Here at Cloudwards we’re all about making people’s lives easier through cloud-based computing.
Since small businesses are people, too, we’re doing a series on browser-based accounting apps that will allow you all the benefits of being able to work from anywhere yet still have all the power traditional accounting programs offer. For a primer on accounting software, please reader our 2018 buyers guide of the best accounting software.
Today, we’re talking about BrightBook: Brightbook
alternatives to BrightBook:
BrightBook’s developers, two graphic designers from the UK, set out to design a product that is easy to use for regular people with little to no bookkeeping knowledge and they have succeeded admirably as the program does a great job of the basics without any unnecessary frills.
Those more experienced with financial operations as well as people that need advanced functionality are best served by looking at alternative accounting apps like Xero or QuickBooks Online, but if you’re a hands-off person who doesn’t want to get too much into the details, BrightBook is definitely worth checking out.
One of the things you’ll notice about BrightBook is its unique style. The homepage is several colors, none of which match the scheme you conjure up when you think “accounting,” and features people partying (one girl has her top off) while a forlorn, grey man in a suit looks on holding a stack of papers. The whole scene is presided over by a animatronic T-rex in a party hat.
So, yeah, unique.
As with any other accounting software, BrightBook has some strengths and weaknesses that we’ll cover in this 2018 review. Hopefully, it’ll make your decision easier.
- Simple, clean interface and reduced functionality make it easy-to-use
- Tailored to sole proprietors who favor a hands-off approach
- Free service
- Lacking many advanced functions & basic ones are rudimentary
- No bank feeds
Brightbook is free, as in completely free: unlike the other free app we reviewed, Wave, there is no part of BrightBook that is paid for, nor are there ads of any kind. This means, though, that you get far fewer functions than you would with other programs. This is a trade-off of sorts, though may not be the greatest sacrifice depending on your needs.
Though BrightBook was supposed to only be free for basic functions, with more advanced ones costing a few bucks, the latter don’t seem to have emerged yet. Currently the developers seem content to just offer a program that makes life easier for its users, though this may change in the future.
Making life easier also means that a lot of functions have been scrapped in the name of simplicity: bank feeds, for instance are missing as are anything above basic reports. There’s no real A/P or A/R functionality, so people who need to issue credit notes and the like best find another program. Once you accept that this is a very stripped-down accounting program and judge it by its merits, you’ll find quickly that BrightBook is quite good.
Keeping track of incoming money is done mainly through invoicing and the transfer of them to your general ledger. Invoicing is a pretty basic affair: you input the details of your client through the address book, enter the amount and you’re off. All invoices are transferred to a general ledger giving you an overview of what you’ve sent out an what you’ve received.
The whole process is very simple but handles well. Once an invoice has been sent out you can attach a payment link that runs through PayPal, but only PayPal; other merchant services are missing. It’s still one more provider than many other accounting programs offer, but if you rely on credit card payments BrightBook may not be the best choice.
You could, of course, go with a third-party merchant-service provider but each of these transactions you would then have to enter manually since BrightBook supports very few add-ons. This is a choice that you would have to weigh entirely on your own situation, though the fact that BrightBook is free could tip the scales a bit.
Entering bills is much the same as invoices, so no hassle there. Simplicity is the watchword again, so expect very few frills, all you do is enter expenses and bills and they pop up from the ledger there. Data entry is manual, so all the program does is speed things up when compared to old-fashioned pen and paper.
Just like invoices the whole process is self-explanatory, so expect to spend very little time on any of this, meaning you get to do things you most likely feel are more interesting than doing the books.
You can’t set up bank feeds, but that doesn’t mean there is no way for you to reconcile your ledger, where your invoices and bills are recorded, with your bank statement. Users can import statements in .ofx and .qif formats, formats most banks can accommodate, and you can then start the reconciliation process.
It’s not automatic by any means, so you will have to do most of the work yourself. BrightBook is more a bookkeeping aid than a full program and this rather roundabout process is evidence of that. Since almost every other alternative cloud accounting app lets you import bank feeds directly, this lack is the biggest strike against BrightBook.
Reporting is also fairly basic, too basic, almost. One of the reasons you’re using an accounting program is to make those accountant’s bills smaller and BrightBook doesn’t completely succeed in that. You’re not avoiding your accountant’s bill unless you have a very small company as a lot of reports will still need to be compiled by your tax professional, BrightBook is sure not going to do it for you.
That being said, for your own purposes the reports will do fine as you get everything you need to get an idea of your financial health by simply, hitting a button. If you’re a bookkeeper looking to keep a tight grip on the financial reins, BrightBook will most likely disappoint you.
Signing up is quick, all in all it took me under a minute to get started. I like that BrightBook gives you the option to put in several mock invoices and bills so you can see what it’s supposed to look like once you get properly started. Removing these fake customers is easy once you no longer need them and I like the hand-holding, though it may not be to everyone’s taste.
The dash gives a quick, uncomplicated overview of revenue and expenses, so no worries there. Above the dash are your navigation buttons where everything is where you’d expect it. The only real confusion I see looming is when someone with real accounting experience tries to use the program, simply because the whole thing is so scaled down.
Anything above and beyond simple is just not there. This makes it very easy to use for novices or users with a very simple company (freelance writers spring to mind), but an exercise in frustration for people who expect a full set of tools when opening up an accounting program.
If simple and easy to use is all you need, use BrightBook, otherwise look at any other competitor. The lack of a price tag is very attractive, but it comes with extremely limited functionality.
Hands-off entrepreneurs with a small, very small, company will most likely love BrightBook though, with its simple interface and lack of a price tag. It’s hard to beat free stuff and BrightBook gives a specific subset of small-business owners a wonderful alternative to the giants in the field.