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Review: AccountEdge Basic offers true, hassle-free double-entry accounting

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At a Glance
  • Acclivity AccountEdge Basic 2012 for Mac

Managing financial information is, by far, my least favorite part of being in business for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like the money, but time tracking, invoicing, bill collection, monthly statements, and expenses—all a necessary part of the business process—require far more attention than I want to give. Which is why it’s important for me to have the kind of financial business tools that make painful processes less painful—or ideally, painless.

Acclivity’s entry-level AccountEdge Basic (Mac App Store link), which replaces the company’s FirstEdge application, is a great tool for managing your business’ financial information, providing everything you and your accountant need to track your cash flow and keep tabs on your business’ financial health. As an entry-level business accounting application, AccountEdge Basic has a lot to offer, although it is missing features necessary for its niche.

Simple Math: AccountEdge Basic's simple interface hides the kind of powerful double-entry accounting tools that your accountant is sure to love.

All of Acclivitiy’s accounting products have a stripped-down feel that can, when compared to other business accounting applications, initially seem intimidating. AccountEdge’s flowchart interface has seen very little change for more than a decade, which makes it feel familiar, but it may also feel a bit dated. That said, it works. And we’ve all seen apps where so-called “UI innovation” has done more to hurt rather than enhance an application.

At its heart, AccountEdge Basic is a true double-entry accounting system, which may keep your accountant happy. You’ll need at least a rudimentary understanding of basic double-entry accounting terms to avoid any confusion. This isn’t to say that you need to be a CPA, but you will want to understand the differences between asset, liability, income, and expense accounts, and you’ll need to know this as soon as you start setting the program up. To that end Acclivity offers several useful documents, videos, and support options to help you get started. Once you get through the initial setup and gain an initial understanding of what you’re doing with the application and why, AccountEdge Basic allows you to effortlessly create invoices and track your income and expenses.

AccountEdge Basic offers several new features and enhancements, the first of which is a binary that allows you to run the application on systems running Lion and Mountain Lion. There is also an easy upgrade path to the Pro version of AccountEdge, so if your business grows in ways that require the Pro features—say, for example, simultaneous multi-user access to your company file—you can do that with ease. AccountEdge Basic can process credit card transactions, and you can also tie it to and import data from an Enstore online Web store). You also have access to AccountEdge’s OfficeLink feature, a tool that allows you to take financial and customer data from AccountEdge and export it into a special set of Microsoft Excel and Word documents.

AccountEdge Basic also lets you sync data with the AccountEdge iOS apps when used in conjunction with a Dropbox account. Otherwise, most of the other improvements are minor tweaks to things that are under the covers, such as field sizes for email messages and notes, and better automatic matching of imported transaction data from your bank.

AccountEdge Basic has one major missing feature that significantly limits its usefulness and reveals a basic misunderstanding of the kinds of users who may need an accounting application such as AccountEdge Basic: Time tracking and billing. There are many small business users, myself included, who require a way to easily track the time they spend on a project and then quickly turn that tracked time into an invoice. AccountEdge Basic doesn’t offer anything like this. For that you’ll need AccountEdge Pro, which comes with a premium price tag and includes a host of features unnecessary for the majority of smaller businesses.

Bottom line

AccountEdge Basic is an excellent business accounting application that offers true, hassle-free double-entry accounting. An easy upgrade path to AccountEdge Pro means that your accounting application can grow as your business does, but missing time tracking and billing options make it a non-starter for the kinds of businesses that may need this application most.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Online store options
    • Excellent income and expense tracking
    • Credit card processing
    • True double-entry accounting


    • Requires basics of double-entry accounting
    • No time tracking and billing
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