QuickBooks Simple Start 2008 (Free Version) Accounting Software
At a Glance
QuickBooks Simple Start 2008 (Free Version)
This program offers a great escape from your homemade accounting system, but the software's simplicity and limitations make it easy to outgrow.
Intuit's QuickBooks Simple Start 2008 is a free accounting package designed for business owners who hold things down with spreadsheets and sticky notes but want a no-risk way to try their hand at using dedicated accounting software.
To reassure intimidated neophytes, the Simple Start interface takes a commonsense "money in, money out" flowchart approach, and it offers straightforward tutorials on basic tasks such as recording deposits. Users who want more functionality can purchase modules that process payroll and credit cards, but the 14 standardized reports (such as income statements and balance sheets) that are included in the basic package should suffice for most users. New for 2008 are the ability to import Excel data and the absence of any restriction on the number of customer and vendor contacts allowed.
Simple Start understandably won't rival packages like Peachtree's accounting apps or the paid versions of QuickBooks. Simple Start has several limitations: It can't track inventory, it's designed for a single user, it can't download credit card or bank information, and it won't automatically generate 1099 forms. In addition, Simple Start can't export data to Excel, which makes forecasting cumbersome. As a result, this software is probably best for one-person companies that don't sell physical goods--for instance, consultants, freelancers, and other service providers.
A $100 version of Simple Start comes with 250 checks, a year of free online backup, and a training CD. Customers seeking Excel support or other features might consider Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008 (also free), QuickBooks Pro ($200), or Peachtree First Accounting ($70).
Simple Start provides a great introduction to accounting software, but many businesses will outgrow it quickly. If your accounting needs are basic, it's worth a look. Otherwise, you may be better off investing in an accounting package that offers time-saving features such as electronic data downloads and payroll management.