Software

Five small business replacements for QuickBooks

Jack Wallen suggests several options that offer a near feature-for-feature comparison to the popular QuickBooks.

Every business relies on up to date financial information. To achieve this, financial-specific software must be employed. The king of the mountain in small business finances is Intuit's QuickBooks. But not every small business can afford to keep up to date with that particular software title, nor does every SMB need software with every feature offered in QuickBooks.

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Thankfully there are tons of cheap (or free) options available. Some of these options offer a near feature-for-feature comparison to the mighty QuickBooks. Some are much more simple minded and offer only a fraction of the features found in QuickBooks. But regardless of how feature-rich you need your financial software to be, there are options. In fact, I've uncovered five such options you've probably never heard of. Let's take a look at each and see if one (or more) of them will satisfy your small business financial needs.

Five Apps

1. AccountEdge

AccountEdge probably offers the most feature-for-feature comparison to QuickBooks. AccountEdge is also in the same price point as Intuit's offering (running $299.00 for the full Pro version and $99.00 for the full Basic version). There are two versions: Basic and Pro. The Pro version features: Management of banking, sales and purchases, inventory, payroll, and time billing, and offers a number of add-ons and services (including credit cards and payroll). The Basic version only offers: Bank management, general ledger, and credit cards. One advantage you will find with AccountEdge is that it allows you to work from your desktop, your iPhone, or your iPad (both the iPhone and iPad software versions are free). You can run payroll, accept credit cards, and even track time.

2. WorkingPoint

WorkingPoint is the only web-based entry in the list and offers many similar features to that of QuickBooks. Not only can you access your financial data from anywhere, WorkingPoint offers: Accounting, invoicing, financial reporting, tax reporting, contact management, time tracking, expense management, inventory management, cash management, a business-friendly dashboard, and much more. WorkingPoint offers two plans: Lightning ($9.00/month) and Thunderstorm ($19.00/month). With the Lightning plan, only one user can access the account and there is a limit of up to ten invoices per month. The Thunderstorm plan allows for unlimited users and unlimited invoices.

3. CS Ledger

CS Ledger is a bit of a step-down from AccountEdge, but it is free and does offer plenty of features that should appeal to many a SOHO or small business. CS Ledger features: Multi-user mode, general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory, histories (customers, vendor, accounts, and items), reports, user controlled display grids, and more. The multi-user mode can handle up to twenty-five users and millions of transactions. It is only available for Windows (XP or later).

4. JMoney

JMoney is an Eclipse Desktop application (written in Java) that offers basic accounting features and can be extended with plugins. Available plugins include: Categories Panel, Charts, Copier, Currency Page, GnuCashXML, jdbcdatastore, Bank Reconciliation, reports, stocks, and more. Because JMoney is open source, it is possible to write a plugin to further extend the application to better fit your needs. JMoney is free and is available for both Mac and Windows.

5. Account Manager

Account Manager is another Eclipse Desktop application and offers only the most basic of functionality. For those looking for simplicity, this might be the tool to use. Account Manager features: Basic accounting functions (accounts, general ledger, etc.), add as many accounts as you need, multi-user, open source. Although Account Manager won't stand on its own as a complete replacement for the likes of QuickBooks, if you're looking for a free, open source, tool to manage various accounts (and include an easy to use general ledger), this hidden gem might do the trick.

Bottom line

Not every application can stand up to the power of QuickBooks. But when you don't need all that power (or the price that goes along with it), it's nice to know there are alternatives. From feature-lean, open source applications all the way up to power-house, full-blown accounting packages, you'll find plenty of alternatives to what is often called the de facto standard in small business accounting software.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

