If you're in control of your business's finances, you can't leave anything to chance. Fortunately, accounting programs such as Simply Accounting 2003 Pro can make sure that all of your ts are crossed and your is dotted. Parent company ACCPAC's comprehensive package offers the bookkeeping features that small businesses require, including a variety of reports, tax tables, and a full audit trail. However, though ACCPAC's enterprise-accounting background carries over into Simply Accounting 2003 Pro's comprehensive toolset, if you find yourself confused, you might try a lighter package such as MYOB Plus instead.
While Simply Accounting 2003 Pro is easy to install, the program isn't quite as simple as its title maintains. Unlike MYOB Plus, which is immediately comprehensible to those of us who aren't well versed in accounting practices, Simply Accounting takes a bit of effort to learn. However, the included driver CD contains the Simply Accounting 2003 Learning Guide, a great multimedia teaching tool that lays out in detail the best way to use the product.
After installation, you can either try your hand working with a sample file or begin building a new company file. For the latter, you can either start from scratch or select one of the supplied accounting templates based on business type. The lists are useful, but we'd appreciate a wider selection. Unlike MYOB, Simply Accounting 2003 Pro doesn't offer lists for bookstores or freelance writing businesses.
The multimedia Simply Accounting 2003 Pro Learning Guide makes up for the program's complexity. It takes you step by step through each important function.
Simply Accounting 2003 Pro's main screen displays a series of icons labeled General, Vendors & Purchases, Customers & Sales, Payroll, Inventory & Services, Project, and Time & Billing; icons representing subcategories appear beneath each main category. Click an icon, and the appropriate window pops up--for example, Sales, Orders & Quotes (a subcategory of Customers & Sales) leads to a fill-in invoice, and Employees (under Payroll) leads to a tabbed window that lets you access all pertinent employee information.
It's a bit tougher to set up a single-person business using Simply Accounting than with, say, MYOB, because Simply Accounting 2003 Pro demands a bit more accounting expertise. Setup wizards let you alter your general company information, handle linked accounts (enabling you to automatically record information when you enter a transaction), modify your accounts, and add new users. But it's likely that the intricacies of handling taxes and managing inventories and charts of accounts will daunt newcomers.
If you're looking for a full-featured accounting application, you'll find little to complain about with Simply Accounting 2003 Pro. This comprehensive small-business accounting package offers all of the tools that you'd expect, and it lets you keep detailed records of all your transactions. For example, each customer entry features a tabbed window that lets you enter a variety of information, including early payment terms, sales statistics, memos, and whether the customer has access to your Web store. However, although the well-organized windows integrate smoothly with sales data, they don't let you enter more personal client information, such as birthdays or family information, although there are blank fields that let you configure your own data fields.
Simply Accounting offers one major advantage over similar software packages (at least as far as your accountant is concerned): it keeps a full audit trail, which means that you cannot modify your recorded history of sales and expenses. This function means that companies can't falsify financial info, and thus might reduce the risk of an IRS audit. The audit trail also allows for accounts that use multiple currencies and provides a variety of reports and graphs, making it much easier to assess the current state of your inventory and finances.
Simply Accounting keeps a detailed track of all of a company's sales and purchases, resulting in a full audit trail.
Version 2003 boasts a number of product upgrades and additions. For example, as many as six people can access and edit the same data simultaneously without overwriting each other's work (there was no such feature in previous versions), and you can set different security levels for each user. In addition, the latest version lets you add four-number department codes to each account, allowing you to break down an account, such as Freelance Income, into departments, such as Editorial, Writing, and Consulting. Also, the Simply Accounting 2003 Pro offers two modules not available in the smaller version: Time Billing and the ability to allocate budgets for different projects.
Lastly, version 2003 has introduced one important feature that will appeal particularly to small operations without Web-design and IT teams. Simply Webstore integrates e-commerce with the accounting package, letting you build an e-commerce site that uses Simply Accounting 2003 Pro as its back end. For example, Simply Accounting 2003 Pro automatically manages your inventory so that you needn't build a conduit between your store and your accounting package. The separate Webstore module offers a variety of store templates and a reasonably easy setup process. If Web sales are your company's main source of revenue, this feature may prompt you to switch from MYOB Plus or QuickBooks.
In previous versions of Simply Accounting, CNET has faulted ACCPAC's customer support. This time out, however, we were very impressed with the company's responsiveness. The CD's opening install screen and the Web site help pages prominently display contact information. When we called the toll-free number (available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT) with a test question, we immediately reached a knowledgeable support technician who solved the problem in about five minutes.
Simply Accounting includes a number of graphs that offer a vivid picture of your current financial status.
Like most other small-business accounting packages, you get the first 30 days of support for free. After that, you can choose from several support packages, including SimplyCare Pro, which offers the payroll tax tables (tables from which SimplyCare can calculate tax rates for each employee). SimplyCare also includes free upgrades, a newsletter, and up to 100 minutes of phone support for $199 per year. The Priority Response option provides the phone support alone for $150 per year, or you can choose Pay-As-You-Go, which costs $3 per minute with a $45 minimum.
Strangely, ACCPAC offers no e-mail support for Simply Accounting 2003 Pro--a distinct inconvenience. However, the Web site has a discussion area where you can find active support participation.