Part 4: Catalog Management OfferingSubmitted by Matthew Turland on Tue, 08/04/2009 - 13:20
This feature was covered in the previous post in this series and is simply restated in this feature set section because it pertains to both catalog browsing and catalog management. The post on the former described it in a fair amount of detail, so there's no need to restate it all here. Enough said.
This feature implements global settings for minimum and maximum allowed product quantities in the shopping cart and minimum stock quantity at which products move from in-stock to out-of-stock. It also includes automated inventory management (i.e. product stock decreases appropriately as orders are placed) and a global setting option to allow backorders of out-of-stock products. There's a corresponding section in the user guide on this.
To access global inventory options from the Magento admin area, go to System - Configuration, click the Inventory tab under the Catalog section on the left, and collapse the Product Stock Options section of that page. To access inventory options for an individual product, go to Catalog - Manage Products, opt to add or edit a product, and click the Inventory tab on the left.
Batch Import and Export of Catalog
There's a wiki article that covers the basics of this feature. It's accessible via System - Import/Export - Profiles. Profiles are a combination of PHP components and XML configuration that instruct Magento on how to import or export data in a particular format. Magento ships with profiles to import and export products, product stock quantities, and customers.
Sadly, the internals of this feature have little to no documentation, which make it difficult to supplement the native profiles with custom ones. One use case that users have had to puzzle through is importing products with multiple images. Another is importing categories and category-product associations, which took some rather extensive finagling.
There have also been issues with the scalability of this feature for larger stores, to which the only solution seems to be investing in the Enterprise Edition to get official support from Varien.
Batch Product Updates
A blog post and user guide section accompany this feature. To access it, go to Catalog - Manage Products, check off multiple products in the left-most column of the grid, then in the top-right corner of the grid select either the Change status or Update attributes option from the Actions drop-down menu and click the Submit button next to it. This will cause the form for editing products to be displayed, except that it is restricted to relevant sections and fields common to all selected products and will update those products upon submission.
Google Base Integration
A video is available for this feature.
To summarize the video, go to System - Configuration in the Magento admin area, select the Google API tab from the Sales section in the left-hand navigation, and collapse and fill out the Google Base section of that page. Be sure to enable the Update Google Base item when product is updated setting to Yes. Hit the Save Config button to save your changes.
After that, go to Catalog - Google Base - Manage Attributes and click the Add Attribute Mapping button to add a mapping between an existing Magento attribute set and a Google Base item type. Finally, go to Catalog - Google Base - Manage Items, search for and check items in the bottom section, select the Add to Google Base action in that grid, and hit the Submit button. From that point on, the top table can be used to publish changes, delete or hide products, or synchronize products with the data in Google Base.
I can't say that I've ever met a developer who's used Google Base before, nor have I heard that it has a significant userbase. As such, this seems to be an edge case feature to me. In and of itself, the feature has proven to have limitations in the quantity of data that it's capable of handling as well as synchronization issues for even small numbers of products.
Simple, Configurable, Bundled and Grouped Products
The user guide describes these in more detail, but I'll summarize it here.
- Simple products are products where all attribute values are predetermined by the administrator.
- Configurable products allow some choice attributes, such as the color of a shirt, to be selected by the customer when they add a product to their shopping cart.
- Grouped products allow multiple simple products to be displayed on a single page implying the intention to sell them as a set, but also allow them to retain their own individual pages to be sold separately.
- Bundled products, which have an accompanying video and were added in Magento 1.1 but somehow have yet to make it into the user guide as of 22.214.171.124, enable the use of simple products as configurable options for another product. These simple products retain their ability to be sold separately, but can also be bundled (hence the name) with the purchase of the bundled product. An example of this might be RAM for a laptop computer.
Aside from the lack of documentation on bundled products, the types listed here and in the sections of this blog post to follow appear to cover most use cases for product implementations. To create a product of any of these types, go to Catalog - Manage Products, click the Add Product button, and select the type of product you want to create from the Product Type drop-down menu in the form that appears.
Added in Magento 1.1 along side bundled products, virtual products are what they sound like: products that are not tangible and require no shipping or stock management. These also aren't documented in the user guide, but are explained in some detail in this forum thread. Services like an online training course are a good example of a virtual product.
Again, these are just what they sound like. They're very much like virtual products, except that the digital assets for sale are made available for download following the purchase. This feature was added in Magento 1.2 and is accompanied by a wiki article and a segment in a You Ask, We Answer Q&A video done by the Magento team at Varien.
Customer Personalized Products
Added in Magento 1.1.1, this feature allows custom options to be added to products to personalize it for the customer, such as text for embroidery or monogramming. This blog post describes the feature and links to a video that showcases it. The name of this feature appears to be used inconsistently between the feature list and the user interface. The file upload option type included in this feature appears to have been added after its inception judging from the video.