38 comments
wanderson
wanderson

You may wish to look at PostBooks from Xtuple. Why? (1) Features in inventory management that should suit user needs - like detailed history of jewelry purchase, costs along the way to distributor, various pricing schedules to retailers, etc. Since Original Xtuple was developed in Europe for manufacturing, there were requirements for very specific controls on all phases of process, thus greater flexibility on inventory. (2) PostBooks works with either Windows, Mac or Linux "end users" (office workers) if installedon a Linux Server, whih provides considerably more reliability, security and performance than on Windows base. (3) PostBooks, as a "multi-user" designed application will allow "secure" remote access to inventory listings, invoicing, etc. from anywhere, with Laptops and possibly even Tablets. As I indicated in my previous comment, accounting professionals from Deloitte have stated very clearly, in their personal opinion that applications like Postbooks are significantly superior to Quickbooks, and "do not require" considerable additional financial calculations via Microsoft Excel spreadsheets use in order to produce many of the audit reports needed. Quickbooks brings in more income for Accountants, since the required Excel spreadsheet use mentioned above adds considerably additional time and effort-wise in producing reports, audits.

bobp
bobp

I sometimes help small businesses with their computer issues. On client had QB for multiple users. It couldn't be used by more than one person at a time. I called support at QB and they walked me through a lot of steps. I even gave control of the computer to the support guy. When we were done, he couldn't figure out why it wouldn't allow multiple users either. Great product! .... NOT!

glnz
glnz

Need your suggestions: One of my clients is a very small jewelry designer and maker (producing and importing from abroad and selling in the US at wholesale level, almost never retail) and needs a small business accounting system that's good for her. Many of her deliveries to retailers are consignment (not immediate sales), so the system must include easy-to-use consignment-oriented inventory AND the ability to generate tags with individual item-level bar codes for each piece of jewelry she sends out. And this system would generate invoices, keep track of revenue and expenses, print reports for each consignee-retailer-customer, etc., and the inventory function would naturally first track the new inventory received in. Ideally, this could also have a cost-of-goods function, but that's maybe more advanced for later. And there should be a few users, ideally with ability to communicate from different computers in different countries, possibly via cloud. Also, he output and even the internal data files should be Excel or Access or other non-monopoly database so she would not be trapped by QB. WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR A SMALL BUSINESS LIKE THIS WITH ONLY A FEW USERS? Thanks.

Sul52
Sul52

OK, I admit it... I am an accountant. And contrary to what you may have thought most good accountants do not like Quick Books. It is not good software. They are overpriced and lack good tools for analyzing data. Export to Excel or csv files leaves you with a mess that you have to do a lot of work on to make it usable. The payroll add on (and it is an add on) forces you to pay tribute to QB every year in order for the payroll to be included in your data. (With other packages, you can build your own tables - which isn't that hard to do - and forgo the $400 annual cost.) Now for my opinion, if you are going to have your financial records "local" use Sage50. It gives you more analysis, better input screens, more configuration options for reports and special reports, actually uses language that makes it clear what you are doing and doesn't limit you to pre-packaged reports for payroll etc. If you are going on line --- and you really should -- look seriously at xero and the new partnership with zen payroll. Why should you go on line? because you and your accountant can access your records without the cumbersome back up and restore method that QB leaves you with. If you have a problem your accountant can really advise you on what to do without you paying for mileage and travel time (at really high per hour rates) and without having to wait for the accountant to find time to take the trip. And if your accountant doesn't see the advantage in having instant access to your data from anywhere they have internet access you might check to see if they are still using MS-DOS 5.x for their OS. I've converted a lot of my clients to online, and I and they will NEVER go back. It's less expensive and way more convenient!!!!

wanderson
wanderson

If Jack Wallen in his article on alternatives to QuickBooks intended to "strengthen" the status of Quickbooks - by always pointing out serious deficiencies and no real advantages in the alternatives he listed, then he succeeded. Several of those applications listed were intended for "personal" finance and not comparable with Quickbooks, but more to Quicken. A more appropriate selection of software considered excellent "replacements" for Quickbook by major accounting firms and even professionals at the AICPA, include: PostBooks from Xtuple TurboCash Front Accounting GNUCash Ledger SMB Adampiere Some may need install of available "plug-ins" to bring them closer to be more comparable with or better than Quickbooks. By coincidence, all these are Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) and most are deemed superior and more secure in "audit trail" functionality and granularity of user access control - for example, as two of 'many' advantages against QuickBooks according to accounting specialists in KPMG and Deloitte LLP reports. I recommend he learn to provide more substantive articles on such software.

