August 14, 2012, 10:41 AM — At $369 for a single user ($669 for three licenses, and $899 for five), Sage 50 Complete Accounting 2013 isn't the cheapest way to keep your small business's books. But if you are well versed in accounting practices and want to implement your own preferences where choices are available, Sage 50 Complete provides all the controls you could wish for.
Even if you've never studied accounting but are eager to learn, Sage 50 may be worthwhile for its extensive documentation and tutorials. They won't turn you into a CPA, but they can help you learn a lot of the basics.
A descendent of the package formerly known as Peachtree Complete, Sage 50 Complete 2013 comes with its own database, which can make installation tricky: My first attempt to install the program was cut short by firewall issues that Sage acknowledges in its help pages (and offers workarounds for). In my case, installing several Windows updates appeared to solve the problem, but your mileage may vary.
Once installed, Sage 50 Complete immediately displays its serious accounting credentials in a setup wizard that asks questions you don't get from some competitors--for example, whether you want to post transactions in real time or in batches, and whether you prefer to use cash or accrual accounting (with cash, you record transactions as you receive payments or spend money; with accrual, you record sales whether you've received payment or not, and you record expenditures as you commit to them).
Once setup is complete, you see a pleasing interface with lots of useful navigation aides. The first screen to appear is one of several general-topic pages that show a collection of related tasks in flowchart format, or simply display information. The Business Status page, for example, assembles an overview of your finances that uses widgetlike boxes to show your year-to-date revenue, key account balances, a list of bills you owe, a list of customers who owe you money, and a pie chart showing aged receivables--balances due based on how long they've been owed. You can customize the page by adding or removing these widgets.
Other general topic pages (accessible by clicking on entries in a left navigation bar) cover customers and sales; vendors and purchases; employees and payroll, banking, and system settings--and you can make any one of them the default start screen. Underneath the topic page tabs, Sage also puts a customizable shortcut list in the nav bar to help you jump immediately to a specific ledger or task from any category. The default list includes links for creating an invoice, entering received payments, paying bills, viewing customer and vendor lists, searching for a specific transaction, and making a general journal entry.