Zen Cart custom software development, Zen Cart modules, Zen Cart Expert eCommerce with Zen Cart!

2008 January to June

Boilerplate HTML in Product Descriptions

(06/2008) A question came up on the Zen Cart forum about including HTML Files in the product description. When I first worked on this problem a couple of years ago, the person who needed it just needed a few sentences here and there, so I developed a tip describing adding boilerplate strings to the Zen Cart product description. But this person wanted to replace the entire product description with an HTML file, so I developed a tip describing including HTML files to the Zen Cart product description. This is particularly useful if there is boilerplate text you want to include in a number of products, but the text is more than just a sentence or two.

Better Together Roadmap

(06/2008) What's next for Zen Cart Better Together?
  • add_cat_to_prod() will be added.
  • The semantics of "category" will be changed so you can use a top level category or a category with subcategories instead of just one with products underneath it. (This is how Zen Cart Big Chooser, Zen Cart Big Spender and Zen Cart Combination Discounts work.) This change will affect add_prod_to_cat, add_twoforone_cat, and add_cat_to_cat (as well as the new add_cat_to_prod linkage, if that is available at the time). (I later decided against doing this. It reduces the usability of Better Together Admin.)
If you are using other related software (Zen Cart Promotional Pages, Zen Cart Buy Both Now, Zen Cart Discount Preview, Zen Cart Checkout Candy, Zen Cart Better Together Admin), you may need to upgrade; you will be advised at that time what to do, and everything will be available at once so upgrading won't break your site.

Look for these changes in the third quarter of this year.

Better Together Admin Panel

(06/2008) The Zen Cart Better Together contribution has been well received by the Zen Cart community, but a persistent complaint is that you have to edit a file to set up discounts. Well, no more - the Zen Cart Better Together Admin Panel is now generally available. You can do all the usual linkages:
  • product to product
  • category to category
  • product to category
  • two for one (products)
  • two for one (categories)
and because it uses AJAX, getting the product and category lists is super fast. Show your support for Better Together - get the Zen Cart Better Together Admin Panel today!

Blog Integration

(06/2008) Looking to add fresh content to your Zen Cart site? Take a look at my Zen Cart Blog Integration contribution. It can take your blog (or any RSS feed) and display it on a page in your Zen Cart shop.

Newsletter Discount Updates

(06/2008) The Zen Cart Newsletter Discount contribution has been updated to use the new MailChimp API. In addition, two user exits have been added to the contribution to allow the exclusion of products or categories from the discounting computation.

Zen Cart Hosting Recommendations

(06/2008) The question of which host to choose comes up often enough that I thought I'd write a blog post with my Zen Cart Hosting Recommendations. (**OBSOLETE LINK REMOVED**)

Issue with Discount Preview of Group Pricing in 1.3.8

(05/2008) Users of Discount Preview in Zen Cart 1.3.8 who use Group Pricing should make the fix identified in the Discount Preview Help Page.

Quantity Discounts by Dollars Spent

(05/2008) I have released the changes required to make the Zen Cart Quantity Discounts Contribution perform discounting on the basis of dollars spent, rather than units purchased as is typically done. There is no longer any need to use the Zen Cart Price Sensitive Discount; using Quantity Discounts has the following advantages:
  • Extensive support for automatically created marketing text
  • Automatically created Zen Cart Promotional Page for your discounts
  • Support for including/excluding products/categories from the spend computation
  • Support for unlimited numbers of spend levels
  • It works with Discount Preview
  • It was written by me ... so of course it's insanely great. Download it. Do it. You know you want to.

Beginner's Guide to Mod Installation

(05/2008) Installing a mod to Zen Cart can seem daunting the first time you do it. I wrote up a few notes to walk first-timers through the process in my Guide to Mod Installation on Zen Cart. Hope it's useful!

Dymo Label Printing for Zen Cart now for Firefox

(04/2008) Well, I finally got my Dymo Labels for Zen Cart contribution working with Firefox. It's available now in the Zen Cart downloads area, with instructions for installation on XP and Vista.

