Since its Peachtree days, Sage 50 has earned a reputation for superior inventory management features, and rightly so. It's the only one of the top desktop packages we looked at to offer the full range of cost-basis options for evaluating inventory: average cost, Last In First Out (LIFO), First In First Out (FIFO). In contrast, QuickBooks Pro 2012 supports only the average-cost method.
The 2013 edition expands the inventory analysis capabilities of Sage Business Intelligence, the tool that integrates with Microsoft Excel (2003 or later) to move data into spreadsheets for advanced forecasting and other tasks. The new template joins an already impressive collection of templates, all customizable and easy to link to Sage 50 data.
Other innovations include the ability to reconcile accounts (by changing back entries) without having to change accounting periods; the ability to deactivate multiple vendor records based on a cutoff date for activity (previously you had to get rid of one record at a time); and improved batch check-printing for Accounts Payable and Payroll (you can now print long descriptions on a blank sheet of paper, and the program can eliminate numbers for voided checks), which helps you avoid wasting preprinted checks.
On the downside, Sage has made it more difficult to manage payroll without enrolling in one of its subscription-based payroll add-on services. Previously, you could manually update tax tables and then run payroll calculations in the program. Now, without a service, you must perform payroll calculations outside of the program and import the results--a time-consuming workaround, to say the least. The cheapest payroll service (which generates W2 forms at year's end but doesn't support e-filing) costs $270 for the 2013 fiscal year; alternatively, you can pay $380 to cover the rest of this year and next year. Either way, this expense practically doubles the cost of the software.
Sage 50 also comes up a bit short for people who want to switch from another program. Basically, you have to export your data to an Excel spreadsheet and then link fields manually to their Sage 50 equivalents to do any kind of data import--tasks that might discourage prospective QuickBooks refugees. Sage has yet to deliver a companion mobile app for Sage 50, though it does offer one with its payments service. (The U.K. edition does have an iOS app.)
If you're in charge of a growing business and aren't afraid to hear or learn accounting jargon that may stand you in good stead going forward, Sage 50 Complete Accounting 2013's power and versatility make it worth its admittedly high cost.