The user guide has a section on using this feature, though it appears to be out of date as the current version of Magento does not include multiple rate fields on the form to add a new tax rule. Tax rates can be set by location, customer group, and product type by going to Manage Tax Zones and Rates, Customer Tax Rates, and Product Tax Rates respectively under the Sales - Tax menu in the Magento admin area.
These are fundamental to how Magento works and are part of its EAV implementation (an approach that I've disputed in the past). Appropriately, there's a fair bit of documentation on this feature: a wiki article, a screencast, and of course a user guide section. Products are assigned an attribute set when they're created, which cannot be changed later. Attribute sets are intended to provide a grouping for products representative of their type to allow changes to be made easily across that group.
To make use of this, you'll need to create some attributes first. To do that, go to Catalog - Attributes - Manage Attributes and click the Add New Attribute button. Fill out the form that appears, submit, and rinse and repeat until you have all the attributes you want to include in the set. When that's done, go to Catalog - Attributes - Manage Attribute Sets - Add New Set to select the attributes to include in the set and assign it a name. Once you've submitted that form, the set should become an available option in the Attribute Set drop-down menu that's included in the first screen of the product creation form.
Create Store-Specific Attributes on the Fly
This specific feature doesn't appear to be documented anywhere. My only guess is that it refers to two particular capabilities of Magento's attribute implementation, albeit in an unintuitive manner. One of these capabilities involves scope of an attribute, which can be global, per web site, or per store. The user guide section on attributes covers this in more detail. The other capability is adding an attribute to an existing attribute set and having that attribute propagate to products that are assigned that attribute set, hence the "on the fly" description. (Does anybody else hate that phrase? Comes off like a buzzword to me.)
This feature appears to refer to the Images tab of the form for editing products (Catalog - Manage Products), which includes automatic image resizing. Watermarking of product images is also supported and the end of the Images subsection of the user guide section on creating a simple product touches on this briefly. This screencast covers it in a bit more depth with some visuals and this blog post reviews the process using a concise textual description. It seems a stretch to call this feature a media manager, as the only type of media that's supported is images. Video and audio are possible additions that might make use of this title seem more warranted.
Advanced Pricing Rules
See the Catalog Price Rules or Shopping Cart Price Rules sections of this user guide chapter or this wiki article on Shopping Cart Price Rules for more information. To access this feature, go to the Promotions menu in the Magento admin area and select either of the Catalog Price Rules or Shopping Cart Price Rules options. From either area, click the Add New Rule button.
The interfaces used for these appear very similar, but the available conditions and modifications to pricing are specific to the catalog or shopping cart. Options are included that allow for short-circuit evaluation in rule processing and free shipping as well as price-based discounts (fixed and percentage) and quantity-based discounts.
Search Results Rewrites and Redirects
It proved rather difficult to search for this feature as most results that came up had to do with URL rewriting, which is a different matter entirely. The feature does, however, include a user guide section that turned up after a bit of searching. To access the feature, go to Catalog - Search in the Magento admin area, then opt to add or edit a search term. The Synonym For field allows for specification of a search term alias such that, if a user searches for the synonym, the results for the original term will be displayed. The Redirect URL field causes a user searching for the term to be redirected to the given URL, which can be hosted on a completely different domain.
Approve, Edit and Delete Product Tags
The user guide has a section on this feature. Users can submit tags for a product which can then be approved by an administrator in order to appear on that product's page on the front-facing web site. To administrate tag submissions, go to Catalog - Tags - Pending Tags. The All Tags option under the menu also allows for the addition or modification of tags.
Approve, Edit and Delete Product Reviews
These are what they sound like: customer-submitted product reviews. See the user guide section for this feature. It can be accessed in Catalog - Reviews and Ratings - Customer Reviews - Pending Reviews or All Reviews. Reviews were covered in the previous post in this series.
RSS Feed for Low Inventory Alerts
This is one of the few areas of information where an RSS feed actually makes sense as a data format, since receiving an e-mail every time a low stock notification is generated for a product would likely become annoying very quickly. To access this feature, go to Catalog - Manage Products and click on the Notify Low Stock RSS link denoted by an RSS icon.
Some features mentioned in this post were merely restatements of features already described in the post on Catalog Browsing offerings, seemingly included merely because there are corresponding administrative areas to their counterparts on the front-facing web site. Others, like the various product types and attribute sets, are at the core of how Magento operates. Still others, like batch product updates and advanced pricing rules, are fairly impressive in their capabilities. Standard bases like variations in tax rules and inventory management are well-covered.
Several, like the batch import/export and several newer product types, are sorely lacking in documentation, which seems to be a persistent thorn in the side of developers using Magento. Some features like the batch import/export and Google Base integration have a record of performance issues, another concern often raised with Magento. While it does seem like the newer product types indicate that Varien is receptive to its target market, the lack of more than one response from a Varien representative to the forum threads cited in this post cast an equal amount of doubt on that assertion.