While there are few commercial products competing with Actinic, one product comes close to rivalling its support network. osCommerce (www.oscommerce.com) is a an ‘open source’ ecommerce package which is available to anybody who wants it at absolutely no cost. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of free open source software, do not worry – there is no catch, the software is developed by a large team of skilled volunteers who collaborate over the web to produce high quality software that often rivals commercial products in terms of features and quality. Thousands of ecommerce sites around the world are based on osCommerce, to get an idea of what the software can do, take a look at www.jsp.co.uk or www.beautifulmood.com, two UK sites using the package.
osCommerce requires a little more expertise than Actinic to set up and that may be a barrier to a lot of people, but considering that the software is entirely free many smaller businesses may well be prepared to invest some time getting to grips with it. The package needs to be installed on a web host before you can use it, and while it comes with an automatic set up script you still need to learn a few basics about installing web based software in order to pull this off. The company which provides your web space should be able to help you with any set up problems you have and once the software is installed on your host everything else is relatively easy. Some hosts will even pre-install the software for you, although they may well charge for this service.
In order to customise the package with your own company logo you need to locate the default logo image file and replace it with your own, this is not difficult but completely inexperienced users might require assistance with this. It is possible to completely customise the package’s design by using a third party template, there are lots of free templates available at the osCommerce site and you can find high quality templates for sale at sites such as www.oscommercetemplates.co.uk and www.algozone.com.
The software is managed through a password protected admin section on the web site, this allows you to customise the settings and to