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See also Finding Tech Resources

Basic Definitions

  • Hosted software: Software installed on one machine, but accessible from other remote machines. Ex: gmail,, etc.
  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS): Hosted software which is installed & maintained by one party, but is used by others - for free or in exchange for payment. Some software packages are available as a service, but also be downloaded for personal or commercial use. Wordpress sites can be hosted by, but the software is also available for download.
  • Free & open source software (FOSS): Software available free of licensing fees, licensed with permission to use, study, adapt and share. Some is copyleft or Share-Alike, which means it is licensed in a manner which perpetuates its re-distribution. See the Wikipedia entry for a more complete description.

General "Community" Software

A comparison matrix of software that can serve as a general hub, originally created by the Food Co-op Alliance of NYC.

Software Open Source Free Platform Language Skill for Setup Feature List Demo Site Custom / API Plugins
Drupal yes yes SaaS or LAMP PHP moderate opensourceCMS yes yes
Joomla yes yes SaaS or LAMP PHP moderate opensourceCMS, yes yes
Wordpress yes yes SaaS or LAMP PHP moderate opensourceCMS yes yes
Wordpress MU yes yes

Wordpress MU + Buddypress yes yes

req. install
yes no no SaaS

Ning no no SaaS
yes "apps"
Elgg yes yes LAMP PHP moderate
yes yes no yes SaaS
Zoho suite

Crabgrass yes yes SaaS or RoR Ruby Varies


Zope No Limited option SaaS
Minimal - Github Yes Options SaaS or RoR Ruby Varies

Big Tent No Ad supported SaaS
Minimal Live demo, Screencast(Youtube) No? No?
SaaS or deb

Use-case Specific Software

Below are listed some software packages aimed at meeting specific needs. Before adopting single-use tools, a co-op should consider future needs, data portability, & tech capacity within the organization. Some lightweight tools (Etherpad, Mytinytodo) can be easily integrated into other workflows, but others (Mailman, Surveymonkey) can present difficult challenges in the future.

  • Will you want your discussion list members to use a single login to access their list subscriptions, and a future site?
  • Is your organization prepared to trust voting participants, or do you need specific measures to assure voting fairness?
  • Does your organization have the capacity to maintain software? Should you settle for a simple solution, or increase capacity in order to use a tool that can integrate multiple solutions?
  • Will you need the data to move to another system in the future? Is there a migration path?

Real-time Collaborative

List of public installations:
Richard's whiteboard thing
Kune collaborative federated social network

Real-time Collaborative Source Code Editing


Site-based chat

I can't vouch for any of these, but I think this is a category of tool that has particular relevance to co-ops, particularly when using integration into mobile phone chat platforms. I've opted to list open source packages, and companies offering free plans, that while limited could prove valuable to startups or small organizations.

Mailing & Discussion Lists

Many cooperatives wish to maintain email lists to send out mass announcements to their clients and customers. Mailing list management software makes this easier and automates many of the processes. There are many options available and you should determine your cooperative's needs and capabilities and order to find the best match.

Also note that you can create and manage mailing lists using customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRMs offer more options and can scale better than general mailing list software, allowing things like targeting a specific subset of customers for an email announcement. They also have the advantage of integrating many different kinda of data about your co-op's customers. However, many cooperatives will find that CRMs have more features than they need and seem daunting to set up and use.

Mailing Lists (Announce only)

"Email Marketing and Email List Manager" -
"It's the easiest way to start writing your own email newsletter." - (Acquired by MailChimp, but probably worth listing)
Constant Contact
My Emma
Your Mailing List Provider
"Dada Mail is a Contemporary Mailing List Manager." -
iContact - Similar to Constant Contact, My Emma, etc.

Mailing Lists (Discussion)

There are numerous options for creating discussion lists, intended for many-to-many communication, from longstanding free software (Mailman), to newer services (Google Groups), to radical rethinking based on simplicity (Fiesta, Breeze) or integration with a CMS.

Some discussion lists can be configured as announce-only.

See discussion list software for a listing and more in-depth discussion.

