Profit and Loss. (accounting software) (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti
Cumbersome, hard to learn, and fraught with pitfalls, most accounting packages just frustrate the average small business owner. It's no wonder that some people aren't inclined to spend the time needed to learn how to be an accountant and still meet the challenge of running a small business. In creating Profit and Loss, Sensible Software has attempted to help--not frustrate--the small-business owner.
The DOS-based P & L attempts to bring all the power of modular accounting packages to a checkbook-based, single-entry system. Many small businesses don't require a balance sheet and reconciliation of owner's equity, but they do require the profit-and-loss and cash-flow statements P & L provides.
P & L leaves out confusing accounting concepts such as accrual accounting, double entry, assets, liabilities, and owner's equity for simplification. Potential buyers, however, should be warned that this program may not be suitable for corporations and partnerships from whom the IRS requires a balance sheet.
P & L goes beyond programs like Quicken to provide many of the modules found in very-high-priced, double-entry accounting systems: order entry, purchasing, inventory, payroll, point of sale, vendor list, pricing, and so forth. And it has an impressive list of easy-to-use features, graphs, and reports that make it more than basic accounting.
Perhaps one of the best features is P & L's scrip-based report generator, which can produce any type of custom report. A compiler reduces the report to a faster, more compact form of a script. Realizing that the 320-page report generator manual could be more confusing than double-entry accounting, the authors provide more than 300 ready-made report overlays and will design simple custom reports for $18 each.
Like Quicken, P & L has a bill-paying module. Auto Pay identifies which bills are due, makes a list of checks, and applies them to the items currently due. It also makes sure you don't pay bills before they're due, and it helps you take advantage of vendor discounts based upon time payment. This software doesn't have an electronic bill-paying option, however, nor does it integrate with the CheckFree electronic bill-paying system.
Computerized timecards let employees punch in from anywhere in the system. The timecards will increase in usefulness once Sensible Software makes this program network compatible.
The payroll module can handle overtime, special shifts, holiday pay, and an infinite amount of withholding options, but it won't automatically compute withholding taxes or generate the IRS and state payroll forms that employers must submit to the government. You need to look up the numbers in the appropriate table or calculate the correct amounts manually before entering the tax into the system.
P & L can run two credit checks while in order-entry mode to see if customers are overdue paying their accounts and to see if they've exceeded their credit limits. You can then increase their credit, hold the order, and/or view their prior transactions. Orders can be aged and discounted based on a system of variables.
Order entry uses nine modules to generate orders, invoices, and charges. You can bill with interest through invoices and monthly statements. You can set 49 prices for each product based upon six quantity breaks, seven price levels, and a discount of normal pricing.
The inventory module computes inventory using three of the four accepted methods: FIFO, LIFO, and average cost. Shopping allows you to set order quantities and will automatically generate a purchase order when products need restocking. You can the customize the purchase orders before sending them.
P & L's audit trail system maintains a narrative record of transactions for reference when you want to sort out any confusion you may have in viewing transactions lists. Activate the help system with the F1 key and you'll access an impressive list of features, including 1.6MB of online text, index, and a glossary. You can access help from any point in the program or use the help indexed to your specific location.
The new retail-sales module allows for over-the-counter and point-of-sale transactions in a cash register or storefront environment. It uses a universal customer record that allows easy review of register sales. The module generates a single invoice for each business day.
You can build deposits from a variety of items to allow for online reconciliation of the day's income to daily bank deposits. This provides a traditional audit trail for income and allows for the easy identification of daily cash receipts and payments made by credit customers against their open orders and accounts.
P & L comes in compressed form on six 360K 5 1/4-inch disks, with exchanges available for 3 1/2-inch. You need 5MB to 20MB of hard disk space, depending on the size of your business.
Not for those well versed in the double-entry system of accounting or for those who require features like depreciation, accrual-basis accounting, balance sheet, and statement of owner's equity, P & L does cater to a specific audience. Those who have neither the time nor the inclination to learn traditional accounting and who want to leave accounting to accountants but still need an easy-to-use, checkbook-based accounting system to keep track of their businesses will find P & L to their liking.