If you are considering starting up a company but don't want the headache of creating a business plan from scratch, Palo Alto's Business Plan Pro is the market leader for devising a realistic assessment of what investment you will need.
Business Plan has built up an excellent wizard-driven interface that allows you to enter financial and other data. To really give you a helping hand, the program also includes a huge number of sample plans (more than 500) covering everything from running an airline to a yoga centre.
For the complete beginner, this is the route we would recommend: once you open one of these plans, the EasyPlan Wizard kicks in to ask you for information about your market, sales forecasts, management team, cashflow and financial plans. The wizard guides you through every step with straightforward, comprehensive explanations.
Not that the program is perfect. The sample plans are very welcome, but a number have a US bias that could trick the novice into entering unhelpful data - and this despite the ostentatious UK label on the cover. Although we didn't encounter them, some users may also run into glitches when installing the program as a result of the Visual Basic runtime library already loaded on their PC.