While QuickBooks and Peachtree are powerful and mature products, Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 (MOAP) is strong enough to make small business bookkeeping a three-way race. In addition to being able to sell through eBay, MOAP 's significant new features include more precise access control, better-integrated point-of-sale features, improved synchronization with Outlook and the capability to track and forecast inventory. MOAP is a great program and may have the goods to convert fringe QuickBooks customers.
MOAP offers enhanced security features that give administrators better control over employee access. Administrators can add and remove permissions to accommodate different roles such as owner, office manager, accountant or salesperson and set options to program areas by applying three settings: "full control," "read-only" and "no access."
The Microsoft Office Accounting Professional home page offers a great overview of a company's fiscal status with critical tasks, reminders and more.
(Click for larger image).
Integration with Outlook has also improved. Synchronized data sharing lets you effectively make changes in one program and view updates in the other as both applications refer to the same database. As a result, you can create quotes, sales orders and invoices without transferring information from one application to the other. To use these features, however, your business will need to upgrade to the newest "Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager."
You can now import data from Microsoft Money as well as QuickBooks and Microsoft Office Excel. Stronger form tools can modify forms by adding, renaming or moving fields, as well as adding custom fields. The program offers new and quicker means to synchronize and transfer data to an accountant for advice, and Microsoft Point of Sale is better integrated, which lets you easily transfer sales without retyping data.
The eBay Connection
A powerful new feature comes in the form of sales tools that can list inventory items on eBay, check listing status and download and process orders. When you sell an item, you can download the transaction record which includes commissions and fees directly into MOAP. The icing on this eBay cake: the program supports payments via PayPal.
A helpful wizard makes it easy to select and list products for sale on eBay. You can link images to inventory items; synchronize eBay inventory with inventory in MOAP and manage, complete and fulfill eBay orders from within the application. Unfortunately, standard eBay pricing applies. One would think that Microsoft could have made a deal so its customers could save on fees.
With its eBay features, Microsoft has delivered a boon to businesses that sell goods through the auction service. While QuickBooks recently fiddled with Google-based marketing features that are mostly available to anyone, Microsoft effectively scooped Intuit with this powerful, useful new feature.
MOAP offers tight integration with the upcoming Microsoft Office 2007 Small Business Edition. As it did last year, Microsoft touts the fact that the program's interface resembles that of Microsoft Office.
Of course, the interfaces in QuickBooks and Peachtree have evolved over time and are intuitive and easy to use. While some people will prefer the Microsoft-style interface, it's not necessarily easier to learn and use than those in QuickBooks and Peachtree. Even for longtime Office customers.
The MOAP home page offers a great view of a company's fiscal status with a snapshot view that displays critical tasks, reminders, balances and more. There's a handy cash flow analyzer and access to 60 or so reports that offer breakdowns into sales, profit and loss, item profitability, transactions and more, which you can customize with various filters.
The program does a great job of sharing data with Office applications. However, this is not as big of an advantage as one may expect because QuickBooks and Peachtree each have their own built-in export facilities.
Time and billing features allow employees to mark appointments in Outlook calendars as billable time and transfer the information to MOAP to create invoices. It's a great approach, but Intuit's Web-based time and billing submission system will appeal more to companies that have workers and contractors who don't use Outlook and are physically away from the office.
Microsoft has done a good job of making its installation fast and easy which helps companies get up and running quickly. The inventory system does a good job tracking items, calculating value and automatically updating quantities when creating invoices or accepting returns. The program handles foreign currency conversions to process transactions from international customers and vendors. The optional payroll service works with ADP to conveniently process payroll, calculate and file local, state and federal taxes and print checks.
Microsoft in an Accounting World
While MOAP has come a long way in the two years that it has been on the market, it's tough to seize market share from a dug-in, entrenched QuickBooks. Perhaps this is the reason why Microsoft is offering its entry level accounting program, Office Accounting Express 2007, for free. The hope is that people will try it and eventually upgrade to MOAP. Office Accounting Express will appeal to small service and retail businesses that don't need Office Professional's multi-user support, cash flow tools, multiple pricing levels, job costing, multi-currency support, inventory features, fixed asset manager and additional reports.
When you consider QuickBooks' many add-on services and industry-specific versions, overall, QuickBooks offers more capabilities. On the other hand, you can evaluate Microsoft Office Accounting Express for free and decide if you like it. And if your small business sells goods on eBay, the integrated sales features may be reason to move to Microsoft.
Requirements and Cost
Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 requires a 1 Ghz or higher processor, 512 MB or more of RAM, 1 GB or larger hard drive, Microsoft Windows XP SP 2 or later, Microsoft Vista or Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SP1 or higher.
Buying Microsoft Office Accounting Professional 2007 is a bit convoluted; first you must first download the Express version and then upgrade that to Professional. Upgrade price from Accounting Express to Microsoft Accounting Professional 2007 is $149.
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.
Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!