Friday, September 30, 2005

Reconciliation Tips

Back to some more Small Business Accounting feature tips. I've come up with a few tips for the reconciliation feature in SBA.

First, the question of how to save a partial reconciliation if you're not able to finish it all in one sitting. Believe it or not, clicking the Reconcile Button on the Reconciliation screen will detect that you are not in balance and will ask if you'd like to save your progress so you can resume later. Use the Reconcile Button!

Microsoft Small Business Accounting Software (SBA) ReconciliationSecond, I know I've had the need to "undo" a reconciliation for one reason or another. Quickbooks has a form to perform this task and although it can be done in SBA, it's not as straightforward. In SBA, the act of editing a line included in the reconciliation will prompt you with a message saying that "editing reconciled documents will undo the reconciliation". Note, unfortunately, you have to change one of the lines and save the item for this to be true however. Yes, this is a workaround, but the point is: in a pinch, it can be done. In the next SBA update, it would be nice to have an easy to find menu item for undoing a reconciliation without having to jump thorough any hoops.

Third, most of us have had "penny difference" situations where what we recorded in the accounting software doesn't match what the statement says. It happens. It may not be obvious, but in the reconciliation screen, you can double click any line to open and edit the details. The only exception to this seems to be editing checks generated from the pay bills form. These checks need to be voided and repaid in order to change them. (See first tip on how to save your work up to this point using a partial reconciliation.)

Finally, most bank statements have new charges such as interest or fees that need to be added. While you can pre-scan for these before starting a reconciliation, you can add new transactions from the reconciliation screen directly by scrolling to the bottom of the list. From there, you can click the last line. Again, I suspect some people may miss this.

The one critique that I have on reconciliation is that the form needs a Clear All button. As it works today, I have to manually uncheck every box and then proceed with my reconciliation, or only look for things not on my statement and specifically uncheck those. I prefer to start with a clean slate.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More SBA in the news (CNET)

Here is another review of Small Business Accounting 2006 done by CNET. I think the editor has some great words for SBA, but I'm a little confused by the rating (6.7 Good of 10) given the details in the review. The only big negative for him is that if your company is using Corel or StarOffice instead of Microsoft Office, then SBA is a "poor" choice for you.
"Bean counters, beware: Redmond's in town. Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 is ready to duke it out with Intuit QuickBooks in the hotly competitive business bookkeeping market."

"The good: Competitive price; solid set of small-business accounting tools; easy-to-learn interface; integrates smoothly with the Microsoft Office 2003 suite.

The bad: The tight links with Microsoft Office 2003 make it a poor choice for users of other productivity suites.

The bottom line: Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 is an affordable, well-designed bookkeeper that's a solid choice for users of Microsoft Office."

Seems to me like this deserved a score in the 7.5 to 8.5 range according to the review details and how CNET rates products.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tip on importing your QB file if your version is not supported.

Here is a good little trick from Frank on the Small Business Accounting newsgroup on how to import your QB data if your version is older than the supported versions. Check this page to decide if you will benefit from Frank's tip:

>Subject: RE: Quickbooks 2001 not importable?

> A workaround is to download QB 2005 and upgrade your QB 2001.
> Then SBA will load all data. Note- The QB 2005 download is
> 399MB(Big). It took 15 minutes using a 4 Meg cable connection.
> The Download is usable for 30 days I think and is free. I was able
> to get all data out of QB 2003 this way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What is SBA and why are people so excited?

A few people have emailed me over the last week and asked what the big deal is about Small Business Accounting: "it's just another accounting program in a field of 5 others, right?" No. Let me offer a few quick thoughts as to why I'm so excited about this software.

SBA may be another accounting application, but it's really only one piece of the puzzle. The real beauty comes in when SBA is combined with Outlook & Business Contact Manager (BCM) and all of the other pieces of software that SBA integrates with: Excel (see Analysis tools post on 9/14), Word, MS Access, software like BillQuick (see post on 9/24), other industry specific software, ADP Payroll, etc. The key is the tight integration. SBA data is properly shared and makes a less automated business more automated -- there is no double or triple work. Larger companies have had this kind of automation/integration for decades, why shouldn't small businesses also benefit from some of it as well?

What other application is going to let you email a custom invoice to a customer with a few clicks (see yesterday's post) and be able to pull up that same email/invoice 2 years later by going to the customer record in your contact management software? That's powerful.

