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Simply Accounting 2004 Pro proves that inexpensive isn't synonymous with cheap. This nifty $99 accounting package from ACCPAC International has one of the best user interfaces we've seen, matching those of and . Its user interface is much improved from that of , thanks to a feature sure to please first-time users: an optional second-layer view that devotes the entire screen to one accounting module. Another plus is the upgraded Employee Direct Deposit feature for paychecks, which is now integrated into the program (it was previously an add-on module). Simply Accounting Pro's credit card processing and electronic payment tools aren't as seamlessly integrated, however, and its technical-support personnel could improve. That said, Simply Accounting 2004 is a first-rate package for small businesses that have basic accounting needs and tight budgets. But if your business has more-complex needs, QuickBooks is the way to go. Simply Accounting 2004 Pro's setup program is a model citizen. It seeks your permission before dropping icons onto your desktop--a classy approach seldom seen in consumer software. It wisely assumes you're no accounting whiz, either. For instance, when setting up a company file, the program asks whether you'd like to use accrual-basis (most common) or cash-basis accounting, and it defines each approach in plain English. Similarly, you can select an interface that shuns accounting jargon such as ledger and accounts payable for more-common terms such as vendors and purchases. Simply Accounting Pro can import comma-separated-values (CSV), text (TXT), and and data but not or files--a significant issue for anyone upgrading to SMB accounting for the first time. Also, the program can import Microsoft and files only after they've been converted to CSV format.
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The new second-layer interface devotes the entire screen to a specific accounting module such as Customers & Sales.
Simply Accounting's interface is top-notch. Its main screen retains the blue tabs and the clickable boxes of
Simply Accounting also deserves praise for limiting sales pitches for its premium services, including Direct Deposit. Its main screen, for instance, doesn't advertise any fee-based offerings at all. QuickBooks, on the other hand, is a veritable billboard for the program's add-ons. One of Simply Accounting 2004 Pro's biggest enhancements is its revamped Direct Deposit Payment service, which is now tightly integrated with the software, as is the case with competing services from QuickBooks and MYOB Plus. While Simply Accounting 2003 Pro offered direct deposit, the feature required a free but cumbersome add-on module to process online transactions. With Simply Accounting 2004 Pro, you can, for example, enter employee bank account information in the Payroll module, then click a button to upload the data and complete the funds transfer. It's sleek and seamless, as online banking should be, but it's not free. Direct Deposit Payment costs $79 (a one-time setup fee) plus $1.50 per transaction. , providing easy access to all accounting modules. A new second-layer view, accessible by clicking the blue tab atop each module, dedicates the whole screen to one module (Payroll, for instance) and provides multiple links to all the module's tools: Modify Employee, Remove Employee, and so on. The handy How Do I column provides a list of common help topics specific to that module. One gripe: Novices may have trouble finding this second-level user interface, which isn't mentioned on the main screen.
Unfortunately, Simply Accounting's other online transaction tools aren't as well integrated into the program and fall somewhat short of the competition's offerings. In both QuickBooks and MYOB Plus, for instance, you can save time by processing credit card transactions and electronic vendor payments from within the program itself. But Simply Accounting requires a free add-on utility for vendor payments, and credit card processing is done via the Web browser. It would be better if these functions were integrated into the core program, as they are in QuickBooks and MYOB Plus.
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Simply Accounting 2004 Pro's updated Direct Deposit feature is now seamlessly integrated into the program.
We like Simply Accounting's updated reporting and information features, specifically the ability to drop financial statements into Microsoft Excel sheets and have them retain their formulas and calculations. This feature worked well in our tests. Simply Accounting 2003 Pro, by contrast, transferred only a snapshot of the statement, sans formulas. And while Simply Accounting can't match the sophisticated forecasting and cash-flow analysis tools of QuickBooks Premier, it offers plenty of practical, everyday tools for small businesses, including more than 100 accounting templates (sales orders, quotes, receipts, and more) for a variety of industries, such as medical/dental, real estate/property management, and retail firms. When it comes to business accounting software, technical support is never free. Simply Accounting offers several plans, but they each come at a price. The SimplyCare plan for Simply Accounting 2004 Pro costs $149 a year. You can purchase the SimplyCare package online or by phone. It includes one year of payroll-tax and program upgrades, but for phone or online chat support, you'll have to go the per-incident route at $3 per minute, with a $45 minimum or $150 for 10 incidents. The SimplyCare Plus plan costs $200 and adds 100 minutes or one year (whichever occurs first) of phone or online chat support. Technical support is available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.
The good news is that Simply Accounting users get 30 days of free assistance for installation issues. Plus, there is a free online knowledge base and a user-community forum where you can exchange ideas and ask questions of other Simply Accounting users.
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Simply Accounting 2004 Pro's help page is nicely designed, but the company's phone support could be better.
We tried phone support, and service could be better. When we inquired about the new second-level interface, the bewildered Simply Accounting tech rep said our only interface option was to change color schemes. We also had issues with the program's help feature, which needs some fine-tuning. When we searched for the word interface, for instance, the search engine returned no hits.