After several years of accounting software for small to midsize businesses having very similar feature sets, there are signs of growth once again. Accounting software ranges from the bare minimum of bookkeeping functions to full-featured products that border on CRM systems. In addition, products now offer Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office integration, add-ons for credit card processing, business tax forms, document and file management and customer contact management. At least one product has an interface for handheld devices for invoicing and sales entry.
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Accounting software for small-to-midsize businesses should be able to do general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable and payroll; most can also do inventory, job costing and time and billing. You should be able to generate and print quotes, sales orders, purchase orders, checks of all kinds and have a wide range of customizable, professional-looking reports. Printed/printable and online documentation should be complete; in addition, there should be an Internet user forum that lets you ask questions and discuss problems with other users. The product should also support multiple users with varying security levels, import and export accounting data in several formats, provide customer address books and to-do lists and let you update tax tables and email invoices, statements and reports. You may also want the ability to make direct deposits and B2B payments or to set up a Web store using your company's inventory.
This article reviews six accounting packages for Windows:
Microsoft Small Business Accounting 2007
MYOB Premier Accounting 2007
Peachtree Premium Accounting 2007
QuickBooks Premier Edition 2007
Simply Accounting 2007
Peachtree Premium Accounting 2007 is easier to use than QuickBooks Premier Edition 2007, but both products have everything you'd ever need. Microsoft Office Accounting is perfect for businesses that want accounting that is completely integrated with Microsoft Office. MYOB Premier Accounting 2007 offers a wide range of features and is available on both Windows and Mac. Simply Accounting 2007 is a good accounting package with some unusual features. Bookkeeper 2007 is aimed at SOHO businesses that want something more than a check register and a spreadsheet but who don't want to spend much on it.
Evaluating The Products
Each product was evaluated using the following criteria:
Overall ease of use. Is the product easy to install and configure? Did the product feel easy to use? Was it necessary to pick up the manuals or go to the online help? Did each step in the new company setup make sense? Was it easy to add invoices and pay bills? Can data be imported and exported?
Product features. How complete is the feature set? How many sample charts of accounts are there? Are there add-on features such as Web store creation, fixed asset management or integration with other programs?
Documentation. Was the online documentation well indexed, useful, clean? Were the manuals complete, easy to read? Could I find information quickly?
Trial versions, moneyback guarantee. It's easier to determine which package is right for you by trying before you buy.
Reporting and exporting options. Is there a good range of reports? Are there filtering and sorting options? Can you easily export report information and financial data to other formats?
Bookkeeper 2007 from Avanquest is designed for very small businesses (10 employees or less). While it only offers the basics, it's a great place to start if you don't need a lot beyond basic bookkeeping.
Product installation is uncomplicated. There is only one predefined chart of accounts for new companies, although you can add and edit new account codes to the chart as needed.
Bookkeeper 2007 handles GL, AP, AR, PR, inventory and as an add-on service, credit card processing. There is no sample company to try out the product with. This version of the product comes with 98 predefined reports and there are good customization options. Reports can be printed to PDF files and you can email invoices and estimates.
Bookkeeper's interface is still rough in places. Unlike most other accounting programs, you cannot usually enter new customers, products or vendors on the fly. Instead, you must set up your customers, products, vendors and so on first so they are in the system and can be selected. This may make setting up a new company slower because you must switch between screens and tasks instead of simply pulling up task screens as you need them.
The product is designed for beginning users who don't need a lot of fancy features like fixed asset management or Outlook synchronization. There is no training available, but the online help is passable and a small printed copy of the user's guide is included with the package. (You can print a larger version from the enclosed PDF file.)
Bookkeeper 2007 has everything a small business needs to handle its money, generate invoices, pay bills and generate paychecks. It's the least expensive product in this review and you'll definitely get your money's worth.
Price: $29.95 ($19.95 after a $10 rebate). Payroll tax tables, $24.95. Small Business Pro, $89.95.
Office Accounting Professional 2007
Microsoft Office Professional Accounting 2007 (formerly known as Small Business Accounting) continues to be a very good choice for beginning and intermediate accounting users who want a product strongly integrated with Microsoft Office that offers a good user interface, excellent documentation and an array of customization options.
The installation procedure is similar to any Microsoft application. Once the product is installed, a set-up wizard steps you through the software configuration and new company set-up processes. (Many of the tasks throughout the product have associated wizards to guide you through the process.) There are 18 charts of accounts to choose from.
Office Accounting does GL, AR, AP, inventory and job costing. PR is done with an add-on from ADP. You can expand the product with a wide range of other add-ons and services, such as fixed asset management, PayPal transaction processing, online banking, Web site creation and sales through eBay and many others. The printed getting started guide is first-rate and the online documentation is very complete.
The default configuration for the main screen shows reminders, a cash flow graph, a bank account summary, vendors to pay, spotlights on services and features and overdue customer accounts. There is also a task list and navigation options on the left of the screen. Clicking on a subcategory such as Employees displays a clickable flow map with the steps for the related tasks. If you don't like things the way they are, you can change them. In fact, you can change where and how information is displayed on most of the screens, something no other product in this review allows.
There are 55 predefined reports with extensive formatting, filtering and charting options. Most reports also have good drill-down features. The product has a very consistent interface, which makes it easy to use. Exporting reports to Word and Excel is as easy as you'd expect from a Microsoft product, as is emailing reports and invoices.
Power accounting users may prefer a little more power than malleability, but this release of Office Accounting is an attractive option for small business users. It may not yet have the strength of a premium package, but its usability and customization options make it a contender for people who want to tailor their accounting software to their needs.
One Microsoft Way
Price: Office Accounting, $149.99.
MYOB Premier Accounting 2007
MYOB Premier Accounting 2007 continues to be a solid product that offers an array of features that will satisfy the accounting needs of most small businesses. It is available for both the Windows and Mac platforms.
The installation procedure for MYOB is uncomplicated. Company setup is broken into the essentials of company information and one of 100 charts of accounts, and optional setup information for opening balances and other data. Once the company is set up, the MYOB Command Center maps the accounting tasks in the order they should be performed.
MYOB does GL, AR, AP, PR, inventory, job costing and time and billing. There are also product add-ons for payroll services, electronic funds transfer, credit cards and direct deposit. MYOB has many useful features such as emailing payment notifications to vendors, sales tax codes and multiple currency support. In addition, it offers a wide range of sample business plans, forecasting and budgeting features, an employee information manager, a customer contact manager and scheduler. You can import and export almost any type of data.
You can run payroll, W-2 and W-3 forms in a batch process instead of processing employee checks individually. MYOB also has recurring transactions options, pop-up warnings and batch emailing for sales forms, statements and POs. The data auditor lets you reconcile invoices and purchases, review changes to the audit trail, then check transactions, inventory pricing and tax exceptions. New in this release is the ability to undo your last reconciliation, so you can correct a transaction and then reconcile again.