ACCOUNTS Report Date Selection by Named Ranges

Hello ACCOUNTS advisors.

We are considering a user’s suggestion from a while back, of including a drop-down list of named date ranges (as in Custom Reports) for the regular reports that prompt for a range of dates, like the Income Statement. Here’s an example of the current date-selection window for that report, which as you can see defaults to the current year:

The suggestion would be to have a drop-down control above the Start and End dates, with the same list of options as in Custom Reports, namely: This Year, Last Year, Year Before Last, Current Month to Date, Last Month, Last Month Last Year, Current Quarter to Date, Last Quarter, Last Quarter Last Year, Year to Date, Year to Last Month End, Year to Last Quarter End, Last Year to Date, Last Year to Last Month End, Last Year to Last Quarter End, and Custom Date Range.

I think if we did that we would want to also remove the Previous Year and Next Year buttons, which decrease each of the Start and End by one year, because it would be confusing how they interact with the drop-down options, and probably the drop-down options that include “Last Year” would give most of the options that users wanted for prior years.

What do you all think about that possible change? Better? Worse? Don’t care?

Thank you.

Renaming Versions of ACCOUNTS

Hello again ACCOUNTS advisors. First, my apologies to those of you who also get our DONATION blog posts, since you will be receiving a version of this post twice!

We are thinking seriously about renaming two of the versions of ACCOUNTS (and DONATION), and we invite your comments.

First, we are clear that we should rename the Standalone version to “Standard”. That version really doesn’t necessarily stand alone, because several people can have it installed on their computers and share one or more databases, usually through that version’s Cloud Storage Service. So it seems more appropriate to just call it Standard, since it is the version that the majority of our users use.

We also want to rename the Web Network Version, because too many potential users misunderstand and think it is a true web application, run through a web browser. It is not – it is installed Windows software. We originally called it “Web Network” because the program’s database is on our server, and thus accessed over the Internet.

Unfortunately we are really not clear what the best choice is for renaming that version. We don’t want any name that includes words like “web”, “Internet” or “cloud” or obvious synonyms for them, because all of them could lead to the same confusion, of users thinking it’s a true web application.

Options we are considering include:

  • Remote Database Version: this seems fairly good, but still implies something similar to what our Local Network Client version does (which accesses a database that is somewhat remote – namely on another computer on the same local network).
  • Hosted Database Version: this is quite accurate, but we are afraid many of our users who are not very technical will not be familiar with the concept of software being “hosted”. In addition, “hosted software” often means that the entire program runs on a server, not just having the database on the server.
  • Server Database Version: again quite accurate, but could be confused with our Local Network Server Version, especially because they both include the word “Server”.

Please let us know if you have preferences between those options, or other suggestions! Thank you.

Error in Sign of Difference in Comparison Reports, for Expenses?

Hello ACCOUNTS advisors. I’m sorry to bother you on the same day as your Year End Reminder email, but we have an important question for you, before we make some changes.

A user has brought to our attention that in the Budget Comparison report, the sign of the differences for the Expense accounts should be the opposite of what it is now, so that if the actual expenses are less than budget, the difference shows as a positive number. Currently it shows as a negative number.

We are clear that what we are doing for Income accounts is already OK (difference is positive if actual income is over budget) and also OK for the final Net Income row in the Difference column.

So the overall principle, if we make this change, is that a Difference should be a positive number if the actual is “better” than budget, which is if the actual income is more than budget, or the actual expense is less than budget.

It appears that this same problem with the sign of differences for Expense accounts is also the case in Income Statement Comparison reports, like Income Statement Yr/Yr Comparison. So one year should be better than another (have a positive difference) if its income is more than the other year’s, and if it’s expense is less than the other year’s.

I’m quite surprised that that this is the first time this has been brought to our attention, so I want to see whether any of you have a contrary opinion, and think that the way we do it now is already better than the alternative we are suggesting. If so, can you please explain why you think that?

Thank you.

