Geek Ranch Accounting Solution

by Phil Hughes
Back in February I wrote about my search for accounting software for the Geek Ranch project. At that time, I didn't have a good answer but, today, I do.

First, a quick review of the requirements:

  • Decent A/R, A/P, General Ledger
  • A useful CRM system
  • Handles multiple currencies
  • Is at least available in Spanish with Spanish/English a plus
  • Is possible for a bookkeeper without a Computer Science degree to learn to use

Well, after a lot of false starts, I settled on PostBooks from Don't let the .com part scare you away if you are looking for something useful and free—there are three products with PostBooks being the free choice. The system includes MFG/ERP and those parts get more sophisticated in the other editions. Far from being "crippleware", PostBooks will do more than most non-manufacturing businesses need for accounting.

I set up PostBooks here about a month ago but if you look at the web site, you will see why it became the right answer yesterday. They have been working on translations for this version, but yesterday they launched their translation portal. Spanish is mostly done and eight other languages vary between 50% and complete. The portal allows and encourages user input to complete translations.

The system design itself is very interesting. There is a KDE-based client which talks to a Postgres database. The client (which is the same for all the products) is just the user interface. All the business logic is implemented as functions in the database. There is no server code outside the database.

The translations are also cleanly implemented. All you do is put the translation files, *.gm, in the same directory as the executable and they become available in the user configuration screen. Anything that is not translated is just displayed in English. The actual translations are done using QtLinguist. If you don't have QtLinguist, there are executables of it available on the Xtuple site as well.

Besides being a solid product that seems very well designed, I find the business model interesting. Xtuple sells the high-end software and support services which, of course, is no surprise. But they benefit from the give-away product. Because the client is the same for all versions, what we contribute (bug fixes and translations, for example) decreases their expenses related to their commercial offering. In return, we get to take advantage of various things from the commercial offering. For example, documentation includes manuals and even videos on how to use the product.

To me, this is a perfect example of how Open Source can be a win-win for a commercial enterprise.

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