Using SQL-Ledger for Your Business
I'm not an accountant, and I barely get by with my accounting duties as it is. As with most powerful accounting software, you should know something about it before using it. But if it's an accounting question, I probably don't have the answer.
Fortunately, except for the few times I may have to wade into general ledger, the system takes care of itself. I've found the customer list to be quite friendly. It serves as both a customer list and a way to keep e-mail addresses straight. I e-mail monthly bills, and this program has made that particularly easy. In fact, after posting, you can call up a bill and e-mail it with a single click. The program handles it all for you, including sending a cover letter.
Purchase orders are as easy to do, and they also can be e-mailed directly from the interface. When orders come in it's a few more clicks to enter inventory and create the payable. A quick trip to Cash→Payments and we're done.
If you have several businesses, you can run as many ledgers as you want using different database names. You also have to use different user names, one for each, but I've found the easy way to do this is to make the user name a combined user/company name. You may think of something more convenient.
Now that the latest SL includes POS, you can connect a bar-code reader and use that to enter items on the screen. SL was designed deliberately with the UPDATE button first, so scanning a bar code fills in a product number then updates that to fill in the rest of the line.
SL is now fairly feature-rich these days, especially compared to several years ago, but the author maintains an ambitious to-do list. By the time you read this, in fact, SL even may contain payroll. Most of the tables and links are in place; it appears to be a matter of coding and testing. I fully expect a payroll system to rival any available, based on what's come before in SL.
The SL to-do list includes such items as:
Budgets: comparisons to actual ones and also to enforce budget (expense) constraints.
Manufacturing: finished goods and goods-in-process inventory; material and human resources planning.
Lot allocation: repackaging bulk goods into smaller portions; memorized transactions and custom reports.
Batch form generation: invoices, orders and other forms for batch printing.
Financial reports: more comparison options, such as month-to-month.
SL offers a range of support for the software. From the SL home page you can find several users lists in a variety of languages. Currently six user lists exist. The author lurks on the English list. He occasionally posts to clear up misunderstandings.
Paid support also is available at extremely reasonable rates. A wide variety of support options are available, and most come with a copy of the SQL-Ledger users manual. If you want to use this software without support, that's fine. But as with all GPL software, if you break it, you get to keep both pieces. Paid support is your assurance it doesn't break. A support option is available to import old data from accounting packages that can export tab-delimited text files.
Although changing accounting packages always is an ordeal, SL is one package worth investigating. The price can't be beat, and this software competes against and beats many proprietary offerings. And if you don't see it but need it, you always can request a feature.
David A. Bandel (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Linux/UNIX/Network (both wired and wireless) consultant in Panama who dabbles in almost all aspects of telecommunications. He's authored or coauthored three Linux books, runs two HF radio Sailmail stations and does volunteer work for the Linux Professional Institute. When not working, he can be found relaxing on his farm near the Costa Rican border.
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