SUPERSCRIPTReviewed by CHARLES CHERRY
Progressive Peripherals & Software
464 Kalamath Street
Denver, CO 80204
64K disk, requires XL or XE
Superscript is a very powerful and full-featured
word processor that joins Paper-Clip, Letter Perfect, AtariWriter Plus
and very few others as the premier writing tools for the Atari. Originally
developed in England by Precision Software, it is perhaps the first world-class
Atari 8-bit application software to actually arrive from overseas.
Superscript has all the normal word processing capabilities you'd expect-but it seems to do many of them a little bit better. For instance the centering command can be left on and it will center the text for line after line without further attention. You can save a text block to disk as a new file, or even change the block's letters back and forth between capitals or lower case.
COMMANDS PLUS MENUS
The user interface is more important in a word processor than in any other productivity software. The creative nature of writing requires a transparent and intuitive program. Experienced "power users" like the speed of a command processor. They don't mind learning a lot of sometimes obscure commands in order to enjoy the speed of single-key entry.
In contrast, occasional users hate to look up all those obscure commands. They'd rather plow through seemingly endless menus of on-screen choices. Superscript lets you have it either way. It has menus and sub-menus and sub-sub-menus. But you don't have to use any of them, because the program also supports single-key [CONTROL] commands for most of the common functions.
Speed is another important part of the word processor interface. It's frustrating to suspend your writing while the computer takes care of housekeeping. Superscript is very fast in most functions. You can move around the text instantaneously. I was never able to type faster than the program's ability to accept text, not even in the insert mode.
The only place where things slowed was when I used the [INSERT] and [DELETE] keys. Incidentally, these two keys do not work the same way as they would in a normal Atari screen editor. Along with a strange way of setting and clearing indentation tabs, this may be a residual from the program's original incarnation on the Commodore 64. But overall, Superscript is very easy to use on the Atari.
Superscript is one of the few Atari word processors that gives you "macros." A macro is a string of characters which can be assigned to one key. When that key is pressed, the whole string is typed out. This capability allows you to "record" frequently used phrases such as your signature, or difficult-to-type words and numbers, so that one stroke types them quickly and accurately each time.
Just as useful is the ability to redefine the entire user interface. If you don't like the commands that Superscript uses, then change them to something that makes more sense to you. If you do complicated things that require extensive command strings (not unusual in a program as powerful as Superscript), the whole process can be automated to run with a single stroke. As far as I know, Superscript is the only Atari word processor capable of doing this
Superscript's mail-merge functions are very flexible, yet easy to use. You can place any field (even of variable length) anywhere in the document. It merges from a simple text file rather than a database, which makes creating mailing lists easy. But any fancy sorting and selecting is impossible. You can use elementary "equal or not equal" screening to get only the addresses in New York or to skip everyone named Jones. If you need more power, you can use Superscript to reformat the ASCII output from a database or spreadsheet.
If you use your Atari for billing, or for writing financial statements, you will be especially pleased with Superscript's extensive mathematical capabilities. You can add, subtract, multiply, divide, or do percentages on the built-in calculator. You can enter numbers from the keyboard, or bypass retyping by using the cursor to copy numbers directly from the text.
But what really seems to be unique to Superscript is that you can calculate in columns, rows or tables within the text. In fact, this arithmetic can be automated with macros to create a mini-spreadsheet.
Text width can be expanded up to 240 columns. This is very useful for mathematical tables and charts. The screen acts as a window which scrolls over the larger text area. There is also a "screen print" mode which uses the same display technique to show what the printed page will look like. The normal screen display is 21 lines by 40 columns.
Superscript comes with a 30,000-word dictionary-in both English and American. It is very easy to use and relatively fast. You get the usual word counts and options although it does not suggest alternate spellings. However, adding new, words is extraordinarily easy. You just press one key and the new word is included in the main dictionary. There is no separate user dictionary requiring additional searches.
Superscript comes with drivers for most popular printers. It also has a customizing section which allows you to create drivers for other printers. My Gemini l0-X did not respond to Superscript's Epson driver, but I was able to get it running by using the Diablo driver and modifying the control characters.
