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
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
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.