Independent opinions

This review by Nigel Harris of is reproduced in full.

Software Review: Simply Books Version 2. By Nigel Harris

The review version was Simply Books Version 2 (SR2). With a 2003 copyright date, the program is a bit of a throwback to the old-fashioned Windows look and feel, but nonetheless it is a very functional package. As most software houses move to the Microsoft SQL Server database system (or the free Express edition), it was a surprise to work with an Access-based program again, although it has to be said, not an unpleasant one.

The software comes with an excellent 35-page user guide, written in plain English with a non-accountant user in mind. This makes set-up and initial use very easy. Unlike many current Windows products Simply books makes practical use of hotkeys and shortcuts to avoid excessive mouse clicking, for example to copy a previous line or date without re-keying the information.

The look and feel is functional, and rather clunky due to its age. There is no pretty dashboard nor pretty graphs, just the usual drop-down menu bar and a navigation bar on the left. You quickly get used to these as a lot of procedures require you to make two selections – for example, open a bank account, then open a posting screen. Icons are not a big feature of Simply Books, but I do like the yellow smiley face for sales invoices and blue sad face for purchase invoices.

It’s nice to see simple bank account posting. The Account drop-down allows you to select either a nominal account or a sales or purchase ledger account, so you don’t need a separate screen for customer receipts, etc. Payments to customers (or receipts from suppliers) such as refunds, which some software makes hard work of, are therefore dead easy. One slight weakness is that receipts and payments are automatically matched against the oldest outstanding invoice, which might not be what you want.

Ever come across a blank cheque stub or been unsure what an invoice was for? No problem here, transactions can be entered without a nominal code, which you can enter later (they go to suspense in the meantime), and there’s a useful Find Incomplete Transactions report to check for any such postings in case you forget.

There is a basic bank reconciliation control. Normally transactions can be edited by over-typing, but once you double-click the grey key symbol on the bank reconciliation screen that statement is locked to ensure that entries cannot be changed inadvertently (although you can override the warning that pops up to warn you that a transaction shouldn’t be changed!).

Unlike the original version of Simply Books, SR2 includes basic sales invoice production, either direct from the software, which is really too basic to send to a customer, or via Excel or Word for formatting.

As far as reporting is concerned there are no surprises or omissions. All the normal reports are provided, trial balance, profit and loss, balance sheet, and a detailed audit trail. The VAT reports are clear and easy to follow, and include a nice reconciliation if you opt for VAT cash accounting. Completed return periods are locked down once the return is printed to prevent posting errors later. Simply Books was awarded ICAEW software accreditation, so we can assume all the essential controls are in place.

Simply Books Version 2 is a good, if slightly dated-looking, piece of software. The pricing is competitive compared with the other start-up accounts packages, and for your money you get a fully featured, no-frills accounts system that will produce a decent set of monthly or annual accounts.

I suspect a lot of very small businesses and sole traders would find this a much easier package to use than Sage or QuickBooks, thanks particularly to the deliberate avoidance of accountancy jargon.

The VNU Usability Report - a comparative test of Simply Books

VNU, publisher of accountancy and software titles, tests software for usability. Simply Books commissioned them to test its software against Sage and QuickBooks. Below is a summary; the full report can be downloaded.


The report details the findings from a usability test carried out by VNU Labs, commissioned by Simply Books Ltd. The test compared Simply Books 2.0 with QuickBooks 8.0 and Sage Instant Accounting Version 6.

Eight testers with no previous experience of any of the products were split into two groups of four. One group was assigned to test Simply Books and QuickBooks 8.0 and the other Simply Books and Sage Instant Accounting Version 6. To avoid bias, two testers evaluated QuickBooks or Sage first, and the other two testers used Simply Books first.

The results showed that the testers using Simply Books achieved 60% higher productivity scores - how long it took to accurately complete tasks - compared to testers using Sage or QuickBooks.

Simply Books - Accounting for very small businesses

“I find Simply Books to be of great value and a joy to use, easy and uncomplicated. After trying to configure Sage my blood was boiling with frustration - I’m not an accountant for heaven’s sake. Simply Books software is easy and user friendly. Thanks lads.”
• Mr G J Marfell