book’n’keep: Accounting for Sole Enterprises

For sole enterprises, keeping a good set of books is probably one of the most essential tasks. It helps keep all your paperwork in order and it makes it far easier when it comes to the end of the year and that massive tax bill is due. Unfortunately, though, Mac users are slightly neglected when it comes to this, and although OS X has slowly but surely clawed some of the market share away from Microsoft, when it comes to business-related apps, Windows rules the roost.

Not wanting to be outdone, Austrian-based developers Teischl, the team behind Employment:app (which we reviewed last year) have developed book’n’keep – a simple accounting software designed for sole enterprises. Unlike other accounting software, which can often run into the hundreds of dollars and require an extensive set of licences, book’n’keep is available on the App Store for a mere $29.99. Let’s take a look at it and see if it’s a worthwhile purchase for sole enterprises.

First Thoughts

The first thing I’m going to say about book’n’keep is that it’s more of a functional, business-orientated app than a consumer one, with a design to match this direction. This disappointed me slightly, as I don’t think that business apps necessarily have to skimp on design. However, book’n’keep is certainly nice and easy to navigate around, which is always a good start.

The main interface of book'n''keep.

The main interface of book’n”keep.

The app is divided up into 5 different sections: Profit & Loss, Payables, Receivables, Assets and Bank. book’n’keep orientates itself to your Mac’s default regional settings (and as I’m based in the UK, my default currency is the pound sterling) and there’s no way to change it unfortunately within the app without changing your Mac’s default settings.

Another issue that I spotted early on is that there is no way to change the default business year. This isn’t a problem if you live in a country with a standard business year (e.g. 1 January – 31 December) but if, like me, you live in a country with an archaic fiscal year (6 April – 5 April) then this can present a few problems.

Booking Transactions

To book a transaction, you simply select the relevant section within book’n’keep (in this case, the Payables section) then click on the Add button in the toolbar. A dialogue box will pop, colored red for payables or green for receivables which allows you to enter all the details about that particular transaction. Your transaction will automatically be assigned a number (in this case: PAA130001) for which the sequencing can be customised from within the Preferences section of book’n’keep (here, you can also change the default tax rates as well).

Booking a payable transaction.

Booking a payable transaction.

The same applies for receivables as well, except the transaction is assigned a different sort of number so you can distinguish it easily.

Booking a receivable transaction.

Booking a receivable transaction.

After booking each transaction, they appear in the main window of the Payables and Receivables section of book’n’keep and you can sort them via a number of criteria, such as number, date, net amount, total amount, method of payment and so on.

Working with Assets

Adding an asset within book’n’keep is fairly straightforward and works pretty much the same as booking a new transaction — except this time, the box is coloured yellow. You can choose the type of your asset (in this case, I’ve used the example of a server), add its purchase value, date and planned usage time. book’n’keep will automatically calculate the depreciation for you (which can often be written off against tax) and use this value in reporting, profit/loss accounts and so on.

Adding an asset to your inventory.

Adding an asset to your inventory.

It’s probably worth mentioning here that despite its slightly functional and blocky interface, I found it extremely easy to add new transactions and assets to my inventory. Everything is very clearly explained and book’n’keep does not overwhelm you with loads of advanced options — everything is explained pretty much in plain English, which really impressed me. Although with bookkeeping you do need a bit of prior knowledge, I found that book’n’keep made it quite simple to perform mundane tasks, and that the learning curve associated with it was quite shallow — something which impressed me greatly.

Reporting

After you’ve added a couple of transactions to both your Payables and Receivables sections, then they will start to accrue in the Profit/Loss section of book’n’keep. This gives you a quick overview of every single transaction within the app and it also allows you to sort each one according to a number of different criteria, such as the client’s name, the transaction date, the net amount, the amount of tax and so on.

The Profit/Loss view of book'n'keep.

The Profit/Loss view of book’n’keep.

You can also easily view your Total Profit, Receivables, Payables and Assets in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen (the default view is Total Profit, however, clicking on either of the arrows allows you to change this).

book'n'keep offers a number of standard reports.

book’n’keep offers a number of standard reports.

book’n’keep also allows you to produce a number of different reports, which come in very handy either just to check how your business is getting on or when it comes to filing your company’s tax return. Clicking on the Reports icon in the toolbar brings up a dialogue box (as you can see in the screenshot above) which allows you to choose from a number of different reports.

You can choose the date range for each one and, in some cases, the items which should be included in the report. Unfortunately, reports cannot be viewed directly from within the app — you’ll either have print them off or open them within Preview. Another slight annoyance is that reports are only produced in PDF format — you can’t, for example, export all your data to a spreadsheet program for further processing.

A preview of the tax report created.

A preview of the tax report created.

 

I was slightly disappointed by this feature and for $29.99, I would have expected better and at least have been presented with the option to customise my reports to my liking. I’m hoping that this feature will be implemented in a future update.

Customisation Possibilities

I’ve already mentioned the lack of some customisation options above (for example, the currency and the default fiscal year). Actually, though, you can tinker with quite a few of the presets from within the Preferences section of book’n’keep. Here, for example, you can change the default tax rate, the numbering of each transaction, your company’s name and logo and the bank accounts your company holds.

You can customise a number of different aspects of the app from within Preferences.

You can customise a number of different aspects of the app from within Preferences.

book’n’keep can automatically keep a backup of your database and if you purchase the app from the App Store, it will also synchronise with iCloud, so you can rest assured that your data is safe. If the default categories (e.g. for transactions) are not sufficient enough, then you can modify these from within the Master Files section of the preferences pane.

Final Thoughts

book’n’keep is, in my opinion anyway, a bit of a mixed batch. On the one hand, it does what it says on the tin: it helps sole enterprises keep their books in order, and for $30 it is quite a steal, especially when compared to other offerings out there on the market. Yet on the other hand, the app is slightly limited in what you can do with it (especially reporting, which disappointed me slightly) and this might be insufficient for some people who want to tailor the app to their liking. The interface doesn’t give much to be desired, either, but as I mentioned before, book’n’keep was designed with functionality, not aesthetics, in mind.

So if you’re looking for a simple way to keep your books in order but you aren’t bothered about being able to customise the app to your exact liking, then I would recommend getting book’n’keep. However if you’re looking for a more powerful, flexible option, then it’s probably worth checking out the competition before committing to buy.


Summary

An accounting app aimed towards sole enterprises.

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