Print formats are very flexible. You can print every other text page, if you need book style back-to-back pages. You can also print alternating wide margins to allow for binding. You can "print" a copy to the disk. You can chain files to make longer documents. Superscript even supports RS-232 serial printers, another unique capability among Atari word processors as far as I know.
Superscript runs under DOS 2.5 and requires either a l30XE or an Atari XL with at least 64K. It will not operate on the older Atari 400 or 800 models. It worked on an Atari 1050 disk drive, but would not boot up on an 810 model. It also worked on the Indus, which was the only third-party disk drive I was able to test. However, Superscript text files can be moved to all Atari computer models.
On the l30XE, Superscript provides a second text area. So two files can be in memory at once and text can be moved between them. There is not a split screen, but you can flip back and forth between the files.
Text capacity is roughly 30,000 characters, about standard for Atari word processors. But memory is allocated by line, so you can run out of memory after 780 carriage returns. Fortunately the disk storage uses a more rational scheme.
When engaged in heavy editing, the program occasionally dropped a couple of characters, and once it duplicated a line. Another time I got an "out of memory" error with less than 200 lines of text. But the glitch sorted itself out after I moved from the beginning to the end of the file a couple of times and reformatted the text. None of this was catastrophic, but I hope future revisions will make the software more predictable.
The Atari owner finally has a variety of high-quality writing tools to choose from. Superscript's several unique capabilities make this first-rate word processor worth strong consideration, especially if you own an XL or XE and include substantial arithmetic in your text files.
ELITE PERSONAL ACCOUNTANTReviewed by STEPHEN ROQUEMORE
14897 Interurban Avenue S., #60
Seattle, WA 98168
Requires Atari BASIC or BASIC XL
$48.95, 48K disk
Until now, there have been few good personal
finance programs available for the Atari. Elite Personal Accountant
is a bright new entry into the ranks. Don't be fooled by the amateurish
packaging. This new program from a small company has just about every capability
built into it that anyone could dream up. And the manual is one of the
finest I have ever encountered.
Elite Personal Accountant will handle 79 categories divided into income, expense, asset, and liability groups. As many as nine credit cards are handled separately, but counted as liabilities. There are 17 different transaction codes available. The reporting capabilities go well beyond the competition, with an option that allows you (within limits) to design your own reports. Above all, the program disk is not copy-protected, allowing you to make your own backups.
The program contains extensive HELP facilities easily accessed without disturbing your work in progress. When you are in ADD or EDIT Mode, there is even a Calculator function to aid your data entry. In the Utilities Menu you'll find the usual disk management functions like formatting disks, directory commands, and other DOS choices. There is also an option to view the contents of any file on the disk. You can even disable the I/O sounds usually heard during drive operations. The program will handle up to three drives for your data disks and you may switch between them at any time.
Elite Personal Accountant is easy to understand and to learn. The outstanding manual provides a wealth of personal-finance knowledge, along with interesting comments about the author and the program's development. Documentation is indexed and logically organized so that the topics flow along in a way that allows use as a tutorial. After giving you extensive background information, you are led into the Menu structure. By the time you have finished the manual you will have a thorough understanding of the program as well as a good overview of general accounting.
There is an evaluation sheet in the manual for you to mail back, so the author can improve the program, or correct problems or even implement suggestions. The author even provides his telephone number, address and an invitation to contact him personally if you need help!
The program was developed on an 800XL computer using Revision B BASIC. If it is run using Revision A, occasional errors may be encountered if you accidentally enter alpha characters in a numeric field. Following the instructions in the manual should get you past these errors.
I highly recommend this software to anyone looking for their first personal accounting program or to anyone dissatisfied with their current software. I'm switching to Elite Personal Accountant from now on.
