Big Red Book review
Well established in Ireland, accounting suite Big Red Book has now journeyed across the water to enter a more crowded UK market. It’s module-based, so you can add functions as needed, and the most basic version is a simple creditor’s ledger aimed at those who don’t need to invoice.
An awkward registration process that needs telephone or fax activation could deter some, but elsewhere Big Red Book is largely user-friendly. Creating a new company takes a couple of clicks, and handily you can create up to five separate companies that you can switch between.
Going further is a little more complicated. Unlike alternatives such as QuickBooks SimpleStart, Big Red Books lacks a wizard to pre-prepare accounts based on your business type. Instead, to enter receipts and purchases for example, you first need to set up analysis categories. Fortunately, such tasks are comprehensively covered in a superbly-written manual and there are example companies included you can refer to.
Big Red Book’s interface may look dated, think Windows 95 here, but it is at least logical and familiar. The program mimics old ledger-based systems, with books by default showing clearly the current month’s entries. If you make a posting error, you can simply delete it rather perform a complicated entry reversal. For safety, books can be password-protected, and changes are tracked in an audit trail.
Unlike QuickBooks SimpleStart, Big Red Book supports both accrual and cash-based VAT setups, and it produces HMRC-format returns, although you can’t submit them electronically, as you can with Sage Instant Accounts.
As well as a clutch of standard reporting features, Big Red Book offers a powerful Book Enquiry option that lets you filter transactions – say by customer or analysis category – so you can produce bespoke reports that can be exported to Excel. There’s no Outlook integration, though, as there is with Microsoft Office Accounting Pro, nor does the program link directly to Word, as Instant Accounts or MYOB Accounting do.
But Big Red Book’s biggest problem isn’t a lack of features or usability, it’s that even its bare bones system is undercut by budget versions of better-known applications. So although Big Red Book clearly has a market – those from traditional accounting backgrounds, who want a speedy, easy-entry program – it’s unlikely to prosper outside this niche.