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Software Review of:
Complete Accounting 2002


Bryan Lilius is the Staff Elder at Faith Presbyterian Church, 1307 Blanco Woods. As part of his responsibilities in this position, he has had to learn a lot more about accounting.

From the March, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Since I began working as a church administrator just a year ago, our church has been using a specialized church management software package that has two significant drawbacks: there is very little flexibility for report output content and format; and the monthly maintenance fee is quite steep. These two complaints seemed serious enough that if a better option arose, I should consider it. So when I had the opportunity to evaluate PCA (Peachtree Complete Accounting), I thought it might be a good candidate to replace our current software. 

Peachtree recommends that your computer be at least a Pentium-150 with 64 MB RAM and 100 MB free disk space. The operating system may be almost any Win32 system, including Windows 95 and NT 4 (Service Pack 4). MS Internet Explorer 5 is also required and IE 5.5 is included on the Install CD.

Before beginning the installation, read the brief “Introducing and Installing Peachtree” chapter in the 50-page Getting Started Guide that is provided with the product. (Unusual these days, Peachtree provides a very comprehensive 650 page printed User’s Guide. All printed documents are also provided as “pdf” files on the CD.) Peachtree Complete Accounting is network capable and if you plan to use this capability, there are some things you need to be aware of during installation, so definitely read the Getting Started Guide.

The program installed quickly and uneventfully, with the usual reboot at the end, on my Dell P4 850-MHz laptop. I installed the program in the default directory “C:\Peachw” which Peachtree recommends. This is different from the “C:\Program Files\…” which most programs install to these days.  

When you start the program the first time, you are prompted to register. If you have an Internet connection already established, you can quickly register the program over the Web. Peachtree permits you to start the program only 10 times unless it is registered. 

Company Setup and Data Conversion
You have a number of options as you set up the program for your company. Peachtree provides a very nice “New Company” wizard which guides you through all the details. The wizard allows you four options for data entry: starting from scratch and entering all the information manually; using one of the 75 templates of business types; importing a company from Quicken or QuickBooks; or importing data from some other accounting package. My best option was this last one. 

Unless you are converting from Quicken or QuickBooks, you must import data in a “CSV” (Comma-Separated Values) format. Our current accounting package can export this format easily so I was in business. I was able to transfer our Chart of Accounts and Vendor List into the Peachtree quickly by doing a little reordering of the “columns” in Excel – which can read and write CSV format. I am in the process of transferring all of our transaction data for January and February – but this should not be too hard to do, as I now have the same account numbers and vendors in the new program. Peachtree provides very complete information about the data requirements for each of the types of import such as the Vendor list or the General Ledger journal.

As you are setting up your company, Peachtree provides a handy checklist for you to use to make sure you do everything that is needed. This checklist can be called up at any time and returned to as often as needed. While following the Set-up Checklist, I discovered a minor bug in the program. Peachtree is a very serious accounting package and requires a “Rounding Account” to be specified in the General Ledger defaults (a setup checklist item). It puts any fractions of cents it creates during various transactions here. When I selected the “Rounding Account” from the drop-down list of accounts, its account number did not appear in the box and Peachtree showed an error message which is not exactly self-explanatory: “[ ] is not a legal general ledger account”. I figured out that I could type the account number in the control and everything was fine.

PCA is a true double-entry accounting package which requires every transaction to balance “Debits and Credits”. This was important to me. I am fortunate to have the assistance of professional accountants who informed me that Quickbooks is not such a package, and if I wanted to continue to receive their assistance, I shouldn’t get that program. Much of this “serious accounting” is hidden by what Peachtree calls “Accounting behind the screens”. This makes most operations, such as paying bills, about as easy as it is in a program such as “Quicken” 

PCA has every “module” you would expect in a “Complete Accounting” program including General Ledger, Inventory, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and Payroll. It also has a number of additional capabilities that you don’t always find including a Time/Expense module for companies that bill for labor time and a Job Tracking capability which allows you to relate every transaction to a particular project. Inventory is closely linked to Accounts/Receivable. In addition, PCA can form the foundation of an on-line “store” and orders from your Internet site can be automatically recorded in the program. In fact, one of the unique features of PCA compared to Peachtree’s other programs: “Peachtree First Accounting” and “Peachtree Accounting”, is that it can make all its data and functions Web-accessible. 

The program can print checks. Checks guaranteed to work with the program are available from Peachtree, but I still have a very large supply of checks bought to work with the program we are currently using. My hope was that I could get Peachtree to print checks successfully on these check forms. I was able to do this fairly easily since Peachtree provides the capability to modify the check printing format.

I was particularly interested in the reporting capabilities of the program. Peachtree comes with about 125 pre-defined statements and reports and gives the user some control over the appearance of these reports, such as headers and fonts. There is also a fairly flexible built-in report designer. It allows the user to select from all the available fields and to lay out the position and format of the fields on the page. If this built-in capability is not sufficient, a very powerful Crystal Reports for Peachtree is available for an additional $149.95. A 30-day evaluation copy of this program comes on the PCA CD

Product support is also an important consideration for our application. We are currently paying over $1000 per year for 60 minutes/month of telephone support. Included in that fee are all product updates, including payroll tax table updates. For $249/year, Peachtree provides unlimited telephone support. An additional $149/year obtains payroll tax table updates. I see the potential for significant savings in the support area.

I am favorably impressed with this program and plan to complete the transfer of all of our financial records. I may use “dual” (as opposed to double) entry for awhile, using both the old and new just to make sure Peachtree can do everything I need it to do. If and when the switchover is complete, our church will have a more capable, more efficient and less expensive financial accounting capability.

Availability and pricing
The list price for Peachtree Complete Accounting, 2002 is $269.95, with the unlimited user-site license version listing for $599.95. The best price I was able to find was at <www.buy.com> -- $235.95 and $379.95 respectively. If you are upgrading from a previous version of Peachtree, you receive a $70 rebate from the manufacturer.

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