MYOB Plus 2004 is a fine accounting tool for small-business owners more interested in managing the books than fussing with forecasting and cash-flow projection tools such as those found in the pricier . The $250 (single user; $119 upgrade) program adds some essential online tools missing in its predecessor, , including the ability to process credit card transactions, deposit paychecks directly into employee bank accounts, and pay vendors electronically. Much of the 2004 edition's core interface, including the excellent Easy Setup Assistant, remains unchanged from previous versions. But the additional services make the program a worthy upgrade. Another plus is MYOB's revised help system, which now allows natural-language queries via an add-on utility. MYOB has traditionally focused on simplifying accounting for nonaccountants, which includes the vast majority of small-business owners. Version 2004 continues this tradition with its Easy Setup Assistant--a carryover from MYOB Plus 12.0--which guides you through the complex chore of creating a company file. Upgraders will notice a change in the setup process, however, as MYOB Plus 2004 no longer uses passwords to restrict user access within a company file. Now an administrator simply assigns user rights through the master ID. This is good news since the new method streamlines the process, though it requires some reconfiguration via the Setup and Security screens, such as copying user restrictions from the previous version. MYOB's help section provides useful step-by-step advice to make this task easier, but novice users would benefit from a wizardlike guide to take them through the upgrade.
In our tests, it took just a few minutes to install version 2004 on a single system, but a full company setup will likely take several hours, particularly for users who activate MYOB Plus's new fee-based services, including credit card processing, employee direct deposit, and electronic vendor payments.
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MYOB Plus 2004 retains much of the look and feel of its predecessor, while adding a revamped help system.
Version 2004's interface rivals that of QuickBooks Pro 2004, both of which use logical flowchart diagrams to guide you through banking, payroll, invoicing, and other accounting chores. MYOB Plus's uncluttered look is also a nice break from QuickBooks' frequent sales pitches for premium services.
We liked MYOB Plus's revamped help system, particularly the new Tell Me How tool, which lists topics relevant to the task at hand. The new natural-language search tool, available via free download, is also useful for small-business owners unschooled in the finer points of accounting. For instance, we entered process credit cards in the help screen's search box and received dozens of hits on handling customer credit transactions. MYOB Plus 2004's major attractions are its new fee-based online services, including credit card processing, employee direct deposit, and vendor payments. These are welcome additions to a program long praised for ease of use but lacking many of the business accounting services that QuickBooks users have taken for granted. Plus, the prices of these services are comparable to those offered by MYOB's competitors. The Direct Deposit and Vendor Payment combo, for instance, cost $14.95 per month, plus a 39-cent fee per transaction. (Note that you'll also have to fork over a $129 one-time fee in setup and application charges.)
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The new fee-based services, including employee direct deposit, are integrated nicely within each accounting module.
The new Merchant Account Services feature lets you accept and process credit cards directly from the MYOB software. It's nicely integrated with popular MYOB tools, including Receive Money and Receive Payments. For example, in the Sales Command Center, where you input sales, print invoices, and the like, you can enter a MasterCard transaction, transmit the information online, and get MasterCard's approval or rejection on the spot. By comparison, previous versions of MYOB provided fields for credit card information but not the ability to process transactions.
Overall, we like the way MYOB Plus integrates its online services within the various program modules. The behind-the-scenes routing and approval of various transactions is mostly transparent to the end user, which is appropriate for a small-business accounting program. Direct Deposit, for instance, lets you (via the Payroll module) electronically transfer funds to employees' bank accounts. The Vendor Payment feature works similarly, except for business-to-business transactions such as routing funds to a parts supplier. If you prefer to go the traditional route, you can still print deposit stubs on plain paper.
The program falls short in financial forecasting, an area where QuickBooks Pro excels. For instance, MYOB's simplistic Cash Flow Worksheet, a drab columns-and-numbers analysis tool that predicts receipts and expenses over a 30-day period, lacks the pizzazz and wizardlike simplicity of QuickBooks' Cash Flow Projector, which takes you through tricky cash-flow projections. Like its competitors, MYOB charges plenty for full technical support. The Basic plan offers e-mail but no phone support, a discussion board, and online demos for $89 per year or $7.99 each month. The complete package includes all this plus unlimited phone support via a toll-free number (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET), payroll tax-table updates, and product upgrades for a cost of $299 annually or $20.99 per month. Another option is the pay-per-call approach, which at $4 per minute ($40 minimum) isn't much of a bargain either. On the positive side, MYOB provides 30 days of free installation assistance.
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MYOB Plus 2004 has an information-rich support database, but its phone assistance could be better.
We had mixed results with MYOB's support. E-mail queries were answered promptly and accurately; however, our phone query about an installation glitch with the natural-language search utility was never resolved. After several calls back and forth, MYOB e-mailed us a possible solution that didn't work. We faxed our response as per instructions and never heard back. Ultimately, we repaired the problem ourselves by running Windows' System Configuration Utility, disabling our start-up programs, and reinstalling the natural-language search engine.