Capterra Finance Software Blog

Accounting, budgeting, and financial technology for businesses

Top Free Accounting Software Options

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Update 7/13/2017: We’ve updated this piece with additional details and options based on new offerings and suggestions from readers.

You have to spend money to make money – that much is true.

As it turns out, though, you don’t have to spend money to track the money you’re making.

Accounting software comes in all shapes and sizes, and one of those sizes is free.

Free accounting software for small businesses

There’s an obvious value to anything free—it’s free. That doesn’t mean free things always have more value than their paid alternatives, though.

Free is only truly free if you don’t place a high value your own time and effort. The “best” free software of any kind is easy to learn, easy to use, and doesn’t create an unending series of hurdles to overcome.

Clearly, there are tradeoffs to be made. For example, open source software has value in being flexible, extendible, and malleable. It requires time and effort to take advantage of those things, but the time you spend balances with the value you get when you’re done.

When choosing free options, I’m looking for those that fill a need without requiring you to sink needless hours into the system.

All six options presented here are listed in the Capterra accounting software directory and have positive reviews. They’re presented here alphabetically.

Wave Accounting

Wave bills its accounting package as “the world’s fastest growing small business accounting software.” The company offers a 100% free, no upgrades available, what you see is everything there is program. Funded by ads shown to users, Wave is an accounting package that’s aimed at businesses with nine or fewer employees.

WaveScreen

The Wave interface. Alt: Wave accounting

Who is it for?

If you’re an aesthetics person, Wave Accounting is a good place to start. The software is nothing if not attractive. The engine under the hood is strong too, allowing you to run reports, connect to your bank, and integrate Wave’s invoicing and payroll systems (payroll has an associated fee)

While the software is aimed at smaller businesses, Wave tells me that the real goal is to appeal to business owners that are running their own accounting. That can be any sized business.

What’s the catch?

Folks who have an aversion to targeted ads might need to look elsewhere. As with most free products, when you’re not paying, you’re the actual product. Wave displays targeted ads in its software, which is how it can afford not to charge you. While the site makes it clear that you can turn off the targeting in the ads and that no identifying information is shared, you’re going to be stuck with ads no matter what.

If you’ve used Wave, leave a review here.

GnuCash

GnuCash is an open source, double entry accounting solution for small businesses and individuals. With a deep feature set and consistent updates, GnuCash offers businesses of all sizes a slew of resources to keep their books in line. With more power and insight than some of the other software offered, GnuCash has plenty of guides and tutorials to help newcomers – or “GnuComers.”

free accounting software

The GnuCash interface. Alt: GnuCash

Who is it for?

One of GnuCash’s main limitations is that it works on the double entry system. If your business uses a different accounting system, you’re out of luck.  If you can manage it, though, GnuCash gets consistently good reviews as being easy to use, if a bit boring. The user interface is straightforward enough, but it’s clear that the program is designed for function, not form.

Overlooking the design elements, GnuCash is a solid option for small businesses using double entry accounting. The program offers a number of highly praised features, including foreign currency rates and a range of reporting features. GnuCash is available on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

What’s the catch?

As I mentioned above, it doesn’t have a super pretty interface. I want to make it clear that, while it’s not going to win a design award, it is very functional and not at all confusing. Sometimes, bad design makes things unusable, and that is not the case with GnuCash.

Also, keep in mind that GnuCash is an open source project, not a stand-alone business. If you need support, you’ll need to source it from other users and developers. There’s no 800 number or online chat. If you’re not comfortable doing some work, GnuCash isn’t going to be a great choice.

If you’ve used GnuCash, leave a review here.

TurboCASH

TurboCASH is another open source solution, designed to be both flexible and simple to navigate. The company says that it has over 100,000 users across 80 countries. Originally released in South Africa, the software now has regional options and versions, supporting over 20 languages. Third-party plug-ins offer extra options for TurboCASH, though some require a licensing fee before use.

Who is it for?

free accounting software

The TurboCASH interface. Alt: TurboCASH

If you want to have complete flexibility, and you have the time and knowledge to oversee a higher level of accounting detail, TurboCASH is a good solution. Unlike GnuCash, TurboCASH offers a flexible approach to accounting style. The program is more complex to learn and set up, but it comes with a set of example settings for each country, to help get you on the right track. You will still need to set the program up for your specific business requirements, but there’s less chance for error if you rely on the included settings.

What’s the catch?

TurboCASH is also community supported, though you can connect with contractors if you have a problem you simply can’t overcome. TurboCASH is currently only available for Windows. Of the options listed here, TurboCASH is likely to be the second most daunting for first time or technophobic users, right behind PostBooks (below).

