The past few years have seen significant changes in the Mac accounting-software landscape: Intuit stopped developing QuickBooks for the Mac, Peachtree Accounting resurfaced as Aatrix Accounting, and BestWare updated M.Y.O.B. Accounting Plus with time-billing support and links to Microsoft Office 98.
Both Aatrix Accounting 3.0 and M.Y.O.B. Accounting Plus 8.0 do a creditable job of shielding users from the mysteries of double-entry accounting while offering the essential components of a small-business accounting system. However, M.Y.O.B.'s additional features and better stability make it a smarter choice for most small businesses.
Both programs give you a sample company file to experiment with before committing your financial data. To speed the setup process, M.Y.O.B. uses wizards that help you select and modify a chart of accounts; enter vendor, customer, and employee contact information and historical data; choose a default invoice and purchase-order form; and customize the program's operation.
Aatrix Accounting also uses a wizard to collect basic information and create your chart of accounts, although you have fewer sample companies to choose from. As you enter your setup information, an on-screen checklist reminds you of the incomplete tasks. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get check marks to appear for the completed sections.
Perhaps because Aatrix isn't as feature-rich as M.Y.O.B., it's easier to use for basic operations such as paying bills and recording receipts. You can quickly select an activity from the hierarchical pop-ups at the bottom of the screen; to enter a vendor code, customer code, or account identifier, you double-click on the field or click on the magnifying-glass icon. Ever-present Smart Guides display field-related help information. And while the online tutorial needs updating (it still refers to Peachtree Accounting), the Help file does contain an excellent introduction to double-entry accounting.
M.Y.O.B. has a more polished interface and a more professional-looking manual. You select operations from a graphic, hierarchical interface similar to Aatrix Accounting's (see "Selecting Activities"). However, many seemingly simple operations force you to search through the manual and the myriad of help systems; I frequently found myself looking in the wrong sections of the program for previously entered data. Even the method of displaying code lists takes getting used to. For example, to view a list of vendor or account codes, you must tab out of the field.
M.Y.O.B.'s new support for time-billing accounting will make it attractive to service-oriented businesses. You define activities that are billed according to an employee's hourly rate, a customer-specific rate, or an activity rate. And you track work in progress with activity slips; times can be filled in by hand or by clicking on the slip's timer button.
Both programs offer many standard reports, along with customizable forms, that you can view on screen or print. Here, M.Y.O.B. is clearly superior. You can easily change the order of the fields, which fields appear in a report, and the fields' formatting. You can customize forms by dragging or resizing fields and pasting graphics from the Clipboard. Version 8 can also export data to Microsoft Office 98a feature previously available only to Windows users.
Aatrix Accounting's approach to customizing reports and forms, on the other hand, is reminiscent of DOS accounting programs. Few users will have the patience to do more than add a logo to their forms.
M.Y.O.B. is designed for multiple users; you just buy a license for each workstation you want to add. Although you can run Aatrix Accounting in a multiuser environment, the company says it's too slow to be used that way. In either program, you can set passwords that allow access to the entire package or only to certain functions or modules.
Each program has a backup command to safeguard your data files. Unfortunately, Aatrix's backup procedure repeatedly crashed our test machine, even after a clean install of OS 8.1; backups had to be restored manually. (The company is aware of the problem and says it affects only users of certain versions of the OS prior to 8.5.)
Of the two programs, M.Y.O.B. Accounting Plus 8.0 is clearly the more polished, evolved, and feature rich; Aatrix Accounting 3.0, although easy to learn and use, has stability problems and lacks time-billing and multiuser features. Regardless of which program you choose, nonaccountants should expect to seek professional assistance when getting started and plan on a relatively long learning period.
RATING: PROS: Choosing modules and entering data is easy. CONS: Complicated report writer and forms customization; frequent crashes; doesn't support multiple users. COMPANY: Aatrix Software (800/426-0854, http://www.aatrix.com ). LIST PRICE: $169.
RATING: PROS: Excellent setup routine; time-billing support; links to Microsoft Office; multiuser ready. CONS: Difficult to learn; confusing help system. COMPANY: BestWare (800/ 322-6962, http://www.bestware.com ). LIST PRICE: $199, plus $99 per workstation license.
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