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ACCPAC International ‘ ACCPAC Advantage Series Small Business Edition

ACCPAC Advantage Series is an integrated modular suite of applications designed for the growing company that needs a complete accounting and operations solution. A well-designed user interface and tiered back-end database processing structure make this a very stable yet flexible suite.

The Advantage Series of financial modules is available in four editions: Enterprise, Corporate, Small Business and Discovery. The specific product reviewed here is Small Business Edition, although all editions share many similarities. The Small Business Edition provides core functions, including System Manager and Bank Reconciliation, GL, AR, AP, Inventory Control, Order Entry, Purchase Orders and Payroll (U.S. and Canadian). Other add-on modules available include Optional Fields and Validation Tables and Multicurrency.

The Small Business Edition is limited to five users and five companies. However, I should also be quick to point out that the modules can easily be upgraded to the Corporate or Enterprise Editions. The Corporate Edition is limited to 10 users, while the Enterprise Edition allows an unlimited number of users. Scalability is provided by a variety of available back-end database platforms. At the Small Business level, Pervasive SQL is an entry-level client/server database that is easy to install and administer. However, if the business needs to move to one of the higher-end editions, or already has one of the supported databases in place, the ACCPAC Advantage modules can also utilize Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2 or Oracle.

ACCPAC is also one of only a very few accounting suites that supports the Linux operating system, both for desktop use and as a database server. This flexibility speaks volumes for the highly refined tiered design of the entire system.


The main program screen is a nicely organized tree structure, with one item for each module. Expanding the module item displays sub items for that module, such as reports, data entry, processing, setup and transactions. The right side of the screen is a work area that can be customized with shortcuts for folders, macros, reports or external programs.
Data-entry screens throughout all ACCPAC Advantage modules are consistently designed and provide a solid, sophisticated feel. Since the user interface is the same as ACCPAC’s high-end product, you get a lot of the advantages of a high-end product, such as well-developed key field lookup screens and standard client/server record navigation. Each data-entry screen typically consists of multiple tabs, each with a set of related fields. The modern Windows interface allows multiple screens from various modules to be open at once for enhanced productivity.

The user’s desktop can be customized in a number of different ways. By default, icons in the user workspace simply reflect the selected module’s tasks and data-entry functions. However, this workspace can be transformed into a productivity tool by creating shortcuts and macros that can speed and automate the user’s activities. ACCPAC has built-in support for Visual Basic macros. Administrators can also customize forms and dialog boxes to hide fields for specific users.

Security is maintained by adding security groups and then adding users to the security groups. A security group is a system-wide user group that can perform specific tasks. However, the same user can be assigned to different groups for different applications, creating a flexible, intuitive arrangement to grant or deny access to various areas.

Importing capabilities are provided for several file types, including Excel, *.CSV, Access, dBase, ODBC and XML. If you often import the same data, you can even create a script to speed up the process. For bank reconciliation, you can import downloaded bank statements, automating the matching and reconciliation process. Transactions from the bank statement are matched on check number, account number, bank reference, and amount using the OFX specification.

Export is also available for a similar array of file types. The export screen allows you to choose which fields to export, and you can create scripts for information that is exported repeatedly. Of course, since the program uses an open database standard, you can also use ODBC access methods for data mining and customized queries.

Each module has numerous reports that are based on the Crystal Reports engine. This provides a well-known interface for viewing, printing and exporting reports to quite a number of popular formats. Numerous sorting and filtering options are available for each report.

As part of the GL module, Financial Reporter is a powerful tool that can generate financial statements using Microsoft Excel. A set of specially programmed functions and specifications can be used in Excel to read GL data and present it in any format you wish. You can also use the optional Crystal Reports designer to create any number of customized reports.

ACCPAC’s support options are designed to be flexible enough to meet your needs and your budget. SupportPlus offers software maintenance and upgrades, technical support, payroll tax table updates, and dedicated technical account management. SupportPlus plans are available at three levels: Premier, Standard and Software Assurance. Support can also be purchased on demand (per incident) or in five-issue support packs.
Through its network of training centers and certified trainers, ACCPAC provides whatever level of training your business requires at locations throughout the Unites States, Canada and even several international sites. For daily use, the online help system is comprehensive and well-written, which should address nearly any usage question that you could possibly experience.