ron_r_a
ron_r_a

If JMoney accesses GnuCash, why does it not provide a Linux download?

boscaiolo
boscaiolo

Often overlooked, but an excellent bookkeeping package, usable for almost any sort of business. Since the interface is a web-browser, it can be used stand-alone on a single machine, or with world-wide access. SQL-Ledger also shows correct double-entry books, with credit and debit in the right place (unlike QB, which, last time I used it, reversed them). It is enormously flexible, has modules for POS as well as stock management and all the usual ledgers. In addition, it is open-source and reasonably priced. (PS: I have no connection with SQL-Ledger -- I am just a user)

MattMills
MattMills

I gave Xero a try a while ago and have moved all my businesses' accounting over to them. It sounds weird, I admit, but I actually enjoy using this software for book-keeping. Things get done much more quickly and with a lot less agony. For any SME or sole trader/partnership, I'd recommend you look it over. There are lots of add-ons should you need them, eCommerce, multiple currencies, advanced payroll (although Xero itself does simple payroll tasks), or whatever. I can't imagine using anything else now.

pgm554
pgm554

or Sage as it is referred to these days?

jonnytpb
jonnytpb

QB's flaw is the basic inability to assign account numbers to customers - User is usually stuck with the Account number (or ID) being the customer name. I forgot if the same flaw applies to Vendors (in AP). other: is the Cloud based ZERO any good? any comparison to QB? Thanks Jon (semi retired CPA in Florida)

