Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 11 / JUNE 1989


ST Accounting For Home And Office

ST Accounts, Pha$ar


If you're looking for a good accounting package for a small business or to keep your home finances straight, STAccounts 2.0 and Pha$ar 3.0 are two good choices. Let's look first at STAccounts 2.0.

STAccounts 2.0 from ISD Marketing is an excellent accounting package for any small business. It now supports GEM windows fully and is no longer copy-protected, making hard disk installation possible. It can also be used with one or two double-sided disk drives, although it's easier to set up with a hard drive. It will not support floppy disks formatted with Mega-Twister, however.

STAccounts will handle General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and complete Inventory processing. It does not support Payroll or Forecasting, however. You can generate purchase orders with the Report Generator feature as well as back-order reports based on information entered through the Invoicing section.

Manual labor

The new spiral-bound manual is very well-written professional and thorough. It discusses loading the program, using the Report Generator (including a separate tutorial), Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Inventory Control, General Ledger, and Period and Year/End processing. The manual, although a little more "generic" in its wording, is still geared toward the IBM PC and compatibles and all GEM screen dumps are from the PC version.

ISD has done a good job implementing the GEM version of STAc-
counts. Not only is Version 2.0 easier to use, but it's improved in
many ways over Version 1.0. Any small business should consider
this accounting package.

You must read the manual thoroughly before installing and using STAccounts. Curiously, it says nothing about making a backup copy of the master disk before using the program; this is something you absolutely should do, then use the copy for your work and store the master in a safe place.

Be sure to return your warranty registration card, since no assistance of any kind will be given unless it's on file with ISD. A technical hotline phone number is given in the manual; be aware that it is not toll-free.

Setting It Up

Your first task (after making a backup) is to set up your data disk, system parameters, change the data file size and enter the company information. When this is complete, your formatted data disk is updated with this information.

If you're using the General Ledger (G/L), you create these accounts next because they're used by all of the other modules. There are 12 pre-defined G/L accounts which you can keep or change as you wish--but you cannot change them once transactions have been entered. Next comes entering the tax and discount rates. Then you create the Accounts Payable (A/P) accounts, the Inventory Control data and finally the Accounts Receivable (A/R) accounts.

All transactions for customers and suppliers are entered through the A/R or A/P menus; there is also an Invoice/Credit option under the A/R Menu to process transactions that require paperwork; those which do not affect the inventory and don't require paperwork are entered through the Journal Posting Facility. This Facility is also used for all A/P transactions, including utility bills and inventory items. Everything is done through GEM screens, making it very user-friendly.

Pha$ar 3.0 is a superb home accounting package. It includes almost
all of the features you would want and adds some that you might not
have thought of.

Reporting As Ordered

The reporting capabilities are outstanding. You can use the supplied reports as they are or modify them--or design your own--using the Report Generator. STAccounts provides printer drivers for the Epson FX-80 (the default), HP LaserJet and standard ASCII printers or you can create your own driver with the provided printer driver construction program.

The only drawback I could find is that when you request a List option from one of the Main Menus, you are first given the Output Control screen to select your printer, output port, destination and other characteristics; then, when you click on OK, you are presented with the requested report in a screen window, below which window are selection buttons for Exit, Next (page) and Print, which will then print the report to the previously selected destination. This gets to be tiresome; the Output Control screen should appear only after you have selected Print. (This also occurs in the Reports module).

All things considered, any small business would be happy with STAccounts. While it doesn't handle forecasting and Payroll, there's other software that does. It's easy to use and makes a boring task much easier to live with.

Pha$ar 3.0

The best program available for home accounting on the ST has become even better. Pha$ar (Professional Home Accounting $ystem And Register) provides almost every feature you would want in a home accounting package. It will handle regular payments and deposits, cash transactions, transfers between accounts (but not income or expense categories), splitting amounts between categories, and limited reporting capabilities. It also provides a separate module to process your taxes.

The manual is well-written and easy to understand, including an introductory chapter and a nine-chapter tutorial. It's written in a folksy style, which some may not be used to, but I feel it helps to see how you might use each feature. The next eight chapters are the reference section and correspond with the tutorial chapters. These provide more in-depth information about the topics covered.

Updates and Features

Version 3.0's changes from 2.0 include a common payee list, a most recent transactions list, the ability to cancel out of an account reconciliation, several choices of sorting categories and an upgraded calculator feature. It also allows check printing for window envelopes. The split transactions feature now shows a default amount for the Amount prompt, and fiscal year accounting is now supported. You can also save the register file without exiting the program, alter the system date and time directly and choose your own display colors instead of the (rather unpleasant) program defaults.

There are several other improvements detailed in the manual as well as extensive improvements to the tax program such as creating customized reports using the register file data. (The Tax Advantage by Double Eagle Software, will now process Pha$ar data files).

Essentially, Pha$ar employs a modified single-entry system. When Transferring between accounts, it will create the second entry for you. Other programs use the double-entry system which requires you to enter two transactions to effect a transfer.

Setting Up Pha$ar

To use Pha$ar, you first set up your checking and savings account(s), assets and liabilities. (Assets include such things as your furniture, computers, home etc. and liabilities are your mortgage, credit cards, other debts.) These all receive an initial balance. Liabilities a negative balance--that's how Pha$ar knows they're liabilities.

Then you set up your income and expense categories according to how accurately you want to track your money. You can have 39 accounts, 29 income categories and 97 expense categories. Miscellaneous income and expense and Cash Account are automatically defined for you.

You can enter up to 500 transactions per month; the register file has room for one year's worth of transactions. You also pre-define 17 sets of up to 20 transactions each and use them to speed data entry for common or recurring items.

Pha$ar lets you define a net worth statement easily using the balances in the accounts on the register file. You can include any or all of your asset and liability accounts to customize the report--which you can modify at any time to reflect changes in your account structure. Pha$ar also lets you keep a list of special occasions which the program can display automatically upon booting.

You can reconcile your checking account against your bank statement by entering the account number, the ending balance from the statement and the ending date. Pha$ar will produce a list of all unconfirmed transactions which you then confirm by pressing Return. When you're finished, just press the Esc key to see a report of the balancing. You should also use this method to reconcile all transactions against your other accounts.

One Complaint and lots of Praise

I have only found one thing to complain about in over 16 months of using this program: the split transaction feature lets you split transactions between expense categories only; it does not permit splitting between expenses and liabilities, nor can you split deposits between incomes and assets. For example, if I want to pay my mortgage, I may want to split the total between mortgage interest (a tax-deductible expense) and home loan (a liability); I must enter one transaction to pay the interest expense portion, then enter a transfer from checking to home loan to reflect the reduction in principal.

Otherwise, I have absolutely nothing but praise for this package. It does everything it says it does, it's easy to use, it's eminently suited to home accounting and it does not fail! With the proper setup, this program could also be used for a very small business; however, I wouldn't recommend it for that. But I highly recommend Pha$ar if you want a complete home accounting package.

Stephen G. Roquemore is a professional programmer on IBM mainframes but is a longtime ST user. This is his first article for START.


STAccounts GEM Version 2.0, $149.95. ISD Marketing, 2651 John Street, Unit 3, Markham, Ontario L3R 2W5, (416) 479-1880 Technical Support (416) 479-1 991.

Pha$ar Version 3.0, $89.95. Antic Software, 544 Second Street, San Francisco, CA 94107, (800) 234-7001.