Nothing's very glitzy about today's accounting programs. But there's no denying they're incredibly useful for managing your business finances. Besides traditional features like writing checks, managing accounts payable and receivable, and creating invoices and statements, some of the latest programs contain other powerful features. Accounting programs can now reduce repetitive tasks by memorizing frequent transactions, as well as protect sensitive data by tracking and limiting employee access to it.
Robert Griffith owns EES Construction & Consulting Inc. in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with his partner, Ellis E. Smith, 44. Griffith uses Peachtree Complete Accounting for Windows 6.0 ($199; http://www.peachtree.com) to keep the company's books because, above all else, it cuts down on the time he invests in accounting. "If I had to do [accounting] manually, I'd be spending a lot more time with the books than I would running my business," says Griffith, 41, who uses the software mostly for tracking accounts payable. Griffith also considers the Job Costing feature invaluable for its ability to track his projects' components and expenses.
Another popular accounting program is Intuit's QuickBooks 6.0 ($120; http://www.quickbooks.com). It contains check-writing, business-reporting, accounts receivable, accounts payable, invoicing and inventory capabilities. It also has extensive new Internet features, including quick access to the Internet, free online software updates and one-click access to online technical support and business services.