skyeenter
skyeenter

you haven't been suckered into bondage and servitude to them. Once locked into that beast it's near impossible to leave them. Trust me I have tried and they are the ICU of my biz life support. These are comments I made earlier about Quickbooks, they bear repeating here as well: Quickbooks my all time hated favorite skyeenter 10th Feb 2012 Made the huge mistake of started using QB Pro for last 12 years. Jumped right in, just like every other stooge who even thinks of starting their own biz, we gotta get QB to run the mission critical accounting side of the biz. At the time the options were sluggish, cumbersome competitors or QB with it slick, sleek GUI. Over the course of that 12 years I have come to detest QB/Intuit more than any other software vendor. Even more than Symantec's pile of crap. QB has 96% of the Small Business Accounting Software market. Did someone from the back of the room mumble MONOPOLY. Well I heard that, and they're right. Now I'm O.K. with someone having a monopoly if they leave the slaving slobs alone and just let them be part of the monopoly. But QB/Intuit is different. Every three years they clobber you over the head with the the BS line that all the new wonderful features they've been working on need to be installed in a new upgraded program. What are some of those new features, you ask? Last upgrade, one of the more convincing marketing points I now had the ability to use was foreign currency symbols in my transactions. WTF, my customer base is withing 5 blocks of my biz. Why do I need to purchase a new $160 upgrade for that feature? The accounting kernel has been basically the same since it's inception, some of the bugs were worked out with subsequent patches and upgrades. (So my major rub is, why do I need to upgrade if the basic kernel is still the same. I'll answer that for you, shareholder value.) But around 2002 QB/Intuit started requiring a repurchased program to become compliant with their newly introduced feature sets. Now, if you use one of their premium features like credit card processing, you don't have a choice. They send you a notice that you have x number of days to purchase the new upgrade or your premium features are cancelled. Meaning you biz doesn't operate smoothly. Sure, Intuit bull sheets you around by saying the program will always work, but the premium features won't be supported. There by strong arming / extracting the $160 out of you. Every time I get these notices I feel like Guido, one of the Godfather's thugs, has darkened my door. Hey, Skye, the Gadfawder asks me to stop by and remind you that yous gotta pay more respect to the Gadfawder. Even Microsoft isn't as brazenly aggressive as QB/Intuit, they at least let you keep XP running for years past their product upgrades. Doesn't happen with QB, it's either pay or no play. And that's why I absolutely hate QB/Intuit. Once you are lured into the caressing cradle of their corporate arms you can never leave. They know that, once they have them locked into the sophisticated features of their product, they can abuse their customer base the way they do and not give a sheet about them. Yes master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. skyeenter 9th Jun 2010 QB is the biggest pile of bloat ware being forced on it's abused users. Do not make the mistake of using any QB product. Once you do you're locked into the grips of a company that beats it customers into submission a minimum of every three years into an upgrade. As you continue to sink deeper and deeper into their quagmire, and the company knows this, you cannot/will not switch to another program, as the data is so critical to any biz operation. QB owns 96% of the small business accounting software market. Intuit forces an upgrade every three years. Let's be realistic, the core product hasn't changed much since the early 2000's. So why am I forced to upgrade so I now can have International currency conversions in the latest edition. I don't use International currency in my 1 person office. How did they get me to upgrade? By no longer supporting my Merchant Account services. That means no credit card processing or automatic bank deposits. Last years upgrade cost me an additional $360 dollars. I had a password problem, to speak with tech support I had to pay their mandatory $39 service charge, which the company then waived. Well someone in their call center in India failed to uncheck the recurring monthly enrollment box. So QB just merrily extorted a years worth of monthly fees from me. Once I caught it I raised holy hell and the best they would do was refund four months of charges. This is not a company that is customer friendly. A call for help automatically is picked up by a call center in India. That's like trying to have a serious conversation in a football stadium. Once, one of my calls resulted in being routed to a very nice woman CSR who tried to help. The best she could do was to read the help screens that were the same as I was reading. She asked a question, would put me on hold and as she recited I read verbatim the same help screen on my monitor. After about 45 minutes I asked if she thought she was making some headway as were really only on the same page all the time. She said she was from their corporate division, but that it was slow there, so they were routing calls from small business to her. She said she was not familiar with the QB product I was using. Which is how we ended up reading from the same help menus. If I knew then what I know now I never would have selected QB as my accounting software. While I like the product the company is one of the worst abusers of it's existing customers. They know they have a monopoly on the market, and just don't give a crap about it users. Oh, sure, they'll give the pretension of making improvements in the programs for you the customer, but it comes at a cost. The forced upgrade every three years. I would never recommend letting QB get their hooks in your companies financials. The risks are too high for such a critical part of your business. I've seen it all too often, excited new biz owners rush into Best Buy to get a copy of QB as their accounting software, 'cause it's wound into their brain that QB is the best around. It's only later, now that the numbers are locked in to QB, that they realize the mistake they made. Oh, well, muddle on. Yes master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. Yes, master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. Yes master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. Yes master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. Yes master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. Yes, master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. Yes master, I will submit to upgrade every three years. Yes master, I will submit to upgrade every three years.

jmbaynes
jmbaynes

I don't use it personally, but I've heard alot of good things. And don't forget quickbooks online. There are lots of options, but unfortunately few with as many features for all different kinds of business as quickbooks. We'd all love to try something else, but when it comes to actually making the change, it is alot harder.

coenraad.vdzanden
coenraad.vdzanden

Quickbooks is anything but quick as it uses more of a repository (think along the lines of MSAccess) and not a "proper" database IMO. The only way to interface with it programatically is via a 3rd party licensed plugin called QODBC (only one that we could find on the internet). Since we were trying to parse and post tens of thousands of records into Quickbooks, the lack of speed was most noticeable if not painful! I guess you have to match the software to what is needed and you basically get what you pay for...

xtuple
xtuple

Jack, in response to another one of your posts a few weeks ago, I pointed out xTuple PostBooks; surprised it didn't make your list. It was the March project of the month on Sourceforge, and has been downloaded over a million times. As the name would suggest, it's intended as a bit of a step up from Quickbooks - but not necessarily a huge step. It's a full multi-user, multi-currency, multi-lingual accounting package - with fully integrated CRM, project management, time/expense, sales and purchasing, even lightweight inventory and manufacturing. Runs natively on Linux, as well as Windows and Mac. Take a look at http://www.thequickbooksalternative.com.

