There may be no phrase in the English language more satisfying to say or hear than, "Problem solved!"For accounting and information technology professionals, it embodies a special meaning, in that someone, or something, has enabled their business to sidestep a potential hurdle and continue their strategy of providing client services to reach the ultimate goal of any business - profitability.

In this, the twelfth edition of Accounting Today's Top 100 Products, we present what we think are the best and, in many cases, the most proven technology applications within the CPA profession.

In essence, they're the technology tools you need to solve problems - whether minor inconveniences or the ones that pose a major threat to the health and lifeline of a business.

In addition, we turn the spotlight on those products that we feel are sure to be around for several years to come and, as is our custom, give readers a preview of the ones to watch.

Last year, we included for the first time a customer relationship management category, and this year we've added some new wrinkles as well.

For the first time, we've combined the tax planning and preparation categories and, in keeping with our tradition of new add-ons, feature the debut of an Internet suites category, as well as a new entry in the snowballing category of document management.

Each year our editorial staff is queried by readers on our criteria for Top 100 inclusion. And while the answer is similar to a recipe - equal parts qualitative, quantitative and good old-fashioned discretion - there are several benchmarks by which potential products are subject to evaluation.

* Practitioner acceptance.

* Market visibility.

* Product performance and vendor support.

* Product innovation measured against marketplace needs.

As is the nature of any Top 100 roster, there are bound to be disagreements over the selection of one product over another. But in essence, that invites a healthy amount of feedback - which we certainly welcome, as long as it doesn't get physical.

As was the case last year, our 2004 Top 100 Product listing will also be available on our Web site at www.WebCPA.com, where individual entries are searchable, continuously updated and hyper-linked to vendors.

Enjoy this year's listing and may all your problems in 2005 be solved.

Ones to Watch: Contenders for 2006

In addition to the products that made it to Accounting Today's Top 100, the editors have chosen a strong crop of contenders that bear consideration. Here are some of the products to watch in 2005.

* Accountant's Office Online (AccountantsWorld): This practice development and enhancement solution features two distinct sections: a Web site and an online office. The Web site can be accessed by prospects, visitors and clients. The Online Office is a secure, password-protected section that includes revenue-generating applications that can be accessed by staff and clients. Tools include financial calculators, an e-mail system with a personalized e-mail address, and CyberCabinet, a secure document storing and sharing system. It also allows users to manage their practice through Time2Money, a time and billing application, and offers a foundation for other applications such as Payroll Relief AC and Accounting Relief Online.

* CaseWare Scenarios (CaseWare International Inc.): A business analysis tool that displays an integrated income statement, balance sheet, cash flow, business drivers and analytics on a single screen, CaseWare Scenarios allows users to create different scenarios using actual historical data as a starting point, incorporating "what if" and goal-seeking functionality. CaseWare Scenarios requires Working Papers and is easily integrated into existing engagement files.

* Cash Command (ATX/Kleinrock): Designed with small businesses and entrepreneurs in mind, Cash Command is an easy-to-use financial management tool that lets small businesses organize and manage daily finances and keep records up to date. Integration/interaction with accounting advisors using ATX/Kleinrock's Total Accounting Office is a bonus, adding value to the client/advisor relationship.

* CCH Hand (CCH Tax and Accounting): The new CCH Hand is a suite of productivity tools that gives one-click access to research answers in CCH's Tax Research NetWork from Microsoft Office 2003 programs and from the Internet Explorer browser.

* Drake Client Write-up (Drake Software): Expanding from its tax preparation product, Drake's new write-up application includes both before-the-fact and after-the-fact payroll reporting, financial reports, payroll reporting, a bank reconciliation assistant, a payroll check writer, and more.

* E-Synergy (Exact Software): Exact's Web-based collaborative platform is gaining traction in the market, allowing companies to bring together customer relationship management, document management, project management and more for a unified view of their business.

* Global fx (CCH Tax and Accounting): CCH's Web-based environment provides firms with access to its ProSystem fx suite of programs.

* Microsoft Small Business Financials (Microsoft Business Solutions): Microsoft has revamped its Small Business Manager to create this Office-integrated product, demonstrating a renewed interest in penetrating the low end of the accounting software market.

* PayChoice (Payroll Associates): PayChoice is designed to help accounting firms turn themselves into revenue-generating payroll service bureaus.

* ProSystem fx Practice Driver (CCH Tax and Accounting): This strategic practice management tool imports data from ProSystem fx Practice and other major time and billing software applications, as well as data in spreadsheet form.

* ProSystem fx Write-Up (CCH Tax and Accounting): Unveiled this year, this CCH solution allows CPA firms to view and mine data that streamlines the day-to-day management of their clients' operations. It is also tightly integrated with other solutions offered in the ProSystem fx Office Suite, and lets end-users quickly create, customize and print a wide range of finance reports.

* QuickBooks Payroll (Intuit Inc.): QuickBooks Standard Payroll, Enhanced Payroll Plus and Enhanced Payroll Plus for Accountants feature a range of solutions for processing payroll in-house. All of its solutions feature up-to-date tax tables and the latest payroll forms.

* SECPlus (RIA): One of the latest additions to RIA's Checkpoint, SECPlus offers real-time access to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, and a wide range of company financial research.

* Total Command (ATX/Kleinrock): The Total Command business and accounting system includes online banking, inventory and distribution management, practice management, m-commerce and B2B e-commerce suites, as well as CRM, BusinessSmarts analysis and other management-oriented tools.

* V-Tax (Petz Enterprises): V-Tax is a fully hosted, Web-based tax prep solution designed specifically for professional preparers with lots of clients across a number of locations.

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