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Microsoft Accounting Express 2009 review

Our Rating :

Enough features for a sole trader, but larger companies should look elsewhere.

Whatever its faults, Microsoft Accounting Express 2009 has one great redeeming feature: it’s free.

Like QuickBooks, the program uses flowcharts to simplify the bookkeeping process. Rather than a single homescreen there are five modules, each with its own flowchart. This may sound like a lot of features in a free program, but don’t get too excited. Some key features, such as payroll, are disabled. To activate them, you need to upgrade to the Pro version of this software for £150. The free version provides core accounting and the ability to generate basic reports; the Pro software has the payroll feature, a budgeting tool, stock tracking, cash flow forecasting and lots of other goodies.

Accounting Express 2009 integrates into Office. Click the ‘write letter’ button on the flow chart and you’ll be taken through a wizard routine that asks you what kind of correspondence you wish to write and to whom and then fill in all the relevant details for you. For instance, we auto-generated a final demand threatening one of our customers with legal action: the wizard filled in our address, the customer’s details and the outstanding amount on the customer’s account and the letter was ready to send in a matter of seconds.

Nice as it is, though, this kind of feature is just the icing on the cake; it’s the bookkeeping function that really matters. To enter transactions, you must go to the Banking module. There you’ll find another flowchart, this time allowing you to make deposits, transfer funds and so on. To record payments to and from the business, you must first set up a list of customer and supplier accounts. The software will then keep track of your financial dealings with each of these new nominal accounts. Entering transactions is easy – click on the relevant button in the flowchart (Make Deposit, Transfer Funds or whatever) and tell the program the date of the transaction and which nominal accounts you want to debit and credit. It will then update the Chart of Accounts for you.

Annoyingly, you can enter only one transaction at a time, which makes things tedious if you have a lot of transactions to enter. You can also import bank statements saved in the OFX file format, which saves you the hassle of having to input transactions manually at all. You can also import your statements as Excel files. Oddly, though, reconciliations still have to be done by hand, so what Microsoft gives with one hand it takes away with the other. Last but not least, the Express version of accounting has 37 pre-built reports ranging from standard profit and loss to customer, product and employee reports and so on.

There’s no doubt that Microsoft Accounting Express is a limited program; that’s why it’s free. But it’s also very easy to use, and if your business is small enough it may be all you need.

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