Newsletter Discount for Zen Cart

(04/2008) I've added a discounting module to Zen Cart which allows you to offer a discount to newsletter subscribers, whether you use MailChimp or the native Zen Cart newsletter system. It's called Newsletter Discount.

Documentation Updates

(04/2008) A couple of small documentation enhancements so far this month:
  • The instructions for the SMS on Sale mod have been enhanced to describe using this mod in conjunction with Twitter. This might be a desirable option for Zen Cart operators outside the US who do not have an SMS to email gateway, but still want SMS notification when a sale is made.
  • A set of instructions has been written up to describe how to date-constrain your discounts when using Better Together, Combination Discounts, Big Spender or Big Chooser. Using just a small amount of PHP code, you can start and/or stop your discount offers at dates of your choosing. See Timing Discounts for details.

Dymo Label Printing for Zen Cart

(03/2008) It's no secret that I'm crazy about my Dymo. I've wanted to add Dymo printing to Zen Cart for a while, but I was discouraged by the fact that the Dymo interface logic was so tightly coupled to Internet Explorer (it uses an an Active X interface to a COM driver). Then I read that some smart guy wrote an XPI to make it work with Firefox. Well, what the heck, right? I rolled up my sleeves, I got it to work with Win/IE (XP, Vista), but I'm still trying to make it play nice with Win/FF. Of course, since this talks directly to the driver, it's a real science project to get it going on other platforms. Check out Dymo Labels for Zen Cart.

Big Upsell for Big Chooser and Big Spender

(02/2008) Since the release of Big Spender, people have been asking for Checkout Candy functionality (display the discounts on the shopping cart page and the first page of checkout to tempt shoppers with upselling offers). Big Chooser users wanted the same thing. The wait is over. Check out Big Upsell.

Extending the power of coupons

(02/2008) If you're trying to measure advertising effectiveness, a common mechanism is to require a coupon code for a discount. But Zen Cart coupons can only do so much. Now you can create complex discounts with the configurability of Big Chooser and add a coupon dependency. Or you can use Big Chooser to allow a coupon to provide free shipping as well as a discount (by default, coupons can only do a discount or free shipping). Check out version 1.0.4 of Big Chooser.

Category Help

(02/2008) The most common questions I get about my discounting modules are questions about category handling and category problems. I wrote a brief FAQ about how this works and the problems you might encounter here.

A Podcast with That Software Guy, Inc.

(01/2008) I spent some time talking with the folks over at Alpha Software, and they released it as a podcast (DEAD LINK REMOVED).

All Discounts Integrated on a Single Promotional Page

(01/2008) Are you using my Zen Cart Promotional Pages to show off your discounts? Are you using multiple discounting modules? Would you like to show your discounts on a single page? You're in luck! A single page showing all discounts called the Integrated Promotional Page is now available. Here's what it looks like.

Using Sandy with Zen Cart

(01/2008) If you enjoy using the electronic assistant Sandy, you can use Sandy to remind you to follow up with your Zen Cart customers a few days after a sale. Just use the SMS on Sale mod; instructions are provided.

External Polling Sidebox

(01/2008) The External Polling Sidebox, which allows you to more easily integrate with hosted polling services, has been made available in the Zen Cart Download area. For more information on using this contribution to engage your customers through polls, see External Polling Sidebox help.

Big Chooser Released

(01/2008) Big Chooser is finally ready for general release. If you need something more powerful than Combination Discounts to fully realize your marketing plan, check out the Zen Cart discounting possibilities that Big Chooser provides.

Blogging Release Notices

(1/2008) Starting this year, I'm going to add release notices to my blog content. If you use the URL
you can get a feed of only these release notices, which you can add to your iGoogle page or to your RSS Reader.

Gift Wrap at Checkout Updated

(1/2008) My Gift Wrap module has been updated to Zen Cart 1.3.8, and is now available in the Zen Cart downloads area.

Search Helper Released

(1/2008) My Search Helper module is now available in the Zen Cart downloads area.