Q & A, Idea Generation

Open Source (GPL) Q&A System. Based on CNProg (Chinese Q&A web application) Written in Python w/Django. Social Q & A with roadmap for extended features.
Stack Overflow clone based on CNProg, Django based, currently in development.
Get Satisfaction
"...friendly online environment '[created to encourage]' people to answer each others' questions, pitch in to help solve problems, and share all kinds of new ideas about how to improve their product and processes." Software as a service with paid monthly plans.
Helpdesk + Feedback. Software as a service with paid monthly plans & limited free options.
"...full-featured Open Source (LPGL v3) Social Q&A web program. Deep integration with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger and soon LinkedIn APIs."
Open Source (GPL) product feature discussion system. Users create, discuss, and vote on potential features. Product managers assess discussion, manage release and publish a roadmap.
Closed Source under a [free license.] "VoxPopuli lets your web site visitors submit ideas and suggestions regarding your web site, your products and services right on your web pages. Other visitors can vote for or against submittions."
Idea Torrent
Open Source (GPL) Drupal (6.x) based idea generation, discussion & voting platform. Apparently minimally maintained. In use by [Ubuntu.]
Google Moderator
Software as a Service. "...create a meaningful conversations from many different people's questions, ideas, and suggestions..."
Software as a Service. Free?  "...Idea informer creates the feedback system, which encourages discussions of good ideas, ensuring a better quality instead of a greater quantity."
Open Source (GPL v2) idea generation, discussion, voting platform, with estimation and project management features. Ruby.
"BBYIDX is a free and open source idea-gathering application written in Ruby and distributed under the GNU Affero General Public License."
Free and open source Social Q&A software, written in Ruby. Also offered as free Software as a Service option.
User Rules
Software as a Service with limited free option. "UserRules empowers your users to submit, discuss, vote and follow on feedback for your company and gives you single interface to manage your community forum, customer-support platform and user analytics all in one place!"
All Our Ideas
Open Source (Modified BSD License) idea generation, discussion, prioritization platform.
Use Response
"UseResponse is a self-hosted customer service satisfaction, community solution and feedback software that you can place on your server. It is fully customizable (open-source) and can be used at your full disposal." Scheduled for launch December 2011.
Open Source (New BSD License) simple Django based user feedback management system.
Software as a Service with limited free option. "Bring out the best ideas from your customers and stakeholders by giving them a platform to share, vote and discuss feedback."
Software as a Service with limited free option. Idea & feedback  management.
Open Source (GPL) Q&A. Standalone, single-sign-on, and OotB integration with WordPress 3.x
WordPress Q-A plugin
Wordpress specific Q&A plugin. "Q&A Lite allows any WordPress site to have a fully featured questions and answers section - just like StackOverflow, Yahoo Answers, Quora and more"
WordPress based Q&A plugin.

Some other alternatives at alternativeto

Forms: Scheduling, Polling & Voting

Lightweight collaborative appointment making. Simple, fast.
Collaborative appointment making. Also offers polling and to-do lists, slightly more robust and complex than Doodle.
FOSS installable scheduling.


(Service appears to not yet be live, as of 3.21.12) "Vlad creates harmonious schedules — accounting for crew preferences, time conflicts, job priorities, and other factors — automatically."

Voting & Survey

"Webform is free, open-source software for making forms and surveys through a web browser. Webform is built on top of the Drupal platform (which is also free and open-source). This website ( provides a hosted platform for using the Webform software as a service, without the need to download or install Webform yourself."
"LimeService is a survey service-platform to prepare, run and evaluate online surveys. Besides basic free usage you are always getting the full feature set with no monthly fees or subscription plans." Runs on the free open-source software LimeSurvey

On line forms. Primarily useful for collecting data. Free plan available, with some limitations. Slightly more robust than Google forms.

