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Although quite comprehensive, Peachtree is not the easiest accounting app to use. Try these tips and keyboard shortcuts to use the software to best advantage.

Peachtree Software has been around longer than most vendors of small business accounting software. In the early 1990s, the company got serious about the small- to medium-size business market and Windows and started producing a line of desktop programs that address the needs of very small, small, and—with its latest Quantum product-not-so-small businesses.

Peachtree accounting software is probably the most feature-packed SMB accounting package, though it's not as easy to use or integrated as close competitor Quick-Books. Its complexity can stump the neophyte at times, though the software builds in a ton of help features.

If you're really ambitious and want to understand what you're getting into before you get there, you can read the entire User Guide found in the Help menu, but that seems excessive. The first thing to do when approaching any Peachtree program is to learn its keyboard shortcuts. Here are some of the most often used.

  • Ctrl-X Cut
  • Ctrl-C Copy
  • Ctrl-V Paste
  • Ctrl-E Delete record
  • Ctrl-F Find
  • Ctrl-D Find next
  • Ctrl-N New company
  • Ctrl-O Open company
  • Ctrl-B Back up company
  • Ctrl-R Restore company
  • Ctrl-P Print displayed report, invoices, quotes, payments, and so on.

Function Keys

  • F1 Displays online help topic for the current window
  • Shift-Fl Changes mouse pointer to "What's This?" help selector F3 Find transactions F5 Saves records and posts (or saves) transactions in certain windows F7 Check spelling
  • F10 Toggles between the open window and the menu bar
  • Ctrl-F4 Closes the current document window
  • Alt-F4 Closes the application window Ctrl-F6 Moves to the next window Shift-Ctrl-F6 Moves to the previous window

There are other tasks you'll perform often that, once learned, will make day-to-day use of the program easier. Here are some examples. Tips may not apply to all versions, especially First Accounting; consult your help files if you encounter trouble.

Help on Help

Peachtree accounting software is intuitive enough that you may be able to dig in and get started, especially if you have some accounting knowledge. The programs are divided into several functional areas, including Customers & Sales, Vendors & Purchases, and Company. Some versions have a Business Status feature, a dashboard that displays your key numbers as lists and graphs.

These "modules" are represented by tabs that run in a vertical pane. Click on one and the main screen will display an interactive process map that illustrates the primary tasks in that area. Lists of related information like vendors and reports are on the right.

Peachtree's help is voluminous; here are some tips on how to best use it.

  • Read through the Getting Started section.
  • To see if a word or phrase contained in a topic is in the help index, select the word, and then press F1. Experiment with the sample companies. Peachtree comes with two; they can give you a good idea of what your fleshed-out screens will look like.
  • Click Help | Peachtree Accounting Guided Tour to get a good look around before you start.
  • Click Help | Show Me How To for viewing demos of common tasks like changing accounting periods.

System Tips

  • Sometimes you need to enter a transaction in a past or future accounting period. To do so, click on Tasks | System | Change Accounting Period, and select the one you want. Follow the same path to get back to the current period. Remember that this will have an impact on your reports from past periods.
  • Financial data must be backed up. Take it from someone who's had an accounting system meltdown without a current backup. Click File | Back Up / (or Ctrl-B), and select from the options there. You can set a reminder for a specified number of days, and select a drive as the destination. Peachtree offers 100MB online backup free for one year from installation (for 2009 version; owners of versions 2006 to 2008 must pay $99).
  • Entering customers, vendors, and employees can be time-consuming. And very boring. If you already have at least some of these records stored in Outlook, you can set up a synchronization with Peachtree. Click File | Sync With Outlook. Before you do this, read the associated help file.
  • Peachtree software imports and exports CSV files. Click File | Import and pay close attention to the field map posted there, so you can be sure your incoming files are in the right order and all the data end up in the correct fields.
  • Before you create a new company using the Create A New Company Wizard (File | New Company), have information available. You'll need to enter the company name and select a business type, choose between cash and accrual accounting (you won't be able to change this after creating the company, so know for sure), and decide on your accounting periods and fiscal year.

Transaction Tips

  • You can "memorize" some frequently used transactions in Peachtree software. Open or create a sales invoice, for example, and click the arrow next to the Save icon. Click on Memorize. The Maintain Memorized Sales Invoices window opens. Enter a Transaction ID and Description and click Save. You can also enter the invoice information directly here. To access memorized transactions, click the Maintain menu, then Memorized Transactions.
  • Use Peachtree's Office link to create letters to customers, vendors, and employees. Click Tasks | Write Letters, and select Customers, for example. Select a template from those supplied, such as Collection Letter 1 (for overdue invoices in Aging Period 1). Click on Edit Letter Template to view the letter and make any changes. Click Send Letter and change any of the options there—including e-mail options—if necessary, then click the Word or E-Mail button to generate your mail merge.
  • Every module in Peachtree has its own defaults. You should look at these before you start processing transactions. Click Maintain | Default Information, then select a module, like Customers. Defaults here are in the areas of Terms and Credit, Account Aging, Finance Charges, Pay Methods, and any custom fields you may have created. Simply change any that aren't what you want.
  • Use Event Logs in records. Open a record in the Vendor module, for example, and click the Log icon. You'll see a list of events like Check to Vendor and Vendor Invoice Due. You can add your own here by clicking Event and selecting the type of event you want to document, like Call To, Meeting, and Letter From. Make a note and check a box if you want advance warning in Action items, and check when completed. That item will then appear in the Action Items.

General Tips

  • You should look at global options carefully before you start. Click Options | Global to open the Maintain Global Options window. Numerous options can be toggled here, such as whether to hide inactive records, use spell check, or automatically create IDs on maintenance windows. You can also set a security level for Peachtree Partner applications.
  • Peachtree's home page does a good job of providing easy-to-use navigational aids. But you can make it easier by customizing the list of shortcuts that appear in the left vertical pane. Click the Customize link and change the order of the existing shortcuts, delete or rename them, or add your own by clicking on Add a Shortcut.
  • Use customer code types. Peachtree lets you assign code types to records. These don't appear on invoices or statements, but you can use them to streamline reports. You could, for example, code each customer by geographical region.
  • Peachtree allows multiple custom fields in records. You can define these either within the record itself, or by clicking Maintain | Default information, and then selecting the record type. In your employee records, for example, you might add fields for position, spouse, and review date.
  • You can set up e-mail alerts for specific conditions. Click on Tasks | Action Items. Click the Alerts icon. You can set up alerts for customers, vendors, employees, inventory items, and G/L (general ledger) Account. For example, you might want to know when a sales item hits a certain level. To find out, you would select Inventory Item, the specific item or range, the type of alert (say, Sales Volume—Current Period), the condition (> or <), and the amount. If you want the alert e-mailed to you and, say, your inventory clerk, check the e-mail box and enter e-mail addresses. You can also select events that should appear in the Action Items list, such as quotes expiring and check to vendors (x number of days before the event date).

Peachtree software is very deep, and not all of its capabilities are obvious. You'll need to do some digging to find everything. That's the value of playing around with the sample files before you start using your live data: You can explore, see what's there, and add sample data of your own to see how it works.

Peachtree also offers a lot of integrated add-on services, like credit card processing, bill-pay, and remote access. Be sure to visit the Peachtree site to see what your options are before diving in.


Source:  Kathy Yakal - PC Magazine


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