ACCPAC is headquartered in Pleasanton, California with offices in numerous locations in the United States and Canada. The company has a long stable history of providing solid accounting solutions to many different business segments, from the smallest one-person business to large enterprise-level concerns. ACCPAC was acquired in March, 2004, by Best Software’s parent company, Sage Group, a large U.K.-based software publisher. Some executive transition has occurred within the company, but with the success and market placement of ACCPAC products, the company will certainly continue to support and enhance the product for a long time to come.

ACCPAC Advantage is an impressive suite that brings stability and confidence to your software investment. Much of the value of this package is in the huge reseller and training channel. Another real advantage is the unparalleled upgrade path and scalability that is available through the company’s entire product offering. Pricing for our typical set of base modules (see review introduction on page 42) would be $2,970 for a single user or $5,445 for five users. Additional modules are approximately $495 each, while annual support plans run about 18 percent of the original software cost.


Review sections for the mid-range accounting products include the following:
Modules Available/Scalability. Within this section, we look at the general breadth of modules available from the company. Although our prototype pricing only includes a base set of modules, there are many occasions where a company has special needs. The availability of ancillary modules provides for expansion of the integrated module set to meet new business requirements. Scalability is the capability of the product to grow with the business. Many successful mid-range businesses start with only one or two employees and grow to hundreds of employees within a short period of time. If the accounting package you start with supports a maximum of five users, you’ll be looking for a completely new package when your business outgrows it, which could be potentially expensive in terms of data conversion and retraining.

Ease of Use/Transaction Entry. This section is fairly self-explanatory and simply evaluates the overall user experience in using the software, from the main menu to the data-entry screens. As a general rule, all the products reviewed here are very modern and pose no specific problems in this area. I found them all easy to use and navigate, although some are more mature and refined than others.

Customization/Security. Most vendors in the mid-range market have made a deliberate attempt to keep their products simple. The ability to customize the product is generally focused on the reporting area. However, several vendors do provide the ability to customize for layouts and terminology to match specific industry needs. One other thing that should be highlighted is the ultimate customization tool: source code. A number of products do provide program source code either as part of the purchase price or as a separately purchased feature. Security is very similar across these products, with most having a menu-level system that restricts users to specific menu items and tasks.

Integration/Import/Export. Many mid-range products rely on third-party add-ons for functionality that might be built-in or integrated in a high-end product. For instance, point-of-sale, e-commerce and EDI are functions that may be provided by the vendor as an integrated module, or may be provided by third-party add-ons. If third-party add-ons are supported, it is important to have a relatively simple way to move data into and out of the program using import and export capabilities.

Reporting. Generally, all of these products provide high quality reports. Several provide built-in custom report writers that let you create reports based on your own formats and needs. My preference is the products that have standardized with Crystal Reports as their report engine. This implies two things: First, the database is an ‘open’ database structure that allows direct access to the data files for reports and queries; second, you can purchase the Crystal Reports professional designer and create your own custom reports using an industry-standard format. Many third-party developers specialize in Crystal Reports design and can provide assistance to meet nearly any need.

Support/Training/Help System. This section is also fairly self-explanatory. It is an evaluation of the program’s online help system, as well as the availability of product support, whether through live telephone support, e-mail support or an online knowledgebase. Of course, the best products provide a combination of all these methods. Classroom or web-based training should be available for budget-conscious new users at times and locations that are convenient.

Company History. When purchasing most accounting packages, you are certainly buying a tangible, installable CD, which will be used by people in your company to do their work. However, you are also establishing a business relationship with a company that is expected to provide updates, enhancements, bug fixes, training and support. How long has the company been in business? How many times has ownership of the company changed hands? Is the company based in the United States, Canada or overseas? All of these factors will change the nature of your relationship with the vendor you choose.

Relative Value. Basically, this is the ‘bang for your buck.’ Generally, the more sophisticated products that offer more modules will have a higher cost. This is to be expected. However, this category attempts to consider the big picture. With the feature set and cost considered, does the vendor offer a competitive product at a competitive price?

We hope you find these reviews informative and helpful in your accounting software search. Each product reviewed here is a high-quality product that is worthy of consideration. As I have always encouraged, you should get a demo package from the vendor, install it on your system and try it out! Ask questions, evaluate your needs, compare it with your existing system, and pick a product that fits your budget.