DIY: Get a free ERP accounting package in PhreeBooks

PhreeBooks is a powerful ERP system that can serve as your small company's accounting system. Learn the installation and setup configuration processes for PhreeBooks.

If your business cannot shell out the money for a proprietary accounting package, there are outstanding open source accounting packages available that are worthy alternatives. One such option is PhreeBooks, a web-based ERP package that includes these features:

  • Separate customer and vendor account information
  • Full inventory management and tracking
  • Complete financial general ledger accountability
  • Banking support, including check writing and bank account reconciliation
  • Flexible import and export capabilities
  • XML interface to e-commerce shopping carts (currently Zen-Cart)
  • Robust reporting and form capability
  • Expandable shipping manager
  • User level security
  • Context sensitive popup help system (using PhreeHelp)

Once installed, PhreeBooks is a very powerful system that can serve most of your company's ERP needs. Let's look at the process of installing PhreeBooks and then how to begin using the system.


  • MySQL Server
  • Apache web browser
  • Admin access for MySQL and Apache directories


The installation is rather straight-forward, as long as you've installed a web-based, database-driven tool before. Here are the steps for the installation process:

Step 1: Create a MySQL database

I like to take advantage of MySQL Workbench for this task. When you create this database, make sure it's in the utf8 general format.

Step 2: Download and unpack the zip file

Download the PhreeBooks zip file and unpack it within /var/www/ or in the location of your server's document root. You'll need administrative rights to unpack the file. To unpack the file, follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Change into the directory housing the download.
  3. Move the file with a command similar to sudo mv (XXX is the release number).
  4. Change into the web server document root.
  5. Unpack the file with the command sudo unzip (XXX is the release number).

The newly created directory will be called Phreedom. Follow these steps to adjust the permissions of two directories within Phreedom:

  1. Change into the newly created Phreedom directory.
  2. Issue the command sudo chmod 777 includes.
  3. Issue the command sudo chmod 777 my_files.

Now it's time to fire up your web browser.

Step 3: Install the system

Point your browser to http://IP_TO_SERVER/Phreedom to start the installation process. The first screen you will see is the EULA; check the box that you agree to the license and click Continue. The first screen that requires interaction (Figure A) is actually the bulk of the installation. Figure A

Fill out the path to the web server without including the folder housing PhreeBooks. (Click the image to enlarge.)

You need to make sure you fill out everything completely. I also highly recommend you have this installation create the demo data, because this will make the setup much easier. The only optional sections are for SSL. You can ignore those now if you don't have the information and add them in later. After you click Install, the installation might seem to hang, but let it continue -- it does take a while to complete the process of creating the database structure. After you complete this step, you will see a congratulations screen with a button that takes you to your new installation. Click that button to continue.

Step 4: Complete the ToDo List

The first thing you will see when you log on to your system is My ToDo List (Figure B). These tasks are all low to medium priority, but you must complete them in order for your system to work properly. Figure B

Complete all of the items on your my ToDo List. (Click the image to enlarge.)

One task on the ToDo List requires you to set up your General Ledger and other financial bits and pieces. The location of this configuration isn't easy to find. Here's where to find it:

  1. Click the Company Menu and select Module Administration.
  2. From the Module Administration page (Figure C) click the Settings button associated with the PhreeBooks Module.
Figure C

This is a core module; if you click Remove, PhreeBooks will no longer function.
Once you open the PhreeBooks Module configuration (Figure D), you can configure the accounts used for various aspects of the system. You can also manage your Chart of Accounts on this page as well. Figure D

This is where the bulk of your first steps will take place. (Click the image to enlarge.)

From this point on, all of the configurations will be specific to your company.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....