6 Awesome Plug-ins/Extensions for Magento

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Check out six of our favourite Magento extensions to make your life easier and create a great user experience. If you enjoy this post, you'll find many more tips and advice in our FREE eBook: Independent Guide to Selecting the Right e-Commerce Platform.

We make no secret of our love for Magento. In our experience, eBay's open-source e-Commerce platform offers a level of customisation unmatched by any other platform, big or small.

With its customisable, open-source nature comes a certain amount of complexity – building your own features into Magento is hardly a beginners' job. But the flip-side of this is that Magento has a large and active developer community, who are constantly working on plug-ins and extensions which can slot right into your build with little need for complex programming.

And the best thing about the open-source philosophy is that many of these add-ons are entirely free!

Magento Connect lists more than 7,500 plug-ins and extensions, covering categories like 'customer experience', 'site management' and 'marketing'. We highly recommend you take the time to browse through some of these to get an idea of the powerful tools available.

But to get you started, here are six of our favourites:

1. Ajax Cart Extension by Magestore

Ajax Cart Extension by MageStoreThere are many Ajax cart extensions available for Magento, including many that are free. However, one of our favourites is the not-free-but-very-reasonably-priced 'Ajax Cart Extension' by Magestore.

For the uninitiated, here's Wikipedia:

Ajax is a group of interrelated web development techniques [that allow] web applications [to] send data to, and retrieve data from, a server asynchronously (in the background) without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page.”

In terms of shopping carts, this allows users to do things like add multiple products to a shopping cart from a single page, without having to wait for the page to reload after every action. Another typical feature is a dynamically updating product indicator (i.e. 'Your cart contains 4 products').

Magestore's extension does this and more, adding features like add-to-cart animations and notification boxes, as well as add-to-wishlist and 'you may also like' functionality.

2. MatrixRate by WebShopApps

MatrixRate by WebShopAppsMatrixRate describes itself as “the most popular multiple table rates extension for Magento”. It's great, that's why. And it's free, for the non-enterprise edition.

This extension lets you define shipping rates based on multiple information sources. For example, you can easily change the shipping rate based on location, the number of products in cart, the price subtotal, the weight of the items and more.

It's available in free and premium versions.

3. Follow Up Email by aheadWorks

Follow Up Email by aheadWorksAgain, there are no shortage of 'follow up email' extensions available for Magento, but this powerful package by aheadWorks is a good bet for beginners and experts alike. It fully integrates with the Magento platform to allow you to send emails based on any customer event. Abandoned cart? Send an email! Added a product to a wishlist? Send an email!

What's more, you can create complex conditions for email delivery, such as only sending emails for certain product categories. And it includes powerful analytics tools to track the success of your email marketing efforts.

4. Advanced Reports by aheadWorks

Advanced Reports by aheadWorksOn the subject of analytics, here's another extension by aheadWorks that drastically improves Magento's native reporting capabilities.

Advanced Reports is full of features to help you gain better insights about your business. These include 'bestsellers' reports, 'sales by hour' reports and 'sales by customer group' reports.

5. Extended Product Grid with Editor by Amasty

Extended Product Grid with Editor by AmastyIf you've ever had to edit product information in any kind of quantity using Magento's native product grid, you'll know how time consuming it can be. Amasty's Extended Product Grid with Editor is a lifesaver in this regard.

It makes locating the products you need much, much easier by allowing you to sort by product category using drop-down menus, and by displaying easily recognisable images in the grid. And it helps save time by allowing you to edit pricing and other product information directly in the grid – no more clicking through to the product page, making amends, and waiting for the changes to save.

Though Amasty's extension is one of the most streamlined and feature-rich options available, it costs money. So if you're looking for a viable free alternative, we would recommend Enhanced Admin Grids (+Editor) by apikom.

6. Layered Navigation by aheadWorks

Layered Navigation by aheadWorksIf you haven't noticed already, we really like extensions by aheadWorks. This, the third on our list, is a layered navigation extension that uses Ajax to facilitate easy product filtering without page reloads.

Unsure what layered navigation is? You'll certainly have seen it on many e-Commerce sites when you carry out a product search. On being presented with search results, you're then able to filter the products by selecting various categoric options like 'colour', 'manufacturer', 'size' and 'price'.

AheadWorks' extension makes this process fast and seamless, ensuring an optimum user experience. What's more, it allows for extensive customisation, letting you choose the filters and their appearance, and even include a thumbnail icon next to each search filter.

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