I currently recommend four different makes of bookkeeping software free for anyone to use.
These are genuinely free products, not those annoying ‘free trial period’ ones, but free for as long as your small business requires it, or if you are a student wanting to practice your bookkeeping skills.
These companies can provide their bookkeeping software free because they make their money with upgrade add-ons or personalized services and so on.
I have been using expensive and advanced bookkeeping software for many years and these free ones compare very well.
As of 30 November 2020 Wave is Only Available for Businesses inside the USA and Canada.
This one is an online program so will be compatible with any computer system with an internet browser.
I have used Wave Accounting for years and I think it's a wonderful online accounting program for small businesses who offer services of some sort, or who sell products but don't need to track inventory, or can track inventory in another program.
What you get with Wave
I love that you can connect your (world-wide) bank account to Wave and have your transactions uploaded automatically at the press of a button; you still have to allocate each transaction to the relevant income or expense account but this process is the same as what you have to do with QuickBooks or Xero.
You can access Wave from your smartphone.
The Dashboard displays your Bank Account balances (where you click on Update Now to get the new transactions from your bank), A Financial Snapshot showing a chart of Income vs Expenses, Setting Tips, a summary of bills you owe and what's owed to you, a summary of your Net Income, and a colorful wheel chart comparing business expenses.
There are several sales invoice designs to choose from. You can use different currencies.
If you go shopping you can automatically upload a copy of your receipt to Wave Accounting with your smartphone, or scan and email it to your Wave account.
As Wave can be used world-wide, they have a section where you enter your own sales tax options (GST/VAT) based upon your country's sales tax laws.
Customize your list of accounts.
View and print/pdf a range of important financial reports such as Income Statement and Balance Sheet.
Payroll is available but only for North America and you have to pay to use it.
They have a Wave University so you can learn for free how to use this program.
There are so many great features that you need to go and check it out yourself!
You can do basic inventory tracking but will have to do journals as a work around. If you are looking for intensive inventory tracking, this is not the right program for you. At the time of writing this article, Xero is the same - only offering basic products - but Xero allows other inventory intensive software programs to connect to Xero to push the right financial details through.
The second of the four bookkeeping software is Manager.
They have a desktop version and a cloud version.The desktop version is free, the cloud version is on subscription basis. Here is a comparison. If you only need one user and don't need to access it when away from your computer, then the desktop version is a great choice - it has everything you need.
Manager is an open source software and is designed to allow users to be up and running within minutes of download.
It is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux.
Unlike most traditional software brands, there is no need to spend hours configuring Manager and entering opening balances, setting up the chart of accounts and financial year dates before being able to use it.
It's simple, fast and easy to use.
What you get with Manager Desktop version
The main screen shows a summary of how the business is doing by displaying the bank balances, receivables due, and a profit and loss breakdown with income and expenses listed.
The ability to produce customized sales invoices and keep a list of client contacts.
Keep a record of bills and supplier contacts as well as accounts payable due.
You can process journal entries to adjust your accounts.
Reconcile the bank accounts.
Produce these main reports: balance sheet, trial balance, profit and loss and aged receivables.
Add any number of plug-ins to increase what you can do in Manager including sales tax compliance - Manager has a list for various countries.
There is a forum where you can get help.
Who needs to spend a fortune on traditional accounting programs when you can get bookkeeping software for free in a fantastic program like Manager! Just click on the graphic below which will take you to Manager's download page... all free!
Click on ‘download the free accounting software version here’ and it will download the set up assistant for placing this software onto your computer.
Once you are setup and ready to go, enter the program by clicking on the icon on your desktop which should like something like this:
If you cannot find the icon you may need to add it to your desktop by searching for it in your computer’s list of programs for NCH Software, right clicking on Express Accounts, selecting ‘Send to..’ and choosing ‘Desktop (shortcut).
When you are in Express Accounts a message might come up asking you to certify that you have less than five employees. Click on this.
If you have more than five employees, click on the box for the commercial license. This prompt might only show up after you have been using it the program a short while.
To learn how to use the software you can access the help guide by clicking on the question mark on the top right – see red circle on graphic below.
Bookkeeping Software Free Express Accounts Home Page
4. Bokio for UK Businesses
Bokio Bookkeeping software is for small businesses in the United Kingdom.
Their software is compliant with Making Tax Digital and it's mobile friendly.
Creating a user account is fast and easy.
What You Get with Bokio Accounting
After signing-up for your free account you will be emailed a downloadable handbook called Introduction to Accounting in Bokio which explains how to get started with your bookkeeping and all the things that come with it such as double-entry bookkeeping, chart of accounts and much, much more.
You can access a Help center from your user account and you can contact Bokio directly for help.
You can track VAT if you are registered and use the software to file your digital tax return.
Create and send invoices to customers with a few clicks and receive notifications for overdue invoices. They can be sent by email or downloaded as a PDF. You can also manage credit invoices.
Enter and track bills from suppliers so that you are never late again to pay (so long as you have the funds in your bank account!)
Scan and Upload receipts from your phone so you always have a copy of your receipt within the system (rather than have them floating around in your bag!).
You can see and manage all the ledgers which is specifically helpful for reconciling your bank account ledger (make sure it balances with your actual bank account).
See important business reports such as the Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet.
A to-do list is auto updated to help you keep on track with payments.
Give access to your Accountant or employees.
The above features are all completely free but for £10 a month you can get priority support.
What You Don't Get with Bokio
They do not provide a live feed from your bank account so transactions will not be automatically added to your bookkeeping records.
There is no payroll feature.
You cannot keep a fixed asset register or multi-currency bank accounts.
VAT cannot be filed without Making Tax Digital.
Bokio are continuously working behind the scenes and you can be added to their email list to be notified when any new features are integrated.
An interesting alternative to Bokio is the free accounting software called QuickFile. It is MTD compatible, has bank feeds, sales invoicing, rich reports and much more.
"Although the program is very easy to download and use by students it is by no means just a learning tool. It is being used seriously by hundreds of clubs, trusts, and businesses of all sizes around the world to maintain their general ledger accounts". LedgerLite
The fourth bookkeeping software free download is LedgerLite, by Responsive Software.
**Update** - Ledger has now changed to LedgerLite. You can still download the software immediately, and use it as an unregistered user for 30 days, and then pay a $50 one-time fee, no more charges after that, the ongoing cost is free.
This program is fantastic for learning double-entry bookkeeping because you have to manually enter both sides of each entry.
LedgerLite is compatible with all versions of Windows including Windows emulators for the Mac.
It is a very good, simple and unique program for small businesses and for students wanting to practice entering debits and credits. You can upgrade to LedgerPlus for invoicing, stock control, customer accounts.
What you get with LedgerLite
A cashbook: where you enter the transactions off your bank statement.
Chart of Accounts: that you can change to suit your business.
Entries: a second way you can enter transactions showing on your bank statement, or for journaling entries from one account to another if you have made a mistake.
A ledger: that lays out the detail of each account that you have made entries to
Cash flow statement: showing the flow of cash in and out of the business
Online help and support
The option to unlock, for a small fee, some of the locked features such as a ledger listing, trial balance and other. A new, small business can get by without these options – it is not necessary to unlock them.
The option to upgrade, for a price, to LedgerPlus which has everything a business can use from sales invoicing, accounts receivable and payable, stock control, asset schedule, depreciation etc.