Actinic has a great deal of expertise in the ecommerce market, its Catalog range of commercial website building software having been around for over a decade now. See our review of Actinic Catalog 9.0.

A couple of years ago Actinic became an application service provider. Actinic Express 2.0 is a complete online store, hosted by Actinic itself, and with all design features and functions accessed through your web browser.

Version 2.0 of Actinic Express retains the same ease of use as the first release, but includes a number of improvements. Site layout and design options have been extended so that there are more themes and templates to choose from, while a few niggles from version 1.0 (such as the inability to modify fonts independently) have been ironed out.

New payment options, such as PayPal Pro and Google Checkout have been added, and general performance has been enhanced and rationalised: certainly the test site we used zipped along.

The best thing about Actinic Express is its logical layout and ease of use. For those who have never tried out ecommerce before, the process can appear very daunting but this application really does hold your hand every step of the way. Using wizards and forms, you make modifications to company information, layout and inventory, all in a process that is very clear which shouldn't intimidate the beginner.

The end result for your site's visiting customer is also extremely slick and sophisticated-looking.

Almost equally important is the way that Actinic Express handles payments: while there have been great improvements in online payment processing in recent years (PayPal led the way of course, but Google Checkout also promises great things), this still sometimes remains something of a black art, especially for individuals or very small businesses.

For credit cards, you will need a merchant account and payment processing, with small surcharges for each transaction. If your business is set up to use these already, then you can take up the option for offline processing of orders.

This is not ideal, however, in a world where people purchasing online expect transactions to occur immediately. To this end, Actinic Express provides its own online payments system, Actinic Payments, which can handle and automate the process.

Prices start from a yearly £100 (plus a one-off set-up of £20) for up to 800 transactions per year. If you exceed this amount the fee is 39p per transaction. Actinic has other price plans if your site is taking more orders than this - see the Actinic Payments page for more details. If this starts to look expensive, then PayPal and Checkout are the best options for individuals trying out ecommerce.

The only downside is the price of Actinic Express 2.0, which does prevent it getting a higher score: setup fees and a relatively costly monthly charge soon add up, and if you intend to make use of Actinic Payments for a relatively high number of sales per month, this will more than double your costs.


There are cheaper alternatives to Actinic Express, but they also generally require considerable more know-how in terms of setting up and configuring software. With this service, by contrast, you could be online and running a complete store in a couple of hours – and even if you do not have a merchant account there are plenty of options to get you started that are very simple to implement.