It's not often you come across an app that makes good on all of its promises, especially when that app falls under a category that tends to only enjoy offerings that are either way too expensive or way too lacking.
And then there's entries like Free POS Project. This is a free POS solution that offers more features than you'd expect at this price point. Features include:
- Unlimited licenses
- Unlimited locations
- Unlimited cloud backup
- Unlimited updates
- Live email notifications
- Employee hour tracking
- Reports and analytics
- Fully customizable order screens
- Table wait time monitoring and alerting
- Manage promotional messages and discounts
- Allows guests to order via their mobile devices
That's an impressive list for a free solution.
There are two caveats to using Free POS on Android. The first is that the Android app requires a minimum resolution of 1216x800. It will run on lesser resolutions but may not function ideally. The second is that you must install it first on a Windows-based PC (where it will house the database). Once you install the Windows software, run it and log in with a Free POS account that you create from the Free POS website. When you've logged into the PC software, you can begin the process of setting up your restaurant. You'll want to configure:
It's crucial to assign users and make sure to give them unique PINs. Users log into the system with these PINs (on both the Android and Windows app).
Installing the Android app
Installing the Android app is quite simple. You can install it prior to running the software on the PC, you just can't use it. Here's the steps for installation:
- Open the Google Play Store on the Android device
- Search for free pos project
- Locate and tap the entry by FreePOSProject
- Tap Install
- Read the permissions listing
- If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap accept
After the installation is complete, you'll find that Free POS Project wants to serve as your tablet's home screen. If this device is to be used only for that purpose, you'll want to (when prompted) select Free POS Project and then tap Always (Figure A). If this tablet is to serve multiple functions, you should select Free POS Project and then tap Just once.
Setting Free POS Project as your default home screen.
At the prompt, enter your user PIN (set up on the PC version of the software), and you'll find yourself on the Free POS Project home window (Figure B).
The Free POS Project running on a Verizon-branded Galaxy Tab.
One of the nice things about the design of Free POS Project is that the Android app was created to be incredibly simple to use. Once you've set the store up from the Windows end, the app is about as user-friendly as you can get. In fact, this particular take on the restaurant POS should alleviate a great deal of user error... so long as the store has been set up properly on the PC side of things.
The main window lists a grid. Each rectangle in the grid represents a table. Tap on a rectangle, and you can assign a name to the table (for a guest) and begin the process of serving said guest. At any time, a user can tap the icon in the top left corner to return to the main window. Tap to select a table, tap the Name button to name the table, and then tap the Order button to start taking the table order.
Free POS Project is an outstanding, free solution for a problem that has plagued small restaurants for years—namely, how to enjoy ease of use without draining the budget and causing chaos among the staff. My only criticism of the app is the requirement of Windows. Even beyond setting the app up, Free POS Project relies on the Windows machine to serve up the database. Should your network (or that Windows PC) go down, you're out of luck. Considering some small establishments are looking to remove standard PCs (in the switch to mobile-only) or rely solely on Macs, this should be considered an oversight on that of the developers. This system would be so much better without that one requirement. Even so, Free POS Project is a dining solution any small restaurant would be remiss to overlook.
Have you found the tablet space to be lacking in business apps? If so, what apps would you like to see? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.