HOME CONTROL SYSTEMReviewed by BILL MARQUARDT
Computer Engineering Applications
P.O. Box 4878
Las Vegas, NV 89127
$89.95, 48K disk
It's a scene straight out of a Saturday
morning cartoon like "The Jetsons." The alarm clock rings and coffee instantly
starts perking. You lie in bed all day and eat bonbons as your fingertips
on the Atari computer at your nightstand control the stereo, the thermostat,
the lights, the microwave oven...
With a little work, your fantasies might be answered by the CEA Home Control System-a hardware/software package that lets your Atari computer run the household electronics. You can control a heater or air conditioner and up to three 110-volt AC appliances-stereos, television sets, toasters, lamps. Uses are limited only to your imagination. One word of warning, however-Home Control will require the complete dedication of your Atari and disk drive.
For the cost-conscious, Home Control could be used as an energy-saving device by turning the heater or air conditioner on and off. The disabled or bedridden person might find it invaluable. Perhaps the best use would be to turn lights and other appliances on and off when you're on vacation to foil would-be burglars.
The software is essentially a database manager. You enter the times and days that you want the appliances attached to the control unit to be turned on or off. As the program continues to run, it searches the database and acts upon events, such as temperature changes, that coincide with the real-time clock.
In addition to software, Home Control includes a main power supply module, a temperature probe, a heater/air conditioner control module, a power control module, and the necessary connecting cables.
The main unit plugs into joystick port one and a 110-volt AC outlet. There are five RCA-type jacks on the rear of this module. The temperature probe plugs into one of these jacks, the heater/air conditioner module goes into another, and the remaining three jacks are for power control modules. Each jack is separately programmable.
The power control module is simply a little black box that plugs into an AC outlet and serves as a programmable switch for another device that plugs into the box. The heater/air conditioner port is controlled by the ambient room temperature, and the program supplies a "duty-cycle" option so that energy can be conserved in cooling or heating your home. This module requires you to connect a small black box to the wires inside the thermostat of your home.
Documentation consists of seven typewritten pages, and leaves something to be desired. For instance, it does not make clear just how the heater/air conditioner port is to be programmed. But a little experimentation with the program filled in the gaps, and I had no real problems with it.
I found this product worked as advertised, but there were two minor problems with the software. Error trapping is not good. For example, you will crash the program if you accidentally press [RETURN] when a prompt expects data.
I found another slightly more serious error. When you program a temperature into the database, both digits remain on the screen. If the next entry is a single digit command, it appears as a two digit number, retaining the second digit of the temperature on the screen. This was slightly confusing until I figured out what was happening.
The future as envisioned in countless World's Fairs and sci-fi fantasies is not quite here yet. Do you really need a 48K programmable alarm clock to turn on your radio and coffee pot in the morning? If so, Home Control may be what you've been waiting for. At any rate, I give it a good mark as far as the hardware goes, but only a satisfactory one for the program and documentation.
SYNCALC TEMPLATESReviewed by STEPHEN ROQUEMORE
17 Paul Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
48K Disk, SynCalc required
SynCalc Templates is a collection of 22
different "prebuilt" spreadsheets for use with SynCalc software.
These spreadsheets cover the most commonly-used formats for financial planning,
so you won't have to spend hours building and debugging your own.
There's something for everyone on this disk. Many of the spreadsheets are for the business or financially-oriented user. Several of them are quite useful to the average in-home user.
There are stock and bond portfolio evaluations, expense account reports, three different economic order quantity spreadsheets using a variety of criteria, a linear regression template, two different queue models, and a rate of return calculation. Still other spreadsheets provide rent vs. buy comparisons, mortgage evaluation, property inventory, financial ratio analysis and a net worth statement.
For the executive who cooks at home or abroad, there are also spreadsheets which convert common kitchen measures into various equivalents and metric measurement conversions. The set even includes two different check register applications and a personal appointment calendar.
All templates are accompanied by a set of insert pages that fit right into the SynCalc manual. This documentation explains how to use each spreadsheet, and is well written in the style of the original manual. The template disk itself is write-protected, so that the originals can't be accidentally destroyed. You need to copy each template to another disk before you start using it.
