Wednesday, March 3, 2010

QuickBooks vs Peachtree

Wow!  I have not posted in about two months.  Sorry about that, tax season makes it hard to write.

One of the hottest questions out there, and believe me I am asked it all of the time, is what is better; QuickBooks or Peachtree?

The answer is; it depends.

On your business.

On your time.

Who is going to do the bookkeeping.

What your accountant may work with.

There is a lot that goes into selecting the right product for you. I help business owners on a daily basis with this selection. I do this by asking questions and determining what product fits best with how and why they are doing business. Still the question remains, which is better. Let’s take a look at what each offers and you can decide for yourself.


By far QuickBooks is the more widely used of the two programs. This is just my opinion, but I feel that Intuit has done a better job of getting the message out to the small business owner. At one time Intuit the makers of QuickBooks advertised that QuickBooks is as “simple as balancing a checkbook” , or something along those lines. The message got through and many small businesses now use QuickBooks.

QuickBooks is good in that it provides the user lots of help. Help setting up the company, help selecting a chart of accounts, help getting transactions in place. The menus are fairly easy to understand and the user has the option of selecting picture icons of what they want to do. The pictures generally depict what you may have in mind such as making a deposit, writing a check, etc. All of this is available on the main screen for easy access.

The centers, such as the Customer Center or Vendor Center give the user a central location for adding and transacting with the customer or vendor. There is also an employee center for your employees, but some of the features in the employee’s center requires a subscription. This grouping of functions helps with directing the user to all that is available with their QuickBooks.

Where QuickBooks excels is with its use of forms. The forms are fairly easy to understand, a check looks like a check and so on. Where many get confused is assigning things to accounts. For example, if you are paying a utility bill, obviously you write a check but then you must assign the cost to your utilities account in the form below the check form. You can also add notes explaining the charge for later use. Once the item is entered the first time, QuickBooks memorizes what you did, so the next time the information is there, except the notes and amounts, that you will need to add, but it makes the process easy as you go along.

QuickBooks also has a lot of add ons so you can get more out of your program. QuickBooks has add ons of its own such as the Point of Sale and quite a bit of third party add ons like the inventory control program Fishbowl.

For the small business owner who is going to do their own books, QuickBooks gives the ease and flexibility you may be looking for.

What is not so good about QuickBooks

QuickBooks is a bit open with how you can add transactions. For example, if voiding a check the void reverts back to the original date the check was written. This can create havoc with monthly reporting, especially when you have reported information to your lender and now the information is different when you report again.

The database is a bit difficult to work with. In order to affect changes to the database you need a series of templates to direct QuickBooks as to what you want to do. This can be time consuming especially when you are trying to fix a portion of the data. This would affect only a small portion of users, so as a problem it is a minor one. QuickBooks 2010 did improve on interaction with Excel by allowing for the use of bulk lists for adding customers and vendors.

Although you don’t need to, QuickBooks upgrades every year. This seems to be a push to continually glean cash from the customer. I personally recommend only upgrading when your version is no longer supported by Intuit. In some cases, a new feature comes out in QuickBooks which makes it worthwhile to upgrade sooner. Again, you need to weigh cost against need.


Peachtree comes in a close second to small business use. Peachtree like QuickBooks has a wonderful user interface. Peachtree does, however, use more of an accounting function such as period segmentation which takes a bit of getting used to.

The period segmentation is one of the better features that Peachtree has. The need to change accounting periods (months) forces the user to stop and evaluate what needs to be done for the month end. Activities such as reconciliations need to be done in the period that the reconciliation represents. Peachtree does allow the user to make transactions in periods other than the current one, but the user is warned that the transaction is in another period. This can be valuable for preventing mistakes.

Peachtree works in centers, just like QuickBooks which allows the user to do everything they need to do for customers, vendors, and employees. The reporting function in Peachtree is also very nice; however, it does take time to learn how to modify reports to your needs as the reporting is more structured.

Peachtree’s user forms are easy to use, and the way they are set up allows the user to easily follow along when making entries. Peachtree will also memorize what you have done with a customer or vendor and pull that information the next time you make an entry. This is a time saver.

What is not so good about Peachtree

The one thing that I find perplexing with Peachtree is its bill pay function. When you enter bills in QuickBooks, the bill pay will pull up a list of bills and when they are due. All you need to do is select the bills you want to pay and set up to print the checks. Peachtree requires you to select the vendor first and then see what is due. 5/28/2010 thanks to a diligent reader and some training I was doing on Peachtree, you can select multiple bills to pay.  Just use the Select Bills function to be directed to pay multiple bills. You can always print a report of items due and then drill into the report to pay the items, but sometimes it would be easier to just be able to see a list of items due. This falls into Peachtree’s roots. It used to be that accounts payable would keep the paper copies of bills due sorted by the date they should be paid. On that day, the accountant would take the bills and work through them to pay them. Peachtree is set up to work using that method. As we work towards a paperless office, the need for a list of items due has become more important.

Peachtree also has upgrades every year, but you don’t need to upgrade until Sage, the maker of Peachtree, stops supporting your version.

Peachtree’s database

By far the best feature of Peachtree is its database. It is easy to work with and can be easily exported to Excel, adjusted and then imported. Because of its ease of use an accountant can send adjusting entries to their client via an e-mail with the Excel export ready to import into the clients Peachtree. This ability gives Peachtree the edge when working with files.

On a final note, Peachtree also has third-party add ons for various needs. The add-ons help to enhance your use of Peachtree. Peachtree however seems to be a more complete package than QuickBooks. Peachtree offers a bit more power to your bookkeeping and handles a lot more within the program. This reduces the need for add ons and allows the user to get more out of an out of the box accounting program.

I really have not discussed costs in my comparison. The main reason is the costs are similar for what you get. It is really a matter of looking at your needs and how you need to utilize your accounting software.


Both Peachtree and QuickBooks offer various versions for various industries. QuickBooks however also offers an online version of their program. This gives the ability to sign in wherever you have web access and work on your books. Recently QuickBooks has made some nice modifications to the online program and the user interface is almost like that as the desktop version. One limitation is the QuickBooks online does not handle inventory very well and it does not have the ability to make Purchase Orders. As Intuit is adding new features to the online version all of the time I am sure that these limitations will be addressed soon.

Peachtree at this time does not have an online version.

If you want a taste of what each program can do, both companies offer a free version of their programs. Peachtree offers a great free version that is essentially a basic version of its regular program but it does not allow for inventory. QuickBooks free version is desktop only. The desktop version is limited by the number of customers you can have and does not allow for inventory.

With the free versions you can compare for yourself. Ultimately the choice is up to you.

If you need help with choosing a product or would like help setting up your business’s accounting software, I can help! Contact David Chermak at