Which OpenCart version is the best? Find out yours!

There are 3 major OpenCart versions out there in 2018: 1.x, 2.x and 3.x.

What's the difference between them, which one's the best and how to determine, which one you're using?

In this quick guide, I'll try to cover the differences between OpenCart versions and help you choose the right one.

How do you determine your current OpenCart version?

First things first. If you're already using OpenCart, you'll need to find out which version you're using.

Fortunately, OpenCart makes it quite simple.


Check the footer of your admin area

By default, OpenCart displays the version number you're using when you're logged into your OpenCart administration area.

Older versions of OpenCart (e.g. 1.x) also display the version number in the footer of the admin login screen, so you may not even need to log in (this was removed in OpenCart 2.x for security reasons).

So, simply log into your OpenCart admin account and check the page footer – you'll usually see the OpenCart version number displayed right there.

However, this may not work in all cases. Your OpenCart version number might be hidden from the admin area footer for a number of reasons. For example, you may have a third party extension installed to hide your OpenCart version number – or your developer may have decided to do it manually for security reasons even from admins.

In this case, you'll need to look into the index.php file, which is the main file responsible for booting up OpenCart.


Look for VERSION inside the index.php file

All versions of OpenCart come with two index.php files – one in the root of your OpenCart folder and one inside the admin/ folder. You can use any of these.

Access the index.php file using FTP, CPanel File Manager or any other file manager you're comfortable with and search for VERSION.

You'll usually find it in the very beginning of the file and it will look something like this:

// Version
define('VERSION', '');

This is your OpenCart version. Pretty simple, right?

Now, which version of OpenCart should you be using? We have a few suggestions for you.


What's the difference between OpenCart versions?

If you search long enough, you'll probably find a number of reasons to use and not to use each of the available OpenCart versions.

When choosing a version of OpenCart, there are a few good things to consider:

  • design and features
  • security and stability
  • development and updates
  • theme and extension support

Generally, all three versions of OpenCart come with a similar set of features – the core OpenCart feature set hasn't changed much since the initial OpenCart releases.

Design-wise, OpenCart 1.x looks a bit more dated than 2.x and 3.x, but this usually concerns administration interfaces, since you'll use a theme for your front store.

As to theme and extension support, you'll find that most OpenCart themes and extensions support OpenCart 2.x, many popular ones also support 3.x and some new ones don't support 1.x.

When it comes to security, stability and updates, things get a bit more tricky.

While OpenCart 1.x is the oldest version of OpenCart and has had its share of security issues in the past, most of them were ironed out by On the other hand, it has been discontinued with the release of OpenCart 2.x, so don't expect any updates – including security updates.

When OpenCart 2.x replaced OpenCart 1.x, it brought new interface design to OpenCart – but also new issues to work around. By the version, however, OpenCart has become pretty stable and well-tested.

Today, although OpenCart 3.x is technically the newest and the best version of OpenCart, it has its own problems. It has also not been updated since July 2017.

All these things considered, which version of OpenCart should you use? Tough choice.

Here's what we at MultiMerch recommend as of February 2018.


OpenCart 1.x is the original version of OpenCart, which has reached its end of life

The first official version of OpenCart was 1.1.1, which was released back in February, 2009.

OpenCart has achieved its mainstream success by versions 1.4 and 1.5 from 2010 to 2014.

The latest version of the 1.x line - OpenCart - is still being used by many who were reluctant to switch to OpenCart 2.0 when it was first released in October 2014.

While earlier OpenCart 1.x releases were plagued by bugs and vulnerability issues, all (or most) of them have been ironed out by OpenCart

Still, there's no major reason for you to be using a version of OpenCart that has reached its end of life and will be 4 years old in 2018.

Another thing to consider here is the fact that most new themes and extensions do not support OpenCart 1.x. This means you'll be stuck with the classics – the ones that were initially released for OpenCart 1.x and still support it. And thery're getting fewer.


OpenCart 2.x is a reliable successor to 1.x and is still widely used

OpenCart 2.0 was initially released in October 2014 and has received mixed feedback.

Among its main improvements were front store style and interface updates, a major admin interface redesign as well as a number of changes to some of OpenCart's core internals.

OpenCart 2 has also introduced OCMOD - its own version of the vQmod modification system. Due to some questionable decisions, OCMOD wasn't too well received by developers initially.

While it took OpenCart 2 time to mature (just like its early OpenCart 1.x predecessors), it has become quite a reliable system by the version – which was also the last version in the OpenCart 2.x line.

As of 2018, OpenCart is still considered one of the most stable OpenCart versions and recommended by some prominent OpenCart developers and community members.

We at MultiMerch use OpenCart extensively for all of our projects. At this point, OpenCart is the primary OpenCart version we test MultiMerch Marketplace with.


OpenCart 3.x is new and cutting edge, but it's not quite there yet

OpenCart 3 was released in 2017 as a successor to OpenCart 2 and has received mixed feedback, just like OpenCart 2 had a few years earlier.

While it has introduced a facelift for the default store theme and the admin area, most other core OpenCart features have stayed the same.

The biggest change that came with OpenCart 3 is not visible from the outside, though.

OpenCart 3 has introduced a completely new PHP template engine under the hood – it has switched from plain PHTML templates to Twig (which is a popular PHP template engine).

The change doesn't affect you as the store owner directly. However, it is a major issue for theme and extension developers as most of them have to be rewritten to support Twig. Is it a difficult process?

It's not too bad per se, but keep in mind that OpenCart 2.x is still the major stable version and there are stores running OpenCart 1.x. For OpenCart developers, this means the need to maintain at least 3 different variations of their products – while also dealing with compatibility between minor OpenCart releases (e.g. 2.0 and 2.2).

We've reviewed OpenCart 3 back in July 2017 and re-reviewed it recently – and found it lacking and not yet ready for production marketplaces. Unfortunately, while development continues on GitHub, there have been no official OpenCart 3 releases since then.

This leaves you with two options – you can either use the officially released OpenCart and miss out on 6 months of bugfixes or use a development version from GitHub and risk running into new problems.

In addition to these inconveniences, ultimately OpenCart 3 did not address any of the underlying problems – such as lack of a decent modification system, often inconvenient interfaces, no strict guidelines for theme and extension developers and missing important core features.


Conclusion. Which version of OpenCart should you use?

While I'm hoping this will soon change, as of February 2018 we can't recommend OpenCart 3 to MultiMerch marketplace owners.

Running an online marketplace is a more complex task than running a regular online store, so at least some stability is needed.

What about you – the regular OpenCart online store owners?

Here's what we at MultiMerch recommend when it comes to choosing an OpenCart version for your online store:

  • don't use OpenCart 1.x as you'll miss out on great OpenCart themes, extensions and support
  • use OpenCart if you're looking for maximum stability and reliability
  • try OpenCart 3 if you're not afraid of running into issues and looking for solutions

I'll keep this post updated as we see OpenCart 3 evolve – hopefully sooner rather than later.

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Martin Boss

Martin is the founder of MultiMerch, an ex-OpenCart developer and an e-commerce enthusiast.You can also find him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Quora.