Some of the spreadsheets are extra-wide and must be printed in sections, or in a condensed print font. Some of the more complex financial spreadsheets have been set up with auto-calc turned off. It is adequately noted where this is done.
SynCalc Templates allow the spreadsheet user to get up and running in a minimum of time. I highly recommend this product to anyone who needs to do financial analysis or other business-oriented number crunching.
YOUR PERSONAL NET WORTHReviewed by K. W. HARMS
Scarborough Systems, Inc.
25 North Broadway
Tarrytown, New York, 10591
Your Personal Net Worth (YPNW) is simple
to use, yet it's a fully capable home accounting package. It follows "double
entry" accounting practices, but it automatically creates most of the second
The manual is clear, concise and generally free from jargon, although it sometimes confuses facts between the three different brands of computers it covers.
A nice on-screen help system provides a tutorial system of some 30 screens which is sometimes better than the manual. To use the system, however, you'll have to switch disks because YPNW accommodates only one drive.
Enter an acceptable account number and the name immediately appears (bad account numbers are trapped). I found the screens well designed and uncluttered. Enter one check number and YPNW automatically supplies the next number. Enter one date and it remembers the date for the next entry (you can change either). Every action which would create or destroy data is preceded by a confirming question.
The manual provides excellent instructions on backing up your data files-which you should do frequently, of course. The program disk is protected and you're supposed to send in the bad disk along with $5 if you need a replacement-which will of course leave you without use of the program for a few weeks.
Already set up on the data disk are 10 income accounts, 24 expense accounts, 21 asset accounts and 10 liability accounts. Multiple checking accounts (10), credit cards (no limit!) and loans are allowed and automatically tracked.
YPNW keeps one monthly budget amount for each account. I found that this is more budgeting than I do.
A straightforward income statement lists year-to-date balances through the period you specify. A month-by-month comparison report is not available. The net worth statement lists assets, then liabilities in a single column, not side by side. Net worth is buried above "total liabilities." A handy transaction history provides a way to review old records.
None of the reports seem to provide perforation skipping, top of page or other niceties. No graphics are provided either. My Atari and Epson printers work fine with the program and I believe that most others also will.
YPNW automatically creates tax records as you enter income and expense items. This helpful touch is somewhat marred by listing the entries by date rather than as income or expense.
Bank record keeping is well thought out. Each time you enter a payment, income or similar item, YPNW automatically creates a bank record and gets ready to help you reconcile your bank accounts.
Although YPNW will print checks (an order form for special checks is provided), I found the process cumbersome. You print each check as the transaction is entered, not in a batch. Names and addresses must be typed each time.
An oversimplified stock portfolio system is included as an independent application.
Overall, YPNW does what it claims. It is well implemented and generally adequate for straightforward home accounting. Do you need it? Well, that depends. A printer is a necessity. You'll need two to three evenings a month to feed entries into the system, post and report. Add another evening to reconcile the bank account. And plan on three or four evenings to set up your data disks and learn the system in the first place.
My guess is that if you now do these things by hand you'll find YPNW a handy tool, easy and satisfying to use. But those who don't regularly do home accounting by hand probably won't be converted.
TEACHER'S PETReviewed by STEPHEN ROQUEMORE
Someplace Special Software
11 Woodland Drive
Troy, PA 16947
48K disk, Atari BASIC
Teacher's Pet is an integrated vertical
application system for educators. It takes care of essential classroom
record-keeping chores such as tracking student rosters and grades.
The package consists of 10 different programs on two disks, contained in a 3-ring binder that also holds a backup copy of each program disk plus four pre-formatted data disks- all color coded. The manual is well-written, with an addendum sheet for Version 2 and a quick-reference cardboard sheet.
Unfortunately, the manual neglects to explain that BASIC must be installed when you turn on the system. Nor does it explain how to start using the program from scratch. I had to discover by experimentation that it was necessary to begin with the NAMES program-which sets up the class rosters and the grading scale. You are limited to 50 names of 20 characters each.
