What are the server requirements for running Zen Cart?

You’re almost always ok with the latest and greatest of each of the LAMP stack components, but someone asked me the other day about MySQL 5.6, and I had to double check.  With Zen Cart 1.5.3, has only been tested with up to MySQL 5.5.  (Some Forum users have tested with 5.6 and report no problems, which is a good sign.)

Here are all the requirements in one place: http://www.zen-cart.com/content.php?48-what-are-the-server-requirements-to-run-zen-cart.

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Why is using SFTP better than FTP to manage your Zen Cart files?

If you read the page “Important Security Recommendations” under the docs folder of your Zen Cart, you’ll see that SFTP is recommended as a file transfer method over FTP.

Why is that?

The reason is simple: when you use FTP, your password is transmitted in clear text over the Internet. Which means snoopers can see it. And if you are using WiFi, particularly in a public place, snooping is really easy! So don’t do it!

What do you need to do to use SFTP? Just two things:

  1. A client for your PC that can use SFTP.  The one Zen Cart recommends, which is excellent, free and runs on Windows is WinSCP.   If you are on a Mac, look at Transmit.  If you use Linux, use gftp, which is built in to most distros.
  2. The server settings for SFTP transfer.  You may need to ask your hoster to enable sftp, and you’ll need to get the port number to use.  Although the default port for SFTP is 22, many hosters will use other ports so you’ll need to check with your hoster.
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Making signup easy on your Zen Cart ecommerce site

Zen Cart’s default customer signup form comes with a number of fields for customers that you should not collect.  That’s right – turn them off and don’t collect them (unless you are required to for regulatory or other reasons).  These include:

  • Date of Birth
  • Email Salutation (Mr or Ms.)
  • Fax Number
  • Company

You can access the flags to turn these values off under Admin->Configuration->Customer Details.  Just set the values to “false,” and they will no longer appear on your account creation form.

The less information a customer is required to fill in, the less likely they are to balk at registering on your site.

The one addition to account creation that I think makes sense is asking for the email address twice, since a typo in this field might well make it impossible for the customer to login again.  This change is made simple through the Confirm Email Address Contribution, available in the Zen Cart Plugins Area.

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My Zen Cart Product Update is failing!

Got this one last night from a client -had never seen it before.  Sure enough, pressing the update button on the preview page after updating a product description was not working.

One hint was that the editor was set to HTMLArea (this is a Zen  Cart 1.3.9 site) and not plain text.  So I flipped it back to Plain Text in Admin->Catalog->Categories/Products.

Text_EditorNow see what the product description looks like:


Aha!  There was some extra HTML code copied and pasted in during the editing of that field.  Remove this, and the product update function will work again.

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Trouble logging in after your offsite Zen Cart 1.5.3 upgrade ?

This post on the Zen Cart forum describes the issue, which can happen if the machine where you do the upgrade and database conversion uses a different PHP version than the one used by the site’s host.

What I did was:

  • Download the Zen Cart 1.5.1 based cart and database from a host running PHP 5.2.17.
  • Upgrade the cart  and database to Zen Cart 1.5.3 on my local machine, running PHP 5.3.15
  • Upload the converted database and new Zen Cart 1.5.3 based test site.

And logins did not work.  The solution: re-upload unconverted copies of the admin and customers tables to the test site.

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Using set_cart_discount in Zen Cart Big Chooser

The Zen Cart Big Chooser discounting module normally works in “Buy X, Get Y” mode – but you can configure it differently.  If you want to discount the entire package (X+Y) or even the entire basket if X and Y are purchased, you can use “set_cart_discount.”

The easiest way to understand this is with a series of examples. Suppose you have the items in your cart:

5x product 28  @$5: $25
1x product 29 @$10: $10
1x product 30 @$25: $25
Subtotal:           $60

If you used this offer

 $this->add_condition("Buy product 29 and 30, get 10% off your purchase", false); 
     $this->set_constraint(PROD, 29, 1, PROD, 30, 1); 
     $this->set_cart_discount("%", 10); 

the discount would be 10% of $60, or $6.

If you used this offer

 $this->add_condition("Buy product 29 and 30, get 10% off the pair", false); 
     $this->set_constraint(PROD, 29, 1, PROD, 30, 1); 
     $this->set_cart_discount("%", 10, CART_DISCOUNT_CONSTRAINTS_ONLY); 

the discount would be 10% of $35, or $3.50.

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Package Discounts for Zen Cart

If you want to provide a discount for a kit or collection of items (also known as a package discount), you can now do this using Zen Cart Free Gift Chooser. This capability was already part of Big Chooser, but it now has the convenience of an admin panel.

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osCommerce mod changes

Both osCommerce Free Gift Chooser Mega Module and osCommerce Better Together Admin have received facelifts for osCommerce 2.3.4. Thanks to osCommerce wizard Gary Burton for letting me know about this!

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Zen Cart Coupons No Sale or Special

A common request for Zen Cart modifications is “please change coupons to only apply to items not on sale or special.” If you want that change, please see my Zen Cart Coupons No Sale or Special mod.

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Free Gift Chooser for Zen Cart now does discounts!

Zen Cart Free Gift Chooser Mega Module version 1.1 now supports discounting by dollars or percentage in addition to free (100% discount). You can even create a final price discount for a group of products.

Free Gift Chooser supports the most common types of discounts people were building with Big Chooser – but with the convenience of an admin panel, instead of having to code the discounts in by hand.

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