Softaculous is a powerful web application software repository that comes free with your cPanel website control panel, if you choose the Linux hosting option. It gives you access to hundreds of different software titles you can install on your web server space, and the best part is there are no additional license fees to pay, and you can install as many or as few as you like, provided you have the disk space available for installation.
How to get started
Using the Softaculous repository is easy. Simply log in to your control panel and scroll down the page until you find the link for Softaculous. Then you simply click on it and the installer will open up the same tab.
Once you’re in there, the most popular apps are listed in the main part of the window, while on the left side you will find a tree-menu with all the titles conveniently sorted into categories.
As you can see from the screenshot, Softaculous can also warn you if you have obsolete apps installed or anything else requiring your attention.
While it may be tempting to just go ahead and start installing, it’s much better to spend a bit of time carefully planning which applications you should install, and go about the process methodically.
This is a good idea because without a plan you can find it difficult to remember which apps you have installed, why they’re installed, and where they’re installed. That will be important later if you need to upgrade or replace any of them.
Luckily, your Softaculous system is also very good at remembering your previous installations and provides a simple way to remove items that you want to uninstall. In some cases it can also smooth the process of upgrading, but how well this works varies between the different applications.
There are so many, it wouldn’t be practical to list them all. The most popular downloads are the big CMS systems, including:
There are also many less well-known titles that are nonetheless well worth investigating. Many of these lesser known titles are actually very good for specialist application. For example, real estate companies would possibly benefit from using Open Real Estate to quickly set up a manageable listing site for their company.
Also, it is worth considering that with a little bit of tweaking, some of these titles can be re-purposed and used for other things than what they were designed for. As an example, you could modify Open Real Estate for selling, cars, boats, or really anything that is highly suited to a listing style format with photographs and detailed descriptions.
Some of the other titles that you may want to consider include:
• PHP-Fusion – a powerful and light-weight CMS system which is well documented and widely supported.
• Moodle – specially designed for creating online education systems. If you want to provide a training course, or even a collection of training courses, Moodle makes it easy. There are plenty of books and tutorials available to help you get started.
• ModX – a CMS designed for experts, this CMS is much less restrictive than a typical CMS and therefore gives you a lot of freedom and power to develop sites any way you wish. The tradeoff for all this freedom is that you really need to know what you’re doing in order to use it well.
• Composr – one of the most beautiful and highly polished CMS applications you will ever see. A key feature is that it’s geared toward social networking, and also includes plenty of other features that you usually need to go searching for with other CMS packages.
Power an online business with a ready-to-go shopping cart
Selling online has historically been expensive to set up, but now there are so many free shopping cart systems that are available and relatively easy to use, anyone can start an online marketplace.
It’s recommended to choose shopping cart software that is compatible with PayPal, even if you don’t intend to use the PayPal service with your shopping cart. That’s because if a shopping cart works with PayPal, you know it is likely to be secure and stable.
The best for this is Magento, because it’s fully PayPal compatible, and there is a lot of support available to help you (it’s one of the longest standing and most popular e-Commerce systems available). You can also find a lot of books, plus free online tutorials to help you get going with Magento quickly.
Another very popular title in this category is Zen Cart. As the title implies, it’s an efficient system that keeps things simple.
Abante Cart is yet another title you could consider. This is a very modular system with a slightly complicated interface, but it is actually simple to set up and get going. To add PayPal payment processing to the system, for example, is a simple 7 step process that is quite self-explanatory.
Dress up your website with accessories
There are all kinds of tools you can add to your website that will give it some extra functionality. Of course, you should only add these to your site where it’s truly appropriate. A business that sells photocopiers has little use for an online audio player, for example.
Some of the different kinds of accessories you could add to your site include:
• User surveys – want to get feedback or just know people’s opinions about things? Your website can ask them for you. Applications include LimeSurvey, and LittlePoll.
• Add your own analytics. Most website owners are happy to use Google Analytics for their needs, and to be sure this has some excellent analytic tools to use. The possible disadvantage is that most blocking systems such as uMatrix block Google Analytics by default, and the amount of people using blockers is growing all the time. When you host your own analytics, every result is counted.
• Easily include RSS technology in your site. You can install any of the nine RSS applications available in Softaculous, making it easy to include RSS just the way you want to. The easiest to get started with is SimplePie, while the most popular is FreshRSS.