CHANGES provides for maintenance to the class rosters. SCORES allows the entry of test marks and attendance data. Pressing the [OPTION] key in SCORES will display additional data for each student on the screen You may save time by entering scores in the CLASS option, which scrolls you through the roster.
The CURVE program allows graphing (but not printing the graphs) of students' test averages and grading scales, including what-if experimentation. FINAL AVERAGE supports complete marking period averages and printouts. The INSPECT program allows you to browse data recorded in many different ways.
Other programs offer multitudinous ways of printing data for various heeds. LIST combines all of your classes into one roster, broken down by grade level if desired, showing letter grades and percent scores. REPORTS is used when you want to publish profiles of a student's progress for communication to the parents.
I highly recommend Teacher's Pet to any teacher who has some experience with Atari computers. After the initial learning curve, this $50 package will be a great time-saver in handling all the chores involved with student data.
INVENTORY MASTERReviewed by K.W. HARMS
2160 W. 11th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97402
$89.95, 48K disk
Inventory Master is merchandised as software
that lets the small businessman "become a master of inventory control at
a very small price." The program s specifications are impressive-1,700
items per disk, 5-second retrieval, multiple vendor history and five standard
reports. Unfortunately, I found Inventory Master to be quite limited and
awkward to use.
Inventory Master opens with a three-part menu asking you to choose between Inventory, Update and Reports. Each selection includes a helpful description. You indicate your choice by pressing A, B or C (not the first letter of the selection). This loads the "sub-program" and gets you started.
It's also where I started running into trouble. The sub-program presents a nice menu asking you to select an option or to choose "(1-4) CHANGE from disk in drive #1." Since I already had the disk in drive 1, and since the manual says that the "first option you'll want to use is (A)," I did that and promptly bombed. Some six pages later you learn that you always have to choose a drive to load the database. Of course, once you learn that, it's no problem-except waiting for disk reads every time a subprogram is loaded.
Inventory Master uses several odd (to me) conventions. First, it seems to use unconventional control keys. Sometimes a simple [RETURN] shoves you back to a prior choice. Sometimes a [*] and deletion of the automatically prompted characters shoves you back-wards. [OPTION] [RETURN] is used to back up a field. [ESCAPE], the nearly universal back-out key, has unfortunately been used to control editing options. A much better choice would have been to use [OPTION] for the editing choices and [ESCAPE] for backing out.
Second, although the basic record contains some 24 fields, you must specify which fields you wish to update/edit each time you begin a session. On one hand, this eliminates going through all the fields. On the other, it's an awkward choice-you often don't know in advance what needs to be done.
Inventory Master makes it easy t change the list of fields to be edited. But in doing so, it often leaves a messy screen-and garbage in an inventory system can cause real problems. It's important to fully verify data before passing them to the file. However, Inventory Master performs only sporadic data edits.
The program readily accepts prices of 6ASD, quantities of 4DE, or invalid part numbers, vendor numbers and dates. The incorrect entries are truncated and added to disk-a 4DE is written as 4. On the plus side, the entry screen is well designed and always tells you what type of data is expected. While adding items, the top part of the screen shows you've already entered.
Inventory Master is bomb prone. It failed often. Each error message attempted to provide a code, such as Error 166 at line 170. But since the program is unlistable, these were no help. Other errors I experienced included 133, 18 at line 132, runtime error 170 at 30510 and several STOPs. My guess is that most of these resulted from incorrectly trapped bad data.
When an error was reported, Inventory Master's protection system attempted to let you restart or go to DOS. But occasionally, the system locked up entirely. The program's copy-protection could be really awkward if you relied on it for operating your daily business. Royal Software offers updates for $5-very nice if you can afford to be without your program while they exchange disks. Otherwise, one hour of phone support is provided, with additional support at $60 per hour.
Assuming that you can live with all this, what will Inventory Master do? Basically, it offers reasonable but limited capability for the single-site, low volume inventories in small businesses. Part numbers are two alpha characters followed by a number from 1 to 255. Numbers above 255 are excluded by Inventory Master's data compression system.
