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WinLab Reviews
Simply Accounting 5.0
Not-So-Simple Accounting

-- by Joel T. Patz

Simply Accounting 5.0, the 32-bit upgrade to version 3.0, offers nothing new or revolutionary in its latest iteration. QuickBooks Pro 5.0 and Peachtree Complete Accounting (both on our WinList) provide far more features, are easier to use and have superior documentation for the beginning user.

Simply Accounting offers the standard accounting modules, including Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger and Payroll. The Payroll module is easy to use, though limited to two customizable income categories-in addition to regular, overtime, tips, taxable benefits and advances-and five deduction categories. You can specify if the deduction is taken pre- or post-tax. However, the program doesn't support complex and pervasive 401(k) programs; they're available only as a deduction, and there's no 401(k) report to help you administer the plan.

The Accounts Receivable module has some nice touches, like the straightforward setup of discounts. And if you try to sell more than you have on hand, the program warns you to print the Inventory Quantity Report. However, this report is difficult to find, and it doesn't generate a purchase order for the items you need. To create a purchase order or to record purchases with or without payment, you must use the Purchases Journal. To make a cash purchase for inventory, you must also post the invoice and payment-a lot of work for what should be a simple task. Peachtree, by comparison, handles cash purchases in one integrated step. In addition, Peachtree supports credit-card purchases, a common practice for small businesses.

Simply Accounting conveniently handles recurring entries. Its To Do List feature shows the date of the next occurrence of each recurring entry as well as upcoming purchase discounts and receipts due.

You'll also find it easy to run and apply filters to reports, which support drill-down detail. The program supplies 12 graphs for data analysis, including Payables by Aging Period, Sales vs. Budget and Expenses by Account. There's a full selection of standard reports, from sales journal to W-2 forms. We especially liked the comparative balance sheet, though all report titles use As At [Date] rather than the more conventional As Of [Date]

To get started in Simply Accounting, you must first set up a chart of accounts-a common practice among accounting packages. However, Simply Accounting lacks the step-by-step guidance offered by both Peachtree and QuickBooks Pro. For instance, it fails to help you choose key accounting options, such as cash vs. accrual.

In addition, Simply Accounting offers only 13 sample charts of accounts; and you can't make adjustments based on your business type (corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship). Instead, you'll have to guess which sample to use by its eight-character filename. You'll have to manually add or delete accounts to suit your needs. Since Simply Accounting offers such a limited selection of charts, you must do a lot of customization. Peachtree and QuickBooks give you more options when you set up accounts and provide many more sample charts to choose from than the paltry 13 in this product.

After installation, you can't deploy many features without turning them to "ready," which should have been the default. Also, the user interface displays the main modules, but it doesn't identify the features that will help you complete a particular task. When you click on Inventory, for example, you get a blank screen, with no clue how to proceed.

Furthermore, Simply Accounting's user interface isn't as friendly as that of other programs. Packages like Peachtree use a pop-up list of account numbers for quick access. By contrast, Simply Accounting's pop-up list appears only if you enter an incorrect account number, for example, or if you double-click on the field.

To make matters worse, Simply Accounting is annoyingly inconsistent. For example, when you set up a new account you must specify whether the account is a "left-hand account," "right-hand account" or "integration account" (one that calculates subtotals). It would have been easier simply to categorize the account as an asset or a liability account. Peachtree, by comparison, simplifies matters by using the same terminology-debits and credits-throughout the application.

We were also disappointed in Simply Accounting's documentation. Split into four books, it's only adequate-even with the additional online help. The documentation also lacked an integrated index.

If it's time to automate your small business' accounting, Simply Accounting simply isn't the best choice. Instead, consider WinList favorites Peachtree Complete Accounting or QuickBooks Pro for their superior ease of use and excellent features.


Simply Accounting 5.0

Bottom Line: Bare-bones accounting package with few distinguishing features
Price: $129; upgrade, $59
Platforms: 3x, 95
Pros: Easy-to-use payroll module
Cons: Unintuitive interface; disorganized documentation; dearth of features
Strongest Rivals: Peachtree Complete Accounting, QuickBooks Pro 5.0

Accpac International, 800-773-5445, 408-562-8800. Winfo #558

Windows Magazine, October 1997, page 152.

[ Go to October 1997 Table of Contents ]