Two programs to help you do it
by Stephen Roquemore
The ST is rapidly becoming a serious business computer. with new business software arriving every week. Two accounting packages for the ST make it even more attractive as a system for small and medium-size businesses. STAccounts from Ditek International and Dac-Easy Accounting from Dac Software significantly improve the choices available for those looking for top-drawer business software on the ST.
STAccounts is an accounting system that handles general ledger, accounts payable and receivable, and complete inventory processing. It runs on any ST, with any combination of single- or double-sided drives. The program comes on a copy-protected disk, with a spiral-bound manual.
There's nothing generic about an accounting system. Every business is at least a little different from all other businesses, and every accounting package works differently, too. Thus, a good manual is critical for accounting software. Fortunately, the STAccounts manual is very well-written, in an easy-to-read style.
There's a "Read Me First" section that gives introductory information about the hardware, printer support, and other beginning topics. It also discusses entering your data into the program, to simplify converting to STAccounts from your present accounting system. There are also items about backup disks, blank disk needs for data storage, the more important key commands and program disk replacement policy. This section, along with the Installation Tips section, will save you a lot of grief later on.
The rest of the manual is very professional and thorough. There are sections on using the manual, loading the program, using the report generator. and a separate tutorial for the report generator. accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory control, general ledger, and period and year end processing. The Using the Manual section includes much useful information about disk care, data entry fields, GEM screens, and many other topics of importance. Once again, this is must reading. This is one of the best manuals I have seen for any software product; the only thing lacking is an index. The spiral binding is a nice touch-it means the manual lies flat on your desk.
After a thorough reading of the manual, you're ready to start building your system. The manual leads you through the process of creating data disks and configuring your system file sizes. Once this is complete, your data disk is formatted and the information stored for later use. STAccounts uses its own disk format, and though it will work with one or two single- or double-sided disk drives, in any combination, it won't support a hard disk. Ditek says that hard disks will be supported in a future release. That's important, because STAccounts is heavily disk-based; the more disk space you have available, the more files, records, etc., you will be able to handle.
Next, you can begin to create accounts, starting with general ledger. The system comes with 11 predefined general ledger accounts; you can keep them or change them to suit your requirements, but once you have entered transactions, you cannot change them. You then create the accounts receivable and accounts payable accounts, and the inventory control data last.
All of your transactions for customers and suppliers should be entered through the accounts receivable or accounts payable menus; this will automatically take care of general ledger and inventory posting as required, based upon how you set up your accounts. Everything is done through GEM screens, making it very user-friendly.
The reporting capabilities are awesome. You can use any of the standard reports that STAccounts offers, or modify them to match your needs. The package supports Epson FX80 and standard ASCII printers, and a BASIC utility allows you to create your own printer driver The only drawback is that there seems to be no way of printing a report on the screen; you have to route it to a printer. the modem port, or a disk file.
The STAccounts package includes a warranty registration card, backup order card, and replacement order card. Don't just throw them away; according to the manual, Ditek will provide no assistance of any kind unless the warranty card is on file. A non-toll-free technical hotline phone number is given in the manual.
The program is copy-protected. Ditek charges extra for a backup disk, and I disagree with that policy; however, considering the power of this package and how easy it is to use, this is a small complaint.
STAccounts isn't a complete accounting package for all businesses, it does not support payroll functions, for example. Purchase orders are not directly supported, although STAccounts will generate a back order report based on information entered through the invoicing section. And there's no provision for handling forecasting.
All in all, this is an excellent accounting package for any small business. It does not handle certain functions, such as forecasting and payroll, but there is other software available to fill these gaps. This package is easy to use; just follow the manual and it's hard to go wrong. it was designed specifically for the ST, not ported from another computer, and it uses GEM very well- thus making a basically onerous task much easier to handle.
Dac-Easy Accounting made its name in the IBM PC world as the first low-priced accounting program, and the ST version has been ported from the IBM. It is a completely integrated package, handling general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, purchase orders, billing, inventory and forecasting and invoicing. Payroll can be handled separately or it can be integrated with the accounting package with another Dac program, Dac-Easy Payroll.
The program comes on two double-sided disks, which are not copy-protected, and it can be used with a hard disk as well. The spiral-bound manual is written for the MS-DOS version of the program, so references to DOS prompts and menus don't apply. For example, according to the manual, selecting 99 from the Main Menu returns you to DOS; on the ST you are returned to the GEM Desktop. It is thus somewhat difficult to follow unless you are already quite familiar with your desktop environment.
