February 2014 / PhreeBooksR36RC3
Author – Charles
This isn’t strictly a HowTo, but it describes ‘What is PhreeBooks’ (in my opinion).
PhreeBooks Accounting is a :
- Web-based (multi-user) … 20-30 people can access concurrently – WAN & LAN
- OpenSource … the code and database is completely accessible and amendable
- Double-entry accounting software … the accounting ‘gold standard’
- ERP functionality
- Integrated ‘Cost-of-Sales Accounting’ (NOT Periodic Accounting)
It is a relatively sophisticated accounting package with:
- Powerful Report Generator (PhreeForm) for customized .pdf Reports or .csv data
- Inventory Management – including Assemblies and Master Stock Items
- ACL – user and role-based Security Settings (Access Control List)
- Multiple Languages – Translator Assistant tool freely available
- PHP and MySQL based – runs on Linux/Windows/Mac
- Multiple Currencies – all transactions are recorded in user-set default currency
- Multiple Branch Support – each branch can have it’s own Inventory
- E-Commerce Shopping-Cart interfaces – currently ZenCart, OpenCart
- Payment Gateways e.g. PayPal, Authorize.net, Elevon, LinkPoint, FirstData
- Shipping Integration with FedEx, YRC, UPS, USPS
- Sales Order -> Purchase Order – a one-click operation
- Email Integration – send Invoices, PO’s and Statements from within PhreeBooks
- Project Tracking – by Tasks and Cost Codes
- Work-order capability
- Modular Architecture for customization
In my opinion, the ‘heart’ of PhreeBooks and it’s hidden strength (USP, if you like) is the PhreeForm report generator – see below. PhreeForm is a report generation tool that enables a user to design unique reports that interrogate the database without the need to know the SQL-query language.
PhreeBooks requires a user with a degree of competence in computing, networks and accountancy to set it up. It can be set up on a PC as localhost in a peer-to-peer network, or on a dedicated local server on a LAN, or remotely hosted in the ‘Cloud’. If using a Linux server OS, then the server hardware can be anything from an old PC upwards.
Once set-up, PhreeBooks can be happily accessed by up to 20-30 (estimate) concurrent users (only limited by the database used), from anywhere on the internet using a (recommended) HTTPS secure connection.
PhreeBooks is described almost universally by users as “fast” i.e. with a good internet connection or a quality gigabit LAN, set-up on a reasonably loaded dual-core server (or better) you will feel that data is accessed quickly – unlike other alternatives.
“Note – it [OpenBravo] seems to want a fair amount of grunt from server to run it. I’m using a corei5 with 8GB ram. ( initially tried it [OpenBravo] on a Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T5500 @ 1.66GHz with 2G Ram and it barfed )”
What Size of Company for PhreeBooks:
Business Size definitions
The EU describes companies by the following metrics:
- Micro : 0-9 employees … (Revenue/Turnover < EUR 2M ~ $2.7M) ~ 95% of EU SME’s
- Small : 10-49 employees … (Revenue/Turnover < EUR 10M ~ $13.5M)
- Medium – 50-249 employees … (Revenue/Turnover < EUR 50M ~ $68M)
- Large – 250+ employees
In my opinion, I would describe PhreeBooks as well suited for Micro and Small enterprises and perhaps Medium sized companies also (depending on their business).
As a business grows, the structure becomes less about individuals and personalities and more about functions and roles. PhreeBooks is designed to help make this transition easy with a comprehensive user and role-based Access Control List (ACL).
One of the attractions of PhreeBooks and most OpenSource ERP software, is that a business has complete access to the database and code – do not underestimate the value of this. This means that PhreeBooks can be easily adapted by a business to suit an unforseen specific need – now and in the future. This is in stark contrast to some of the common commercial accounting packages.
The OpenSource ERP Family-Tree:
Over the years, the leading OpenSource accounting/ERP softwares have often developed as a ‘fork’ of an original software (often still in development e.g. WebERP) or have in some way been more loosely developed from a related software. Here is a very rudimentary OpenSource ‘family- tree’ (I am sure that this list is very subjective)
Compiere(1999)-> aDampiere(2006), OpenBravo(2006), Adaxa, SocratesOpen, A1.io,
SQL-ledger(1999) -> lx-Office(2003), ledgerSMB(2006) -> Kivitendo(2012)
OFBiz(2001) -> OpenTaps(2008)
OpenMFG(2001) -> xTuple(2007), PostBooks(2007)
TinyERP(2002) -> OpenERP(2006)/Odoo(2014), Tryton(2008)
Ledger(2003) -> hledger(2007), beancount(2007)
WebERP(2003) -> OpenAccounting(2003) -> FrontAccounting(2005)
WebERP(2003) -> PhreeBooks(2007)
I would be interested to know where the following ERP’s ‘fit-in’ in the OpenSource ERP Family-Tree: BlueERP, KEME-Contabilidad
Origins of PhreeBooks:
Dave Premo is the Creator and Project Manager and has kept a very firm control of development.