Promoting a Line of Credit provider for non-profits?

Hello ACCOUNTS advisors who are reading this blog.

We have been contacted by a company called “financing solutions”, from whom a significant part of their business is providing lines of credit (LOCs) to non-profits in the USA. I am told they mostly deal with non-profits with budgets between $400,000 and $6 million.

They are inquiring about setting up a strategic partnership with us, where we would promote their products, and get a commission for each LOC our customers take out, and they would also promote our products to appropriate customers of theirs.

They were hoping that if we did that, we might send out an email to all of our customers in the USA telling them about their solutions. Of course, if we did that, we would disclose the fact that we would get a commission from sales.

I’m not 100% clear about how comfortable we would be doing that, and how our customers would view such a direct promotion of a 3rd-party product. So we would welcome any input from you about your views on it.

We would also be interested to know whether that is something that your church or organization might actually be interested in.

As always, you can reply by commenting on this blog post, or by a direct email reply. Thank you.

ACCOUNTS comparative reports order of columns

Hello ACCOUNTS advisors. Recently two users have asked that in comparative reports, like Reports -> Summary -> Income Statement Yr/Yr Comparison, and Reports -> Summary -> Balance Sheet Comparison, the most recent year or date should be on the left, and the earlier date on the right. Apparently this would be in conformance with accounting standards. Currently ACCOUNTS does it the other way around, with the earlier year on the left.

I have checked a few other bookkeeping programs. Quicken does it like ACCOUNTS does, whereas QuickBooks and Sage 50 / Peachtree do it like those two users are asking for.

So my question is, should we change it? Would it unduly confuse you or the readers of the financial statements you put out for your organization?

Of course another option is to give users of ACCOUNTS a choice about this (perhaps defaulting to the accounting standards way) but that is just another complication, and you probably all realize we have a strong “keep it simple” philosophy (where possible, or course).

Your thoughts? You can add Comments to this blog post, or just email us back directly. Thank you.

ACCOUNTS Online Banking Transaction Downloads

Hello ACCOUNTS beta testers. We finally have a pre-test version available which includes importing downloads of transactions from your online banking. You can import transactions downloaded from standard bank accounts (generally chequing or savings accounts) and also from credit card accounts.

Importing downloaded online banking transactions can do one or both of two things: match to existing manually-entered transactions (or ones entered as recurring transactions) in ACCOUNTS, or create new transactions in ACCOUNTS based on the imported transactions that didn’t match existing ones. So the two purposes for doing that importing would be for a sort of pre-bank reconciliation (for the manually-entered transactions) or to do some of your data entry of transactions for you, or a combination of the two.

We invite you to try out this feature to see how it works for you, and make sure that our fairly extensive testing hasn’t missed anything that comes up when real users are using it! Because it’s a fairly complex feature, I’d encourage you to start by reading the Help on it (“Importing Online Banking Downloads”) before you try using it.

Also, just in case anything goes wrong, I would recommend that you make a database backup immediately before importing an online banking download, and use Database -> Validation Transactions immediately after you are finished, to make sure nothing went wrong. (If anything shows up in that validation, you can then restore your backup.)

If you encounter any unexpected or technical error messages, please be sure to send us screen shots, and as much description as you can of exactly what you were doing before it happened. (We may also ask you to share a database backup, and copy of the file you were importing, so we can try the same thing, if you are willing.)

You can take a screen-shot of any single message box or window by pressing Alt+PrtSc (or on some laptops, Fn+Alt+PrtSc). Having done that (which doesn’t visibly do anything), you can then paste that directly into an email with Ctrl+V or the Edit -> Paste menu option in your email program, or if that doesn’t work, into a Word or Paint document. Please be sure to use Alt with PrtSc, so it doesn’t take a screenshot of your whole Windows screen, and also please do NOT send camera photos – both of those alternatives are generally huge, and much harder to read.

