Picking the "right" software package.

For 2015 I have several business changes that require me to make process changes and to select some new software for my business.  I use the Apple Macintosh as my primary computing platform, so when it comes to software selection I try very hard to keep all of my workflows in that environment.  

The first system I need to upgrade is my accounting.  Over the last few weeks I have been reviewing and testing accounting packages.  I really wanted to move my accounting to an online system where it did not matter what device or operating system I used.  With the changes in business model I will be doing payroll in 2015 so that has added cost / time / complexity.  My current system for invoicing clients is online but it requires double entry and double management of contacts.  In addition I may decide that I need professional accounting review later so the ability to get an accountant involved is a requirement. 

I need to keep this as lightweight and fast as possible.  Researching online accounting systems I looked at several tools and did some testing of Xero, and researched Quickbooks Online.  Neither of them met all the needs of my business and workflow requirements.  I then looked at Mac native applications that I could use  Quickbooks for Mac and AccountEdge seemed to be a good place to look.  I have a license for AccountEdge but the user interface and a few other things just do not make it feel right to me.  Quickbooks for the Mac is missing several features that I have on my list.

So I have selected to Quickbooks Pro 2015 for Windows.  I am using Parallels virtualization software to run Windows 7 on my MacPro desktop.  It means that I have to maintain another "computer" within my computer just to run my accounting system.  With Quickbooks I have 60 days to "test" the system.  I have high hopes it will work for me.

As a technology consultant I have to balance a lot of customer specific requirements.  Sometimes the ideal solution does not exist and we need to make compromises.  Balancing this for myself reminds me how hard it is for some of my clients.  A nice little new years lesson!

Welcome to 2015!             



Going Digital: "PDF's for everyone"

Computers, we have been told, will end the need for paper in the office and at home.  But for most of us we seem to be generating as much paper or much more that we did with typewriters and mimeograph machines and photo-copiers.  Sometimes we print because we need a copy of what is on the screen of our computer or we feel better reading it on paper.  Sometimes we print to keep a safe printed copy thinking it is better for some reason.

I am guilty as charged and I print too many things to "paper"!  But what if there was a different way?  What if we could "print" digitally and not create that physical artifact that we may not need?  How about converting that artifact we already have into a digital equivalent?

Today is the day you can start!  Welcome to the digital age...  The current standard file format for our digital storage system is the PDF file and even our federal court system is standardizing on the PDF/A (archive) standard for going digital.  You can view a PDF file on almost any digital device out there.  You can simply produce PDF files from any application on a Mac by just printing to PDF.  On Windows the newer versions of Microsoft Office have export to PDF.  Our smartphones can take pictures and turn them into PDFs and can even convert the pictures of printed pages into text.

Where to begin?  Below are a couple of links that should help you start down the road to your own accessible digital archive.

One of my favorite books on the subject is Paperless By David Sparks. David has produced a wonderful ebook on the subject of going paperless.  It is a good read and his process is very accessible.

What has brought this whole subject to mind of late are two items I found on the Internet recently and a couple of requests from my clients and friends.  One of the podcasts that I listen to  is from MacPowerUsers.com.  This podcast is a lot about using the MAC and while that may not be of interest to the Windows users if you are at all interested in digital documents you need to listen to Episode 230: The Power of PDFs  Yes this is three Lawyers talking about going Paperless.  Yes they are Mac users;  AND YES it applies to any one on any computer type!  They discuss mobile scanning with your iPhone and more

Want the bottom line.  Get on the internet or go to a store that sells the Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners and buy one on this years $$$.  I just installed an iX500 wireless 25ppm duplex scanner in an accounting office and they are thrilled!  There are smaller versions that meet mobile needs but for a office that has a lot of paper the iX500 is among the best.  You can scan everything from pictures to business cards,  the scanner comes with OCR abilities and a whole lot more.

Make 2015 the year you go digital!



Welcome to 2014

I hope that all of you had a great 2013!  Moving into 2014 there are a lot of changes in the computing world coming our way.  Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP in a few months.  Intel is changing the name of McAfee to Intel Security, watch for SPAM and Malware around that change!  

Windows 8.1 is now the mainstream release for Microsoft OS.  I know it is different and feels a bit strange.  It is like a new set of shoes you have to break them in.  A couple of hints.  There are two new shortcut keys in Windows 8:  Press the Windows key and the D key at the same time to go to the desktop and the Windows key with the X key for a simplified start menu.  Finally with the start menu up you can just start typing the name of the program you want to run and Windows will find it for you.  

Apple has released their new OS 10.9 for the Mac and IOS 7 for mobile devices.  The OS’s are better integrated with Apples cloud services and much more.  Keep your software upgraded, these releases are free.




Dropbox.com Your "private and/or shared" USB stick in the Cloud

Dropbox is a service that lets you access your stored data from virtually anywhere.  Think of it as a USB Stick/key in the sky.  Data you select from your computer is synchronized to the Dropbox servers and from there you can access it from virtually any Internet connected device.  You can share files with others, display pictures and much more.

Dropbox is a highly recommended service to help you use the Internet to protect your data and have access to it when away from home base.  Check it out at http://dropbox.com .




CrashPlan backup for you and your family

In the quest for small business and personal backup there are many choices.  Depending upon the problem set Crashplan provides something different to help keep our systems backed up.  Crashplan software can run in three modes.  Backup to a local drive, backup to their Internet based servers or backup to another computer or a friends computer.  What is nice about this solution you can backup to other drives and other computers for no cost.  Each family member can have a drive and the system will backup over the internet between the different computers.  The data is encrypted before it leaves your computer so that it is reasonably safe being stored outside of your office or home.  You can simply have local and offsite backup for your MAC or PC using one software package. Crashplan also has their "+"  and "pro" services where you also backup to their servers for a "nominal".  Depending upon your personal or business needs this service is very valuable.




Microsoft Security Essentials: Windows Anti-virus without the $$$

Many of my clients running Windows Operating Systems have questions around Anti-Virus software.  The question of which AV is best or how much should I pay for AV come up a lot.  Here are a couple of solutions that may help you.

What is most important in this part of the world of computer security is to make sure that your system is up-to-date with the latest security patches for your Operating System and Applications.  This is critical to ensure that you avoid being trapped by any broken software.  Microsoft supplies automatic updates for their OS and Applications using Microsoft Update.  Make sure that you are set to automatically get updated!.  Many other applications will check for updates on startup.  In addition there are tools to check you system for software that is out of date. One example is Secunia PSI.  IT can help and it is free!

Speaking of free; Anti-virus software can be expensive to purchase and some of my clients cannot do that.  Check with your internet service provider to see if they offer AV software as part of their service, many do.  If not, I would like to suggest that you use Microsoft Security Essentials for your Windows PC.  It performs well and does a credible job of protecting your computer.




OH.... You are keeping your data backed up also.  Please review my post about CrashPlan for some backup ideas.

LibreOffice 4.1 "The Answer to Microsoft Office for the rest of us"

Microsoft builds some really powerful tools for document processing and more.  Their office suite has one of the largest user bases in the world. Along with all that power comes a pretty hefty price tag.  Many of my clients do not have the budget for Microsoft Office nor do they want another monthly bill for Office Online. For those of us who need an office suite I can find no better software than LibreOffice from the Document Foundation.  This is open source software at it's finest.  The software is free and runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Visit their web site http://www.libreoffice.org  to learn more about their software and download it for free.