Software Review: Simply Accounting 2003

By Wayne Kawamoto | Posted February 21, 2003
For the relatively low price of $39.99, ACCPAC's Simply Accounting 2003 offers an adequate accounting package that can support the needs of many small businesses. Simply Accounting is available in a low-priced Basic version, and a more robust professional version for $89.99, which offers multi-user support and time and billing capabilities. New to the program are the integrated e-commerce and Web store functions — a major new feature that has been missing for some time, and minor enhancements to its security, reporting, general journal, and payroll capabilities. The Pro version adds departmental accounting, and time and billing, and payroll integration to the mix.

While Intuit's QuickBooks offers comprehensive features and add-ons and is equivalent to the accounting kitchen sink, it costs hundreds of dollars more. At a far lower price, Simply Accounting 2003 delivers basic accounting that covers customers and sales, vendors and purchases, inventory and services, project costing, payroll and general ledger.

The biggest new feature is the Simply Web store that provides solid e-commerce capabilities and gives small businesses an easy way to sell goods online. Because Simply Webstore is managed online through an ACCPAC-hosted software facility, it doesn't require that you set up hardware and software in your office. And since the Webstore is an integrated part of the Simply Accounting system, sales transactions made at the Webstore go directly into the Simply Accounting system.

ACCPAC charges a reasonable $35 per month for the Webstore service, and offers optional supporting services that assist with domain registration, credit card processing, and more. Other new features include direct deposit support and an ability to track raw materials to build finished products. As before, Simply Accounting supports international currency.

Other secondary new features for 2003, Simply Accounting can assign security at the record and journal levels; track tax details through the general journal module and record additional transaction details and view more comment fields in each journal entry. The program now sorts and displays information based on your preferences and can change report-viewing options without having to close and re-open reports. Date range selections for reporting have been made easier with the addition of pop-up calendars and drop-down lists. You can also output reports in HTML format so they may be posted to the Internet, define extra payroll hourly rate fields, automatically view vacation pay owed and see outstanding balances on employee advances.

The Pro version now supports departmental accounting and reporting through all its accounting modules. With this feature, you can track up to 100 departments within a company and expand the selection of accounts and report by divisions. New integration between the product's time and billing and payroll modules lets you pay employees based on time slips and compare billable or actual amounts with payroll costs. In addition, the program tracks and bills time with billing options and integrates data with payroll.

Intall and Setup
We installed our evaluation copy of Simply Accounting 2003 Pro on a system running Windows XP and configured it for a fictional manufacturing business. We also created an associated Webstore. After the installation, we made records and performed everyday business functions that simulated a month of use, and produced a variety of business reports and applied analytical tools.

We found that installing Simply Accounting 2003 was fairly painless and the program adequately walked us through the basic set-up process. While experienced users who are familiar with accounting software should have no problems setting up a business and chart of accounts, the set-up does little to help novice users. In this regard, Simply Accounting 2003 could do far more to make the process more intuitive. For those who need it, Simply Accounting imports QuickBooks and MYOB data.

Simply Accounting competently tracks customers, vendors, inventory and employees in fairly detailed records and the tabbed windows make it easy to view additional information such as historical data, memos that you record, statistics, transactions, and more. The program offers five custom fields to track additional data.

Entering transactions is intuitive. For this, the program offers straight-forward sales orders, quotes, invoices, purchase orders, and more. If you like, you can customize these forms to a limited degree. A useful daily business manager helps you manage the day-to-day business functions.

It's clear from Simply Accounting's main menu that it continues to emphasize traditional accounting methods because the general ledger is listed before all of the other options. And during use, new users may become confused when asked to create new accounts, when they, for example, have to enter a new inventory item. Both QuickBooks and Peachtree do a far better job of shielding novices from this type of confusion.

The Webstore was easy to set-up and configure. Here, the program displayed a flowchart with the basic steps, and we found the program's Web templates to be attractive and professional-looking. We were impressed with the way that the Webstore integrated with Simply Accounting. While the Webstore is launched as a separate program, it synchronizes itself with changes that you make in the main accounting program and features information from it.

The program's payroll features are competent. Simply Accounting lets you print a generous number of reports, many of which may be customized. And you may import data from Microsoft Excel, and integrate data with Microsoft Word, and create graphs.

Documentation was particularly sparse. A Quick Start barely explains the program's core functions, and a thin "What's New in 2003" booklet presents the new features and minimal steps on how to use them. Once again, the program clearly gears itself towards experienced users and those who understand accounting, as opposed to small business owners.

Pricing and Availability
Simply Accounting 2003 Basic and Pro suggested retail pricing in the U.S. is $39.99 and $89.99, respectively. Both programs are available for Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, Windows NT version 4.0 or later and Windows XP.

Bottom Line
If you're a Simply Accounting user who would like to open a Web-based store, then Simply Accounting 2003 is worth the upgrade. And if you can use the departmental features and payroll and time billing integration, than the upgrade to Simply Accounting 2003 Pro is a decent purchase. But if you currently use Intuit QuickBooks or Peachtree Accounting, there's nothing here that you can't do already, and no compelling reason to switch.

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