Commerce: Point of Sale, e-commerce

See also: Point of Sale Systems
Free open source (GPL) buying club management software, developed in collaboration with the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.
xTuple POS
The xTuple Point of Sales (xtPOS) system is an extension package that can be run on any edition of xTuple ERP (including the free PostBooks Edition) to add Point of Sale / Cash Register capabilities to the software.
Free hosted buying club management software.
Buying club management software.
Free open source (GPL) buying club and/or coop management software.
OpenBravo POS
Open Source POS system meant to integrate with OpenBravo ERP
Free open source POS system created at the Wedge Community Co-op in Minneapolis in use in several food US food co-ops. Also see CORE: POS project of IS4C.
Point-of-sale and inventory management software designed for bookstores. Should also work as a general point-of-sale software as well. Free/open source, developed and distributed by Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse worker collective.
Commercial POS solution in use at several US food co-ops. 
PHP Point of Sale

Lemon POS
ECRS Catapult
Commerical POS solution with broad usage in US food co-ops 


      Commercial POS solution in use a several US food co-ops. 

Drupal based POS system. Currently lacks support for scale use, but is in active development. There's a video demonstrating it in action. The developers list the hardware they use, and how it works in the faq. The card reader they use requires an card present account.
A Drupal module maintained by ebrelsford that uses Ubercart to manage Greene Hill Food Co-op's buying club.
A Drupal module which integrates Ubercart with CiviCRM.
Free Wordpress e-commerce plugin to facilitate selling of physical and digital products, utilize a shopping cart, and so forth.
Floreant POS
"Floreant POS is a platform independent Point of Sale application that greatly benefits Restaurant business simplifying order management, automation of kitchen and keeping control of cash." Open source - MRPL license.
In use at the Bushwick Food Coop, NYC

Software Open Source Free Platform Language Purpose Feature List Demo yes yes Unix PHP Buying club order management screenshots
xTuple POS yes for one site Unix, Windows C++ Retail POS/ERP demo no yes SaaS PHP Buying club order management demo no no SaaS - Buying club order management demo
Foodsoft yes yes Unix Ruby Buying club order management demo
OpenBravo POS no no Unix/SaaS Java Retail POS/ERP
IS4C yes yes Unix PHP Retail POS/ERP
Rattail BONE/POS yes yes Unix Python Retail POS/ERP -
infoshopkeeper yes yes Unix Python Retail POS/ERP -
CoPOS no no Windows - Retail POS/ERP
PHP Point of Sale yes no Unix/SaaS PHP Retail POS/ERP]
Lemon POS yes yes Unix C++ Retail POS/ERP -
UberPOS yes yes Unix PHP Retail POS/ERP -
uc_buyingclub yes yes Unix PHP Buying club order management - -
WP-Ecommerce yes yes Unix PHP Online Retail -
Floreant POS yes yes Windows Java Retail POS For Demo, Please mail me at
ShopKeep no no SaaS - Retail POS - -
imonggo no no SaaS - Retail POS -
Cash Register Express no no Windows - Retail POS - -
ECRS Catapult no no Windows/Linux - Retail POS/ERP -
LOC SMS no no Windows - Retail POS/ERP -
Microsoft Dynamics RMS no no Windows - Retail POS -
Cashier Live no no SaaS - Retail POS Software Inventory Management, Credit Card Processing, Purchase Orders, Reporting, Accounting

Commerce: Lightweight Point of Sale

Lightweight web/iPad based POS system. Currently (July 2011) does not support scale integration.
Free + premium web-based point of sale, inventory management, sales analysis, customer relationship management, etc.

Accounting & Bookkeeping

Open source cross-platform accounting application created by the GNU Project. Runs on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux. (Free)
Business accounted software developed and sold by Intuit. Runs on Windows and Mac OS X.
Cross-platform double-entry accounting software. Licensed under the GPL.

Wave Accounting

Member Management (CRM, AMS)

CRM that can be deployed alongside your co-op's Drupal, Wordpress or Joomla website.
Used by Mariposa Food Co-op to track members and shifts. Python and Django.
RedHen CRM
Drupal 7 native CRM developed by ThinkShout in Portland, Oregon. demo install profile.
vtiger CRM
Big Tent
See above in general community software.
Tofu DB
Simple perl/mySQL membership database created at the 4th street Food Co-op. Available for free on inquiry.

