August 21, 2008

Good Accounting is Hard to Find …

Is it just me and my picky ways or are there really no good choices for small business accounting software?

I’ve been using Microsoft Money for around ten years to track my spending and my bank and credit card balances. However, I recently discovered that Money, at least the standard version of Money, wasn’t enough for my needs. I also wanted to track invoices to customers for the consulting work I do and to be able to track payments from customers. So, since I had years of transactions in Money, I thought I’d move up to Money Plus Home & Business since it had basic accounts receivable features.

Not a good idea 🙂 Turns out that the business features in Money are more of an afterthought and not really well thought out. Money normally supports multiple currencies but the business stuff doesn’t. So while I really bill my customers in US dollars, there is no way for me to track those transactions in Money because the program insists on doing invoices in my home/base currency, which is Rupees.

So I thought I’d look around for any other accounting software which had the option to use multi-currency and handled accounts receivables the way I wanted. I started out small with the free BS1 Accounting package. It had multi-currency and it had accounts receivables but it couldn’t (or at least didn’t seem to) handle over payments. Plus, I don’t think it could import my existing Money data since I wanted to have all my finance info in one application.

I then went bigger (since there didn’t appear to be too many smaller accounting applications around) and looked at some of the industry leaders. QuickBooks does not support multi-currency in its current version and while it is supposed to support multi-currency at the premium levels in older versions, none of the trials I tried had this feature. And I tell you, those trial downloads are huge! Some are like 600-700MB and I was getting pretty tired of trying out accounting software after a while.

Peachtree was again supposed to have multi-currency but I couldn’t find it anywhere, not even in the help files. In the case of Microsoft Office Accounting 2008 Pro, I could find all manner of information about setting up multi-currency in the help file, but those settings were nowhere to be found in the program! Either they don’t have the options in the trial version, in which case they should mention this somewhere, or the help file is not consistent with the program.

SimplyAccounting was the only application where I could get the features working the way I wanted wit the trial. The multi-currency finally worked but the account set up was a bit clunky. It appeared to want you to set everything up manually and accounts receivables couldn’t directly handle an over-payment like other applications seemed to do, you had to match the original invoice amount against part of the payment and then enter the rest as a deposit. However, it did work but the cost was a bit too much for me since I had to shell out about $250 for the Premium version if I wanted unlimited multiple currencies, which I did. My other option was the Basic version which cost $150 and supported two currencies.

I had avoided Quicken till now because I had tried it in the past and had found it to be very similar to Money and I didn’t expect anything much to have changed. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Quicken‘s small business edition supported multi-currency and that I could invoice and receive payments in several different currencies. Additionally, it had a dashboard for different categories (personal finance, business finance etc.) that was pretty useful and informative. The only issues I have with Quicken are that it feels old, as if it’s really a Windows 3.1 program with some newer interface elements slapped on (this is very evident especially when you print stuff) and the fact that the invoice designer is very basic. SimplyAccounting had a beautiful invoice designer and Money, while it had something very similar to Quicken, still made it look and function a bit better.

My last issue was with importing in Money data and that’s a tale in itself. So I will reserve it for another post 🙂 But for the moment, I’m not really satisfied with the accounting software choices available out there. And no, don’t suggest an online solution because I prefer to have my data on my own machine :p But if you do know of another small business accounting package which does everything I’ve mentioned and is cheap, then I’d certainly be interested …