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A-Systems Corporation — Visual Bookkeeper

From the June/July Review of Small
Business Accounting Systems

A-Systems has been producing construction accounting software programs since
the late 1970s. The company has since developed an accounting system called
Visual Bookkeeper, which is geared for general small business use, providing
tightly integrated GL, AP, AR, payroll, checkwriting, inventory and basic fixed
asset management functions, along with sales orders, purchase orders, point-of-sale,
contact management, cash flow management and full reporting. The program’s
inventory module includes options for FIFO, LIFO, average costing, standard
cost and serialized inventory. The system is available in two versions: Small
Business Advantage and Preferred, with the Preferred option providing enhanced
financial management capabilities and greater support for managing any number
of companies and cost centers. Visual Bookkeeper costs $995 for a single-user
version; $100 for additional concurrent users.

Ease of Use/Basic Functionality — 4.5 Stars
As with most small business accounting systems, Visual Bookkeeper was designed
with user friendliness as a key concern. Over the years, the developers have
successfully managed to keep this ease of use while expanding the system’s
features to include all of the functions necessary for managing a modern small
business. During initial setup or creation of additional new businesses to be
managed through the system, Visual Bookkeeper provides a new company setup wizard
that guides the user through the various processes and offers template charts
of accounts. The program’s primary interface provides icons for accessing
the core accounting areas of the system, including AR, AP, GL, payroll and others,
and also offers overview screens, a.k.a. “dashboards,” for each
of these areas and for the business as a whole. This provides management with
key financial indicators and allows drilldown access to more detailed data.
The Company Overview, which authorized users can set to open when starting the
program, is quite useful, providing details on account balances, AR and AP aging,
year-to-date assessments of profitability, payroll and equipment, and other

The program maintains friendly data-entry screens and information subwindows
throughout operation, with transaction windows providing selection lists for
customers, vendors, accounts, discounts and other information, along with calendars
for date entries and smart entry field options. Task-related Help options are
readily available. Visual Bookkeeper includes several features that essentially
act as “safety nets,” helping to prevent users from making mistakes.
One of these is automatic data backup, which cannot be turned off and ensures
the integrity of the system. Additionally, the system alerts users to potential
errors when posting receipts and invoices.

Throughout the program, Visual Bookkeeper provides intuitive screens and workflow
processes that should require little training, while also making sure that transactions
are posted correctly and accounts are properly maintained.

Core Accounting/Security Functions — 4.5 Stars
Visual Bookkeeper offers a strong set of key financial management modules that
include GL, AP, AR, transaction journals, payroll, sales and inventory. Plus,
GAAP-based double-entry accounting ensures accuracy of the company’s books.
The program’s GL offers the ability to create financial statements in
multiple user-defined formats, while the payables section provides 1099 support
and the receivable component allows trade invoicing. Both editions include payroll,
which allows multiple states and supports benefits management, union pay and
customized deductions, with wage reporting forms included. Users of the program
can download tax tables from the A-Systems website. Visual Bookkeeper also provides
basic contact management functions and offers sortable, filterable client and
vendor lists.

Since A-Systems is an expert in construction accounting software, it makes
sense that its JobView program also provides excellent job and equipment costing
options. The system’s inventory capabilities are especially strong for
an entry-level SMB accounting package, enabling users to track multi-part and
serialized items with multiple pricing, and giving support for multiple warehouse
locations. Additional features include fixed asset management, sales tax tracking,
contact management and inventory data synching. For retail and restaurants,
the program has the ability to track commissions and multiple tips. The program
includes a full-time audit trail that tracks all transactions and prevents users
from changing transactions once posted, requiring adjusting entries to be made
by authorized users.

Reporting & Management Functions — 4 Stars
The overview screens in Visual Bookkeeper give users a good snapshot of key
numbers in each of a business’ financial areas, from AR and AP to inventory,
sales and account balances. Users can also drilldown to transactions and other
detailed data. The program provides good forecasting, cash flow management and
projection tools, while an included report engine allows customization of dozens
of pre-built reports that include full and consolidated financials, period comparisons,
aging reports, customer lists, transactions, purchasing and inventory. Customized
reports can be saved into a ‘favorites’ lists, allowing users to
quickly pull data and view on-screen or print. Wage and 1099 reporting forms
are also included in the program.

Import/Export/Integration — 4 Stars
All of the modules within Visual Bookkeeper operate seamlessly with each other,
and the program includes a data import utility that can pull account and customer/vendor
information from QuickBooks. Reports can be saved to PDF, Excel and plain text
formats. Remote web-based access is not available, but a PDA synching tool is

Help & Support Options — 4 Stars
The program is very easy to use, providing intuitive processes and transaction
screens while also offering many assistive features that include task-specific
Help and built-in video tutorials. A basic accounting training course is also
included on the installation disk. The company’s support website includes
program updates, tax tables and program FAQs. After initial installation, support
options include one-time and subscription-based plans.

Relative Value — 4.5 Stars
For businesses with needs that demand a little more than traditional, off-the-shelf
SMB accounting systems, Visual Bookkeeper Preferred Edition provides very strong
financial management and strict audit controls, along with inventory and costing
capabilities that exceed the capabilities of most similar applications.

2008 Overall Rating: 4.5 Stars