Researching the best open source accounting software isn't as simple as one might think. There are a number of important variables you must consider before taking the leap. This is especially important for those businesses that already have an accounting/bookkeeping solution in place. Making sure you can achieve the same level of control and functionality is very important when switching to a Linux-centric accounting application.
Open Source Accounting Software: Bean Books
Perhaps one of the best, proven in the wild solutions for enterprise grade accounting software is Bean Books from System76. This accounting software provides you with an eagle eye view of your accounts while at the same time, providing the ability to zero down on each transaction as needed.
Bean Book features include:
- The Dash overview feature. This option allows for you to get an overview of your current assets, debts and accounts receivable. Reports for transactions, budgets and other financial information. And perhaps most importantly, an alerts feature. You can set up custom alerts to make sure you're paying bills, taxes and other items in a timely manner.
- Customer information. This feature provides you with access to income funneling in from customers and access to your company's invoices. This includes sales receipts, payments received and invoices outstanding.
- Vendor information. This is an important aspect to your accounting setup as it's your vendors that keep your business moving forward. Vendor expenses, purchase orders and checks to vendors are all laid out for you in the Vendor information section.
- Your accounts in Bean Books. This is an important section that provides you with a list of your bank accounts and a separate section to view your individual accounts with greater details. Both sections provide you the ability to edit or remove information or data entries. This is also the section where you would synchronize your transactions and reconcile your account balances as well.
Bean Books is best for companies that deal with multiple vendors, have inventory or a medium sized enterprise environment. It comes with a free trial, is run from Bean Books servers, however the code is open source (a customized Bean Books license to protect trademark, etc) and can be installed locally if you prefer.
Open Source Accounting Software: LedgerSMB
Some accounting applications fall into the category of ERP (enterprise resource planning). This is a type of software that goes beyond merely accounting and also takes into account other aspects of a business. LedgerSMB is such a program.
LedgerSMB offers its users the following features:
- Sales tracking. This includes invoices, orders and sales quotes.
- Accounts payable/receivable.
- A general ledger for tracking the business' cash flow.
- Inventory management. This is an aspect of the software that makes LedgerSMB an ERP solution.
- Asset appreciation and depreciation tracking.
- Profit centers, departments and project management.=
- Document output/export solutions ranging from PDF to CSV and HTML.
- Document emailing from within the software itself (an important selling point).
LedgerSMB is best for companies needing an all inclusive ERP application that goes beyond standard accounting applications. With its asset management, depreciation tracking and profit center spotting, it's easy to see why LedgerSMB might be a strong contender for any size growing business. Like Bean Books, LedgerSMB is an open source software solution. That means you'll never need to be concerned about vendor lock-in.
Open Source Accounting Software: PostBooks
Not all the best Linux compatible accounting software is completely open source. I can think of one application that is actually a dual-license. This means it's both open source with a non-FoSS commercial license used as well. The application I'm talking about is called PostBooks.
One of the advantages of using something like PostBooks is that you have a thriving company that supports it should you require help. Additionally, PostBooks is offered with other business bundles should your company opt to go that route. Because of this, PostBooks is considered ERP software that includes accounting capabilities.
PostBooks features include:
- General accounting features. A ledger of activity, accounts receivable/payable, accounts reconciliation, and other financial information reporting.
- ERP functionality for sales. Quotes for sales, orders in process, shipping.
- CRM functionality (customer service management). An address book, incident management, to-do lists, and project management.
- Light manufacturing support. This includes work orders, support for make to order projects.
- International currency support. This is helpful if your business sells products overseas.
PostBooks is well suited for a business that does manufacturing and shipping, while also ensuring their bookkeeping needs are addressed on a day to day basis.
Open Source Accounting Software: FrontAccounting
Another great open source accounting application is FrontAccounting. This ERP software is really geared for those companies in the sales and manufacturing arena. FrontAccounting is GNU licensed free software, which is great since it demonstrates the power of FoSS applications for the business space.
FrontAccounting features include:
- Sales and accounts receivable data management.
- Purchases and accounts payable data handling.
- Inventory management. This includes non-physical goods such as stocks.
- Manufacturing work orders and bills of material.
- Fixed asset management. This includes sale of assets, transfers and depreciation.
- Bank account management. Your company's bank accounts, petty cash on hand and related items.
- A general ledger of accounts and business standing.
- Printable and real time data reports for accounting and ERP features..
- Multiple user access and roles for one or more companies/subsidiaries.
- Multiple currency, GST and other regional detail functionality.
- FrontAccounting also allows the software administrator to create projects, determine cost centers, and create department data as needed
- FrontAccounting can be accessed from any modern Web browser with the proper login credentials for your FrontAccounting installation.
Which Open Source Accounting Software is Best?
So which is the best solution for your business? The easiest answer is that you must identify the enterprise features you're looking for, then setup a test instance/server so that you can import your existing data into the application for testing.
One thing is for sure. Locally installed solutions like GnuCash and similar applications found in most distro software repositories is usually best left for individual usage or at best, a small business with limited needs.
What say you? What do you look for in Linux compatible accounting software. Perhaps you have an application in mind that is not listed here? Hit the comments and tell me about it.