Simply Accounting Upgrades for a New Year

By Wayne Kawamoto | Posted December 29, 2004

With fewer accounting programs on the market and even fewer developers making them, the software choices for small businesses continue to shrink. But now the venerable Simply Accounting — recently purchased by Best Software, maker of Peachtree — arrives in a new 2005 version.

While the upgrade offers decent new features and enhancements, it still trails the category leaders, QuickBooks and Peachtree, and offers no compelling reason for anyone using those programs to switch. On the other hand, longtime Simply Accounting customers should welcome the changes and the fact that the program will live on, at least for the time being.

Simply Accounting comes in three versions: Basic, Pro and Premium. As the name implies, the Basic program offers the accounting essentials, including general ledger, receivables, payable, inventory, project costing and payroll. As before, Basic lets you operate with two currencies — a handy feature for companies that need it.

The Pro version builds on Basic with networking capability that supports up to six people. In addition, Pro adds time and billing features, full multi-currency capabilities, departmental accounting and multi-level bills of materials.

Top-of-the-line Simply Accounting Premium, which is new for 2005, offers multi-company consolidation of financial reports, industry-specific features and reports and advanced customization.

Making a Good Thing Better
All three versions include enhanced reporting features that offer more sort and filter options, let you choose the columns that you want to include in a report, adjust column widths and group reports for reference. To derive information at a glance, 25 new performance indicators — such as short-term cash projections, daily sales and total expenses — provide insight into your company's financial health.

A long-overdue form-designing feature lets you customize invoices, check stubs and statements and preview forms from within the program. There are 20 new income and deduction fields for payroll as well as new deduction and remittance reports. And you can set automatic deductions by fixed amount or percentage of pay. Another welcome feature the program now lets you track sales people on invoices.

Best Software touts the program's new bilingual capabilities, which allow you to work in French and English. While the feature lets you view screens and prepare invoices in either language, only a small percentage of SMBs will find it useful.

The remaining new features fall into the minor tweaks category. But they show that the developers listen and respond to customers, and that's a good thing. These tweaks include being able to:

  • Omit original and reversing entries from the General Ledger report
  • Display all accounts with corresponding budgets
  • Receive warnings when using a duplicate form number
  • Export price lists and budgets into spreadsheets
  • Perform project allocations for transactions
  • Define default tax codes for customers
  • Prepare deposit slips for bank deposits and account reconciliation
  • Assign job categories to employees
  • E-mail invoices as Adobe PDF files

New to Pro and All-New Premium
Simply Accounting saved the biggest new features for the Pro and Premium versions, which now can integrate accounting information with handheld Pocket PC devices so they can accept sales orders and sales invoices and upload them to Simply Accounting.

This feature also lets you download and synchronize data, such as prices, items and customers. This is especially convenient for businesses whose employees work on the road and don't want to carry a notebook computer.

Another great new feature in both the Pro and Premium versions lets you synchronize vendors and customers with Microsoft Outlook. This is a real time-saver for anyone who manages business contacts in their e-mail programs.

You can prepare financial statements by department or division and open and evaluate these statements in Microsoft Excel. The program lets you view the original income statements and underlying transactions — a feature common in competing accounting programs — and set security rights to time slip entry.

Simply Accounting 2005 Premium can roll multiple company files into a single data file — a powerful feature for small business owners who manage multiple businesses. The program offers industry-specific reports that cover construction, retail, professional services, property management and accommodations. It also comes with new sales analysis and forecasting tools along with customizable and expandable charts of accounts.

Hands On
Easy to install and configure, Simply Accounting lets you choose from 100 industry-specific starter templates. If you're inclined to make the move from QuickBooks or MYOB, the program offers conversion tools.

As a bookkeeping program, Simply Accounting competently keeps records of customers, vendors, inventory and employees. Manufacturing businesses will welcome its ability to track and assemble items. The program offers invoices, sales orders, quotes and purchase orders that resemble their real-world paper counterparts. You simply bring up a form and fill it in.

Compared with its competition, Simply Accounting feels more like an accounting program and doesn't do as good a job at shielding customers from accounting lingo and concepts. The program presents its general ledger as a first tier option whereas you'll find a basic task — such as creating an invoice — listed in a secondary menu. This option should be placed up front — you shouldn't have to hunt for it. Furthermore, the program requires you to create account numbers, for example, when adding inventory items, which is sure to confuse novices.


Simply Accounting 2005
Add It Up — Simply Accounting 2005 will most likely keep current customers happy but fail to convert Quickbooks or Peachtree devotees.

Simply Accounting comes with a small "What's New" book that presents the new features with minimal instruction on how to use them. There's also an inadequate Quick Start guide that glosses over core functions. Overall, the documentation isn't nearly enough to get new users up and running.

And while we're being picky, the description makes the optional SimplyCARE sound as if it's a full-fledged payroll service, but the service only provides and integrates the latest payroll tax tables and software upgrades into the program.

Best Software says "SimplyCARE simplifies payroll processing and payroll tax compliance — all for less than the cost of outsourcing payroll." While the statement is generally true, an outsourced payroll service, like the one offered by Intuit's QuickBooks, is less prone to error from the perspective of a small business and far easier to use. With SimplyCARE, you're still performing complex payroll tasks.

If you're new to accounting, Simply Accounting is a competent option, but not the best one. And anyone who already uses QuickBooks or Peachtree will have no reason to change.

Pricing

  • Simply Accounting Basic — $49.99
  • Simply Accounting Pro — $299.99
  • Simply Accounting Premium — $499.99
  • Best Software offers a free trial version that includes 30 sessions

Over the last ten years, Wayne Kawamoto has written over 800 articles, columns and reviews about computers, new technologies, the Internet and small businesses. Wayne has also published three books about upgrading PCs, building office networks and effectively using and troubleshooting notebook computers. You may contact him through his Web site at www.waynewrite.com.

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