If you’ve used TurboCASH, leave a review here.

xTuple PostBooks

xTuple PostBooks is open source enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. That means that, in addition to accounting, PostBooks can track sales, has a customer management system, and can integrate inventory, among other features. xTuple offers a free license and a commercial licensing system. The free license is the same program, but it comes without any specialized support.

xTuple maintains a strong online community, where users can support each other, but if you want help from a professional, it’ll cost you.

free accounting software

The PostBooks interface. Alt: PostBooks]

Who is it for?

PostBooks requires more technical know-how than any of the other solutions listed here. Not only does it provide more features, it’s also designed to extend into more parts of the business and be overseen by professionals. This isn’t something you’re going to set up in a weekend and never touch again.

If you have the technical team and the need for ERP software, PostBooks has a lot to offer for a big fat $0. If you lack those things, you can always pay for support and hosting, but then the software’s no longer free.

What’s the catch?

ERPs are beasts. If you’re running a sole proprietorship, focused on marketing—or whatever—you do not need this much technology. ERPs were designed to manage things such as car manufacturing and the production of steel. While they’ve expanded their remit, it’s still more than many small businesses need.

Unlike owning a car with too much engine just for tooling around on the weekend, owning an ERP isn’t “fun”—it’s just overly complex and expensive to maintain.

If you’ve used PostBooks, leave a review here.

ZipBooks

ZipBooks is a free, cloud-based accounting solution. The system is one of the newer players in the accounting space, but it’s already gotten some solid reviews and press. Unlike Wave, which makes its money by displaying ads, ZipBooks relies on partnerships with payment providers to generate cash.

The company basically acts as an affiliate for these payment processors, allowing it to provide the accounting side of things for free–you don’t have to use a payment processor to use the free accounting software, by the way.

main-menu

The ZipBooks interface. Alt: ZipBooks

Who is it for?

Small businesses and freelancers will like ZipBooks for its non-existent cost. There are some limitations, so bigger operations or those who need to manage inventory or payroll will want to look elsewhere. ZipBooks also hasn’t made getting your data out of its system super straightforward–yet–so you’ll need to use its API to pull things out. It guides you through this, but it’s not just point-and-click.

Support comes with your free account, so I really like ZipBooks as a starter package or for those folks who just don’t have the time or energy to figure all the details out themselves. If you’re working with online payments or credit card processing, ZipBooks makes life very easy.

What’s the catch?

I intensely dislike the complexity of data exporting in ZipBooks. A truly great system should be both easy to get into and easy to get out of. That’s not great for accounting software vendors, but it’s great for users. ZipBooks holds on just a bit too tightly to user data.

If you’ve used ZipBooks, leave a review here.

SlickPie

SlickPie is a Canadian-based accounting software firm that offers a solid free option for small businesses and freelancers. There are some limits to this one, with a $10 per month level sitting above the free version. With the free option limiting you to 100 invoices and 100 bills per month.

It’s a pretty high limit for small businesses and you could ride that for a long time. Everything else in the free version is open to unlimited use, so you’ll have access to reports, support, and bank reconciliation at all levels.

104101-slickpie-1465586720-5839932

The SlickPie interface. Alt: SlickPie

Who is it for?

SlickPie has some nice time tracking options that work well for freelancers and service providers. There are also some good sales tax management tools to help retailers keep everything up to date.

The simple layout and clean design make SlickPie an easy one to learn your way around, so most users shouldn’t have too much trouble with the learning curve. I’d hold off on this only if you’re outsized due to the billing and invoicing restrictions or if you need payroll management built-in.

What’s the catch?

The only real drawback to SlickPie is its limitation on invoicing. One hundred invoices a month might be the limit you never hit, or it might be the limit you hit just six months into your business’s life. A lot will depend on the kind of business you run, as wholesalers—for instance— are likely to send many more invoices than landscapers would.

If you’ve used SlickPie, leave a review here.

Final thoughts

There are plenty of people that you should talk to before you make an accounting software decision. If you have an accountant, see what they need. If you’re planning to integrate with other systems, make sure the technology you’re using plays nicely with the accounting package you end up with.

Finally, make sure you know where to go for more information. Most free and paid software will allow you to talk to other users in a forum and to post questions to the company or members of the development team. Before you dive in, you can also check out some steps to get you ready for your accounting software upgrade.

Good luck, and let me know in the comments if you’ve found other free options that work well for you.