There are improvements that can be made to the SBA/BCM combination (I'll save those critiques for another post), but as best I can tell, this is the first application from a major, credible vendor that delivers good integration for real small businesses.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Tips on emailing documents from SBA

In playing around with Small Business Accounting for the warehousing post on 9/24, I came across a few tips for effective emailing of documents:

Emailing documents as attachments:
Since most customers or vendors will print out the documents you send them in email, the current SBA feature sends an embedded HTML (read-only) version of the document. This means that when they print the document, the document will come with an email header as well. Ok for some, not workable for others. To get around this, you can use the workaround I described on 9/24 about emailing the document as an attachment for your customers and vendors as well.

Emailing from Microsoft Small Business Accounting Software (SBA)Sending read-only attached documents:
Most people are more familiar and more comfortable sending invoices as PDF files over email since they cannot be changed. Althought you cannot send SBA documents as PDF files, you can protect them in much the same way. Whether emailing or exporting to Word, from within Word, select Tools->Protect Document. From the side panel that opens on the right, click the checkbox in the Editing restrictions section. In the drop down box, make sure No changes (read only) is selected. Finally, at the bottom of the panel, click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button. Enter a password in the next form and then send the document as an attachment as described above.

Note, click on the image to enlarge.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Time billing and project managment with BillQuick and SBA

Microsoft Small Business Accounting Software (SBA)I had the chance to play with a product called BillQuick by BQE Software over the past few days and it's pretty good. If your company needs good time and project management software integrated with accounting to run your business, this software is unbelievable. Professional service companies like engineers, consultants or architects will love the project managemet and those who do the billing will love the integration with Small Business Accounting. You can see first hand how deep the integration is between BillQuick and SBA here.

Note, click on the image to enlarge.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Automating warehousing with SBA

This is an interesting question from the Small Business Accounting newsgroup that I thought might be beneficial to others on the topic of how to automate selling/pick/pack/ship operations between sales people and warehousing staff ina small business:

"rdewaal" wrote:
> How can I generate a pick list and Bill of Lading from a multi user
> installation. Sales would be taken in the office. Pick lists would be
> needed in the warehouse along with a Bill of Lading.

If you wanted to do this only using SBA, there is a way to do it. First, open the invoice and select Actions->Export to Word. (Be sure you do this from the menu so you can choose a Word template every time and preserve your default template used when selecting the Export to Word icon off the toolbar). Be sure to select a packing slip template so you don't reveal pricing to your warehousing people. In Word, select File->Send to->Mail Recipient (as attachment). In the new email form, fill in the email address of your warehouse person (assuming they have a computer and email), fill in the desired delivery in the subject field and click send. Warehousing people will be able to use their inbox as a list of tasks and will be able to prioritize based on the specified delivery date. Since documents are emailed as attachments, they can be printed out and sent to the customer with the shipment.

If your warehouse person doesn't have a computer/email/printer, you can always have the sales guy print it out instead of emailing and physically transport them a few times a day.

[Updated: 9/25 with slightly different recommendation since most will want to print out the pick list without an email header on it so they can include it in the shipment. Would be good for Microsoft to add an option to the email feature that lets users select to send the document as an attachment]

Friday, September 23, 2005

Kathy Yakal reviews SBA (PC Magazine)

Kathy is well regarded for her broad and deep reviews of small business accounting software. Her head-to-head round-up from last year didn't include SBA, but I fully expect to see it in the next one (early '06?). In the meantime, here is what she had to say about SBA earlier this month:

"After numerous attempts over the years, Microsoft has finally done it. The company has produced a small-business accounting package that holds its own against the long-established rival products available. Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006 will serve many small businesses well, especially in view of its tight integration with Microsoft Office. Its ability to run five simultaneous users may also make it appealing to larger companies.

Not only does SBA play nicely with Word and Excel, which we would expect, but it has a new and special relationship with Outlook, specifically the Business Contact Manager in Outlook 2003. You can easily share data between the two..."

Full SBA review:,1895,1861184,00.asp

Note, this review does not include the features contained in the SBA updates from 9/7: SBA SP1 and QB Migration.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Useful Shortcut Keys

Shortcut keys for a blog post? Sure, who doesn't want to be more productive using any application? I thought it might be interesting to post a bunch of the more interesting keyboard shortcuts for SBA. Some of these are pretty darn handy, especially the account register and journal entry shortucts. Most of these can be used anywhere in the application except where noted:


Company home
Ctrl + 1

Customer home
Ctrl + 2

Vendor home
Ctrl + 3

Employee home
Ctrl + 4

Banking home
Ctrl + 5

Reporting home
Ctrl + 6

View bank acct register
Ctrl + r

Create new journal entry
Ctrl + j

New invoice
Ctrl + i

Ctrl + p

Save form
Ctrl + s

Cancel/Close (window)


