Mike Wright reports on a new private finance program.
IF YOU are one of those who feel that your micro should be used for more than playing games, Fulwood Software has produced the Account Management System for the 48K Spectrum. It consists of two programs, the Master Control Program and the Data Control Program, one on each side of the cassette. The instruction manual covers a mere five sides of the cassette label and one of them is taken up on an introduction and explanation as to why there are two programs.
AMS is designed to keep a record of all the usual transactions which arise in keeping a set of private accounts. The system can cope with up to five accounts. They are set up initially as current account, deposit account, access, Barclaycard and building society, although a facility exists for changing the names in the MCP. Each transaction can be grouped into one of 26 categories, defined as a-z, and for each category a budgeting target can be set.
In addition to changing the names of accounts, the main purpose of MCP is to set up and keep track of standing orders. It is also used to record the transfer of money between the five accounts and to delete transactions. By comparison, DCP is used for recording the day-to-day transactions of writing cheques, using a cash card and crediting the accounts. It is also used to name the transaction categories, setting budget targets and checking how far apart are target and reality.
When AMS is first used, MCP must be loaded. Once loaded, it asks the user whether to load an old data file or to create a new one. Creating a new data file involves setting a starting date for the financial year, a password and the current date. The password, unfortunately, is only an added embellishment, since the programs can be broken into easily and a warm re-start achieved using GOTO 71, bringing the user back to the main menu. That gives the user seven options. The first five give access to the five accounts, while six and seven save and verify the data. Option six ends the sessions after the save and verify while seven goes on to the load DCP.
Each of the first five options leads to the same subsidiary menu with four options - add a standing order, amend a standing order, delete a transaction, and change account name. Each of those options then prompts for the appropriate input but there is no display of the data once it has been entered.
The prompts for adding a standing order are:
IN or OUT of account - i or o.
Transfer account number - i.e., 1 to 5 corresponding to the main menu.
A four-character identifier for the standing order. Another two characters are added by the program to give an exceptional code.
The frequency of payment, either 1 - monthly; 2 - quarterly; or 3 - annually.
The date of the first payment.
The number of payments.
The transaction category - a-z.
An 18-character description of the transaction.
Once that has been completed only the amount and dates of payment are shown and confirmation requested. The other options prompt in a similar fashion, although less information is usually required. Once the user is satisfied that the password and standing orders have been set the data can be saved and verified. If DCP is to be used it must then be loaded; the process takes about seven-and-a-half minutes.
DCP starts by inviting the user to press enter to load the data file. In fact, pressing enter causes the password to be requested before loading the data file. The main menu for DCP offers access to one of the five accounts or of closing and saving the data.
The subsidiary menu for the five accounts also offers five options. The first two allow the account to be credited or debited and lead to similar displays prompting for the date of the transaction, the amount, the cheque or receipt number, the details - up to 18 characters - and the category - a-z of the transaction. Once again the details are not shown after they have been entered, nor is the user asked to confirm them.
The third option gives the balance in the account on the current date. Option four allows for a statement to be printed for all transactions on a set date. That lists the transactions by date, number - the identifying cheque, receipt or standing order number - the amount, balance and whether debit or credit. Only a maximum of 10 transactions is shown on the screen at any time, with instructions on how to obtain more details or the next page or obtain a printout at the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately when a printout is obtained those instructiOns are also printed, so if more than one page of statements is required the overall cohesion of the presentation is spoiled. The last option allows, via another menu, transaction categories to be set up, named and assigned a budget target. It will also list the categories with their names and targets and compare the balance and target for any category graphically.
Despite the use of menus and prompts, AMS cannot really be described as user-friendly. While some error-trapping is built into the system, the major trap is the user. That can be illustrated by the fact that initially it will accept an amount with characters in it - e.g., £u.89 - and then breaks down two or three steps later when it tries to use that value. It is regarded as satisfactory for February to have 29 days in a non-leap year. The overall impression is of a program which has been considered only from the point of view of what it will do but not how it is done or, perhaps most important, who is to use it.
Account Management System is available from Fulwood Software and costs £7.95.