Busy business software

This free POS package takes care of business but is a bit busy itself.

Free POS Software is a freeware point-of-sale system optimized for bars, clubs, restaurants, and other small businesses in the food and hospitality trade. The basic system supports two cash drawers simultaneously, which is sufficient for many small businesses, though it can be networked for multiple sale points. It accepts barcode readers, card swipers, touch screens, receipt printers, remote printers, and other tools of the trade. It also handles inventories. While it's free to use, registration is required, though that's free, too.

During the installation process, a Hardware Setup screen appeared. It identified our system and whether it had things like a barcode reader or receipt printer; we could select or deselect items as well as configure LAN, Bluetooth, or Serial network access as well as IP Address, IP Port, and COM Port for remote printers. Under Currency, we changed the default selection, the South African Rand, for US Dollars. This program's interface fills the entire desktop, which is typical of POS systems since it keeps operators from wasting time. The program opened in Demonstration Mode, which requires users to test the functionality of their systems to proceed to the main menu view. Here we could access the Setup, POS, and other features.

Free POS Software's color-coded controls on a stark black background make for good contrast and visibility, but we quickly realized this program suffers from the chief disadvantage of nearly all POS software, free or not: It's complicated and unintuitive, with interfaces that are either too busy or too stark, a clunky functionality, and some weird ways of doing things, many of which are doubtless related to the fact that running Free POS Software will probably be the host PC's only duty. Issues like being difficult to close (we had to use the Task Manager), which are inconvenient on a home PC, may actually be virtues when employees are at the till. On the plus side, it's free and it does a lot; with some effort, you could probably configure your POS system to be foolproof (not that you'd actually hire fools; we're just saying). We've seen POS software with basic, intuitive interfaces yet just as many features and options as Free POS. We recommend trying a few before committing your store.

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