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These four accounting packages can help you keep a closer eye on your bottom line.

Anyone running a small business knows that new money is hard to come by these days. Chances are, your revenue stream is not going to see much growth, so you’ll have to make do with what you’ve got for a while. That means keeping a very close eye on your accounts and cash flow. Whether your staff consists of just you or an entire crew, you can’t afford to keep doing your bookkeeping on Post-it notes. Powerful, inexpensive, and easy-to-use accounting packages abound, and we’ve reviewed four of the best to help you pick the right one.

Microsoft office Accounting Professional 2008

When Microsoft f irst stepped into the small- business accounting ring a few years ago, it took a beating at the hands of nimbler competitors. But since then it has developed a product with a fluid Microsoft Outlook style and integration with eBay, PayPal, Equifax, and Outlook with Business Con- tact Manager. The 2008 version doesn’t have as many updates as Peachtree’s and QuickBooks’ new offerings, but you do get pluses like scheduled documents, the ability to convert sales orders into purchase orders, and additional reports, making Microsoft a respectable contender in this category.

This suite’s setup is quick and easy, though you should take the time to fill in the Set Company Preferences area, where you establish defaults, such as interest rates, system accounts, and using jobs for multistep projects, which will be useful later. Although setup isn’t painful, QuickBooks and Peachtree both offer an approach to setup that’s more thorough and automated. The overall interface is easy to use, including a dashboard with reminders, cash-flow graph, accounts payable, and over- due-customer tools. This suite’s strongest suit is its sturdy integration with Word, Excel, Outlook, and eBay/PayPal. Ultimately, Office Accounting is not as good across the board as QuickBooks, but it’s nonetheless a solid, creative small-business accounting program that’s worth considering.

MyoB Premier Accounting 2008

MYOB may not be the name that comes to mind when you think of small-business accounting soft- ware, but it was one of the first for Windows. MYOB offers a very capable set of tools, and the application’s Mac-based beginnings give it one of the cleanest, most easily navigable interfaces. The current version doesn’t add an enormous amount, but the core capabilities are strong. Unfortunately, MYOB hasn’t kept up with the online capabilities of its rivals.

The setup of MYOB is about as straightforward as those of the others here. The Command Center navigation is simple and clean, and only Microsoft’s Office Accounting offers an interface with a lower barrier to entry. The lack of comprehensive online banking, however, is a huge drawback. You can send payments directly into vendors’ accounts electroni- cally, but you can’t have the program mail out checks. MYOB is flexible but somewhat out-of-date. It’s a good product, and existing users should be happy continuing with it. Still, QuickBooks Pro will serve you better overall at roughly the same price.

Peachtree by sage Complete Accounting 2009

Peachtree’s accounting roots in the small-business market reach back to the early nineties, and the company’s experience shows in the 2009 version. The software competes well against the others here, though it can’t beat QuickBooks at simplicity and usability. New features include real-time error reporting, multiyear reporting within general ledger reports and financial statements, and improvements to time and expense tracking.

Peachtree Complete has always had a good setup procedure, and this latest edition is no exception. The app has you select a matching business type from a list of dozens, then it builds a set of accounts that will work best with your choice. The Company Center contains an eclectic mix of tools that give you access to key reports and financial statements, links to data maintenance tools, and a list of miscellaneous company information. I like this dual approach; it’s similar to the tack QuickBooks takes with its company snapshot and company home page. You also get good online banking features. Further, Peachtree’s payroll solutions are impressive, trailing QuickBooks only in the sheer number of options. Aside from one gripe with Peachtree—its excessive use of new windows—it is a good package that will continue to serve its existing users well.

QuickBooks Accounting Pro edition 2009

QuickBooks has been a crowd-pleaser since it was introduced in the early nineties, and it will continue to be so with the 2009 edition. QuickBooks has made more enhancements and added more features than rivals Microsoft Accounting Professional, MYOB, and Peachtree. Simply put, it’s just a better overall package.

Improvements include the ability to run reports even while others are working in QuickBooks, and a new Company Snapshot feature that gives you an overview of key financial data. This version also supports over 100 foreign currencies. And to promote your business, you can even build a professional- looking Web site. Intuit will host three-page sites free for 12 months, and $4.99 monthly after that.

The setup process for QuickBooks is some- what involved, but that’s so it can tailor itself to your needs. During the interview, the setup routine makes many program configuration settings for you, but not all of them. For payroll, you can opt for one of the two DIY solutions or the QuickBooks Assisted Payroll—all involve an extra fee.

QuickBooks is a perennial favorite, and we don’t hesitate to recommend it for the lion’s share of small businesses. It’s flexible, friendly, and the best this year, earning our Editors’ Choice for small-business accounting.

 

Source:  Gary Berline and Kathy Yakal - PC Magazine

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