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Review: Small Business Accounting Software For Linux - page 2

Replacing Quicken/QuickBooks

  • January 3, 2005
  • By Carla Schroder
Quasar Accounting, by Linux Canada, gets my vote for best accounting program for Linux. It comes in two packages: Quasar Accounting, and Quasar Point-of-Sale for retail businesses. Quasar Accounting handles the usual accounts payable and receivable, customizable reports, check writing, customer management, and invoicing. Quasar Point-of-Sale has features that are usually found only in larger, more expensive accounting programs, such as point-of-sale, barcode labels, international currency support, multiple stores, returns, and inventory management. And wonder of wonders, it has one feature that is supported in Linux only and not Windows: a handheld barcode scanner interface. How nice to see Linux get the goodies first for a change.

The base package is free for a single user. Additional modules and additional concurrent users cost money. A single user can purchase the entire works for less than $400, including the point-of-sale module, which is quite a bargain. All modules can be previewed in a free demo mode for a thorough try-before-you-buy.

The database backend is your choice of Firebird (free) or Sybase ($149.00). The data format is XML. Migrating data from another program like Quicken or QuickBooks is not simple, but it is possible. Export your files to CSV format, write a conversion script to convert from CSV to XML, then use the "Import" command in Quasar to import the data. Quasar's XML tags and conventions are documented in the User's Guide. Another, and often preferable, way to migrate medium-large data files is to hire a semi-retired secretary or three, and have them do all the data entry manually. Really. A troop of skilled typists are often faster and less error-prone than a scripted conversion.

Quasar runs in client/server mode. Because Quasar is a Linux program first, the server must run on Linux. Client workstations can be either Windows or Linux. It comes with access controls; you need to set up logins and passwords for authorized users, and define the areas they are permitted to work in.

The interface is clean and logically organized, so you can figure out how to do things pretty easily. And the User's Manual is an excellent 347-page PDF. Don't leave home without it.

Linux Canada is releasing version 1.4 in early 2005. 1.4 is a major upgrade with way more of everything: finer-grained access controls, advanced pricing and cost management, greater customization, easier adjustments and exceptions, and more flexible reporting to show your data just about any way you want.

Quasar Accounting 1.2 is closed-source. For 1.4, the base accounting package will be released under the GPL. The retail components will remain closed-source. Linux Canada offers custom programming services. Their customer support is first-rate, so this might be a good option for customers who want some specialized tweaks.

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