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9/96 Features: Put Big Numbers Behind Your Small Business

Add up the features of these small-business accounting
packages, then find the one that best suits your style

By Deborah K. Wong, Assistant Reviews Editor

Finding a small-business accounting package is simple enough, but choosing the right one requires careful calculation of the pluses and minuses of a wide variety of programs.

You can follow the recommendations of business associates, but their needs could differ greatly from your own. Are you a first-time user, making the transition from manual to electronic accounting? Peachtree First Accounting 2.0 was designed with the beginner in mind. Do you have a large inventory? M.Y.O.B. Accounting 6.0 places heavy emphasis on inventory functions. Is customizability one of your priorities? Intuit's QuickBooks 4.0 is open to your suggestions. Other packages focus on Web connectivity, offer multimedia guidance and hook you up with electronic banking.

Here are a handful of accounting software packages that warrant further investigation. The accompanying table provides more detail on features. This information should get you started in your search for the perfect accounting software.

DacEasy Accounting & Payroll 95

DacEasy offers tremendous flexibility for the accounting-conscious user. But it assumes you have exceptional knowledge. The novice bookkeeper may need to keep the manual firmly in hand. Even as a former accountant, I found the learning curve for this program endless.

DacEasy could also do a better job in helping you determine which accounting method-such as cash or accrual accounting-should be used. On the other hand, its picture menu structure, with customer, vendor, invoice, purchase order and product icons, makes life easier for those unaccustomed to other accounting packages that list the expected chart of account headings, such as receivables, payables and sales.

M.Y.O.B. Accounting 6.0

M.Y.O.B. is a versatile business accounting program that helps take the count out of accounting. This package is designed for the business owner who needs financial flowcharts and has a heavy emphasis on recurring bills and inventory. The new version adds a report customizer, job-management functions, better payroll tracking and helpful pop-up cue cards.

M.Y.O.B. includes a 30-minute introductory videotape for the entry-level bookkeeper. You can design custom forms and customize more than 100 financial and management report templates.

M.Y.O.B. with Payroll, a companion product, features a complete payroll management system as well as the standard accounting features.

One-Write Plus 5.0

Built around the traditional integrated-module accounting system, this user-friendly package fully automates double-entry accounting and hides its complexities from the user. The program also includes an interactive tutorial with full-motion video on the CD-ROM version, and provides data-sensitive aging reports that hide unneccessary details.

Peachtree Accounting Release 3.5; Peachtree Complete Accounting;
Peachtree First Accounting 2.0

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First Accounting

Peachtree offers three packages aimed at both experts and novices with different levels of experience. Non-accountants get all the core features of basic accounting software with the company's beginner package, Peachtree First Accounting 2.0.

You can upgrade to Peachtree Accounting Release 3.5 for $49 and get a versatile package. It supports multi-user networking and online transactions, and includes a multimedia tutorial. Peachtree Complete Accounting is tailored to the small-turned-medium-sized enterprise. It offers increased functionality and features for the advanced user for a $79 upgrade.

QuickBooks 4.0; QuickBooks Pro 4.0

Users of Intuit software won't be surprised to learn that the latest versions of the company's one-stop-shopping accounting packages are as easy to use as earlier incarnations. QuickBooks handles accounting and payroll, while QuickBooks Pro adds time-tracking, estimating and job costing.

One of the best additions to QuickBooks Pro 4.0 is EasyStep, an interview-based guide similar to Intuit's TurboTax program setup. This question-and-answer feature creates accounts, sets the groundwork for payroll and inventory needs, and handles everything else you need to get up and running. Intuit also hosts a Web site for online support.

Visual AccountMate

SourceMate Information Systems introduced Visual AccountMate earlier this year. Visual AccountMate is a 32-bit solution for the medium-sized business. Consisting of six customizable mix-and-match modules (General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Sales Order, Purchase Order and Inventory Control), Visual AccountMate also features Transaction Rollback, which guarantees data integrity during a power failure. In addition, you get an internal e-mail message system, multilevel password security, a built-in report designer and advanced graphics capability.

Forecasting the future

It won't be long before most packages include 32-bit capability and Internet access. Online banking and access to financial data via the Internet will also soon become standard in small-business accounting, providing greater flexibility and freedom in business banking transactions.

The increasing power and complexity of accounting packages means small-business owners are faced with a double-edged sword. Do you want a program that does it all, or should you stick with a simple and inexpensive package? Either way, the bottom line remains the same: Choose the right package, and your accounting procedures will be every bit as efficient and reliable as the big guys'. You can count on that.

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