Dakin5 Controller 1.1. (evaluation) Ron Exner.
Dakin5 Controller 1.1
Controller 1.1. from Dakin5 is an accounting system for the Apple. Accounting systems are complex programs, so perhaps I should give you a bit of personal background information regarding my qualifications to review one.
By education and experience I am first an accountant and second a user of computers. Consequently, when I examine an accounting system I first look for conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and how well a system fits into the accounting cycle. Then I look at how well a system operates from a computer standpoint. I also play "dumb' with the system and see how little knowledge of accounting and computers I can get by on. After all, most people have very little experience with either let alone both.
Briefly, there are two types of accounting systems: accrual and cash basis. The main distinguishing characteristic is whether revenue is recorded in the accounting period in which it was earned or in the period in which it is collected as cash. A parallel question is whether expenses should be recorded in the accounting period in which they are incurred or recognized when they are paid. A business which recognizes revenues in the period during which they are earned and deducts expenses when they are incurred is using the accural basis of accounting.
For example, in March you receive a $100 invoice from Ace Widget Co. for supplies purchased. When you enter this in the Accounts Payable module, Supplies Expense of $100 is recorded and a liability for $100 is entered in favor of Ace Widget. When Ace is paid in April, cash is decreased by $100 and the liability to Ace eliminated.
The important point is that supplies expense is recorded in the period in which it was incurred (March) regardless of the fact that payment is made at a later date (April). The same principle holds true for sales. All sales are recorded as revenue regardless of when they are collected. The positive difference between revenue and expenses is, of course, what being in business is about.
The bottom line, or net income, has meaning only if it is related to a specific period of time. Since income is determined by subtracting expenses from revenue, both the revenue and the expenses used in the calculation must relate to the same time period. This matching of revenue and expenses gives a realistic picture of the profit performance of the business each period. Since accurate income measurement is a major objective of the whole accounting process, the accrual basis of accounting is widely used throughout the business community. However, it is not the only system in use.
The alternative to the accrual basis of accounting is the cash basis. Under cash basis accounting, revenue is not recorded until it is received in cash, and expenses are not recognized until they are paid in cash. Consequently it is not likely that expenses and revenues will be matched to the proper period. This system is limited mostly to individuals and to accounting records of physicians and other professional firms.
Most accounting systems consist of a general ledger with add on accounts receivable and accounts payable modules. The Controller, however, is designed as a comprehensive accrual based accounting package. Although any of the three modules, general ledger (G/L), accounts receivable (A/R), and accounts payable (A/P) may be used individually or in conjunction with the others, they are most impressive when used together. I must emphasize that this is an accrual based system; it is aimed at a business that recognizes income and expenses when they are earned or incurred. If you have a cash based system, Controller will be awkward to use. You may want to consider, instead, one of the numerous checkbook management programs.
Controller is an excellent example of the proper use of automation. One small but typical example of the proper use of automation can be seen in the accounts receivable module. To start, you simply insert the master disk, choose accounts receivable and plug in the A/R systems disk. If you pick the wrong disk or put the right disk in the wrong drive, the system notes the error and tells you which disk to put in which drive. In fact, if you are totally confused, (not likely) don't put a disk in either drive and the system will tell you which disk should be in which location. If at any time you don't like a menu option, you can simply press ESCAPE, and you will be returned to the previous menu. If that menu is on a different disk, the system will tell you, for example to ". . . insert System Disk 006 in drive 1.' Of course if you anticipate which disk is needed this message is omitted.
Frequently, a high degree of automation limits the applications of a program. Even as an accountant I find this to be refreshingly not the case with Controller. Coupled with automatic data disk backups and automatic report generation at strategic times in the accounting cycle, the automatic features of the Controller allow you to forget about the possibility of inserting the wrong disk in the wrong drive and bombing the program or wasting your data disk. You concentrate, instead, on just making sure you are providing the right data to the system.
Dakin5 not only provides you with unprotected program disks, but provides a utility system that is used to make backups of the data and system disks. What it comes down to is this, if you are not functionally illiterate and can open a disk drive door without assistance, you can operate Controller with confidence.
