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Review of Trial Balance Software — 2003

From Working Papers To Paperless Engagements: Programs Vary Widely In Focus

Newton, CPA

REVIEWS: [AccountantsWorld]
ProSystem fx Engagement

ProSystem fx Trial Balance
Solutions (Engagement Solution)
Solutions (Trial Balance Solution)
[Pendock Mallorn]


the December 2003 Issue

trial balances are prepared and
workpapers completed as part of
an accounting engagement for audit,
compilation or review purposes.
The advent of the electronic generation
of so many documents for the differing
engagements of an accounting firm
has led to an expansion of the products
reviewed for the trial balance and
workpapers review.

Of the eight programs reviewed,
some are electronic engagement management
systems designed to track and coordinate
the electronic documents generated
by the accounting software or the
workpaper software. Other systems
fall into the categories of write-up
or accounting programs and trial
balance systems.
The programs designed to manage
electronic documents provide a useful
tool for utilizing the information
produced by the engagement process
via multiple systems. They greatly
enhance software that is used to
prepare trial balance and workpaper
information to support the engagement
function of an accounting office.
In some cases, these systems will
be purchased to compliment an already
existing system for the preparation
of the information necessary in
accounting functions.

The programs designed for the preparation
of financial information vary widely
in their focus. For instance, the
Accountant’s Relief program is designed
to be a stand-alone accounting system
that also prepares trial balance
information and leadsheets. The
other end of the spectrum is represented
by programs that take information
entered for a trial balance and
provide support for balance verification,
financial statement preparation
and ratio analysis.

The software packages reviewed here
were evaluated using a Pentium III
with 512MB of RAM with a Windows
XP Professional operating system.
The system requirements for each
program are provided in the individual

An interesting common factor in
the programs reviewed was the reliance
on current Microsoft Office products
for full program operation. This
is a trend toward utilizing interfaces
and documents with which the preparer
is already comfortable.

CaseWare Working Papers best automated
the processes involved in compilations
and reviews and seemed to combine
the engagement tracking function
with the data collection and report
preparation features well.
A newcomer to this review was the
Pendock Mallorn Ltd. program, Accounting
for Practitioners. This system is
an entirely Excel-based application
that supports the trial balance,
financial statement, notes, and
ratio analysis through an Excel
workbook. The Excel interface is
actually programmed to collect the
information relating to journal
entries and to provide resulting
supporting documentation. Preparers
familiar with Excel may find this
a helpful alternative to a suite
of packages since it provides an
easy-to-use interface that is easily
integrated with other systems.

Programs were reviewed in three
main areas: functionality, technical
merits and life cycle. The programs
were not compared to each other
but evaluated on the basis of how
well the particular system met the
objectives for which it was designed.
Overall, each program was well suited
for its targeted audience and specific
purpose. The final decision will
be based on a combination of factors,
including your current client base,
the number of staff using the program,
the hardware systems in place and
the price, among other things. As
always, it is strongly recommended
that a demonstration copy of the
program be ordered and fully evaluated
before making a final purchase




Accountant’s Relief program from
AccountantsWorld is designed to
be an all-inclusive system to support
accounting, auditing and financial
reporting functions in an accounting
firm. The system is geared toward
utilizing information in-house or
for importing data from external
programs. The program offers a comprehensive
system that includes transaction
journals, bank reconciliation, workpapers,
financial ratios, analytical reviews,
and fully customizable financials
with cover sheet, report letter,
contents page and footnotes.

Operating systems supported include
Windows 98/2000/XP (home or professional).
The minimum requirements include
a PC with a minimum speed of 200MHz
and 32MB of RAM. Approximately 250MB
to 500MB of hard disk space is necessary
for the program to function. Although
inkjet printers can be utilized,
a laser printer with 4MB of RAM
or more is recommended.

The startup checklist guides the
setup of a new client through the
steps of defining client-specific
information and report generation
as well as includes system setup
characteristics. Information relating
to the chart of accounts, beginning
balances, leadsheet, and journal
information is provided. Also included
is the ability to define tickmarks
and create tracking for various

Entering information is intuitive
and easy to understand, with a minimum
amount of time spent learning how
the program operates. The simple
interface is designed with a Windows
look and feel, making the system
easy to use. Transactions may be
entered for general bookkeeping
work, which includes entries to
the cash disbursements, cash receipts,
general ledger, purchases, payroll
and sales journals. The data-entry
screen offers a scrolling display
showing the transactions entered
thus far. The various journals are
accessible via tabs along the top
of the window.

