As Accounting Today's Top 100 Products was in its preparatory stages in terms of gathering information, procuring product shots and planning the requisite page layouts, we searched for something that would make this - the 13th edition - stand out from its worthy predecessors.The good news for us is that we didn't have to look very far.

The software folks who bring you the extensive roster of products found on the ensuing pages did much of the legwork in that respect for us.

Many of the Top 100 entries that you are familiar with have been rebranded by their owners for myriad reasons, whether for marketing strategies or for easier identification and linking to their sister products.

Hence this year's theme of "The Name Game." Many of this year's entries are or will be doing business under slightly different nomenclature.

But the title changes don't alter the basic mission statement of this annual project: to present the best and most proven technology applications currently available to the CPA profession.

Each year without fail, we get reader inquiries immediately following the publication of Top 100 Products regarding specific criteria for inclusion.

As we have explained in previous introductions, the process is not an exact science - we evaluate all submissions on the basis of practitioner usage and acceptance, degree of visibility in the market, performance and innovation, the degree of user support from the vendor and, ultimately, the demand for it in the marketplace.

As we did last year, we've consolidated the tax planning and preparation categories, and due to the positive feedback from our readers, will again feature the burgeoning "Categories to Watch" of document management and Internet suites - which promise only to get larger in future Top 100 listings. We'll also showcase some individual products under the familiar banner of "Ones to Watch," and due to the rapid proliferation of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance tools in the current climate of heightened regulatory oversight, we've added an entire sidebar on that category for our readers with publicly traded clients, or those who simply want to adopt best practices.

Of course, whenever there is a listing of Top 100 anything, there are bound to be differing opinions and we, as always, encourage reader feedback either on the products that we've listed or those that you feel we've missed.

As with the previous two years of Top 100 Products, our 2006 listing will also be available on our Web site at WebCPA.com.

So with that said, we present our 2006 Top 100 Products.

Above all, remember that we've supplied you with a listing of the products that we felt would ease the path to efficiency and profitability for any company or CPA practice.

Only the names have changed.

(c) 2005 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.accountingtoday.com http://www.sourcemedia.com @@at#news@so#aod19@vl#20@no#22@pg#36 @nt# @ti#Ones to Watch: Contenders for 2006 @tx#

In addition to those products that made it to Accounting Today's Top 100 Products, our editors have chosen a strong crop of contenders that bear consideration.

Here are some of the products to watch in 2006.

* CCH@Hand (CCH): CCH@Hand is a suite of productivity tools that let users search, view and retrieve results from any Microsoft Office application without leaving their document, e-mail or browser. It also allows users to link from any recognized citation within a Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook document to the full text, history and/or related explanations. The new desktop console also offers productivity gains beyond Office 2003 integration by allowing users to search the Web (Google search), their desktop and their full CCH subscription all at the same time.

* Drake Write-Up (Drake Software): Since one of the bonuses of a client write-up package is being able to export its results directly to a tax preparation package, it makes sense for tax prep developers to create write-up applications, and tax prep vendor Drake Software has done just that. While the new write-up software may be mainly aimed at making life easy for users of Drake tax prep (it's free with the purchase of the tax prep product), it is available on its own.

* Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 (Microsoft Corp.): As with anything Microsoft does, the recent release of Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 has created quite a splash in the accounting software market. SBA is a full-featured financial management software solution that is available as a stand-alone offering or as part of Microsoft Office Small Business Management Edition 2006. It allows users to manage sales, marketing and financial processes in an integrated system. Its features include applications to assist with core accounting, inventory management, quotes, sales orders, invoices, purchase order processing, employee management, job tracking and banking. All in all, it's probably one of the most-watched products in accounting.

* ProSeries Basic Edition (Intuit Inc.): Intuit's ProSeries Basic Edition is designed for the seasonal tax preparer who generally completes an average of 100 returns or less. It provides a step-by-step guide to help preparers easily and accurately complete simple tax returns, and includes a Final Review feature. Now in its second year, it has an all-new interface, and offers a low-cost, 200-return e-filing bundle. Not enough? Simply e-file additional returns on a pay-per-return basis.

* ProSeries Express Edition (Intuit Inc.): While Basic is aimed at low-volume tax preparers, Intuit's ProSeries Express Edition is built for tax professionals who want to complete returns faster and serve even more clients, particularly for high-volume tax preparers whose clients want a selection of refund anticipation loan and refund transfer options. It specializes in preparing 1040 returns in a matter of minutes.

* QuickBooks Online Edition (Intuit Inc.): QuickBooks Online Edition gives small businesses and accountants the freedom to access financial data and the power to connect with colleagues anytime, anywhere, and lets users work simultaneously on the same financial data from different locations while still maintaining access control. It protects vital data by performing automatic back-ups and storing the information on firewall-protected servers, utilizing a password-protected log-in and the highest encryption technology available. Intuit has also added QuickBooks Online Edition Payroll, giving it the foundation of a suite of online programs.

* TaxWise Write-Up (Universal Tax Systems Inc.): Integrating client write-up and tax prep makes a great deal of sense, so it makes sense that tax prep vendor Universal Tax should create a write-up program to complement its TaxWise software. (In fact, UTS also offers some other applications, including basic accounting, an electronic checkbook, and some payroll options.) And like Drake Software, UTS may well be hoping not just to please its tax prep software users with a useful add-on, but to draw in previously unaffiliated users.

* V-Tax (Petz Enterprises Inc.): Now in its second year, V-Tax is an online professional tax software solution made specifically for service bureaus to address the needs of multi-office companies. With the most complete set of federal and state forms available online, in addition to a built-in verification feature to help eliminate rejects, V-Tax makes e-filing federal and state returns a simple process that does not require any formal training.

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