See Also


Powerful web analytics, free options available, free plugins available for Drupal & Wordpress.
Free open source (GPL) real time web analytics software. Self-hosted.

Training & Courseware

Moodle "is a Free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites."

Online project collaboration software for project managers, contractors, freelancers and teams. (Open source and free for up to three projects.)

Enterprise Software

webERP is an open-source web-based ERP system.
Open source business software, covering: CRM, Accounting, Point of Sale, Project Management, and more.
Open Bravo ERP
Web-based ERP, covering: Procurement, Project Management, Sales, CRM, Finance, Point-of-Sale, and more.



More Open Source ERP and CRM Projects 

Warehouse Management Systems

Software for managing inventory

Powerful, Enterprise-Strength Warehouse Management System

Sensing & Reporting

Software + hardware for sensing, reporting and recording data. Could be used for integration with checkout lanes, store environment, equipment.

"Our open source platform has applications in many areas including health, fitness, the environment, social networks, and education." Hardware, software, mobile & web interfaces.


Some timeclock systems mentioned on CGIN list as currently being in use at Co-ops.

  • Novatime
  • ADP WorkforceNow solution
  • Kronos
  • TimeClockPlus
  • Time Force from QQEST
  • Virtual Time Clock by Redcort Software

Conferencing, chat, and screen sharing

Tinychat, and Google+ Hangout
Free (reg. required to initiate, anyone can join @ static url), Java w/flash video. Polls, screen-sharing, hand signals.

...tinychat because it doesn't depend on someone initiating the meeting, so the room exists when the first person appears.. additional downloads beyond flash.
Easy, works. Slight edge on has a good web interface for facilitating a call, including the ability for participants to raise their hand by pressing 5* It's a small difference, but can really help keep a call on process. Lowish quality audio, suitable for standups.
Easy, works. Slight edge on is almost identical in features to, but with an inferior web interface. It also has a (horribly implemented) "hand raising" mode. It gets big points for having a skype "bridge," so people can call in for free via skype, using the contact name format "freeconferencecalling.<call in number>" - which would allow for the local meeting to have the conference call on using a hardware speakerphone. Lowish quality audio, suitable for standups, suitable for bringing in remotes via audio.
Proprietary voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) service and software application owned by Microsoft. Offers text, audio, and video chat features, with varying limitations. Currently available for Android, iOS (iPhone/iPad), Mac OS, Linux, Symbian, and Windows.

Might also be accessible from SIP through gateways like



X-platform, high quality, kinda confusing.
IRC bot that facilitates more structured IRC meetings, puts out formatted logs & HTML files.
"Openmeetings provides video conferencing, instant messaging, white board, collaborative document editing and other groupware tools using API functions of the Red5 Streaming Server for Remoting and Streaming." In development, demo server available.
Free, simple, one to many screen-sharing. Significant lag in display.
Jitsi - https//
an open source audio/video and chat communicator that supports protocols such as SIP, XMPP/Jabber, AIM/ICQ, Windows Live, Yahoo! and many other useful features, including conference calls, call-recording and desktop-sharing. Works on free java systems. Has particular requirements for SIP servers, so does not work with some current commercial providers.
Big blue button - http//
an open source web conferencing system built on over fourteen open source components. Requires Adobe's Flash on clients and does not work with any Free Flash yet.

Todos: Some XMPP discussion (eXtensible Messaging and Presence Protocol, a way for open, autonomous, multi-server chat and telephony - what would you like to know?). Sections on conference strategy, dependability, some hardware, mention business model of freeconference clones ?

File Sharing

Many project management and collaboration platforms have integrated methods for sharing files, but there are also dedicated products which may be preferable.


Collaborative document drafting

Collaborative word processor includes discussion and email notifications:

Timebanking and Barter

Community Weaver 2
Drupal Timebank install as used at Installation overview, latest news.
Barter based education software as used by Trade School locations.
"Trade School is a self-organized learning space that runs on barter. Pay for class with a barter item (like food, supplies, or help) that your teacher requests." completed a successful kickstarter campaign in 2012 to " an open source software platform to share with local Trade School chapters around the world."