Although the inventory factors of quantity on hand and on order can go to an adequate 9,999, back-order quantity and reorder point are limited to a mere 255. Description fields are only 25 characters long, so it wouldn't usually be possible to store your vendors' part numbers.
Data can be stored for a maximum of 99 vendors, not enough. Only three vendors can be listed for each item. The vendor information doesn't include name, address, etc. unless you buy Royal's database program. Purchase orders can be tracked to show you what quantity was ordered when and where. Estimated receipt date is not stored. It is possible to issue a Purchase Order (P0) through the system, but this seemed more trouble than it was worth.
The Update sub-program allows "sending" items (recording sales), receiving shipments, and updating sales history. Receiving an item with an outstanding PO automatically clears the PO. Recording sales will prompt you to update the back order quantities. The sales system also lets you create invoices which can be priced at discount or list, and which will include standard headers and footers that you create with a word processor.
These files are called by typing a filename, a procedure which can be awkward. You have to type the customer's name and address-no database is available to store frequent clients. Sales history for six periods is "posted" as you choose.
Reports are simple and available only on the printer. RECOMMENDED ORDERS lists items below minimum which haven't been ordered. As a nice touch, you can have the program calculate required quantities based on your choice of sales periods. FILE RECORD prints a one-line summary per part-number in compressed type font.
The UPDATE FORM report lists part numbers, descriptions, cost lists, discount retail prices and quantities on hand-in three columns for taking inventory MONTHLY REPORT is a screen display showing a summary of your inventory at "cost," at retail (which is discount price, not list price), month's cost and month's retail (again, discount).
This data arrangement may be useful for some purposes, but it cannot be used for tax or financial statements since it does not follow accounting conventions.
Overall, my judgement is that most business users will find Inventory Master extremely quirky and frustrating to operate.
WRITE FILE, HOME OFFICEReviewed by STEPHEN ROQUEMORE
International TriMicro, Inc.
14072 Stratton Way
Santa Ana, CA 92705
$29.95 each, 48K disk
These scaled-down integrated programs feature
a scaled-down price. But you get what you pay for-a system that is short
on features and limited in capacity.
Each disk contains the same miniword processor program combined with either Write File, a mini-database filer program, or Home Office, a mini-spreadsheet. A Commodore 64 version is on one side of the disk, Atari is on the other. Unfortunately, the term "integrated" does not apply fully to the Atari version.
The manuals are poorly written, and the "Addendum Sheet" used for Atari command equivalents makes it difficult to use this basically simple program. No quick reference or index is supplied, either.
The built-in word processing program is adequate for writing letters or small memos. But for any complex task, a full-featured word processor would be necessary. The word processor allows chaining of files, search-and-replace and block moves. It can handle 99 lines of as many as 77 characters each. One of the integration features is embedding part or all of the Write File database or the Home Office spreadsheet. Print formatting is very good, allowing extensive control of printers with special features.
The Home Office spreadsheet is easy to use and does everything most larger spreadsheets do. But, like the word processor, in a smaller capacity. It provides 50 rows and 17 columns of cells which can contain text, numbers or formulas.
You can save a range of cells to disk for inserting into a word processor file to print. Entering data into cells is easy, if you enter a command to set the mode to text, numeric, or formula, then enter all of the numbers, switch modes and enter the formulas. Do it any other way, however, and you get very frustrated with having to change modes for each cell encountered.
The Write File database program is an adequate filing system for small applications like address files and recipes. It holds up to 999 records in a file. Editing, searching, and sorting of records are available. You may also merge files into the word processor file for printing.
These programs are designed for the Commodore 64 and in the Atari version, several features simply do not work. The manual states "since the Atari does not have as much memory as the Comodore 64," the user must choose which program to load after the main menu appears! The windowing feature is disabled for all the programs for the same reason. The Transfer commands send you to the Main Menu, instead of loading the requested program.
Write File uses a hidden-directory scheme and formats the disk before setting up a new file. This means if you have any files on the same data disk, you will lose them! Thus you must put them on a separate data disk, or add them after you set up the disk as a database disk. The Home Office will allow you to have word processor and spreadsheet files on the same data disk.
