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Taking care of business: accounting software takes a byte out of bookkeeping chores. (B.E. Reviews).

Ignorance is bliss, so the saying goes. But when it comes to managing your small-business finances, ignorance can mean red ink. Although you didn't launch your business with visions of ledger books dancing in your head, you can't afford to lose touch with the bottom line if you expect to be successful. Fortunately, accounting software isn't what it used to be. Arcane accounting language and confusing tables have been replaced with easy-to-use menus and one-screen reports that give you an up-to-the-minute view of the health of your business. You'll never confuse bookkeeping with fun, but today's software can take the edge off of the torture.

We took a look at Intuit's QuickBooks Pro 2002 (www.intuit.com) and Peachtree's Peachtree Accounting 2002 (www .peachtree.com). Both are targeted to small businesses that have fewer than 50 employees and that want to streamline their bookkeeping process.

QUICK LOOK AT QUICKBOOKS

QuickBooks Pro 2002 uses a menu bar on the left side of the screen and a set of icons at the top to keep things organized. Open windows are listed in the menu bar making it easy to jump from one account or report to another. For example, if you click on Customers, a new window offers you the chance to create an invoice, accept a payment, create statements, or perform other customer-related functions. If you click on Customer Center, QuickBooks tells you which customers owe you money, which invoices are overdue, and which job-related expenses you've run up but haven't been billed for yet. A new feature included in all QuickBooks versions is the QuickBooks Credit Check Service, which uses data provided by Dun & Bradstreet, a company that provides records on more than one million U.S. and Canadian public and private businesses. The service, which requires an extra fee, lets you download credit information about your customers, including an assessment of the company's risk for making late payments and a count of pending lawsuits and bankruptcy filings. QuickBooks CreditCheck Service is $14.99 per individual report or $19.99 per month for the Silver Package, which includes two free reports a month, or $39.99 a month for the Gold Package, which includes four free reports each month. Once you purchase a credit report, it can be updated free online for one year. You can, however, verify a company's address at no cost.

QuickBooks Pro lets you accept credit cards via the QuickBooks Merchant Account Service and it can download bank statements from banks with compatible software. Paid invoices are now stamped "PAID" in large letters, making it easy to check the status of invoices. Intuit says it is making an effort to help other companies make their applications compatible with QuickBooks. For example, the Professional and Enterprise versions of Time Matters, a time and billing application from Time Matters Software (www.timematters.com), can now share live data with most versions of QuickBooks.

A more muscle-bound version of QuickBooks, currently code-named "Hercules" because it's aimed at businesses with 20 to 250 employees, should be released shortly. Also in the Intuit pipeline is a QuickBooks product that will turn a PC into a full-service cash register. Intuit also offers QuickBooks for the Web, an online service ($14.95 per month for one to five users) that lets you manage your business from any computer with a Web browser. QuickBooks Pro 4.0 for Macintosh ($199) is still available but hasn't been updated in years.

A PEER AT PEACHTREE

The Peachtree Accounting user interface is a bit more colorful than QuickBooks' and offers quick access to most of its features via icons at the bottom of the screen and menus at the top left. Clicking on a small clock at the bottom of the screen brings up an Action List, which includes a list of alerts for things such as low inventories, a To-Do list, and an Events list, which lists pending invoices, unfilled purchase orders, and other incomplete transactions. You can set up Peachtree to automatically generate e-mail messages when certain alert conditions are met such as running out of stock on an item.

When you're connected to the Internet, Peachtree Accounting's "My Resources" area offers access to small-business-related news, as well as links to Peachtree partners such as Stamps.com. You can also use Peachtree to accept credit cards and to manage merchant accounts once you sign up with the Peachtree Credit Card Service operated by Chase Merchant Services.

Peachtree Accounting comes with a 30-day evaluation version of Crystal Reports for Peachtree ($149.95), which lets you create sophisticated reports, presentations, and charts from your company's data. The Peachtree Web Accounting service ($9.99 monthly for one user; $19.99 monthly for up to 10 users) allows you to upload company data to a secure Website, where you can then view and manage your books from any computer with a Web browser. If your office PC is always connected to the Internet, you can set up the service to synchronize the data on the PC with the Web data.

As your business grows, the later versions of QuickBooks and Peachtree Accounting can handle payrolls with the aid of subscription services that offer regular updates as federal and local tax laws change.

While the first few weeks with any accounting software will be challenging, as you perform the same transactions regularly, the time spent at the keyboard should steadily shrink, leaving you with more time to enjoy your profits--or lament your losses.

Getting Started

The toughest part of using accounting software is getting started. You'll need to gather financial records, contact lists, and other key business information, and enter all the data before you can make good use of it. All versions of QuickBooks and Peachtree Accounting use automated wizards to help you set up your company, and both offer pre-built templates for popular occupations such as dentist, architect, and motel operator.

Both products also memorize transactions as you go. For example, as you write a new invoice, the customer's name, address, and other data are automatically saved for later use. Both product lines also memorize forms you use often, such as a monthly invoice for the same goods to the same customer.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Software Review; QuickBooks Pro 2002 and Peachtree Accounting 2002
Author:Anthony, Robert S.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Evaluation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2002
Words:1034
Previous Article:Information is key. (Savvy Solutions).
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