Sage Instant Accounts 2011 review

Price when reviewed

Sage dominates the UK’s accounting software landscape for medium-sized businesses, but it’s a closer call in the growing sector of sole traders and small outfits. There’s increasing competition from a clutch of online applications such as Xero and Kashflow. Even Sage itself has entered the online fray through its recent SageOne offering.

For Instant Accounts 2011, Sage pushes ease of use as the key selling point, claiming it doesn’t require any accounting experience. That’s true, but only up to a point. The startup wizard adroitly handles the initial setup, and a handy practice mode lets you post transactions without worrying about how it might affect the underlying data. In fact, the hand-holding sometimes goes too far, with multi-step wizards for creating customer, supplier and product records.

We can’t help feeling it would be a little easier to have a single form to fill in and be done with it. Instant Accounts also makes a brave stab at masking accounting’s double-entry equation from view. Enter sales or purchases and Sage organises the correct posting in the background. A knowledge of the accounting equation is still helpful, though, if you need to make an adjustment to the Nominal Ledger, for example.

Sage Instant Accounts 2011

The interface is unchanged from previous versions. Its main modules sit on the left, below contextual tasks and links. The right presents information either as a process map showing the logical steps of an activity, or as a dashboard with graphs showing a visual overview of your current business situation. A third, List view, shows individual records and transactions.

The interface will be familiar to existing Sage owners, less so to newcomers, as some modules are only available as a menu item and other functions don’t appear where you might hope. You convert a quote to an invoice, for example, from the Quotations List window rather than the quote itself, and creating a VAT return needs a trip to the Company module. We’d have liked to have seen such common functions given more prominence.

Instant Accounts can handle most common small business tasks, including sales, purchases and invoicing, but not purchase orders. It also boasts an exhaustive list of reports, even if individual reports are awkward to configure.
Its excellent VAT management function can submit a return directly to the Inland Revenue and now supports the flat-rate VAT scheme, which allows small businesses to calculate their VAT based on a percentage of turnover. It’s often a better choice for small businesses, so the ability to display the benefit or cost of the scheme on the return form, compared to other options, is a great idea.


Software subcategory Accounting

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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