The most popular accounting software packages allow small business owners to handle their routine accounting tasks with ease
By Morin Bishop

Small business owners are accustomed to doing everything themselves, including keeping the books. But prior to personal computers, small business owners with no background in accounting needed to hire someone to put together proper income statements, ledgers, balance sheets, and tax forms. Fortunately, today there is a wide array of software applications that guide small business people through each step of creating a proper accounting of their businesses' daily sales activities, expenses, salaries, and purchases; producing professional quality financial statements and even tax forms.


Below we look at four of the most popular accounting software packages for small business owners. All of the following software packages are available for PCs running Windows 2000, XP, and Vista.

1. Peachtree Complete Accounting 2008
(Sage Software; $269;
Billed as a complete office accounting program for small businesses, Peachtree allows you to automatically create invoices, payroll records, and checks. The software walks you through the easy steps of recording expenses and customer payments, creating budgets, tracking sales and inventory, and creating detailed financial statements. Excel spreadsheets are integrated into the software, which creates general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash flow, and balance sheets, among 125 other forms and reports. Peachtree supports multiple users, and discounts are available for purchases of licenses for three or more users. Peachtree does not currently offer a Mac compatible version of its software.

2. QuickBooks Pro
(Intuit; $199.95;
Perhaps the best known personal accounting program, QuickBooks Pro offers small business owners an incredibly versatile accounting program. Geared for people with little experience in accounting or accounting software, QuickBooks features tutorials and on screen help, as well as 30 days of free call center support after registration. QuickBooks tracks all of your business's financial information, including outstanding loans, and generates detailed presentations of sales, customer, vendor, and employee information. The program is capable of sharing information with other popular business software such as Word, Excel, Outlook, and Peachtree. The program features several useful new tools including a vehicle mileage tracker and a cash flow projector. It's also available for computers running Mac OS X.

3. Microsoft Office Accounting Professional
(Microsoft; $99.99;
Microsoft continues to leverage the market dominance of its Office Suite by adding Accounting Pro to its array of programs. This software is fully integrated with Microsoft's enormously popular Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint applications, which makes moving data between programs and keeping on top of upcoming items a relative breeze. A startup wizard will easily import existing accounting data from a number of other programs including QuickBooks and Peachtree and the program can support up to five users at once. Additionally, Microsoft has added a number of services to the program to assist in expanding your business's online presence, including online payments through PayPal as well as invoicing and online payroll services provided by ADP Payroll. It's available for computers running Mac OS X.

4. Premier Accounting Small Business Suite
(MYOB; $299;
Building on its Mac roots, MYOB's accounting software is most notable for its clear, easy to understand screens and data entry process. The software contains more than 100 business forms and report types. Features include simple data transfer between sales orders and purchase orders, payroll data importing and preview, and bank statement reconciliation with error correction. The program also allows you to track time billing, jobs, and inventory. Included in the suite is "Staff Files," an application that allows you to record employee evaluations, contact information, resumes, and insurance data, and also allows you to keep track of absences and overtime. It's available for both PC and Macs.

Morin Bishop is editor-in-chief of Priority magazine

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