Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Microsoft Offers Free SQLX-Based Accounting App

Microsoft Office Accounting Express (MOAX) 2007 is an entry-level accounting package targeted at small businesses whose proprietors use paper-and-pencil or Excel as their basic bookkeeping tools. What's unique about MOAX is it's license fee: US$0.00. Product activation requires registration with full company name and address plus contact details, but Microsoft doesn't require your Federal Employer ID (or Social Security) number. Microsoft RTM'd MOAX on October 29. You can download MOAX here (338 MB), read Mary Jo Foley's "Microsoft introduces a new freebie" blog post, and learn more about MOAX features from the Office Accounting home page. Here's an 800x600 capture of MOAX's invoice entry form. MOAX offers integration with Business Contact Manager (BCM) for Outlook, Excel for PivotTables and PivotCharts, and Access for reports. (The Access reporting feature didn't work for me with Access the 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh.) OfficeOnline provides secure file transfer to and from the firm's CPA. Third-party add-ins include:

  • Office Online Marketplace eBay auctions (80 free or $9.95 for 200 listings per month)
  • ADP payroll processing ($169/year)
  • Equifax credit reports ($39.95 each and up)
  • Chase Paymentech credit-card processing ($9.95/month)
  • PayPay payment processing ($9.95/month + bank processing $20/month)

Note: Pricing above is from Mary Jo Foley's blog post.

Wizards streamline importing data from Intuit QuickBooks or Microsoft Money to MOAX. MOAX's primary limitation is lack of inventory maintenance features.

Here's one of the sample companies' customer list. Notice the similarity of the left pane to Outlook's Navigation Bar and Access 2007's Navigation Pane.

MOAX uses SQL Server 2005 Express edition (SQLX) as its back end, so the data store is robust and reliable. The 584 table names for a single company are plain English. The same is true for the 1,793 T-SQL stored procedures, 538 views, 260 T-SQL scalar functions, 56 T-SQL inline table-valued functions, 47 T-SQL table-valued functions, 825 T-SQL DML triggers, 643 foreign-key constraints, and 1,065 check constraints. Thus, it's no surprise that a a new company database I created (oakleafsystems.sbd) weighed in at 68.6 MB for starters. Notes: Exploring the sys.objects catalog view disclosed no .NET CLR aggregate functions, stored procedures, or scalar, table-valued or inline table-valued functions. If you've installed SQLX locally, you can opt to use your current instance instead of the \MSSMLBIZ instance included in the download. MOAX substitutes .sbd for .mdf and .sbl for .ldf extensions for data and log files, respectively. Microsoft's Office 2007 system requirements are a 500MHz+ CPU and 256 MB RAM (1 GHz+ CPU and 1 GB RAM for Outlook with BCM). Most users will find MOAX sluggish with CPUs slower than 2.5 GHz, and less than 1 GB RA. Microsoft encourages users to upgrade to the forthcoming $149 Microsoft Office Accounting Professional (MOAP) 2007, which replaces the underpowered Small Business Accounting 2006 product. PC Magazine offers a full review (10/2/2006) of a late MOAP beta, which concludes, in part: "Microsoft's Office Accounting 2007 beta is a vast improvement over last year's edition. It should prove an effective tool for small businesses that don't have large-scale inventory requirements." MOAP competes directly with QuickBooks Premier Edition 2007 ($325 - $350) and Peachtree Premium Accounting 2007 ($450 - $470). Here's a MOAX customer editing form: MOAP provides full multi-user access with Small Business Server, supports inventory maintenance, multiple currencies, and provides additional customizable reports. MOAX users must upgrade to MOAP to connect to a remote SQLX or SQL Server 2005 instance.

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