Best Open Source Accounting Programs

DIY Tips & Tools

The Open Source Initiative organization was founded in 1998 after Netscape Communications Corporation published the source code for Netscape Communicator. The organization has established the technical criteria for what software qualifies as open source however for most of us open source software and free software are relatively synonymous.

You and everyone else have the right to use open source software….open source software is the opposite of proprietary software. The software documentation and code has to be made available to the public as part of the open source license.

While open source software is free, the installation, initial training and verification of proper implementation of an open source accounting software product can cost anywhere from thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands dollars depending on the complexity of the required accounting application, the amount of customization you will need and the support your installation requires.

There are many open source platforms supporting accounting programs. These online accounting applications offer many advantages to businesses not available in traditional accounting software including:

  • Open source software can be modified to meet unique business needs;
  • Automatic online backups and upgrades, accessibility from multiple locations;
  • For the most part open source applications have proven to be secure and the developer and user communities work hard to keep it that way; and
  • Most open source developers offer collaborative opportunities through various on line networking opportunities and user groups.

Some of the challenges to be considered before deciding if an open source accounting system is the best option for you are:

  • Can your technical staff support an open source accounting application or are you willing to contract for technical support?
  • Does your staff have the time and resources to learn the new application? and
  • Does your business have the resources to convert your existing data into the new accounting system?

Open source software is increasingly popular with commercial and non-profit organizations and use of open source alternatives is expected to grow in the future. Whether an open source solution is the right choice for you will require an assessment of your unique costs and benefits.

If you decide you are interested in acquiring an open source accounting application determine if the application has:

  • A common feature set supporting accounting system requirements;
  • A source of technical support and maintenance;
  • Professional documentation to support user installation, modifications and program maintenance;
  • Accessible training materials and classes;
  • Regular news releases and updates; and
  • Active users groups and networking opportunities to encourage collaborative efforts among users.

There are hundreds of companies offering open source accounting applications. Ask your business colleagues or accountant for recommendations or check online for companies by typing “open source accounting software” into your favorite search engine. Check out the web pages, expert reviews of the systems and contact others who are currently using the software. All of the open source accounting application providers have online or telephone consultants that can provide you with additional information about the features of their open source accounting software. If you are going to hire outside technical support to install, customize or maintain the system you will probably want to interview the partner companies that provide that support before you make a decision.

Some of the larger providers of open source accounting applications are listed below.

  • Compiere is an open source accounting software company that has been around since the 1990’s. Compiere offers an integrated business management system targeted at the small to mid-sized business. that includes a sophisticated accounting application. Touting its central shared data architecture Compiere promises once you input your financial, inventory, customer or vendor data once all departments authorized to access the data will have access without reentering the data reducing the chance of data errors. Compiere is designed to be flexible and to grow with your company easily adding functions as they are needed.

Application support for Compiere is provided by several reputable vendors including Global Era which provides system design, installation and implementation, training, technical support and upgrade support to Compiere users.

  • Open Systems Inc. (OSAS) has been in business for over 30 years and offers a variety of accounting and distribution modules for companies running Linux/UNIX, Mac, Windows, or mixed platform computing systems. Core modules include general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, bank reconciliation, fixed assets, inventory, sales and purchase orders, among others. In addition to the core there are industry specific modules, e-business modules. If your business requires unique modules you can customize OSAS software from the source code which you will have access to at no cost.
  • TurboCash provides an open source accounting package targeted to small and medium sized business. Developed eighteen years ago TurboCash has users around the world. TurboCash can be configured to use any language, and has free downloadable charts of accounts for Australia, Netherlands, South Africa, United Kingdom and USA with more countries being added.
  • GnuCash is an accounting application designed for personal and small-business use and runs on Linux, BSD, Solaris, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. GnuCash allows you to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses and is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports.
  • NolaPro’s developer, Noguska LLC was founded in 1973 as a technical service provider to the printing industry. In 2000 Nola began working on an open-source online accounting and inventory software. Because it was one of the first business applications for the Linux platform the project was quickly embraced. NolaPro was released in 2004 and is designed to address the needs of large to small businesses. NolaPro is easily customized to meet any company’s unique accounting and financial management needs.

Carefully research the open source accounting options available. There is not one open source accounting solution that is right for everyone.  You will have to make a determination based on your company’s unique needs and ability to support and operate the application. After assessing the costs and benefits of the various open source accounting applications the best fit for your organization will likely be obvious.

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