Without turning this review into a user's manual, the best way for me to give you an idea of the features of Controller is to examine its capabilities. Briefly, some of the most distinguishing program and report characteristics are the following:
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As you can see the capacity and report options of the Controller are extensive. I worked with this system for several months and with the exception of wanting standardized accounts receivable sales entries, could not think of a feature or report it did not offer.
Flexibility, which can be lost in the trade for automation, is most evident when setting up A/R, A/P or G/L for a specific business configuration. Controller gets around that it gives up in this exchange by being so complete that all the conceivable choices are built in. Consequently there is very little "I wish I could . . .' with this system. If you think you need to, you probably can.
As with most other aspects of the Controller, module set-up is simple and complete. In accounts payable, for example, you indicate: fiscal year-end date; current month-end date; complete company address; whether or not you are using the general ledger; whether or not you will be printing checks on your printer, and the account numbers of the general ledger summary accounts to which A/P will post. To top it all off, when you are finished you can generate a printed copy of this setup for future reference.
A similar procedure is followed for accounts receivable and general ledger. All you have to do is follow the simple, easy to understand instructions in the documentation.
Controller comes wrapped in a glossy, white, oversized, three-ring binder with 327 pages of documentation, 24 program and data disks and everything else you could possibly need to make the system work well, including 36 archive disk labels, a user input report, and a handy adhesive label with Dakin5's toll free hot line phone number.
At first the package is slightly intimidating. Then you realize that of the 327 pages of documentation 109 are sample reports and their descriptions, 11 are index pages, and 16 are miscellaneous. The remaining 191 pages are divided between a familiarization tutorial and a setup/reference manual. Each of the two sections is further divided into A/R, A/P, and G/L chapter components. The format for all is basically the same.
In Chapter 5, General Ledger Tutorial, for example, you are first told what you will learn and then how to go about learning it. There is quite a bit of "hand holding' with instructions like "1. Choose selection 1, THE CONTROLLER . . . and press return,' but given the complexity of doing the job right, this style is a real confidence builder.
Not only are you told what to do, but equally important, you are told why. When you realize that each option, i.e. to use departments or not; to use A/R and/or A/P or not; to print checks or not, requires instruction and explanation it is amazing that the documentation is as brief as it is.
If at any time you get unusual results or simply don't understand what is going on, just dial Dakin5's toll free hot line for assistance. The staff on the other end is just like the program--user-friendly and professional.
Here is where I put it all together--the good and the bad. My biggest complaint is the limitation of Controller to compatibility with 96-column printers. This excludes the latest generation of popular printers, such as the Epson and Okidata. (I have an Epson MX-80.) Although changing over to condensed 132-column format allows the reports to fit on the page, not only doesn't it look quite right but, more important, it doesn't overcome the problem of how to produce statements.
The standard form assumes a 96-column printer. However, since the program is unprotected, I simply wrote a brief Basic program that produces blank statement forms and then went into the program and changed the print statements to conform to 80 columns. Using my newly created forms, I succeeded in producing some very attractive statements. Why Dakin5 couldn't have included the same kind of option I don't know.
If you have the proper printer, you will definitely like the Controller. The program is menu driven and proceeds logically from one menu to the next or back to the previous menu without much thought. The automatic design of the program makes user mistakes extremely unlikely and contributes greatly to the overall professional operation of the program. This is true even if the user has limited accounting or computer experience. If you know the difference between .50 and .05 and can read this review, then you have sufficient background to succeed with the Controller.
Despite the user-friendliness, excellent documentation, superb support from Dakin5, and bullet proof design of the system, the real strength of this program lies in the fact that it is one element of a family of business programs. For example, I had the opportunity to examine one of Dakin5's latest offerings, the Depreciation Planner.
Although this program is not the subject of this review it is important in the way it works with the Controller. It not only changes the Controller menu options so that it is included, it also automatically posts depreciation amounts to the general ledger and updates the current month, year-to-date, and life-to-date-amounts.
Like the three elements of the Controller, the Depreciation Planner may be used itself or in conjunction with the Controller. The value of this family concept of software is that each member can be used by itself or, when combined with other members, can produce an overall system that is far more powerful than if the members were unrelated.
Products: Dakin5 Corp. Controller 1.1(computer program)