You can get the beta test version with this new feature from the Pretest page at http://www.software4nonprofits.com/accounts/accounts/pretest.htm. What is there will only work if you already have at least release number 2.10, which you can check with Help -> About DONATION. If you have an earlier release, please first upgrade with Tools -> Check for Updates, and then you can take the beta test version from the Pretest page.

Please let us know how your testing goes, and any comments or suggestions you have. You can email us directly, or leave Comments on this blog post.

Thank you so much!

Accounting Consultants for ACCOUNTS

Hello again ACCOUNTS advisors.

As you may have experienced, sometimes users of ACCOUNTS have accounting or bookkeeping questions that are not about how to use the program, but rather about how best to set up an appropriate chart of accounts for their organization, or what transactions to do. Our staff may not be willing or able to answer such questions, because we are not accountants.

In such cases, we advise users to consult their organization’s accountant or a skilled bookkeeper.

For organizations with no access to such a person, however, we have started a Consultants page on our website, with one initial listing, at http://www.software4nonprofits.com/accounts/consultants.htm.

If you are an accountant or skilled bookkeeper, with a good understanding of the ACCOUNTS program and its fund accounting concepts, and wish to be added to that list, please contact us directly by email (not by commenting on this post), at info@software4nonprofits.com.

Thank you.

Online Banking Transactions – Samples Needed

Sorry to write again so soon, but I just realized I need more samples – particularly from American banks. If any of you could go to your online banking, and request a download to QuickBooks (if that’s an option), save the file, and email it to us, that would be great. If your bank doesn’t support downloads to QuickBooks, but does to Quicken, that would be fine too. And if doesn’t support either, please at least tell us what downloads it does support.

The downloaded files are actually plain text files, so if you want to first open them up in an editor (like Notepad) and make sure there’s nothing confidential you want to change, that would be fine.

In particular if you do a credit card statement download, your card # is in the file, in a section that may look like this:

<CCACCTFROM><ACCTID>4500xxxxxxxxxxxx<ACCTTYPE>CREDITLINE</CCACCTFROM>

For bank accounts, your account number may be in it, in the format:

<BANKACCTFROM>
<BANKID>xxxxxxxxx
<ACCTID>xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

I changed confidential parts in the samples above to x’s. Stuff might be on separate lines, as in the 2nd example, or all on one line, as in the first example.

From Canadian banks, I already samples from have one credit union, a few online-only banks, and out of the big 5, I have TD, CIBC, RBC and BMO. If someone has Scotiabank, I would appreciate a sample. No further samples from the others are needed.

I don’t have any US bank samples yet, so anything you have would be great – please tell us what bank it is from when you send it.

Thanks so much in advance.

Importing and Matching Online Banking Transactions

Hi ACCOUNTS advisors and beta testers. We are starting to think about the possibility of adding importing of transactions downloaded from your online banking into ACCOUNTS. That would include matching to manually-entered transactions where possible (which is very complicated to figure out how to do properly) and adding new transactions. There would presumably have to be some options for manual matching as well. Though we will want to keep this as simple as possible …

Our question for you at this point, is, does your online banking that you use support downloading for Quicken, QuickBooks, or both? There may be other download format options, but I’d only want to know about them if your system didn’t support either Quicken or QuickBooks.

There may be another blog with more questions about this later. At this point our thinking about it is very preliminary, and there is no schedule for when the feature might be completed.

Thank you.

Opinions on New Software4Nonprofits Home Page

First of all, my apologies to any of you who get both of our blogs (for DONATION and ACCOUNTS) – you will be getting this post a 2nd time.

We have updated the home page www.software4nonprofits.com to include new sections with an overview of the pricing for each version for each of our two programs, and an overview of the differences between each version.

We’re interested in your thoughts on the changes, and our specific wording.

It was tricky to do this, because we don’t want to say too much (people won’t read it) but also don’t want to say too little so that it will be misleading. Each new section has links at the bottom for further details.

Thank you in advance for any reactions, which you can send as comments to the blog, or just by direct email replies.