Finge
Finge

Hard to cover all the bases, every option, and leave out no details. This little article was thoughtful and well placed. Be interesting to review all the comments later on. Thanks Mr. Wallen.

geoffrey.n.watson
geoffrey.n.watson

Or one can just create Excel spreadsheets complete with necessary formulas to track sales, inventory, purchases, etc. That's what I did because I couldn't find a small ready-made program that was straight forward and did what I wanted for my small furniture business.

techrepublic
techrepublic

My business uses Kashflow, and I know it has a direct competitor in Xero. They might be UK-specific perhaps, but they're great SaaS offerings. Kashflow came recommended by our accountant, as you can open your books to a trusted third party, meaning he can produce our tax returns & accounts from the software directly. So far, we're very happy with Kashflow. As a bonus (being a developer) I once submitted a bug report for a very minor annoyance on the invoice-emailing function: I had a response within the hour, and a fix was deployed within a day or so.

Matthew G. Davidson
Matthew G. Davidson

I have been using Wave Accounting (https://www.waveapps.com) for about a year now and it is great. Free is good, but sometimes free means you have to settle. Wave gives me (a small business) all I need to get the job done. They just added a new receipts feature too and they are always looking for ways to do things better.

martingagnon_2000
martingagnon_2000

I would suggest taking a look at Turbocash which is free, have all those feature and can be save on external use for homework.

Baker747
Baker747

Lots of small companies need to be able to job cost. QuickBooks does this. A lot of these alternatives do not. If you are changing from QuickBooks Be sure that where ever you are going will actually do what you need.

jqbecker
jqbecker

yeah, that will happen. I hate QB too, but just try to tell your CPA you are switching to something else. They will look at you like you just got green hair and pink teeth. Then they'll give you two choices: 1) find another CPA or 2) pay extra to convert your data back to QB so they can work with it.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I'm most certainly not a QB Lover but as it is what my Accountant insists I use there isn't much choice. Col

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What is your current financial / accounting application of choice? Are you happy with it? Are you in the market for an alternative?

Sul52
Sul52

Look seriously at Xero.

4news.11x
4news.11x

Peachtree probably wasn't mentioned because it's become too expensive. After more than 20 years with it, I'm looking for something else because they just changed their business model and they're trying hide it in small print. Now if you want to run payroll, you have to buy a service agreement (something I don't need). That nearly doubles the price. I should mention that I'm talking about Sage 50, but this is the last year you will be able to use Peachtree 2012 with updated payroll tables.

Sul52
Sul52

Xero. Many more packages as well, Wave, Outright etc. Wave and Xero are better than Outright.

Sul52
Sul52

QB's model is designed to make them rich (not give you good software). Move to the cloud as quickly as you can. All of the features that you have in QB are available in cloud software. (And even though you pay on a monthly basis for the service, in the long run you probably will end up paying less than the never ending end of service schedule with QB). And if something unfortunate happens with your local computers or servers (if you are server based) you data is still active!!! Big plus.

Sul52
Sul52

QB continues to be built on a poor data model. Sage50 is much better built (using Pervasive as the base). But if data access and "manipulation" is a real need, look at Intacct (online) or similar "high end" cloud solutions. They are pricey, but given the savings in time and additional software, they might actually be less expensive.

maj37
maj37

Thanks for only copying in an expert from your latest sales brochure and not the entire thing.

greg.dargiewicz
greg.dargiewicz

But the person creating those formulas had better know what they are doing. Built-in formulas as useful, but nothing in Excel can substitute for understanding the math and the logic involved. I used to teach Excel at a community college, and ran across a study from the University of Hawaii (some time ago now) that estimated that something like 40% of corporate spreadsheets used formula containing significant errors. It doesn't take much to create a cascading error in Excel, and too many people who claim to "know Excel," don't.