Other than this complaint, the manual is excellent, although there is no tutorial. The Dac-Easy manual is well-written and explains all the screens and their uses clearly.
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The first thing to do, as before, is to read the manual thoroughly. Chapter 2 is especially helpful for setting up a Chart of Accounts. The next step is sitting down with a set of forms and planning your system layout and reports.
The Dac-Easy manual includes a variety of forms, which you must copy and fill out in the process of planning your accounting system. These forms help you determine your file space requirements for all the files required in the system; they also cover product, vendor, accounts and customer file maintenance, and there's a financial statements design form. This last form is used to help you design all the reports you want from your system exactly the way you want them to look.
When the forms are complete, you can run the main program, select the Utilities Menu from the Main Menu. then choose Define Files. You tell the program which drive will hold your data files, then enter the information on file sizes. After returning to the Utilities Menu you choose another option to select your printer codes for condensed and normal printing.
At this point, a new company can begin using the program normally. Companies that already have an accounting system will have more things to do, but they're all laid out in the manual's Appendix.
All this may sound complex, and it is-but it isnt as bad as it sounds. The manual leads you through this process very well, showing you what the screen looks like and telling you what you have to do. Other than the references to MSDOS, which tend to be confusing, it quickly becomes a straightforward process.
Chapters 3 and 4 of the manual walk you through the daily routines necessary for general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and inventory as well as the reporting function. Chapter 5 covers periodic processing, and Chapter 6 covers forecasting. These are all straightforward, with screen displays and instructions provided. Throughout the manual are little boxes with tips and warnings to help you along.
Dac Software also sells separately printed forms for use with this software, and many of the examples are illustrated using these forms. Many other illustrations of reports are provided to give you a good feel for the immense power of the reporting options. The possibilities here exceed even those of STAccounts.
Dac Easy even allows you to set up password protection to five levels deep. if you so desire. Each level of protection allows access further into the system, until Level 5 allows access to everything. It's user-definable and changeable. You can set and change passwords at any time; when a user wants to use a particular function, the program asks for the password before giving the user access to the function.
There are problems with Dac-Easy Accounting. It's not a GEM program, although it does use screens and menus, and it appears to be designed with a monochrome monitor in mind. When I booted up in default low-res on a color monitor and ran the program, I discovered that the Main Menu was intended for medium resolution. The screens were black lettering on a gray background, with a blinking green underline cursor that was very difficult to see. All responses I entered were displayed in the same fluorescent green as the default Desktop, and I found it difficult to work with this combination of colors for very long. Of course, you can set new colors through the Control Panel, or adjust your monitor's brightness and contrast to suit your taste. but then you have to readjust for your other software.
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Another mild annoyance is that all data entry must be done in upper case. If you enter something in lower case, the program rings an error bell. And every time you return to the Main Menu from a submenu by selecting 99 you must enter the date again; the program doesn't remember it from the first time.
In general, though. Dac-Easy Accounting is a thorough, competently done accounting package that will meet most users' needs. The manual definitely needs to be rewritten to reflect the ST environment rather than MS-DOS; it should also mention the capability of integration with DacEasy Payroll, which it does not. But aside from a few minor complaints, you couldn't go wrong with this one.
Both STAccounts and Dac-Easy Accounting offer the accounting power business users need. Dac-Easy is more extensive, and with its hard disk support and an integrated payroll package available, it offers a complete solution for a growing company. Personally, though, I would give the nod to STAccounts, based upon its manual and its integrated use of GEM, including online Help screens, and because initial startup is easier. But either package will serve a small business well in solving its accounting problems.
STAccounts, Version 1.1. Ditch International. Distributed by ISD
Marketing inc., 2651 John Street, Unit 3. Markham, Ontario L3R 2W5, Canada.
(416) 479-1880. $249.95
CIRCLE 195 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Dac-Easy Accounting. Dac Software, Inc., 4801 Spring Valley Road,
Bldg. 110-B, Dallas, TX 75244. $69.95
CIRCLE 196 ON READER SERVICE CARD
Stephen Roquemore services IBM main.frame computers
(Editors note: As we went to press, ISD Marketing announced version 2.0 of STAccounts. Version 2.0 adds numerous features to the already-powerful STAccounts program, including check register and the ability to design your own checks, separate "bill to" and "ship to", purchase order numbers, and the ability to run it from a hard disk or RAMdisk. Version 2.0 will be available by the time you read this.)