I’ve been using MYOB FirstEdge to fill my small business accounting needs since it first came to market back in 2002. My reasons for choosing FirstEdge are quite simple: The program meets my very basic needs with the same level of quality as its much more expensive sibling, MYOB AccountEdge 2007, or of any of its competitors, like Intuit’s QuickBooks.
The latest version of FirstEdge, version 3, doesn’t offer much in the way of major new features — most of those that have been added are enhancements to existing tools such as Address Book contact syncing — but it has been reprogrammed as a Universal Binary, which makes it possible for FirstEdge to run natively on both Intel and PowerPC-based Macs.
Considering that MYOB already offers a full-featured business accounting package, it would be easy to assume that FirstEdge is a dumbed-down version of AccountEdge — a program with just enough features to entice you into forking over full price for the full version. FirstEdge does lack some of AccountEdge’s high-end features: the program does not contain integrated payroll, inventory management, or time billing features. But FirstEdge does offer complete versions of AccountEdge’s major accounting modules. It also offers you a free copy for your accountant and allows you to accept credit cards for customer transactions, a feature that even Intuit’s more expensive QuickBooks does not offer. Of course, the credit card feature does cost extra, but that is to be expected.
Most of the new features in this version of FirstEdge appeared in the most recent upgrade to AccountEdge 2007, and they are welcome. Earlier versions of FirstEdge did not allow you to call up your transaction history from a previous year. Now, you can configure FirstEdge to keep up to seven years of transaction data, which you can view at any time. Unfortunately, though, this feature only works with data saved in the current version of FirstEdge, so you’ll only be able to view seven years worth of data going forward from the day you start using FirstEdge 3.
In the past, fixing incorrectly entered transactions once you reconciled your bank accounts was nearly impossible. Now, FirstEdge allows you to go back and undo transactions, making it easier to correct errors in your accounts.
MYOB has also added an option for you to combine vendor or customer accounts, so you can keep more accurate information about money you’ve spent or sales you’ve made. For example, imagine that you had two separate vendor accounts for cell phone service, one for Cingular and the other for AT&T. Now that those companies have merged, you can combine all your purchase information so that it falls under one company name.
While FirstEdge lacks an integrated payroll system, it’s still possible to run payroll for your company using MYOB’s fee-based online payroll service and then import that data into FirstEdge once your payroll is complete.
FirstEdge is not without its shortcomings. While the program offers the ability to customize forms for your invoices, quotes, and checks, this feature is not as fully formed as the rest of the program, and it can leave you frustrated if you’re attempting to modify existing forms or create new ones. The program also lets you choose to view updated help documentation via the MYOB Web site, but while I was testing the program, the Web-based help was never available to me. Finally, FirstEdge, like AccountEdge, requires you to activate every new company file you create, instead of just letting you register the program once. While this isn’t a problem if you only have one business, if you’re running several small businesses, this could end up being a pain — and an extra expense if you have more than five companies.
MYOB’s FirstEdge 3 is a best-of-class small-business accounting application that gives you excellent features at a great price. While form customization can be frustrating, it’s unlikely to interfere with how well FirstEdge handles your business finances.