A maker of small business accounting applications, Sage recently relaunched Sage One Accounting Premium as Sage One Accounting. Unfortunately, the name change wasn’t also accompanied by improvements that would have made the accounting solution better equipped to compete with other accounting platforms. The site sometimes looks (and acts) like an application better suited to an accounting professional, not fresh and state-of-the-art like Wave or the Editors’ Choice award-wining Intuit QuickBooks Online. Still, Sage One Accounting gets the mechanics right, and it may have some appeal for very small businesses that don’t need QuickBooks Online or Xero’s capabilities.
The Sage One Accounting website has a mix of basic (income- and expense-management) and advanced (multi-currency, flexible user permissions) tools, but it lacks some of the features between those two levels, such as time tracking and purchase orders. It does, however, support connections to your online financial accounts. It also offers a payment solution, so customers can pay their invoices through a bank card or PayPal, and its stable of reports is impressive.
Sage raised the price of Sage One Accounting from $10 to $25 per month. It still offers a junior version, which isn’t free like it used to be. Instead, Sage One Start costs $10 per month, and lacks the invoicing and multiple currency support that Sage One Accounting offers. Both offer a 30-day free trial.
A Familiar Start
Sage One Accounting offers more setup help than competitors do. It first asks for the basics, such as your business address and the date the company started. Once you’ve completed those first steps, a screen opens, and it’s full of site settings. This is good: Most competitors leave it to you to find your way there. This screen contains links to other pages, where you can create or import customers and vendors in CSV format; connect to your bank accounts; review the Chart of Accounts; enter starting balances; and review the Trial Balance report. There are also optional setup tools that you don’t have to complete at setup, such as invoice customization and a review of default settings and preferences.
The site does one thing during this process that none of its competitors do: It enters any state, county, and local sales tax rates for your geographical location. This is a real time-saver.
You also want to click on the Settings tab as you get ready to start using Sage One Accounting. This screen duplicates some of what you already did if you went through setup, but adds items like payments (Sage Payment Solutions and PayPal are supported) and Analysis Type, which lets you define up to three categories (department, project, cost code). All told, the site’s setup tools are superior to those of its competitors.
Sage One Accounting takes a different approach to its dashboard (home page) than competing sites do. Rather than displaying one page of charts and numbers that gives you a quick overview of your company’s financial status (account balances, income and expense totals, etc.), it consists of five screens accessible by clicking on tabs: Getting Started (setup), Sales, Expenses, Cash Flow Statement, and Cash Flow Forecast. The Sales and Expense tabs open separate screens with the charts and data that other sites display on the opening page. The one-page overviews of competing accounting sites seem faster and more effective.
The site’s user interface structure is similar to that of the other sites we’ve reviewed. There’s a horizontal toolbar at the top that divides your company data into logical information-and-activity groupings: Summary; Sales; Expenses; Contacts; Products & Services; Banking; Journals; Reporting; and Settings. Most of these groupings open into drop-down menus for their individual functions. Click on Sales, for example, and you can choose from Quotes & Estimates, Sales Invoices, Sales Credit Notes, and Quick Entries.
Once you select a screen for data entry, say Vendor Bills, Sage One Accounting uses standard Windows conventions for data entry and navigation. You select entries from lists you’ve created of customers, vendors, products, etc., then click on labeled buttons, and fill in blank fields when multiple options aren’t available. The forms in Records work similarly.
Visually, Sage One Accounting looks dated compared with a site like ZipBooks. It also tends to run more slowly than the other sites we’ve reviewed. On the bright side, Sage has softened some of the language used throughout the site by changing or removing some of its unfamiliar phrases.
Records and Transactions
Sage One Accounting offers generous import options; it supports CSV imports of numerous types of data. Record forms are as thorough as they need to be, and are comparable those of the competition. Customer forms, for example, contain standard fields for contact information, credit limit, terms, and activity (sales to date, last sale, overdue balance, etc.). Product and service records also contain the fields needed to describe your company’s offerings. The site lacks the inventory tracking found in Zoho Books and OneUp, but it offers a feature here that no one else in this group does: the ability to establish three item-price levels. This means that you can assign different prices to items and choose the correct one when you invoice customers, rather than having to change prices manually.
There’s nothing that particularly stands out about the site’s transaction forms. You can create and print or email invoices, quotes, customer and vendor credit notes, and bills (no purchase orders). Sage One Accounting offers a feature called Quick Entries, which lets you enter bills and credit notes rapidly, all on the same screen.
Templates for standard financial reports and a handful of others, like Aging and Unreconciled Bank Transactions, are more than enough for a site this size. There are minimal customization options, but you can analyze output by departments, projects, and cost centers. You can also use filters in other list views of transactions, etc.
Some Standout Features
Though it resides in the cloud, Sage One Accounting looks and feels dated. Sites like QuickBooks Online and WorkingPoint have done a commendable job of making what can be a very regimented, complex process friendly and easier to understand than accounting software did 20 years ago.
Sage One Accounting does distinguish itself in a few areas, such as multiple price levels, automatic sales tax entry, and analysis by department and project. But its price, user interface, navigation, feature set, and overall usability are not on par with QuickBooks Online, our Editors’ Choice for small business accounting software. The QuickBooks family lets you start small and build as you grow through advanced versions and hundreds of add-ons.