some time, so by the time he got around to declaring the official release it was already very stable. So there’s no need to wait around for the kinks to get out before trying it – they are already out.

Addressing concerns of new users

In the previous version of osCmax, the fact that power users created it meant that occasionally the user had to dip into editing a line or two of code – nothing big for Power users but a Big Deal for new or inexperienced users. In this new version, Sasek has taken the concerns of new users to heart and eliminated editing of code by installing a popular editor program called CK Editor in the Admin. Now adding or editing a page is as easy as typing an email!

Highlights of the new version

Highlights of the new add-ons include:

Easy administration:

  • Admin Log- Who logged into your private Admin, username and time.
  • Customer Log – See which customers logged into the store, username and time.
  • Premade Comments – Create and send stock phrases to your customers so you don’t have to type the same thing over and over.
  • Attribute Manager – easy updating of product attributes so, for example, you can charge less for small size clothing.
  • Extra Product Fields and Values- create boxes for text, a list or multi-list field for customer to select when purchasing a product. Example, customer can specify initials or engraving they want on a product.

New reports:

  • Stock Report – List stock levels of products carried by your store for easy inventory management.
  • No Purchases Report – Customers who registered but never made a purchase.
  • Customer Credits Report – Customers who are owed refunds
  • Customer Wishlists – Report of what customers have put into the Wishlist feature.

SEO and utility:

  • Google Analytics, Google Maps and Google Sitemaps
  • Feedmachine – Generates product feeds for any product search engine, e.g. Froogle, shopping.com, Kelkoo
  • SEO Pop Out Menu – Allows the product category menu to pop-out for customers, while still being search engine friendly.

Sales support:

  • Phone Order – Easily enter an order received by telephone, walk-in etc.
  • Discount Categories – Put an entire category on discount for a period of time.
  • Recover Cart Sales – Send a message to a customer who abandoned their shopping cart with an incentive to purchase.
  • Export Customers – Push-button export of customer email addresses to send emails from another system such as Mailbeez, Mailchimp.

Each of these add-ons add value to the program for power users and beginners, but I also laud Sasek for exercising restraint. There is always pressure to throw in “pretty shiny stuff” but he does not. Restraint on pricing as well: Magento, Loaded Commerce and osCmax have all focused heavily on the power needs of larger businesses. But while Magento and Loaded Commerce now charge for their business versions, Sasek continues to release his program free of charge.

Support forums

No open source eCommerce product review would be complete without mentioning the support forums. Many OSC support forums are either raucous, Wild West-types or autocratically-run by a dictator. The osCmax forums are friendly and helpful, and do not toss you out on your ear if you ask about a comparison to other programs. Just efficient, effective and free product support.

Reviewer summary

It’s a no-nonsense, right-sized, stable, efficient, well-organized and clean, powerful but not complex, FREE open source eCommerce program that works well for anyone from novices to power users with large stores.

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Chia July 1, 2012 Reply

    What are the steps to setting up an osCommerce site?
    Would I have a free domain name etc.?

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