I don't recommend Write File and Home Office unless you don't need the "integration" of the two programs. The price is attractive, but poor documentation makes these programs too difficult to use.
PEACHTREE'S BACK TO BASICSReviewed by K. W. HARMS
Peachtree Software, Inc.
3445 Peachtree Road N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30326
48K, 2 disk drives
Starting your own business was risky-so
risky that you still wonder how it all worked. Although the company seems
to be generating steady sales, you need help!
Last year's tax preparation was a mess. Now the bank wants regular statements. And your accountant insists it's time to get your records out of the shoe box. Of course he'd gladly do that for you at (ouch) $30 per hour.
Your friends insist you have to shell out $5,000 for an IBM PC and the latest accounting software (plus probably a consultant to install it). Frankly, $5,000 would look more impressive dressing up the store than buried in the back office.
But wait-hold onto your charge cards. Finally there is true small-business accounting software for your Atari. It's the Back To Basics Accounting System from Peachtree Software, the well-known Atlanta publisher of business applications. And it costs only $195.
Back To Basics is also available for the Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore and IBM PC. The Atari version will run on any 8-bit model with 48K memory and two disk drives. It provides the accounting services most cash-oriented small businesses need-Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable systems linked to a double-entry General Ledger.
The program produces attractive 80-column printed reports. I found that setting it up for a printer was virtually automatic and foolproof.
The comprehensive (if slightly intimidating) 350-page manual starts you off with a 66-page introduction to basic accounting practices. It won't make you a CPA, but you'll be ready to tackle the accounting needs of a reasonably active business.
First you have to install the system This means you provide the data for all three programs.
General Ledger installation lets you choose options to summarize sales, cost of goods sold, assets, liabilities and equity. Installation will probably take two to four hours, assuming that you have a tax return or trial balance to start with.
Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable ask for the formats of customer and vendor account numbers, and whether to integrate these systems into the General Ledger. This installation process is simple, but could take quite a while if you have large numbers of customers or vendors to insert.
All three systems create their own data disks-Peachtree recommends using three disks monthly per application. That's nine disks a month, but you can recycle the Payables and Receivables disks after finishing the monthly General Ledger posting.
Each step of the installation process is menu-prompted and the system methodically forces you to complete a step before moving on to the next. You are often prompted to save your data to disk. All this consideration is typical of the solid, helpful programming you'll find throughout Back To Basics.
Little details are carefully monitored. Did you insert the system disk instead of a blank? Back To Basics will tell you. Did you insert a partly used disk which would not have room for all the data? Back To Basics automatically reformats it.
And if you (like me) refuse to memorize a chart of accounts, pressing [?] when entering an account number displays the entire chart. However, there is no other online help
The General Ledger follows a standard structure-asset, liability, equity, income, expense. It uses four-digit account numbers, and the last of these digits can track as many as 10 departments. If this multi-department option is chosen, separate income statements are produced as well as a consolidated statement. A total of 254 accounts are allowed, which should be enough for most companies.
The previously mentioned four-hour General Ledger installation time also assumes that you accept the standard chart of accounts with only a few modifications. Deleting accounts takes nearly a minute per account, but adding or changing accounts goes considerably faster.
Entering an account number causes the system to automatically display the account name, a nice verification feature.
Journal entries include a reasonable description space and allow up to 21 lines per entry. Any number of automatic entries can be set up and executed each month in a single batch. This is a real work-saver for depreciation, writing off prepaid expenses, allocating rent, etc.
Cash sales procedures are extraordinarily well-done. The program helps you set up a manual cash drawer reconciliation form for day-end cash counting. It then automatically posts each account, even cash "over/short".
Professional-looking general ledger reports cannot be "printed" to the screen but can be produced in hard copy for any period of the month. Reports choices include: Chart of Accounts, Trial Balance, Detailed General Ledger, General Journal, Cash Disbursements Journal, Cash Receipts Journal, Cash Sales Journal, Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Check Register.
