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    Simply Accounting and QuickBooks: accounting twins separated at birth

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2009 First published in Business in Vancouver March 10-16, 2009; issue 1011

    High Tech Office column

    Some say that long-married husbands and wives come to look increasingly alike. The same seems to be true with long-standing software rivals. The taskbar in the upcoming Windows 7 seems to be morphing into the Mac OS X dock, for instance.

    Now take accounting software. Please.

    Full disclosure time. I come from a family of accountants. From them, I’ve inherited good math skills and an awareness that keeping track of those nickels and dimes is vital for any successful business. And at the same time, when I hear of accounting software, my eyes glaze over.

    Nevertheless, we gotta go there. The two major accounting software packages have new versions aimed at home and small businesses. But the more I look at Simply Accounting and QuickBooks, the more alike they become.

    Simply Accounting comes from the Richmond, B.C., offices of U.K.-owned Sage Software; QuickBook’s Canadian version is developed in Edmonton for Intuit Canada. Each offers products ranging from a low-cost version aimed at home-based businesses up to an “enterprise” version – so-called because neither is aimed at the Fortune 500 enterprises, but rather at growing mid-sized businesses.

    Simply Accounting claims to be “the No. 1 choice of accountants and small business in Canada,” while Intuit says QuickBooks is “the No. 1 accounting software package in Canada.”

    In their 2009 versions, each has invested much resource in reorganizing interface, navigation and search tools to help users get up to speed quickly.

    Both offer free downloadable “starter” versions for new home-based businesses, and each can now be hosted on Windows and Linux servers.

    Simply Accounting versions include first step express (free), first step ($49), professional ($149), premium ($299) – both professional and premium are available with payroll capabilities for an additional charge – and enterprise ($1,249 for five users; also available in a 10-user version).

    As well, an accountant’s edition can be used together with any of the others. The company boasts that its products can create forms in English and French.

    QuickBooks similarly offers a free EasyStart version, moves up to a $99 version, through professional ($199) and premium ($499) versions (with or without payroll) and on up to the (new this year) subscription-based enterprise version, which is aimed at businesses or departments with 30 to 50 employees.

    Each claims to have cleaned up the start or home screens. Simply Accounting promises that all home screen features can be accessed with no scrolling; QuickBooks notes that it has reduced five different navigators in last year’s version to a single home page this time around.

    Overall, QuickBooks claims to have moved from 126 screens last year to 28 in the current versions. Simply Accounting promises that in all its versions forms such as invoices can now be output in PDF format, making it easy to send them as e-mail attachments.

    In payroll-equipped versions, direct deposit stubs can also be e-mailed as attachments. Simply Accounting users can use Sage payment solutions to automate credit card processing. An updated learning centre uses frequently updated online information and videos.

    Simply Accounting promises it is easier than ever to add and manage customer, vendor and employee information and to migrate from QuickBooks 2006 or 2007.

    The enterprise edition supports increasingly complex operations and can be configured so that different users can access different sets of company information and reports.

    QuickBooks now integrates with Google desktop, allowing users to easily search for customers or invoices. The new QuickBooks versions can now be installed alongside older versions, which gives companies easier access to older data.

    The new enterprise version is offered by subscription, allowing access to all updates and new versions at a per-month cost ranging from $250 (five users) to $725 (20 users).

    Regardless which new program you pick, the new Simply Accounting and QuickBooks should make it easier to track the money moving in and out of your business. •

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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