Ray Richards is founder of Mindspan Consultants and a technology journalist hailing from Ottawa, Canada

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Accpac Simply Accounting Review

Last month we took a look at a an excellent administrative system oriented towards the smaller enterprise: Quicken Home and Business.  This time around I had intended to examine it's big brother QuickBooks Pro but I thought I should first give equal time to the competition  with an overview of Computer Associates' Accpac Simply Accounting.

First Impressions

While the interface is nowhere near as clever as Quicken's, there are definitely some items of interest at first glance. The new business guide is an invaluable tool to those who are in the initial stages of establishing their enterprise. It provides a comprehensive electronic checklist which details the steps required to undertake this often confusing endeavour. Categorised by business type (sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership etc.) and province of origin, this tool additionally provides all the required contact information when dealing with the various levels of bureaucracy encountered in these pursuits.

The setup program is certainly much more onerous than Quicken's but is also considerably more flexible. You can define your own chart of accounts or utilise a pre-generated one based on a wide range of business models and also select accrual or cash basis accounting. You additionally have the option of having terms displayed in traditional accountant-speak or in supposedly more user-friendly language -  I found the conventional terminology considerably easier to understand, but I suppose I'm just a lot more familiar with it. The product uses the familiar cheque interface to record accounts payable and accounts receivable transactions, and the other modules, while not overly pretty, are at least consistent.

The inherent functionality is clearly more robust than Home & Business, but then these two products are not exactly aligned as competitors. Quickbooks, which we will be reviewing next month is more closely matched as far as features go, but what we are really after here is not the most feature rich application, but the one that suits your needs most closely. Items Simply Accounting has over Home & Business? – payroll, inventory (including item assembly for component based assets) , project accounting, purchase orders, quotations, and vendor information to name a few.  For a small company that sells product vs. services, this application definitely has more of the required attributes than Quicken H&B which  is really not suitable for that task.

On Further Inspection...

There are a couple of cool features which bear mention: the "business assistant" generates to-do's, as well as checklists - which although sounding redundant, actually are completely different. Checklists include the steps required to complete periodic functions while to-do's contain memo's, recurring transactions, accounts payable due, available discount incentives on AP transactions, shipped / billed PO's and aged receivables – all in one tabbed menuing structure. The application also features automatic advice on a variety of transactions, comprehensive reporting and good graphical renderings of the most commonly requested reports.

Another great feature of this application is the support for multiple companies. While there are several areas where the web is utilised such as  online banking, help and the option to go to vendor web sites from the vendor registration / lookup screen, the Internet seems to be a bit of an afterthought for Computer Associates as implementations are a bit clumsy. The security model however is significantly superior to Home & Business. It allows for the designation of specific functions to be accessed by assigned password, allowing more multi-user functionality than Intuit's. Accpac Simply Accounting also features integration with the Microsoft Office suite of products (assuming that you are using Office '95 or 97) which enables the printing of form letters, generation of historical payroll documents and inventory management spreadsheets to name a few.

Overall Evaluation

I'd say that this product is quite a decent option for those who already have a moderately better than rudimentary knowledge of accounting principles, however, the Home & Business application is definitely easier to understand and is considerably slicker in its overall design. For those who need more than Home & Business has to offer, Simply Accounting certainly has a full feature set which will undoubtedly more than fill the requirement list of the vast majority of small entrepreneurs. If you are interested in auditioning this application for yourself, you can download the trial copy from Computer Associates' web site.

Stay tuned next month for our in depth review of Intuit's Quickbooks Pro.

Originally published in Ottawa Computes! magazine, October, 1999, by technology columnist, Ray Richards.

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