A venerable accounting program, Sage's Peachtree has long battled Intuit's Quickbooks. In its latest 2006 edition, Peachtree adds online banking, bill-payment features and specialty versions for construction firms and non-profits. The software is better than ever and provides keen competition for QuickBooks.
While Sage has made the titles of its 2006 products rather unwieldy by adding the company moniker to the official title Peachtree by Sage the line contains a wide variety of programs designed to fit the accounting needs of nearly every type of business. The 2006 lineup includes:
- Peachtree by Sage First Accounting 2006
- Peachtree by Sage Accounting 2006
- Peachtree by Sage Complete Accounting 2006
- Peachtree by Sage Premium Accounting 2006
Peachtree First Accounting is designed to support small service-oriented businesses while Peachtree Accounting adds basic inventory features to support retail establishments. Both are single-user products. Peachtree Complete provides networking and multi-user support, advanced inventory features, online banking, online bill paying, job costing, time and billing, an audit trail and first-rate fixed asset management features.
Premium Accounting, which includes all the features found in the Complete edition, adds departmental accounting; serialized inventory to assign serial numbers to items; company consolidation to roll up and summarize data; progress billing; and employee compensation histories and report customization (via the included Crystal Reports software). Peachtree Premium also comes in industry-specific versions for accountants, manufacturers and distributors, and this year it adds excellent versions for construction companies and nonprofit organizations.
Peachtree Complete and Premium finally support online banking a longtime QuickBooks offering to reduce the time it takes to reconcile accounts. You can now download and import transactions from your financial institution directly into Peachtree and reconcile away.
As you would expect, your bank has to support Peachtree in order for the online banking features to work. According to Sage, some 260 financial institutions are on board. Peachtree's bank list contains major players such as Wells Fargo, but other important banks such as Washington Mutual and Bank of America are missing (QuickBooks supports these). If you plan to use online banking, be sure that Peachtree works with your financial institution.
New online bill payment features in the Premium and Complete versions let you pay bills electronically from within Peachtree. To accomplish this, the software works with the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network a private electronic payment transfer system that connects all U.S. financial institutions to transfer payments from your bank to your payee on specified dates.
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A handy new internal accounting review found in the Premium, Complete and Accounting versions ferrets out suspicious transactions and common accounting mistakes such as duplicate transactions and receipts that debit incorrect ledger accounts. New customer and vendor reports summarize the number of days it takes to pay and receive invoices and maintains the status of active versus inactive customers and vendors.
New versions geared for construction and nonprofit companies join the first-rate industry-specific editions for distributors, manufacturers and accountants. Like those from QuickBooks, Peachtree's industry-specific versions offer strong features for businesses in their respective sectors.
Peachtree Premium for Construction emphasizes job costing to track costs and revenues and compare estimates against actual costs on projects. A job work-in-progress report helps you identify jobs that are generating revenue and those that are not, and indicates your firm's financial position.
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The program can store subcontractors' names, policy numbers, policy limits, and expiration dates, and it can notify you when a vendor's policy has expired. The software applies labor overhead rates based on taxes, insurance, benefits and more, and assigns them by the job or company-wide. You can also create invoices based on a job's progress either by percentage or milestone and track retainage, the amount that customers withholding from you and that you withhold from sub-contractors.
Peachtree for Nonprofits offers a chart of accounts that translates financial statements into categories required by the IRS for nonprofits (Form 990). It offers compliance with United Way-based chart of accounts and support for multiple funds-amounts obtained from different sources and applied in various ways.
By the Books
Peachtree maintains its past strengths such as a fast and smooth installation (less than fifteen minutes) and excellent wizards that walk you through configuring the program and setting up a chart of accounts. Numerous instructional demos show you how to perform basic tasks, and the interface, which often features graphical elements, is intuitive and easy to use. Peachtree also offers some 145 customizable reports and Premium Accounting comes with Crystal Reports a high-end software for designing and building detailed reports from business data to offer even more possibilities.
Peachtree has always held an edge over QuickBooks when it comes to inventory inventory. As in past versions, Peachtree lets you track assemblies through manufacturing, create master and sub-assemblies, adjust prices by percentage, and apply LIFO, FIFO or average costing and more. Manufacturing firms will probably find that Peachtree does a better job meeting their needs than QuickBooks. It offers options for building commercial Web sites and can create a catalog based on your inventory, and it lets you download sales orders into the Peachtree application.
In addition to solid payroll features, Peachtree offers a powerful add-on service that calculates federal, state and local tax deposits, creates W-2s, prints 1099s and supports 401K, 403B and 457B savings plans and direct deposit. The system conveniently transfers and synchronizes data through an Internet connection and lets you print checks and reports from your PC. Pricing
- Peachtree by Sage Premium Accounting 2006: $499.99
- Peachtree by Sage Complete Accounting 2006: $299.99
- Peachtree by Sage Accounting 2006: $199.99
- Peachtree by Sage First Accounting 2006: $99.99
- Peachtree Complete Multi-User Value Pack (five-seat license): $699.99
- Peachtree Premium for Construction, Nonprofits, Manufacturing and Distribution: $1199.99 each
The Bottom Line
The addition of online banking and bill paying make the upgrade to 2006 worth the expense. Firms that manufacture products even those that currently use QuickBooks should seriously consider switching over to Peachtree. However, retail and service businesses that are happy with QuickBooks have little reason to switch, particularly in light of the fact that QuickBooks offers excellent wholesale and retail-specific editions. And other companies in the market for an accounting program may simply want to wait and see what Microsoft is bringing to market this fall with its Small Business Accounting 2006.
Over the last ten years, Wayne Kawamoto has written over 800 articles, columns and reviews about computers, new technologies, the Internet and small businesses. Wayne has also published three books about upgrading PCs, building office networks and effectively using and troubleshooting notebook computers. You can contact him through his Web site at www.waynewrite.com.
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