Account Activity Reports show all transactions for the account and are used in reconciliations. This works well, but could have been more useful if the program let you specify a range of accounts rather than one-by-one, and if the reports included more than one account per page. You end up using a lot of paper to print less active accounts
Back To Basics receivables uses a "balance forward" system. Individual invoices are not marked off as paid. Yet it does allow some flexibility to apply payments to various posting periods (60 days, etc.). It also allows up to three cash accounts.
It accepts three sales tax rates which are automatically computed on each invoice. Finance charges are also computed automatically. Each customer can be granted one of 10 terms under which finance charges are figured.
The system also allows for cash discounts. Customers with old balances can have one of 10 dunning notices added to statements.
Invoices, however, are not produced by the system. You write up the invoice and give it to the customer in the store, then record invoices again on the computer. This fits many retail shops, but probably would not be appropriate for mail order companies.
The system won't adjust or track inventory, or perform "order entry" functions (tracking orders received but not delivered). It's a basic Accounts Receivable system for basic businesses.
Within that realm, Back To Basics functions quite well. For each customer it stores the name, account number, address, ZIP code, phone number, credit limit, terms granted, tax status, finance charge status, and year-to-date balances.
Data entry is as painless as possible. Entering a [?] in the customer account number brings up a list of customers. The system quickly brings up a customer's information on the screen-a real time saver when you're answering phone calls in the middle of the month.
Reports include a Customer Master List, a Detailed Accounts Receivable Ledger (dated listing of balances and transactions by customer). Accounts Receivable Summary, Sales and Payments Journals (list of payments and sales credited by date), Finance Charges Journal, Accounts Receivable Aging, (simple list by customer, of current through 90-day balances), a Customer Master List (useful for sales people on the floor), Customer Statements (these can be printed on stationery to fit window envelopes) and even mailing labels.
It can accommodate over 200 customer accounts and allows mid-month posting if the disk gets filled with transactions.
The Accounts Payable module operated as smoothly as the rest of the system. Detailed data about vendors is provided, manual checks, vendor's debit, credits and invoices can be entered. The system can be linked to the general ledger to automatically update accounting information.
Each payment can be distributed to up to 15 General Ledger accounts. Additions, deletions, and modifications to the prior chart of accounts are allowed. This will be a lengthy process. You only need to do it once, however.
The system also allows for up to three checking accounts and produces computer-generated checks and descriptive check stubs for each in separate batches.
Accounts Payable reports can be run for a range of vendors including: Vendor Master List, Payable Ledger, Purchases Journal (forecasts cash discounts and discount dates), Accounts Payable Disbursement Journal (vendor-by-vendor listing of checks issued, invoice paid for each vendor, discount taken), Open Invoice Register (projected discount dates and amounts).
The Cash Requirements Report is the hot one. It uses projected payment dates and a "pay through" date (i.e., pay everything due through July 1) to project discount and payment amounts. You can therefore anticipate how much cash will be needed. This report can be re-run until the total comes close to the cash available. The system also prints out individual checks, a Check Register and a Chart Payments List.
The Accounts Receivables and Accounts Payable systems are very similar, both handle over 200 vendors/ customers. A mid-month posting is available. If you are concerned about whether Back To Basics can handle the demands of your business, by all means phone Peachtree customer service before you buy.
Generally, the Atari is up to the challenge of this complex system. But it requires frequent disk reads and we all know how slow Atari's disk is! You'll also face some disk swapping. In my opinion, the amount is reasonable. No more than four or five swaps per session. The biggest delay is the 20 seconds it takes to update the file after each transaction or master record change. This is a real drag.
Although Peachtree provides free support for 90 days and is concerned about data backups, the company only protects program disks under a policy of "send in your damaged disk and we'll send you another one." Since you'll be relying on this system for critical information needs, this policy is simply not adequate.
All things considered, this software should cut way down on those expensive calls to your CPA. Back To Basics is basic and it's very well-done. If your business isn't too large to fit into this system, the software is well worth the $195 price.