• Now that HTML5 makes it really easy to include video in your website, and of course you can also embed video players from the major online video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, there’s not a lot of call for dedicated video software. One exception is when you want to make your own online video library. The tools available for this are ClipBucket, VidiScript, and CumulusClips.
• If your business is involved in the music industry, as a content creator, producer, or distributor (or even just a retailer), you might want to show off your products with music playing abilities that go beyond what the built-in HTML5 tools can do. AmpJuke and kPlayList are the big names in this category.
• Picture galleries are one of the most desired features for any website, and are useful for everyone. They’re especially useful for photographers, artists, wedding studios, hotels, restaurants, etc. Softaculous currently has 12 of these applications to choose from. Simple to use and just plug in to your site.
Boost your business productivity with free software
Online software isn’t just for websites. You could actually meet nearly every business software need with free online tools (and others with free offline tools).
In the Softaculous repository, you will find many free tools that are designed for serious business use, even at the enterprise level.
These include full-featured ERP tools, project management software, customer support software, calendar systems, and more. You can even do your book keeping, invoice clients, provide job quotes, and provide your own help desk support service for helping your customers when they have problems with your products or services.
Enterprise Reporting & Planning
For a small business, a great solution is Dolibarr, which is a very powerful system that combines ERP with CRM. It is packed with features and lets you manage most areas of your business reporting and planning, plus customer relationship management. There’s actually a lot more it can do, and you can read the full list of features on Dolibarr’s Wiki page.
For bigger businesses, something like EPESI may be more suitable. It’s designed to help large teams have access to the most important business information, and you can control which teams have access to which information.
If you also need accounting features, FrontAccounting is a good choice. It’s a full featured accounting suite with ERP tools, and it can do everything.
When you need dedicated HRM software, Softaculous has OrangeHRM and IceHRM. You can use these to hire people, fire people, track attendance, track leave and time off, track employee performance, and manage your personnel information.
Provide top notch customer support services with any of the dozens of tools available for the purpose through Softaculous. With so many to choose from, you can just pick the one that seems most suitable for your particular type of business.
Some of the choices available include:
• Vision Helpdesk – this a huge system designed for businesses that need serious high volume multi-channel support services. It allows you to support customers in many different ways, including e-mail, web forms, FaceBook, Twitter, live chat, and by phone.
• HESK – is a simpler system that’s designed for “ticket based” help desk support service. Customers who have issues they need assistance with can create a support ticket, which your customer service representatives can then process and return a response. It’s best for medium-to-high volume service providers who can’t always be available to handle support requests instantly on a 24/7 basis.
• Help Center Live – as the name implies, is the opposite of HESK. It is intended for full time support in an “always live” environment.
• HeldDeskZ – when your business could use both traditional person to person support but could also benefit from a knowledge base allowing customers to try and find the answers on their own first, HelpDeskZ could be a very good choice.
• phpMyFAQ – this oddly named package is for the lowest tier of customer support, where you primarily allow your website to answer questions for you because you don’t have the resources to provide real-time support. That makes it best for start-up businesses that need to allocate time and personnel to other tasks than customer support. It helps you create genuine FAQ systems that can really help your customers get the information they need.
• Question2Answer – you can even let the community of users provide support to one another with this system. It’s going to be useful for websites of free software developers, such as those who produce Linux distros.
If you’re running a service based business like a clinic or beauty salon, then having some way to manage your appointments is essential. The aptly named EasyAppointments is a great tool for this. With a bit of adjustment, you can also reconfigure it for other things like managing tee-off times for a golf course, or even managing hotel bookings.
Make beautiful business forms
For both offline and online forms, Softaculous provides useful products such as PHP Form Generator. It literally does just what the name says it does. With no need for any coding at all, you can create great looking forms easily. Simply print the resulting forms to use them as offline paper forms.
For processing your web forms, you can use Form Tools, which provides all the back end services to easily manage submitted form data.
Softaculous has just about everything all in one place
There are just so many free tools included in Softaculous, it’s quite a big task trying to document them all. The best thing to do if you want to know more is dive into your website control panel and click the Softaculous link.
You can then browse through the full collection of titles and decide which ones are most suitable for your needs.
You can use all these tools to enhance your site or perform important business functions, and they’re all licensed to you for your business or personal use through your web hosting service, so there’s no additional costs for installing and using them.