Adjusting entries are also available,
consisting of adjusting, reclassifying,
federal other and potential entries.
The same tabbed Window interface
is used for entering adjusting entries.

The trial balance is displayed in
a spreadsheet-type design that shows
the accounts and descriptions with
columns representing beginning balances,
adjustments and other entry effects.
The trial balance format can be
easily modified to include only
those columns necessary and also
to show debits and credits separately
or together in one column. Separate
tabs are available for the trial
balance view for adjusting entries,
federal tax entries and other entries.

Leadsheets can be set up to summarize
the information on the financial
statements and prepare audit workpapers.
The setup requires the leadsheet
code to be entered into the account
setup. Once the accounts are associated
with a leadsheet, the information
may be easily viewed or printed.
Workpapers can also be created that
allow for the association of user-defined

The program has the ability to import
information from 15 different accounting
packages and from a user-defined
file. The ability to import data
as well as enter information directly
results in a huge time savings from
the data-entry standpoint.

Support is available from the company
using the knowledge base on the
company’s web site. Requests for
support can also be made by phone,
fax or e-mail. The Internet support
is useful, since it is available
at any time.

Overall, the program is easy to
use. There were a few instances
where the system required backing
out of one screen to access another.
(The company noted that this is
a built-in self checking feature
that prevents the user from moving
out of the accounting sequence and
missing critical fields. You will
need to back out of one screen only
if the previous entries have not
been completed as required to support
the accounting functionality.) Setup
requires accessing different windows
that are utilized for actual entry.
However, the setup screens are often
available using the right-click

Accountant’s Relief PLUS is $995
with an annual upgrade cost of $595.
The system includes Write-Up, Compilation,
Review, Audit, and Financial Statements,
three licenses, Check Writing, and
an AR Link. The single-user version
of Accountant’s Relief is $695 with
an annual upgrade of $395. Additional
licenses are available for $75 each,
or an unlimited number of licenses
may be purchased for $450. AccountantsWorld
also offers a fully integrated,
comprehensive suite of professional
software called Accounting Suite,
which includes Accountant’s Relief
PLUS, Fixed Assets Relief and PFP
Relief for $1,495 with an annual
upgrade of $995. Accountant’s Relief
is a good system that provides a
well-rounded set of features and
creates a comprehensive accounting
system for practitioners








Papers from CaseWare is designed
to provide a tool for electronically
managing accounting engagements.
The program provides the ability
to manage documents relating to
supporting schedules, lead schedules,
financial statements, review notes
and task lists. The ability to lock
documents from processing using
the sign-out feature allows electronic
documentation to be taken into the
field without fear of data compromise.
The program also supports annotation
of financial figures and linking
to lead schedules easily. The ability
to access supporting documentation
using the drill-down functionality
assists the preparer in reviewing
work prepared in a centralized,
efficient manner.


program will run on a Windows 98
or higher operating system. A minimum
of a 166MHz processor with 64MB
of RAM is required. Hard drive space
for program installation is 40MB.
The program can also track scanned
images of documents if an office
is able to produce such images.
The Working Papers program will
run on Windows 2000 or NT networks
as well as Novell, LANtastic or
any NET BIOS network.

As an assurance and reporting tool,
Working Papers does a good job of
providing an easy-to-use interface
for tracking issues and providing
control over the different versions
of electronic documents that are
associated with such engagements.
The program utilizes a Windows interface
that provides point-and-click access
to documents that are organized
in a folder tree view. Issues to
be addressed can be added and assigned
to different preparers with due
dates and easily associated with
the appropriate document. Annotation
functions are available to document
tickmarks and notes online in an
easy-to-access format. The trial
balance provides drill-down access
for quick reference to supporting

The program has the ability to associate
with various external applications
to truly centralize the document
management capabilities. Word and
Excel documents can be quickly created
within the program and organized
with the appropriate schedules.
The organization structure of the
program creates an easy-to-follow
folder filing system. The folders
automatically included in any client
are Working Papers and General Accounting
folders. Within these two divisions
are the folders and documents applicable.
In the Working Papers folder, you
will find the following sub folders:
financial statement; income tax
return; review documentation; planning
information; detailed general work;
and asset, liability and income
statement documents. The General
Ledger folder contains the automatic
documents relating to entries, journals,
ledgers and financial statement

The system is not designed for data
entry of trial balance information,
but rather relies on the ability
to import information from other
accounting software. Although data
can be entered manually, the import
functionality of the program is
far superior with regard to the
speed and ease with which data can
be imported. The program will import
data from over 50 different accounting
software packages using a wizard
to collect the necessary information
for the import. You can also import
from a generic ASCII file.

