Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting (SBA) (beta)
Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting (SBA) is the software giant's first foray into the low-end bookkeeping market, having already infiltrated the high end with its enterprise-oriented Great Plains software. Built for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, SBA will launch in fall 2005, when it will compete primarily with and . SBA promises tight links with existing Microsoft Office applications, specifically Word, Excel, and Outlook. For instance, SBA will let you export invoices from SBA to Microsoft Word for editing and printing and funnel profit-and-loss statements to Excel for number crunching. Users running Outlook with Business Contact Manager (another component of Microsoft Office Small Business Edition), will be able to link sales leads stored in Outlook with client accounts in SBA.
Upside: Like any good, small-business accounting application, SBA is designed for nonaccountants. The beta interface is well-structured and simple to navigate and manages to keep accounting jargon to a minimum. Microsoft has given SBA an Office-friendly look with the familiar menus and toolbars motif. And like QuickBooks and other accounting competitors, SBA offers a start-up wizard that steps you through the process of inputing company data. SBA also borrows a few of QuickBooks' best features, such as a flowchart screen that outlines customer data entry (entering quotes, sales orders, invoices, and so on), and a left-side Customer column--similar to that in QuickBooks Navigator--that makes it easy to jump to other accounting tools, such as Excel.
Downside: SBA imports data from Excel and QuickBooks but not from competing accounting apps. And while SBA's integration with Office is impressive, QuickBooks Pro performs many of the same tricks. Take Word integration, for instance. Both programs allow you to export invoice data to Word for easy editing and printing. And both make it a breeze to send reports to Excel: simply click a button, and your accounting data loads in an Excel worksheet. Furthermore, while both apps let you synchronize Outlook contacts with company clients, QuickBooks also supports the popular; SBA doesnÂ’t. On the other hand, SBA (when teamed with Outlook for Business Contact Manager) exchanges customer balances, sales, and payments in real time with other Office apps; QuickBooks doesnÂ’t.
Outlook: Small Business AccountingÂ’s strong feature set and intuitive interface should make it a serious contender for small-business accounting market share. Microsoft will undoubtedly price SBA competitively with QuickBooks Pro, and the programÂ’s inclusion in Office Small Business Edition will introduce it to mom-and-pop shops that currently use Word and Excel to run the store. (While Microsoft has yet to announce SBAÂ’s price, weÂ’re guessing itÂ’ll be similar to QuickBooks ProÂ’s $299 list. SBA will be included with the Office Small Business Edition version slated for a fall 2005 release.) What remains to be seen is how well SBAÂ’s accounting tools perform in the real world.