Zen Cart and Other Shopping Carts

Programmatic Differences

Although Zen Cart has been developed from they osCommerce code base, there are programmatic differences between the two. Understanding the programming differences can help solve migration-related problems when migrating from one cart to another. It will be especially helpful when you convert some osCommerce modules for use in Zen Cart.

The most significant programmatic difference between osCommerce and Zen Cart is that you need register_globals on for osCommerce, whereas Zen Cart recommends this setting be kept off. For security reasons, most of the hosting servers keep this setting off. Running osCommerce on these servers will be difficult unless you work out some way to enable register_globals.

Another major difference between osCommerce and Zen Cart are their use of functions and classes. The naming convention for functions is different in both carts. Zen Cart functions start with zen_ prefix, whereas osCommerce functions start with osc_ or tep_ prefix.

In osCommerce, tep_db_query() function is used to run a query against the database, then a while() loop is used. In Zen Cart, $db->Execute() function is used to run the query, and the while() loop is used differently.

There are also some differences in the database structure. osCommerce has 54 database tables, whereas Zen Cart has 93. In osCommerce, the products table contains 12 fields, whereas in Zen Cart, it contains around 35 fields. The Product_attributes table in Zen Cart also contains a much higher number of fields as compared to osCommerce.

Zen Cart has a splendid and easy-to-navigate template system while osCommerce doesn’t have one at all. In Zen Cart, all template files are located in includes/ templates folder. There is a template override system that can be used to apply multiple templates to a site and to customize the template easily. In osCommerce, template files are located in the osCommerce installation directory and are difficult to customize. The administrators need to override the original files during the installation of a new template in osCommerce.

Zen Cart and Other CMS/Shopping Carts

There are other shopping carts and CMSs that can be compared with Zen Cart. The following sections describe the main features of these carts/CMSs and compare them with Zen Cart.



VirtueMart is a component for the award winning content management system Joomla!. It is quite powerful and easy to use. Most of the features of Zen Cart are available in VirtueMart component. However, VirtueMart lacks Zen Cart’s coupon administration system. VirtueMart is a good choice if you are building a contentbased website using Joomla! and want to sell some products from that site. However, you cannot use it independently. It must be used together with Joomla! or Mambo.

Joomla provides the core system and the framework on which VirtueMart can run. Using these two will provide a complete Shopping Cart Solution within a content-based website, together with many other plug-ins such as Forums, FAQ, Guestbooks, Galleries, and so on. Changing the look and feel of VirtueMart shop is also easy as it uses Joomla’s easy to customize CSS and XML/HTML based templates.


CubeCart is a powerful eCommerce script written with PHP & MySQL. CubeCart is not open-source software and is not redistributable. With CubeCart, you can set up a powerful online store as long as you have hosting that supports PHP and a MySQL database.

CubeCart v4 requires, at the least, PHP 4.3.0, MySQL 4.1, and GD (Image Library). It can run on both a Linux/Unix or a Windows webserver, but a Linux/Unix server is recommended.

CURL with SSL support is required for some shipping/payment modules. ZendOptimizer or Ioncube will need to be installed on Windows servers in order to run CubeCart v4. On Linux/Unix servers, ZendOptimizer is not required but the hosting account must be able to load IonCube loader files.

Considering the features and licensing requirements of CubeCart, Zen Cart is a

better choice than CubeCart if you are building an online shop from the scratch.


AgoraCart is a free open-source ecommerce shopping cart software application that offers a wide range of features. It has limitless flexibility in many areas including full design control through Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), template systems, customizable layouts, custom individual product category layouts and templates, modular ‘drop-in and go’ code as well as AgoraScript, AgoraCart’s own scripting language inside parsed HTML pages, which experienced programmers will appreciate.