35 Open Source and Free Tools to Manage Your Online Store

From shopping carts to marketing tools to image-editing software, here's a look at 35 open source tools and hosted services that can help you get started with your own Web store.

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SenseiMailer is based on the PHPList email marketing system and has been enhanced to provide better subscribe forms for integration with online services such as Amazon Simple Email Service (SES). Other features include single opt-ins, improved back-end subscription processing and a better selection of integrated forms. The full package, which includes the SenseiMailer software, step-by-step installation videos and a guide to setting up Amazon SES, is available for $19.95. A demo version is available.

5 Free Hosted Email Marketing Software Options

Small businesses, thanks to a smaller subscriber base, can use hosted online email marketing solutions for free. The free versions tend to be basic plans that restrict the number of messages or recipients you connect with in a 30-day period. When using a free service for ecommerce email marketing campaigns, be sure to read the fine print and make sure you can you obtain your contact list if you decide to use another service provider or switch to an open source platform down the road.

How-to: Find the Right Email Marketing Service Provider

24. Campaigner Free

Campaigner offers its hosted email marketing solution completely free to lists of fewer than 500 email addresses. You get access to hundreds of email templates, 1 MB of storage and email address management options, including the ability to see who has read your mailing and clicked on the links in your messages.

25. Kualo MailMachine

This list-building tool lets you create your email list, manage opt-in processes and import contacts or set sign-up forms on your website. Features include ready-made templates, autoresponders, A/B split tests and a dashboard view for email campaign reports. The "Forever Free Plan" is good for up to 2,000 subscribers (15,000 emails per month). A discreet MailMachine badge is embedded in all email footers on the free plan. Upgraded plans start at $10 per month.

26. Mail Chimp

This online service lets you design email newsletters, share them on social networks and integrate them with services you already use. Features include list building and management, custom forms, Facebook integration, pre-designed templates and a drag-and-drop editor. MailChimp reports show you who's opening emails and clicking on links in those emails, and it integrates with Google Analytics to show you how email campaigns affect traffic to your website. The free account is good for up to 2,000 subscribers (12,000 emails per month).

27. ReachMail

ReachMail provides a number of features including custom templates, auto-responders and detailed reporting with built-in social media sharing and message testing. The free account is good for sending up to 15,000 emails a month. Upgraded accounts start at $10 per month.

28. SendBlaster Free

SendBlaster lets you manage email marketing campaign quickly and directly from your desktop. You can import your contact list and manage blacklists and bounce backs. SendBlaster features easy set-up: After a single download and a few clicks, you can set up direct mailing and customize the details of your simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) server. SendBlaster Free also provides advanced tracking so you can analyze customer behavior and collect information to improve your next campaigns. Upgrades are a one-time payment starting at $49.

3 Editing Tools to Improve Your Product Shots

Online Web store owners know the value in presenting customers with perfect, professional product shots. A plain-Jane digital photo of the item you sell is often not enough to inspire a purchase. If you manage a small online store with a small product catalog, you're at an advantage, since you can provide perfect product shots for every product you sell. All you need is a digital camera and one of the following free or open source editing tools.

29. GIMP

GIMP is a free, open source image editor that can be used for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It features a full set of tools including brush, pencil, airbrush, a gradient editor, a blend tool and anti-aliasing capabilities. The manipulation tools to rotate, crop and scale images, meanwhile, will be useful for editing product shots.

30. Paint.NET

Originally developed as a free alternative to Microsoft Paint, Paint.NET features a tab interface to display thumbnails for easy navigation. It includes image effects, 3-D rotation, editing tools for drawing shapes. You'll also find the basic tools for improving product shots: Cropping, rotating, a basic text editor and a recolor tool.

31. Picasa

Picasa is Google's free software to edit and organize images. After you install Picasa, you can scan your entire hard drive to organize all your photos. For editing and improving product shots, there's a plethora of photo editing affects to choose from, along with basic tools such as crop, straighten, rotate, red-eye removal, contrast and lightening focus.

4 Free Shipping Tools For Small Businesses

Another piece of the ecommerce pie new store owners have to lean about is the world of shipping. Do it wrong—that is, charge too little—and you could lose your shirt. While there's not much in the way of open source software to help you figure out the shipping aspect of your online business, there are a number of free shipping tools to help you get started. Remember to do your research first and then decide where you'll offer to ship to and which carrier you will use.

32. FedEx Rate and Transit Time Finder

FedEx offers a simple online tool to obtain a rate quote and determine the expected delivery date and time for your shipment. Provide the package details along with the "ship to" and "ship from" information to see available rates and delivery times.

How-to: Take Advantage of Free Shipping and Still Make a Profit

33. Shipping SideKick

One way to save money on shipping is to ensure that you use the most cost-efficient service. To help small businesses figure out which service is best for business, Shipping SideKick provides United States domestic and international quotes from multiple carriers, based on your "to" and "from" details.

34. UPS Online Rate Calculator

Enter your parcel information, along with the "to" and "from" details, and discover what rates and delivery service are available. The site also offers handy zone and rate charts and service guides to ensure that shipping goes smoothly.

35. USPS Postage Price Calculator

The United States Postal Service also offers an online rate calculator to help you determine the cost to ship packages. You can choose a flat rate service or use the pictorial guide to choose a package shape. Enter the "to" and "from" ZIP codes to see the different rate options and the delivery service guarantee.

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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