Best free accounting software: 8 programs we recommend for SME'sSMEStudio
These are tough times for businesses. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to keep a very close watch on your company finances.
And that’s where good accounting software can help, automating many of your business processes and producing detailed reports on precisely how you’re doing. Deciding you need an accounting package is the easy part, of course – picking the best one for you is a different matter.
One of the first issues to consider is the amount of support you’ll need. If you’re a total beginner then it may be wise to choose a commercial package where there’s plenty of help available. If you’re a little more experienced, though – or you just want to play around and learn the basics – then there’s a wide range of free accounting packages around, and we’ve highlighted eight of the best.
1. TurboCASH 5
TurboCash is an open source small business accounting package, which the developers say has more than 80,000 users worldwide.
It has all the usual standard functions – stock control, invoicing, debtors, creditors, general ledger, VAT accounting, balance sheet and income statements, and plenty of reports – and also supports multiple users, and even multiple companies.
As with any similar package, if you’re new to accounting in general then there’s a great deal to learn. TurboCASH does make things easier with example books, though, and a detailed online manual helps you to get started.
The program is also highly configurable, and it’s also a relief to use a free accounting tool which isn’t always demanding that you “upgrade”.
2. TAS Basics
TAS Software (a division of Sage) sells several accounting packages, but gives Basics away for free. This means it has plenty of limitations – you can’t record sales orders or create invoices, for instance – and there’s no real support, but if you can live with that then Basics proves to be a very straightforward package.
It can maintain customer and supplier records; you’re able to maintain multiple bank accounts, recording the money in and out; simple reporting means it’s easy to record who owes you money (and who you own money to), and you get useful help with your VAT return.
First released back in 1998, the open source GnuCash has been constantly developed ever since, and it’s now a very flexible accounting system.
A straightforward register makes it quick and easy to enter transactions, but there’s also plenty of power here: customer and supplier tracking, invoicing and bill payment, scheduled transaction support, and a host of reporting tools.
Advanced features include budget management and stock portfolios, while each of your accounts can be in different currencies. Double entry accounting and a reconciliation tool help you uncover any errors, and with versions available for Windows, Linux and Mac (and even an Android app) you can run the program just about anywhere.
4. NCH Express Invoice
After installation, you can create a quote or invoice immediately; just entering a customer’s name, product details and so on creates those records for you, and you can print, email or fax the results from within Express Invoice.
5. xTuple PostBooks
The program also includes equally capable modules like Products, Inventory, Purchase, Manufacture, CRM and Sales, for instance, while an integrated OpenRPT report writer helps you create the reports you need.
Unsurprisingly, this also comes with a steep learning curve, but PostBooks could be useful for larger businesses, and you can upgrade to commercial packages later if you need more power.
6. VT Cash Book
If your accounting needs are simple then VT Cash Book might appeal, as it’s just about recording your income and expenditure. So there’s no database of customers or suppliers, no invoicing or purchase order module: instead you’ll spend most of your time simply entering transactions via VT Cash Book’s straightforward interface.
Still, the program does support multiple accounts, has a simple reconciliation option, and can help with your VAT returns. So if you’re a small trader, and just looking for a way to record your cash transactions, then VT Cash Book is worth a look.
7. Invoice Expert XE
Invoice Expert XE is the free version of a commercial product, and has some major restrictions, the most significant being that you’re limited to 100 customers and products. It’s still packed with powerful features, though – comprehensive quote and invoice creators, detailed inventory and customer management, useful reports, and more.
8. Adminsoft Accounts
Adminsoft Accounts is the work of a single developer, rather than the usual large team, but it doesn’t look that way from the feature list.
The program is a double entry accounting system which supports accounts payable and receivable, general ledger, invoicing, purchase order processing, stock control, payroll and more. And there are even a few specialist modules (AutoManager helps run a garage, for instance).