Magazine article The CPA Journal

Looking into Windows from the High End

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Looking into Windows from the High End

Article excerpt

For several years, it looked as if the Windows software revolution might bypass the high-end accounting software market. While word-processing and spreadsheet applications have readily adapted to the graphical-user interface, for many reasons, general accounting applications were slower to respond.

But recent introductions of exciting new Windows-based accounting products by the major accounting software players are changing the way many accounting experts look at Windows. As the benefits of Windows-based accounting become more apparent, accountants need to know what to consider when weighing the Windows decision.

WINDOWS BENEFITS

The use of Windows' graphical-user interface for accounting offers significant benefits over character-based accounting, particularly if the rest of the office is using other Windows applications. As users gain experience with Windows, these benefits become more obvious.

Shortened Learning Curve. Similarities exist among leading Windows applications such as the way files are opened, closed, and saved, printer setup, help system, keystroke and mouse conventions, and navigation conventions such as scroll bars, menu systems, and tool bars. For Windows applications subsequent to the first, these similarities significantly reduce the learning investment, which can result in reduced training costs.

Easy Access. Software can be loaded so that each application can be accessed through the same easy-to-use interface.

Increased Productivity. Market research shows that once users become familiar with the mouse interface, they actually work faster than when they use character-based products. Although many users are reluctant to switch to a graphical-user interface, after an extended period of use, they prefer it to character-based software.

Multi-Tasking. Users can have more than one commonly-used application active on the desktop, improving productivity and ease of use. The typical accounting-system user may have an order-entry screen, a customer-inquiry screen, word processing, a spreadsheet, and e-mail all active at the same time, making it easy to move from one to another instantly as work flow dictates.

Data Sharing Among Applications. With Windows, it's easy to import and export information from one application to another. This means that applications such as Microsoft's Excel can be easily used to generate graphs directly using accounting data stored within the accounting applications. Similarly budget data entered into a spreadsheet can be used directly in the accounting application. When Windows is set up on a network, program files may be set up in a shared directory, with individual files stored in their home directories on the network.

Feature-Rich Products. One of the most significant advantages of the Windows environment is that it offers software developers a more robust programming environment than DOS. Windows allows for larger programs, multi-tasking, better interfaces to printers and other devices, and the sharing of code. The end result is that Windows applications are often better suited to meeting business needs than DOS based products.

On the whole, Windows-based software can cost-effectively bring users more power, speed, and capability. On the flip side, Windows is often more expensive to implement because it is run in addition to, not in place of, DOS. Running both platforms, particularly on a LAN, may increase consulting costs because of the technical challenges involved. …

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