Taking care of business

Accounting software takes a byte out of bookkeeping chores

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.

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.

A Peek 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

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