Small-business accounting software gets smarter every year, and Peachtree Complete Accounting is no exception. Version 2003 combines Peachtree's trademark financial features, such as advanced inventory control, with several slick improvements, including the Daily Register Report, which enumerates your daily activity. If you already own an earlier version of Peachtree, you won't find enough enhancements here to warrant an upgrade. But Peachtree remains an exceptional choice for growing small businesses--particularly those with Web stores--looking for a new accounting app. Small-business accounting software gets smarter every year, and Peachtree Complete Accounting is no exception. Version 2003 combines Peachtree's trademark financial features, such as advanced inventory control, with several slick improvements, including the Daily Register Report, which enumerates your daily activity. If you already own an earlier version of Peachtree, you won't find enough enhancements here to warrant an upgrade. But Peachtree remains an exceptional choice for growing small businesses--particularly those with Web stores--looking for a new accounting app.
Setting the program up requires very little effort: just insert the disc and follow instructions. Next, you launch and configure the program; you specify, for example, if you're using Peachtree on a network. Thereafter, Peachtree's welcome screen prompts you to, among other things, open a company file that you created previously, set up a new one, or convert and import a QuickBooks company file. When you set up a new company, Peachtree lets you know what business, customer, and additional information you'll need to enter or import.
The company file's main screen, Peachtree Today, displays a collection of Web resources, including small-business news, and quick, customizable financial information, such as past-due invoices. From this screen, you can access all of the basic accounting functions--such as advanced inventory control, time billing, and payroll modules--via buttons and pull-down menus.
As in past versions, Peachtree 2003 lets you drill down from any item in an invoice, a customer contact, or a form to view the original transaction. This time out, you can do this from your financial statement as well. So, as you prepare daily analysis or reconcile your accounts, you can click an item on your statement to get to the general ledger and, from there, to individual transactions so that you can, say, double-check the original calculations.
Like the drill-down financial statement, most of Peachtree's additional new features simply make the suite easier to use. The new Purge wizard lets you delete unwanted or unnecessary transactions from the record (don't mention this to Enron), and a credit memo screen makes it easier to track customers' credit for returned items or service refunds.
Several of Peachtree's new features go beyond usability to enhance the program's already powerful inventory capabilities. You can now create and track inventory items based on attributes that you assign, including color, size, and function. You can also edit transactions, customer contacts, vendors, and inventory from the maintenance menu. The Daily Register Report, arguably Peachtree's best new feature, displays a handy snapshot of your daily activity and allows you to drill down from the top view into particular transactions, customers, invoices, and more.
Peachtree Complete remains the most Web-savvy small-business accounting program available. The package still offers WebAccounting (for $15 to $30 per month), which grants you secure access to your accounting data from any Web browser--great for sales teams that need inventory numbers on the road. A Web site creator and hosting service ($17 to $20 per month) and credit card processing and authorization ($18 per month, plus 20 cents per transaction and 2.52 percent of each sale) help you create a functional online store. Lastly, Peachtree's WebsiteTrader service ($17 to $20 per month) lets you add a shopping cart and other e-commerce details to your site. For $80 to $100 annually, you can also subscribe to Peachtree's online backup, or you can buy useful add-ons, such as Peachtree Contact Manager, for $200. Many of these products are too expensive for tiny businesses, but as your enterprise grows, they'll become useful.
Sadly, tech support also piles on the extra costs. After your 30 days of free tech support, you'll have to purchase one of the pricey plans, which range from $179 to $299 per year. These prices are unusual for this level of otherwise similarly priced accounting programs.
Support costs aren't Peachtree's only drawbacks. The application still doesn't provide online banking or electronic bill payment; according to the company, customers haven't requested this. However, look for a direct-deposit service starting this fall. Intuit, by contrast, offers direct deposit as part of its QuickBooks Basic Payroll Service.
All in all, this solid accounting app offers excellent payroll, inventory, and Web features. Unfortunately, Peachtree hasn't made enough improvements in version 2003 to merit an immediate upgrade; small businesses watching their pennies or existing customers may want to sit this one out. But if your company needs lots of Web accounting tools, Peachtree's the best.