by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 30 September 2011
As a technical writer, I straddled the worlds of techie geeks, who crunched complex and arcane code, and communication-focused marketing folks, who preferred simplicity in writing and communication. A fringe benefit of this experience is that I learnt to appreciate my job. After all, deconstructing complex technology into a simple experience requires talent and the skill to appreciate and understand your audience. So, I relished the opportunity to review this week's product - a technical product that made things simple for lay users. This week we will look at Softaculous: an application installer that enables users to add myriad applications from blogging platforms to content management systems on their website. We will look at its interface, features, and see how it can be of use to you.
You cannot go very wrong with a name like "Softaculous." It is a novel, strange, and memorable name. Naturally, my first question to Pulkit Gupta, founder and chief executive officer of Softaculous was about the origin of this name. "The word, itself, is a combination of software and spectaculous," he says. In other words, we are talking about spectacular software here. So, what does "Softaculous" do?"Our software enables more than two million users to help install applications on their website through a single click," says Gupta. Lest the technical details worry you, this means that if you have a website and are interested in installing applications such as blogging platforms or games on your website, then Softaculous will help you install them. Gupta explains the concept with the help of an example. "Not everyone who has a blog knows how to install it," he says. "Our application is targeted at anyone who has a hosting account (for his or her website)."So, what's the big deal about that? Well, for starters, consider the list of things you would need to do in order to install new applications or software on your website. You would need select and install a database, define and assign user permissions for that database, and run the installation wizard of a script. With Softaculous, all these actions are condensed into a single click. You select the application from a list of applications supported by Softaculous and simply click Install to run it on your system.
THE DETAILS OF WORKING WITH SOFTACULOUS
Softaculous is installed on top of control panel software such as cPanel, Plesk, DirectAdmin, Interworx, and H-Sphere for web hosting sites. Installation is a simple three-step process of locating the software to be installed from a list of applications, selecting appropriate domains and hitting the Install button. Installing the application on Linux servers is a simple three line process. The secret sauce in Softaculous's recipe are a number of scripts (215 at last count) for each application. Gupta says they have introduced two new products recently. The first one is AMPPS, which Gupta calls Softaculous for Desktops. "With AMPPS you can install any of these 215 scripts on your desktop and modify them according to your needs," he says. "You can then use this and publish it on your website. This is a great tool for enterprises and web developers who install scripts on a regular basis."What's more, the application comes with the latest PHP, MySQL, Apache and also supports PERL and Python. This means that it is a regular WAMP stack. If that was too technical for you, here's an explanation. A WAMP stack consists of an open source applications in a Windows environment. The elements of this stack include Windows operating system, Apache web server, MySQL database, and a scripting language such as Perl or Python. Another application called Webuzo enables users to use dedicated servers or cloud servers "to their fullest." "Enterprises, developers and SMBs who want a simple server management software with 215 apps with Perl and Python support can use Webuzo," says Gupta. Again, this means that you do not need control panel software such as cPanel sitting on top of the operating system. I would assume that simple commands on your command line interface should be enough to accomplish the same tasks as the one on cPanel.
THE BASICS: WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
For all its technical prowess, the solution is very simple and easy-to-use. It consists of a simple three panel interface, where you can select applications and install them on your system. "The whole point is that we want even a non-technical person to be able to install a difficult script," says Gupta. "We also help technical people by simplifying the process. They can complete the entire installation process in just one click."
The software has an extensive library of video tutorials that can be used to install applications. In addition, Gupta says they fully support each of the 215 apps in their library of installations.
IS IT FOR YOU?
I thought this was a great tool that simplifies the installation process for non-technical web administrators. So, next time you want to create your own website, don't hesitate to consider Softaculous.