5 Popular Free and Open Source Accounting Software

by:
on September 17, 2019

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as free accounting software.

OK, that analogy only works if you don’t think about it too hard; just like a lunch, accounting software isn’t actually free. But the fact remains that many businesses aren’t aware of the numerous free and open source accounting software options out there, or—if they are—how to navigate the market and find their ideal product.

Before splurging on a more extensive and expensive solution, businesses with limited budgets should explore free and open source accounting software that could meet their needs.

To save you some time, we did the first research step for you. Here are five of the most popular free and open source accounting options out there, based on Google search results as of August 2019.

Here’s what we’ll cover:


Free accounting software:

Open source accounting software:

Why you must consider paid solutions, too
How we chose featured products

Let’s dive in.

Free accounting software

The majority of free accounting solutions out there are, in reality, limited versions of more expensive, high-end solutions—but that doesn’t mean they’re devoid of functionality. These three accounting solutions, while not as advanced as their paid counterparts, are built on a foundation of features capable of meeting the needs of your small or midsize business.

SlickPie

slickpie

Dashboard in SlickPie (Source)

SlickPie is an expense management solution geared toward small businesses. This cloud-based software offers more than just expense-related activity, however; users have access to live bank feeds, recurring invoices, and payment processing, as well as a host of features designed with the small-business owner in mind.

The free version includes email support and access for up to 10 companies, while the pro version, priced at $39.95 per month, offers phone support and up to 50 companies. Outside of that, the free software offers all the same features as the paid version.

Other features include:

  • Automated receipt data entry
  • Online invoices
  • Multicurrency support
  • PayPal, Stripe, and credit card processing
  • Late payment reminders
  • Support for multiple companies

Wave

wave

Dashboard in Wave (Source)

Designed with the small-business owner in mind, Wave prides itself on its simplicity and ease of use. Its intuitive user interface keeps the most important financial data front and center, accessible immediately after signup via any device with a web browser.

The idea here is that keeping things simple relieves much of the stress associated with accounting software. But don’t be deceived by this bare-bones approach; for a free piece of software, Wave is rich in features. This includes informative user dashboards, unlimited income and expense tracking, and customizable invoicing and sales tax processes.

Other features include:

  • Fast setup
  • Bulk transaction updates
  • Exchange rate conversions
  • PayPal, Shoeboxed, and Etsy integration
  • Unlimited bank and credit card accounts
  • Bill and invoice reminders

ZipBooks

zipbooks

Dashboard in ZipBooks (source)

Like most free accounting systems, ZipBooks offers a complimentary starter pack in addition to paid options. It does offer notable useful features for small businesses.

For no cost, users can send unlimited invoices, process digital payments, and manage as many vendors and customers as they need. This cloud-based solution also boasts integration with third-party applications such as Square, PayPal, Slack, and Gusto, giving organizations the freedom and flexibility to do business on their terms.

Other features include:

  • Custom invoices, quotes, and estimates
  • Ability to toggle between cash- and accrual-based reporting
  • Vendor and customer detail tracking
  • VAT, taxes, and invoice discounts
  • 1099 payment and expense recording
  • Balance sheet and profit and loss reporting

Open source accounting software

If you need an accounting system that you can modify to meet your business’ unique needs, open source software is a great option to consider. Users can download the source code—usually for little or no cost—and mold it into their ideal accounting system.

Open source systems require a certain degree of development expertise. But if you have a dedicated IT department, employ a coding expert, or are willing to hire a third-party consultant, open source software offers a viable alternative to the more monolithic—and pricey—solutions on the market.

GnuCash

gnucash

Checkbook-style register in GnuCash (Source)

This on-premise accounting solution offers a robust set of features—recurring transactions, bank reconciliation, and financial reporting among them. What’s more, it’s as affordable as it gets (i.e., free) and endlessly customizable.

The GnuCash register is like a digital checkbook of sorts, with the ability to split transactions, display multiple accounts in a single window, and tailor the appearance to your liking. But the software’s signature quality is its “double entry” feature, which mandates that all transactions must debit and credit accounts in equal measure—keeping your books balanced at all times.

Other features include:

  • Track individual stocks and portfolios
  • Regularly updated stock and mutual fund quotes
  • Check printing
  • Payroll management
  • Auto-fill frequent transactions
  • Income and expense categorization

LedgerSMB

ledgersmb

Invoice product selection in LedgerSMB (Source)

LedgerSMB is an on-premise, accounting-focused enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for small and midsize businesses. As a foundational software designed to integrate with other systems and processes, it’s an ideal solution for companies craving the flexibility to streamline their workflows. It also caters to a variety of industries, from retail businesses to trade organizations.

Built-in functionality includes the basics like general ledger and invoicing, but because it’s an ERP, its reach extends much further. And since it’s open source, LedgerSMB is customizable to your business’ needs, regardless of discipline.

Other features include:

  • Inventory management
  • Fixed-asset accounting
  • Export files as PDF, HTML, CSV, or Microsoft Office documents
  • Support for 45 languages
  • Time tracking and billable hours invoicing
  • Track purchasing processes by vendor, purchase orders, and invoices

Why you must consider paid solutions, too

While the systems outlined above might work for some organizations, they won’t work for all. In many cases—even yours, potentially—investing in a reputable paid solution will pay dividends in the long run.

Paid accounting software typically offers more substantial functionality, deeper insights, and more comprehensive technical support than free and open source options. For growing businesses in particular, dropping some cash for a more advanced system will extend the lifespan of your investment and ensure you’re not looking for a new vendor a year or two down the line.

To help guarantee that your search is sufficiently informed and thorough, we put together a list of top-rated accounting systems using our signature FrontRunners offering. Download the PDF—complete with an overview and features list for each product—at the link below.

3 Best Accounting Systems Backed by User Reviews

Download this guide to see top CRM systems based on real user reviews.

How we chose featured products

To identify the systems featured here, we Googled the terms “free accounting software” and “open source accounting software” during the month of August 2019 in an incognito window with the location set to the U.S. Provided they met the following criteria, the top solutions on the first page of search results are presented/included above in alphabetical order:

  • Offer a free, standalone version of the software (not a trial version of the software where you must purchase a product after a limited amount of time).
  • Meet our accounting software definition:
    Accounting software enables accounting professionals in any type of organization to manage accounts and perform various accounting and financial operations such as record keeping, financial reporting, billing, and invoicing.

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