Document control provisions ensure
that the correct version of the
information is viewable by the appropriate
staff. The system provides a useful
mechanism in its ability to control
when a document is modified and
by whom. Two features – sign-in/sign-out
and check-in/check-out – provide
the ability to easily coordinate
staff activities relating to an
engagement. The system also marks
heading information relating to
the preparation and review staff
to maintain accountability.

The setup of the information is
the most challenging portion of
the program. The complexity of the
relationships between various schedules
requires mapping information and
providing grouping information.
The learning process for establishing
the appropriate relationships is
involved. However, preparers who
are accustomed to organizing reviews
in a paper-based engagement will
find that the process has been translated
to an electronic process well. Once
the initial setup is complete, the
program is a powerful engagement
management tool.

The system’s ability to handle complex
engagements is enhanced by the ability
to perform full consolidations of
financial information as well as
foreign currency translation and
fund accounting capabilities.

The end result of the electronic
engagement process is the ability
to generate professional looking
documents quickly and easily that
contain cross reference and index
information. The output includes
the ability to print preview any
document, print the document to
the printer or create a *.PDF file
for electronic exchange of information.
The preparer also has the ability
to prepare customized forms that
refer to data contained within the
working papers. The design process
is somewhat intensive but is very

Technical support is available via
online documentation that is well
developed. A comprehensive user
manual is also shipped with the
product. Support is available via
a toll-free telephone number or
via e-mail. Technical support is
free for the first 60 days with
the single-user system. After this
period, a support plan must be purchased.
If an office license is purchased,
one year of technical support is

The pricing structure is broken
down into single-user and office
license offerings. A single-user
version of CaseWare Working Papers
is $499 plus $25 shipping and handling.
The optional Support Plan for single-user
licenses is $199. The office license
version of the program is $1,199
for up to five users with additional
user licenses available at $230
per user.

CaseWare Working Papers’ strength
is in its ability to coordinate
the work of an engagement in a centralized,
electronic environment. Such capability
enables you to lessen your paper
usage and access client engagement
files in a more timely manner




ProSystem fx Engagement



ProSystem fx Engagement offers
a mechanism for electronically coordinating
and organizing an array of engagement
types, including compilation, audit
or review. The program provides
the means to track the documents
associated with the engagement and
enables an electronic workflow process.
The Windows structure and the use
of familiar Microsoft Office products
makes learning the system easier.

Minimum system requirements include
a Pentium II 233MHz processor with
a Windows 98 or higher operating
system. Memory required includes
64MB of RAM and 100MB of hard drive
space for each client installation.
The administrator tool requires
500MB of hard drive space. Microsoft
Office 97 or later is also required
to utilize the Excel and Word features
of the program.

The program creates a virtual file
cabinet for storage and retrieval
of documents relating to an engagement.
Each client is set up in a ‘binder’
with the appropriate sections for
each portion of the engagement,
such as planning, reporting, testing
controls, etc. The binder is organized
in a folder tree view, allowing
specific segments to be expanded
to reveal the documents contained
within. The interface represents
the electronic version of the paper
file, making the transition to the
paperless environment easier.

The system will organize various
electronic documents including those
created in Excel, Word or *.PDF
formats. Additionally, references
to manually created workpapers can
be included to ensure that coordination
between manually and electronically
prepared documents is maintained.
Many standardized workpapers are
included with the program, and additional
workpapers may be purchased separately
from CCH that integrate the content
of the Aspen Miller Engagement Series.
This feature provides Word checklists
and Excel workpaper templates to
speed the process of setting up
the engagement.

The binder lists all of the workpapers
included in the engagement and displays
the preparer, reviewer, the date
last modified, and the current editor.
This allows the preparer to see,
at a glance, the various stages
of completion for the engagement.
Workpapers are easy to assign to
the appropriate staff member. Additionally,
the system maintains a history of
the workpaper that shows who last
accessed or modified the workpaper.

