One of the things I noticed after MacWorld this January was that I received more information from companies developing Mac business solutions—particularly small business solutions—than ever before. In conversations with Mac business software developers, I was told again and again that the past couple of years has seen a significant increase in demand for their products. It also seemed a consistent thread that about 50 percent of new customers were business owners switching from Windows to Mac OS X, often out of frustration with the resources required to maintain secure and reliable computers.
The Mac has always been viewed as less-than by much of the business community. While tools such as Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop make it possible to run Windows applications if needed, they don’t erase the fact that for Mac OS X to be a viable business platform it needs serious business applications. While this might seem a cause for concern, the truth is that there are more Mac business tools than most people realize, including a wide range of applications for specialized businesses such as law offices, medical practices, and retail stores. The following are among the top tools that can be used to manage virtually any business using Mac OS X. It is not exhaustive nor does it include many of the solutions for specialized fields, but it does cover the top business tools that exist as proof that the Mac is a serious computer and can be an ideal platform for business.
MYOB and QuickBooks
MYOB and Intuit are among the most well-known financial software developers for small to mid-size businesses in the world. Both companies develop a range of financial tools. MYOB produces FirstEdge and AccountEdge. FirstEdge is a solid entry-level tool aimed at small businesses with limited staff. It is available only in a single user version and does not offer the purchase and payroll features of AccountEdge. AccountEdge is an ideal tool for many businesses because it offers a complete solution for the accounting needs of most small and mid-size business, including payroll and credit card processing. AccountEdge is available in single- and multi-user versions and offers a network version that allows accounting information and work to performed on multiple computers.
By contrast, Intuit produces a single Mac product, QuickBooks Pro, which offers most, but not all, of the functionality of its Windows cousin. Some missing features include multi-user functionality and the capability to accept credit card payments. And although Intuit offers a payroll product for Mac users, it is an additional web-based solution rather than a built-in tool (as offered by AccountEdge). Despite these limitations, QuickBooks is an excellent tool for small businesses. Mid-sized and larger businesses, however, will find it somewhat limiting.
CheckMark MultiLedger and Payroll
A less familiar name in small business accounting products is CheckMark, which produces separate payroll and accounting tools (named Payroll and MultiLedger). Both products ship for Mac and Windows. Both Payroll and MultiLedger are full-featured products that support up to 10 users and offer a range of customization features. They are both more expensive that either the QuickBooks or MYOB offerings, but they are better suited to somewhat larger businesses.
AcctVantage is another full-feature accounting aimed at mid-size and larger businesses. It is specifically targeted at businesses whose needs have outgrown MYOB and QuickBooks. With support for 50 or more users; cross-platform support; and a wide range of solutions for all accounting, payroll, inventory, and even shipping needs, AcctVantage offers a solid solution that can be tailored to the needs of each business.
Connected Precision Accounting
Connected Precision Accounting by Accountek is a cross-platform, multi-user accounting solution designed for mid-sized businesses. It offers modules for all core accounting functions, inventory control, and job costing. Connected also offers customization to meet the needs of specific businesses.
MarketCircle’s Billings is designed for businesses run by one or two people. It isn’t a full-service accounting solution, but it is designed to manage the billing side of projects—including cost estimates, expense tracking, and invoicing in a very user-friendly format. It is an excellent tool for individual consultants or freelancers who need a tool to manage their client projects and billing.
iBiz is similar to Billings in that it is a project management and billing tool. The difference is that iBiz supports multiple users and can be implemented as a client-server solution. This makes it a good option for businesses that do not need a full-service accounting package, but do need a multi-user tool for tracking projects, invoicing, and payment.