Intuit's QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 is an accounting package designed for business owners who hold things down with spreadsheets and sticky notes but want an inexpensive way to try their hand at using accounting software.

(US users can get QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 for free and, although Intuit tells us there are 'no plans' to roll out the promotion in the UK, we live in hope.)

To reassure intimidated neophytes, the QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 interface takes a commonsense "money in, money out" flowchart approach, and it offers straightforward tutorials on basic tasks such as recording deposits.

The 14 standardised reports (such as income statements and balance sheets) that are included in the basic package should suffice for most users.

New for QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 is the absence of any restriction on the number of customer and vendor contacts allowed.

QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 understandably won't rival packages such as Peachtree's accounting apps or the more expensive versions of QuickBooks.

NEXT PAGE: the limitations, and our expert verdict > >

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SimpleStart has several limitations. It can't track inventory, it's designed for a single user and it can't download credit card or bank information.

In addition, QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 can't export data to Excel, which makes forecasting cumbersome.

As a result, QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 is probably best for one-person companies that don't sell physical goods - for instance, consultants, freelancers, and other service providers.

Customers seeking Excel support or other features might consider Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2008 (also free), or QuickBooks Pro (£299).

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QuickBooks Simple Start 2008: Specs

  • 500MHz Intel Pentium II (or equivalent)
  • 256MB of RAM
  • Microsoft Windows XP/Vista
  • 1GB disk space
  • 1024x768 screen, supports 800x600 with small fonts
  • 500MHz Intel Pentium II (or equivalent)
  • 256MB of RAM
  • Microsoft Windows XP/Vista
  • 1GB disk space
  • 1024x768 screen, supports 800x600 with small fonts

OUR VERDICT

QuickBooks SimpleStart 2008 provides a great introduction to accounting software, but many businesses will outgrow it quickly. If your accounting needs are basic, it's worth a look. Otherwise, you may be better off investing in an accounting package that offers time-saving features such as electronic data downloads and payroll management.

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