Open chart of accounts
Ctrl + Shift + a

Open customer list
Ctrl + Shift + c

Open job list
Ctrl + Shift + j

Open vendor list
Ctrl + Shift + v

Open empoyee list
Ctrl + Shift + e

Open quote list
Ctrl + Shift + q

Open sales order list
Ctrl + Shift + o

Open invoice list
Ctrl + Shift + i

Open purchase order list
Ctrl + Shift + p

Open bill list
Ctrl + Shift + b

Open item list
Ctrl + Shift + u

Open new check
Ctrl + Shift + w

Open journal entry list
Ctrl + Shift + y

Open memorized documents list
Ctrl + Shift + o

Find (from list)
Ctrl + f

Create new (from list)
Ctrl + n

Move to next record
Ctrl + >

Move to previous record
Ctrl + <

Although it's not really a shortcut key, I'd really like to see them add the ability to move between fields with the Enter key (instead of just tab).

Monday, September 19, 2005

Tips on using different line types in SBA

Microsoft Small Business Accounting Software (SBA) Line TypesHere is another feature that I suspect that a lot of people haven't found yet. On most forms, SBA allows the selection of several different types of lines. The most obvious of these is the Comment line type on the quote form, for instance. To select a different line type, click on the first column of a line and select from the options. In addition to Item and Comment, you can use the Sales Tax line to apply a flat tax or an Account line to specify expenses. Using line types can be powerful for most users, especially Comment on documents that your customers will see or Account lines on forms like checks. In QuickBooks, the different line types are located on different tabs (ie. Items or Expenses).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The SBA Analysis Tools

Microsoft Small Business Accounting Software (SBA)I'm not sure how many people have noticed or played with this gem. The Analysis Tools are accessed off of the Windows Start menu and bring up a separate little application to launch each of the predefined Excel or Access components. Excel is used for pivot table functions and Access is used to render reports that users can easily customize using extended data from the SBA database. Unlike QuickBooks and other accounting apps, SBA lets users with the appropriate security rights access the data from within the other Office applications they may already be using today.

In the case of Excel, the Analysis Tools provide two templates that take data from SBA and present it in a veryMicrosoft Small Business Accounting Software (SBA) with Microsoft Excel useful pivot table -- leveraging the full capabilities of Excel. For instance, the Sales Analysis pivot table retrieves sales information from every customer across all fiscal years. Given this broad baseline, you can slice and dice the data to get the desired cut of the data. Options include filtering on customers, fiscal years or even down to best selling items. Finally, because it's Excel, you also get great charting capabilities. In this particular tool, the chart is predefined.

With Access, users are given a set of predefined reports that can be customized or combined with existing data from other applications to create new and meaningful reports. Often times, the hardest part about using Access to leverage
Microsoft Small Business Accounting Software (SBA) with Microsoft Accessdata from another application is setting up the connection and security. I'm sure the goal here was to provide a number of examples of useful reports with the connection to the database and security all ready to go. Expanding on what is already there should be a piece of cake.

In addition to being able to modify these Analysis Tools to your heart's content, you also have the ability to add your own custom tools into the same interface using the Add button on the right.

Note, click on the images to enlarge.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Tricks for importing bank files

Not having my bank fulling integrated into SBA is not a huge problem right now because with SP1, they've added the ability import bank files after downloading them from the bank's website. The trick here is to select the right file format. Some of my banks list the file types by product (ie. Quicken or Money), but some of them list them by download format (ie. QIF, CSV, OFX). For SBA, it's clear that they only support the OFX download format. On at least one of my bank sites, selecting the Money download option was the correct selection (i noticed that the filename was named "transactions.ofx"). On another one, it explicitly called out the OFX download format. BTW, QIF being a Quicken/QuickBooks format that is supposedly being deprecated, I fully understand why Microsoft isn't bending over backwards to support it.

Bottom line: ensure that your bank has some way to download .OFX files and you should be covered (at least until they add it to the product for automated download).

Saturday, September 10, 2005

First post... Using SBA since beta...

I've been playing with Microsoft's Small Business Accounting software product since the beta in November '04 and I have to say, I'm pleasantly surprised. One thing in particular I've noticed is that the development team really seems to have taken a lot of the feedback submitted by users in the beta, if I remember correctly from the feedback in the beta newsgroup. I'm particularly glad to see that they added an integrated manual payroll using Excel. Other than payroll, I'm also glad to see them adding the online banking pieces. Although my bank is not yet one of the supported banks, they've indicated that they will be adding more and more banks over time. I have to think Wells Fargo is on the short list for them.