In the past, if you wanted software, you had to buy one of the premium versions that were being offered. When it came to an office suite, Microsoft Office was king, and in the world of accounting and financial software, your choices were Quicken or Quickbooks. However, much has changed in recent years, and now there are teams of programmers working on free, open source solutions to do everything that you were once only able to do with expensive, premium software.
What is Open Source?
Open Source is a term that describes software that allows the general public to view the computer code that makes up the software and to improve upon that code if they so desire. This is a great way to allow bug fixes and improvements without having a team of programmers being paid to do the work. Open Source software can often surpass private closed-source software in features and reliability, because there are so many volunteers working on it.
An example of open source for office software is the hugely popular Open Office suite, a fully featured replacement for Microsoft Office that includes spreadsheet software, word processing application, presentation software and database application as well. However, when it comes to accounting software there are several options to choose from.
Here are the top three open source accounting applications available:
TurboCASH is an open source application similar to Quickbooks Pro, and is geared towards user-friendliness. The program has features like multiple languages and financial information for several countries. It includes many of the same features that Quickbooks Pro does like invoices, reports, stocks, barcoding and point of sale. It is an extremely comprehensive program that is easy to use as well as fully featured. The application is only for Windows operating systems and supports multiple users and accounts.
GnuCash is another widely popular accounting application. It is intended for both personal use and for small businesses and uses double entry accounting for tracking down and fixing errors, something that can be extremely difficult if you have accounts with many transactions per month or year. It is also a program that offers amazing flexibility, allowing you to customize accounts receivable, payable, banking accounts, credit cards and investments as well as helping to prepare tax statements and allowing for depreciation. You also have the ability to generate reports and graphs to give you the best picture possible.
However, unlike TurboCASH it does not support point-of-sale, although it does allow small businesses to manage basic payroll. One of the reasons that this free software is so popular is that it is available across many platforms including Mac, Linux and Windows.
The last item on the list is XTuple PostBooks, a scaled accounting solution that allows users (especially businesses) to start out with the free edition and then upgrade to other additions when they need it. The modules that make up the entire PostBooks suite include Accounting, Purchase, Sales, CRM, Manufacture, Products and Inventory. PostBooks has five editions, the first one being free. The others are Standard, Project, Manufacturing and Enterprise editions. It is available for Linux, Mac and Windows.
Nicole is an accounting consultant. In her opinion, paid accounting softwares usually offer more ammenities than most open source softwares. In her experience, myob exo is the best accounting software she could find.