It may be hard to view Microsoft as the underdog in any software category, but that's the case in small-business accounting, a genre long dominated by the excellent Intuit QuickBooks. The savvy marketers in Redmond are taking a bold step this year by giving away the Express version of Microsoft Office Accounting 2007 for free. This is a fine bookkeeper for start-ups and other small businesses with basic accounting needs.
Microsoft has also lowered the price of the more full-featured Office Accounting 2007 Professional to $150--down from $180 for Microsoft Small Business Accounting 2006--while enhancing the program with more online services, better security, and tight integration with the upcoming Microsoft Office 2007 Small Business Edition.
Given that it's free, Microsoft Office Accounting Express is a good choice for mom-and-pop shops that could use accounting software on the cheap. By contrast, Intuit's QuickBooks SimpleStart for business bookkeeping newbies costs $99. We don't recommend that users of QuickBooks Pro or Premier switch, though, because QuickBooks is the better bookkeeper with a superior interface and more third-party applications that support it. Microsoft Office Accounting Professional, which competes featurewise with the $200 QuickBooks Pro, has a variety of tools that Express does not. For instance, Accounting Pro has multicurrency support, an essential feature for businesses selling to international customers. It has multiuser capabilities that allow up to eight people to use the program, while Express is built for one user only. And Pro's inventory management capabilities are essential for businesses that need to track and reorder products. However, both the free and paid versions of Office Accounting 2007 allow you to manage eBay sales.