Dave formerly used Peachtree for 15 years, including Sage Peachtree Complete – now called Sage 50 Complete. He developed PhreeBooks to replace Sage Peachtree and has used PhreeBooks to run his business since 2008.
In his own words:
“I am the primary developer … some history:
I run a small battery company in the US [http://www.portablepower.com/] and have a background as a design engineer. I was very unhappy with the commercial accounting applications out there as I found them to be difficult to adapt to my business and very expensive to operate in a multi-user environment. I wrote several interfaces to integrate my shipping, e-commerce sites, etc. to make my business flow smoothly.
Enter my search for an open source ERP solution. I first hooked up with webERP and wrote the report-writer tool for the application. The project manager (in a similar position but earlier in the calendar to me) had a firm control over the architecture and I viewed a much different interface and structure. So I ended up looking for an architecture that I though brought about the flexibility I was looking for and ended up using the admin interface from ZenCart. (I have since completely re-written about 99.9% of the code and ended up building my own architecture) The other option was to branch off of webERP because of the stability of the accounting engine. So off I went in early 2007 to write my own accounting program. “
PhreeBooks aims to be a viable OpenSource alternative to Quickbooks and Sage/Peachtree.
PhreeForm Report Writing Tool – the ‘Heart’ of PhreeBooks:
Phil Daintree (WebERP Project Manager)
“the reportwriter directory contains the sql report writer used with webERP – this contribution from Dave Premo – the author of Phreebooks does not follow any of the conventions of the rest of webERP but adds important functionality to webERP. There is a whole other directory structure under the reportwriter directory and the code is more difficult to follow. Happily Dave wrote some good help to enable it to be used”
PhreeForm Module is the Report generation tool within PhreeBooks, formerly called ‘Reportwriter’. There are 50+ standard ‘Reports’ including Balance Sheet, Trial Balance, Chart of Accounts, Customer & Vendor Statements etc:
TOOLS > Reports
The powerful concept behind the PhreeForm tool was that people wouldn’t have to know SQL-query language to interrogate the database and generate a unique report. Reports are xml based and the PhreeForm report-builder tool is handled on a single popup form (with tabs).
Forms and Reports in PhreeBooks:
An Invoice is a ‘Form‘. Forms are normally a single page of information.
Think of a ‘Form’ as cut out pieces of paper (representing the ‘fields’ on the form) placed on an A4 sheet of paper to get the form design you require. Forms can be populated with different data sets e.g. multiple invoices can be generated in a single request for all sales for the day.
A list detailing sales of a particular SKU is a ‘Report‘. Reports can be many pages long, consisting of line after line of details.
Reports can be exported to .csv for external processing in a spreadsheet, for example. Reports can be viewed in HTML, XML or .pdf. Reports consist of simple rows of data, analysed by column.
Both Forms and Reports are created using PhreeForm.
PhreeBooks & OpenSource:
Currently and for the foreseeable future (remember this is only my humble opinion), the core PhreeBooks Accounting is made available to the community free via the GNU General Public License (GPL), There is currently only one paid-for add-on extension – OpenCart Interface Extension at a bargain $25.
I would expect that, as the project matures, the number of paid-for Extensions will increase.
Please do not forget to be fair and if you use PhreeBooks, contribute back to this valuable OpenSource project.
PhreeBooks in Production:
I am aware of PhreeBooks users using PhreeBooks in the following ways:
- PhreeBooks running on a local PC (WAMP, XAMPP) and accessed by other PC’s on a P2P (Peer-to-Peer) network.
- PhreeBooks running on a local LAN Linux server. Accessed from WAN and LAN.
- PhreeBooks running on remote hosting. WAN access.
Dave Premo on WAN facing installs:
“SSL certs are the best. It encrypts all information transmitted across the garbage dump.
Long usernames and passwords are helpful.
Set your security by user. Every module checks the users permissions before doing anything.”
“… forcing password change after x days.
Setting a pattern for passwords i.e. one capital and one number
Current password can’t look like the last one …”
Test Environment & Back-Up
I shouldn’t really need to say this – it is a bit of a ‘no-brainer’:
If you are going to put PhreeBooks into production in your business, please make sure that you have an adequate test install of PhreeBooks (preferably on a separate server) where you can test any modifications / upgrades / additions comprehensively before you modify your production install.
Even then, make sure that you have a full, up-to-date, working back-up, just in case.
If you do not follow this practice, at some point you will regret it.
Please post any comments or suggestions to the Forum