Published April 22nd, 2004 by Jim O'Halloran
I’m currently looking for a simple web based accounting application. The system should be suitable for a small primarily service based business. Some inventry control might be helpful, but primarily I need a way to bill for services. Essential requirements are…
- Cash Book
- Open Source
- Ease of use for people unfamiliar with accounting concepts.
Additionaly I’d also like the following features…
- Australian GST Compliance - Production of a legal tax invoice, and reports that give me the numbers I need to my BAS (Business Activity Statement)
- Web based for easy remote access.
- Can email Invoices and Remittances
- Scheduled Invoicing Features
I’m reasonably flexible on the optional stuff, provided the source for the system is good, and reasonably hackable then I’d be prepared to invest some time in adding the optional features. With those features in mind, this is what I found…
So far in my search I’ve looked at Noguska’s NOLA, but found the invoicing function in that was a nightmare to use. Too many steps required to produce an invoice, and the actual line items entry screen was almost incomprehensible.
ARIA - Accounting Receiving and Inventory Administration is a fork of NOLA with a somewhat cleaner UI. It still retains some of the awkwardness of its parent NOLA, but its certainly an improvement. However the ARIA menu system now only works with Internet Explorer, whereas NOLA worked quite happily with FireFox.
NETaccounts is a Australian subscription based service. Its not open source, and seems to be hosted on Windows servers (ASP). Its reasonably easy to use, although it has a few little annoyances such as not attempting to allocate invoice numbers automatically. Also invoices are always generated without your own company details on the top. This is great if you want to print them on your own letterhead, but does mean that if you email the invoice it won’t conform to the legal requirements for a GST Tax Invoice. Overall, not a bad service, but not being open source means I can’t fix what bothers me. I’d also prefer to host my own accounting system. Finally, despite claiming compatibility with Firebird, some aspects of the NETAccounts site did not work on Mozilla FireFox.
CK-Ledger is built on top of phpGroupware. I like the idea of building the accounting system on top of a groupware suite, as I can see the great potential for small businesses if Contacts, To Do lists, and Accounting data are all available through a common system. However CK-Ledger doesn’t seem to make use of any of the underlying groupware functionality, instead using phpGroupware as a display framework for their own modules. I found the CK-Ledger interface fairly complex, and difficult to navigate (partially in German). It also doesn’t seem to support printing or emailing of invoices in any way.
Compiere is a very comprehensive looking application. However its overkill for what I’m looking for, and is not web based.
SQL-Ledger is a relatively easy to use accounting system. It seems to be more of a double entry accounting system than I would like (i.e. a lot of accounting stuff gets in the way of simple invoice and expense entry). However once you spent a bit of time with it, it would probably be resonably easy to use. Its built in tax facilities should be able to cope with the Australian GST, although the emailing and printing of invoices didn’t work on the online demo I used so I couldn’t verify that it would meet GST Tax invoice requirements.
PHPBalanceSheet seems to be in its infancy, and possibly has been abandoned. Its introduction reads more like a personal finance program than a small business system though. No online demo is provided, so I didn’t dig into this system any further, Similarly, XIWA (XIWA Is Web Accounting) has no demo system or screen shots available which makes evaluation difficult. Equally, EzyBiz has a demo system, but doesn’t tell you the username and password required to access it. Acording to the ir web site EzyBiz is based on ossuite.
WEB-ERP has a really slick looking interface, but its insistance on an Order Entry then turn the order into an Invoice process makes it unsuitable for my needs. However its the only system I’ve seen so far which will handle customer statements!
OpenAccounting has a nice interface and seems pretty quick as well. It’s sales process has the same order entry then invoice model as Web-ERP, but its the first sales screen that I’ve seen which is actually usable in terms of design. Still the invoicing process is all wrong for what I want.
PHP Point Of Sale has a really nice looking interface and very simple invoicing process. If anything its simplicity is its downside, there are no facilities to print invoices, change prices, and other basic sales functions. Also lacking is any sort of reporting on Tax collected, although there is some tax calculation support, so it might be possible to fix this.
MyPhpMoney is a basic personal finances manager. Its interface is reasonably good, but its quite difficult to use. It would appear that the English test was written by someone with a limited grasp of the language. The translation could be fixed, but its difficult to get a feel for the system as it is.
There were a lot of other projects listed on SourceForge which I didn’t look at because they had no end user site, hadn’t released any files, or had no demo. In other words there were a lot of dead looking projects on SourceForge which I didn’t spend any time evaluating. All in all though it looks like theres a hole in the market at the moment which Open Source isn’t meeting. There really isn’t any sort of simple accounting system which would suit a small service based business! More thought required on this matter I think.