by March 4, 2009 0 comments



There’s an old perception that Open Source ERP solutions are rather complex
and difficult to use. And with good reasons. But SQL-Ledger is different. It is
intuitive, easy to use and provides you impressive capabilities so you can do
business-class double-entry book keeping. Last month, we showed how to install
and get started with SQL-Ledger. This month we use it for a small business
scenario so that its features can be put to test. We had successfully installed
Sql-Ledger on Apache server and also configured user roles for PostgreSQL
database, used by the software for storing information. We had stopped at the
point where the dataset for a company’s accounts was created. Now we continue
from that step and associate a demo company to the dataset.

Setting up the dataset and the user
After successful login from the Administration screen, you land up on the
SQL-Ledger Accounting Administration page. To create or configure the dataset,
click on “Pg Database Administration” button. On the next screen, provide the
Host as localhost and the port as 5432, and then click on ‘Create Dataset’. The
screen that follows is where we name the dataset and also associate the dataset
with a Chart of Accounts. For our demo, we have named the dataset as ‘pcqdemo’
and chosen the default chart of accounts as the accounting system. A Chart of
Account is an accounts template for various businesses and also represents the
accounting regulations of various countries, including US, UK, Austria,
Australia and Canada.

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This dataset will be used by employees who will have specific roles, where
some will look after store keeping and others will be managing accounts. We can
create users and define their specific roles through the same SQL-Ledger
Accounting Administration page, by clicking on the ‘Add User’ button. On the
Create User page, one can define user credentials and also the dataset for
storing the accounts information. We created a user ‘PCQ_User’ and associated
the user with the ‘pcqdemo’ dataset. Also on the same page, we can choose the
various access controls for the users like Account Receivables (AR), Account
Payables (AP), POS, and Order Entries, etc.

Getting started
When you log on to SQL-Ledger as a user, you will be presented with an
interface that houses two frames. The left frame has the navigation menu, which
can expand to further categories and sub-menus. The right pane is the screen for
data entry. For a small business, opening up the accounts balance will require
entering the details of customers, vendors/suppliers, goods or services
descriptions and taxation details. We started the opening balance for our demo
company by entering details customers that our company has, and also of the
vendor who supplies products. The customer details can be entered through AR >
Customers > Add Customer from the left navigation pane. The data fields in the
‘Add Customer’ pane ask for various details of the customer, and even allow us
to set the credit threshold limit and also associate a salesperson to a
particular customer. Similarly vendor details can be entered through AP >
Vendors > Add Vendor from the navigation menu. The data fields are similar to
those for customers but here we can delegate an employee to a vendor. A drop
down list appears for a salesperson or an employee association to a particular
customer/vendor, which is the list of users who access the dataset. We added a
few product details through Goods & Services > Add Part. For entering product
details, there is a data field provided that takes the path of the image of the
product. Also the fields for Vendor and Customers are automatically populated by
a drop-down list having vendor and customer names respectively. Now since we
have some demo customers and products, we can start the ledger journal of
balance by creating order processing and invoices.

While creating a
user, you can provide a login name and password for him and also associate
the user to a dataset and check access control options.

Order processing
Transactions can be in form of a quote, order or an invoice. For our company
we create a sales order through Order Entry > Sales Order option from the
navigation menu. The data entering process is straightforward, and it’s also
possible to lookup for parts and services to find the ones required for the
order. The sales order instance is not lost while a user traverses from the
sales order screen to a part or to a vendor screen and back. When displaying an
order or invoice on screen, several related actions can be performed by clicking
on buttons across the bottom of the screen. The actions presented are
independent of order status. The fields for customer and salespersons can be
filled from the drop-down menu, while product details can be filled by entering
the product number, or alternately looking up product details from the Parts
screen.

SQL-Ledger starts
creation of reports by asking for various parameters to be included in them.
The drop-down provides ease of use for entering data.

In a similar way, invoices and quotations forms are easy to use and have the
auto-fill option for certain fields. The invoices screen also has a field that
asks where the invoice records are to be created, and in our case it happens to
be AR as it was a credit invoice to a customer. For an invoice to a vendor, the
recording ledger will be of AP as it will be a debt invoice.

Templates can be
edited by modifying the HTML code through System > HTML
Templates option.

Reports
SQL-Ledger appears to be bland in comparison to Windows-based applications
in this regard as it is just a browser based interface. However, what it lacks
in looks and interface limitations, it covers up with functionalities, and one
such functionality is that of generating reports. SQL-Ledger provides a
‘Reports’ option for almost all modules like AR, AP, Cash, Order Entry, Goods &
Services, etc. And even for sub-menus like Customers and Vendors, a reporting
feature is also provided. For each category the reporting requirements are
different, and SQL-Ledger has demarcated these requirements effectively. All
report screens are prefaced by a configuration screen where search-text, report
filters and columns to be included in the report are specified, resulting in
good flexibility in the data that is presented on the resulting report. The
reports that are created for each module can be printed or sent as a PDF,
PostScript, or HTML attachment.
But this could become a cumbersome process for some daily reporting tasks, so if
there could be an option of saving these configuration settings for reports in
SQL-Ledger, it would have been a useful functionality as the user wouldn’t need
to specify these settings each time when he has to create a report.

While entering
transaction details, the customer, salesperson and account fields get filled
with the corresponding list of users thus providing ease of use.

SQL-Ledger does not provide a rigid interface for templates for the reports,
as these can be edited to change placement of a particular item or to carry a
company’s logo. HTML templates can be modified through System > HTML Templates,
and then by selecting the appropriate template that you choose to edit. When you
click on a template, its overview is displayed in the main right screen, which
has an Edit button at the bottom. For editing the template, click this edit
button and the template’s HTML code opens up in an editor view for making
changes.

Conclusion
SQL-Ledger provides ease of use, non-cluttered interface, but is not a
sophisticated solution to be used by large enterprises. However, it suits the
requirements for small businesses very well.

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