I’ve been searching several months for an open source POS program for the Film Society. I ran a grocery store cash register through college, and my day job is in ticketing software for box offices. Past experience has set my standards a little high. I needed a program that:
- Doesn’t require Internet access (our building has none)
- Is touchscreen-driven so volunteers can use it
- Is multi-user with a shared database
- Can reconcile sales and cash
- Can do some basic inventory management
- Integrates with peripheral devices and credit card processors, so we can grow into those features
After searching for months and trying a half dozen PHP systems, and even trying some restaurant systems, I had given up hope. The web-based apps are filled with search screens and drop-downs; they’re built like websites and you can tell their designers never worked retail. If your cashiers are minimum wage or volunteer, you need nice, big, shiny buttons and no complications.
I’d had my eye on OpenBravo for years, but it wasn’t quite there yet and development stalled over a year ago. Alas, I thought, a quality open source POS just doesn’t exist. In the abyssal depths of my despair I met my point-of-sale bride, and her name is uniCenta oPOS. uniCenta is actually a fork of the OpenBravo project. Their team started making improvements on it and have done a great job. It runs like a champ on five-year-old laptops and looks good at 800×600 resolution. It’s built for touchscreens and is cross-platform. It can take all kinds of peripherals, from cash drawers to card swipes to barcode scanners. It can run standalone or networked. If your users can figure out the self-checkout lane at a grocery store, they can sell stuff with this. Rumor has it they’re even looking at an Android port, so you’ll be able to run it from a tablet for mobile sales. In short, I heart uniCenta oPOS.
While we’re still in the honeymoon phase and I sing uniCenta’s praises, I also recognize a few of her flaws. The reporting is passable, but basic and a bit kludgy. There are minor bugs here and there, mostly on the manager side. It doesn’t have an online shopping cart. And if you don’t like certain defaults, you have to mess with XML files to do things like lock down user permissions or change cash denominations from Euros to Dollars. But despite its flaws, uniCenta is the best free solution out there. If you’re running a small box office or a museum gift shop, be sure to give it a try.
So check it out, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. You can also contact me if you need some help implementing it at your nonprofit.