Looking for Accounting software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Accounting software solutions.

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About the Author

Andrew Marder

Andrew Marder is a writer for Capterra. His background is in retail management, banking, and financial writing. When he’s not working, Andrew enjoys spending time with his son and playing board games of all stripes.

Comments

Andrew,

How do we get included on this list? We are new but we meet all the criteria. Thanks for letting us know in advance!

I think you should check below software’s ……
http://www.manager.io/ ********* I recommended this one to all.
http://wandaapos.com/

Hi

I think this list is not updated?
I am using openmiracle which is very good one with 100 percentage FREE source code.
I think its the best one I ever seen.

Salene

Any thoughts on jgnash? I’m using gnuCash now, but am looking for a personal finance program with a more modern user interface, better documentation, and better support. I like the idea of double entry as it is more likely to keep things straight. Oh, I don’t mind paying for something if it is good, well supported, and open .

Dave,

Hi Andrew, I’m in USA and researching to help a small and growing food processing business in Tanzania. Need to get accounting software. I like your review above, and based on what you say above, lean towards Turbo Cash to start with and see if it will work okay for them. Also want to be able to have food source traceability (free preferred) and saw some of that on your site also. Do you have suggestions on being able tie anything together for accounting and supply source traceability, maybe setting up lot codes or something? I’ve not done this before, but am familiar with accounting some. As a small business with 6 workers at peak time, they don’t have a lot of extra money since they are growing it. The accounting and traceability functions are important, yet free is good until they get bigger and can do more. Thanks. Diana

I use Slickpie online accounting software. It is 100% free and easy to use, but to me the best thing about it that it sends automatic payment reminders to clients that haven’t paid the invoices on time so they remember to do so. The support service is great.

Hi Andrew,

Great article! These are some great players in the space and we’re glad you’ve featured them. I’d like to introduce you to Billy, the most easy-to-use, cloud-based accounting software that’s been designed from the ground up for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Our package is fully functional with invoicing, expense tracking and more which is also 100% free.

Feel free to check us out at https://www.billyapp.com. You can check out all of the premium features using a 30 day trial, but I’d be happy to set you up with a review account if you’d like more time.

Thanks,

-Evan

Hi,

The LedgerSMB software has a development history of 17 years, so, we’ve been around for a long time. Free and openly developed Open Source software: accounting for small and medium businesses, with invoicing, orders, projects and more.

Demo system at https://demo.cloud.efficito.com/erp/1.5/

Regards,

Erik.

This is a great list.
I work for http://inventrik.com/ and we are in process of developing an open source solution for retailers. Do connect with us if you would like to know more!

Cheers!

Baffled by numbers? Fancy to smile when you have to do your bookkeeping? Start today with https://easybook.io, try it for free now!

You made a great list!
Is this Inventory Management Software should consider? what say?

Awesome list – Andrew Marder ..
It’s very informative.Free and openly developed Open Source software: accounting for small and medium businesses, with invoicing, orders, projects and more.

Hello everyone,
My name is Guy and I just starting running a small used car dealership in the states. Any advice on which one of these open source free software could be a good fit? any advice would be greatly appreciated.

For my small business SlickPie is the best accounting/invoicing software for managing my business accounting. It’s a free online app. It offers many features, Such as – unlimited user, auto data entry tool-MagicBot, financial reports, bank feed, auto payment reminders, auto recur and more.

Thank you! This list was just the aggregate I needed to cut through the overload of information. I’d never heard of zipbooks and that’s the place I’m starting…

Thanks again!
Rachel db

Excel accounting budget analysis is an accounting workbook that allows you to easily manage the cash flow in and out of your small to medium business. You can download trial version here Download https://www.excel-accounting-budget-analysis.com

For small business and freelancers, I recommend SlickPie software. It provides me financial reports of my business. It also calculates my business sales tax. It’s free online accounting software. Easily access its features on any devices such as PC, Tablets, and Mobiles.

Great job compiling the list.
Please consider Accurants (https://www.accurants.com). We have a 15-days FREE trial thereafter a FREE account with Invoice (limited number per month). Accurants has Invoicing, Time Tracking, Project Management, Expense Tracking, Expense Reports, Mileage Log, Accounting, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), Payroll & HR, and Taxes as modules that work alone or in any combination. Whether you are just starting or you have 100 employees, Accurants scales up automatically as your business needs grow.

HashMicro is a Singapore’s leading Cloud ERP & CRM vendor, offering innovative software development services and Business Solutions.
visit us:https://www.hashmicro.com

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