The system functions off of the
information entered on the trial
balance, which may be manually entered
or imported. Since the trial balance
is viewed using Excel, copying and
pasting information into the trial
balance is simple. Information may
also be imported from ProSystem
fx Trial Balance, GoSystem
Audit, ATB or an ASCII text file.

Aside from the ability to electronically
manage an engagement, the program
offers helpful features that facilitate
a true electronic engagement with
improved communication and documentation
processes. The other displays available
in the program include the Notes
Summary view, the Sign Off Summary
view, and the Current Editor view.
The Notes Summary View is a helpful
feature that displays all of the
notes for the engagement, and the
associated workpaper can be quickly
opened. Notes can be easily created
and automatically associated with
workpapers. Through a windowed dialogue
box, the preparer is able to assign
a note to a particular workpaper
and address the note to individual
members assigned to the engagement
or to the entire team. Notes can
be designated as an open item, a
team note or a note for next year.
The system also provides for responses
to notes to be entered, facilitating
communication between staff. Once
a note is cleared, the date it was
cleared is displayed on the Notes

The Sign Off Summary displays the
workpapers that are in process,
ready to review and reviewed, providing
an easy-to-navigate checklist of
tasks. Icons denote workpapers with
notes attached or workpapers that
have conflicts. There is also a
column to display the sign off date
and person. The Current Editor view
gives a listing of workpapers based
on the staff person assigned as
the editor. This is an easy-to-use
tool that staff can use to quickly
access the workpapers to which they
are assigned.

The system allows for up to eight
journal entry types, including adjusting
journal entries as well as reclassifying
entries, federal tax entries, and
potential journal entries, among
others. Each journal entry is tied
to a workpaper with the reference
number. Journal entries can be posted
from any workpaper, report or financial
statement, and changes are updated

ProSystem fx Engagement provides
a variety of tickmarks that may
be defined by the preparer so the
information can be documented electronically.
User-defined tickmarks can also
be created. Inserting a tickmark
into a document is easy and can
be accomplished using a shortcut
bar on the top of the Word or Excel

Security is another strength of
the program, with a robust administrator
module that allows the firm to assign
flexible rights using staff groups
created by the firm. In addition,
the Finalization Wizard enables
the user to wrap up an engagement
easily, rendering a read-only binder
upon completion for security purposes.
Integration with ProSystem fx Tax
and Fixed Assets enables electronic
documents from those applications
to be stored automatically in the
engagement binder.

Toll-free telephone support is available,
and support issues can also be communicated
via fax or e-mail.
ProSystem fx Engagement is
priced at $1,045. Overall, the system
is easy to use and well developed.
The program does an excellent job
of providing the tools necessary
to coordinate an electronic engagement
and provides solid support for work
in the office and in the field.
The integration with Microsoft Office
products makes learning the system
easy, and the interface is well
designed and stable.



ProSystem fx Trial Balance



fx Trial Balance from CCH
is designed to collect the information
necessary for preparing a trial
balance. The system combines the
ability to enter various journal
entries and trial balance information
to generate financial statements
and trial balance reports. The information
generated is easily transferable
to spreadsheet software to facilitate
further analysis or formatting.

The program requires 50MB of hard
drive space for program installation.
Workstations accessing the program
must have Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/
XP installed, and 128MB of RAM is
recommended. Supported networks
include Novel NetWare 5.1, Windows
NT 4.0, Windows 2000, or Linux RedHat.

At first glance, the program is
a little overwhelming. The initial
program screen opens with 16 separate
windows minimized in the main workspace.
The various windows represent the
screens through which information
relating to journal entries, account
information, ratios, tax information
and diagnostics can be entered.
The minimized windows can be arranged
quickly to maximize the usage of
the workspace, but I was unable
to save the positioning for the
next time I used the program.

Entering the trial balance is easy
and accomplished through the accounts
screen. The accounts screen is formatted
as a spreadsheet, and beginning
balances may be entered easily.
Adding an account can be done using
the toolbar button or with quick
keystrokes facilitating faster data
entry. Importing the account and
balance information is much easier
than manually entering the information.
Data may be imported from an ASCII
file or from other accounting packages.
Import functionality is available
for QuickBooks, ATB and Intacct,
among others.

The ability to network the program
provides a mechanism for multiple
preparers to access the same client
simultaneously. The system is designed
to be a collaborative system for
collecting the information necessary
for preparing a trial balance for