Sul52
Sul52

Wave is good software and as you noted intent on improvement and adding features. Most of the cloud solutions are really coming along well. As an accountant, I strongly recommend cloud solutions to my clients. Wave is good, Intacct is better, but pretty pricey. Also, Xero and a host of other new ones are showing up over time. As accountants should be able to do, the principles of accounting don't change, so with the cloud the accountant doesn't have to "invest" their time and money into learning the nuances of a lot of software packages. So Wave and Xero don't require the accountant to separately learn a lot of differences. The cloud if approached right by the accountant is a win win for them and their clients.

Sul52
Sul52

Yeah, I'm an accountant and hate QB. Most accountants are pretty stuck in whatever package they have invested in. I work with most packages, except QB. QB is just bad software. Try the cloud, after the accountant gets over their convulsions and start working with you and your data in the cloud, they will most likely find that it is a really good move.

Sul52
Sul52

A couple of things affect the choices that accountants make on software. 1) Advertising - not so much from the standpoint of the accountant being sold by the advertising, but by the image that the clients have and the choices that the clients will make. QB advertises a lot. Clients are aware of the name (even though few have the time to test the application to see if it fits them). Accountants don't have the time to write software, nor do they have the time to "sell" the software to their client, so QB becomes the path of least resistance. 2) For most firms it is more efficient to make a single software package the standard so that training is less of a factor. So if you are choosing the path of least resistance and you are not wanting to have to "sell" your clients, you adopt QB as the primary software. This also means that you don't have to buy the "accountant's version" of multiple software packages. Is QB a good choice? I'm an accountant and I don't think it is good software. Reporting is limited and very difficult to set up to provide good reporting and good analysis. Exporting transactions is very messy and time consuming and when working with the payroll module so limited as to not be useful. Fortunately, the cloud is beginning to boom. There are good software packages that allow the data to be accessible by the accountant and the client without the backup/restore mess that almost all of the other packages leave you with. If your accountant has chosen QB as their default, you are either going to have to use it or...... make your own choice after a lot of research and "force the issue" with your accountant. If you are interested in switching software, look first at the cloud packages, in the long run it is much more efficient. When you make the switch, make sure to look at the "partner" packages, especially the payroll functions. The current cream of the crop are: ---- ACCOUNTING Xero Intacct (this is a bit pricey) --- PAYROLL Zen payroll (california only) ADP Compupay ----- SPECIALITY A/P and billing --- bill.com Once the accountants make the switch to the cloud, you'll never get them down. I mentioned that I'm an accountant, and I have been moving my clients to the cloud. (not forcing but moving) And one nice thing is that the learning curve is very short, and the benefits in efficiency are incredible.

bfrankenhoff
bfrankenhoff

Where do you think PeachTree fits in? been using it since 1995. (actually still using that version as we don't have payroll requirements.) have recently upgraded to a "newer" version but not the latest. still testing it out.

xtuple
xtuple

Not sure what you're trying to say there.

Sul52
Sul52

If you limit your inputs to "raw" data, the rest is pretty simple (a few Dsum formulas and maybe the use of lists (now tables) and pivots is pretty simple without a lot of complex interactions when you are dealing with accounting data. But, yes, I've had clients bring in spreadsheets that they forgot to change sum ranges of added columns and didn't properly adjust (or properly build the data structures in the first place) and had bad totals. A software package is maybe more reliable, but the costs sometimes are hard to justify. And then there is the client having to "learn" some of the software packages. It's a 50/50.

4news.11x
4news.11x

As of last year I would have said that Peachtree fits pretty well. However, after 21 years with it, I'm looking for something else because they just changed their business model and they're trying hide it in small print. Now if you want to run payroll, you have to buy a service agreement (something I don't need). bfrankenhoff, since you don't run payroll, this issue probably won't effect you. In fact, I'm not sure why you would ever need to upgrade.

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