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Why the negativity against Sage?

Why the negativity against Sage?

Most people know Sage has a large percentage of accountancy sofware market. This is the key reason I am going to learn Sage. I use VT and love it, because of its ease of use and its adaptability.

I do not know Sage that well. I have adopted the group mentality and joined in this negativity, without looking into Sage in any great detail.

I would like to know why a large number of accountants are not voting for Sage? How is Sage failing?


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20th Jul 2010 21:08

Not understood

I have many years experience with L50 & other Sage products.

Sage Line 50 and Sage Instant isn't understood by the majority of people using it, and they won't, or can't, give the time needed to learn it properly. Therefore, it usually contains rubbish data which just grows & grows because unreconciled items are never cleared. We offer bookkeeping training, and support, but the time needed to help these businesses learn Sage isn't worth the effort when there are better options available.

Most of our clients are small business, and Sage isn't the best for these. It may be better for bigger businesses who have a knowledgeable bookkeeper, and the security is better than VT, but for small businesses you cannot beat VT, in my opinion. VT is easy to learn & easy to use, therefore the data it contains is usually of a better standard.

I also get annoyed at having to keep old versions of Sage on my system because of compatability problems. Very few clients update their version on a regular basis and many old versions are still in use. L50 is very expensive for the regular customer, although accountants get a better price, for obvious reasons.

I wish I had discovered VT years ago as I would have saved a fortune and also have helped my clients get a more user friendly bookkeeping system.

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20th Jul 2010 22:44

Many faults

Sage has several problems -

ExpensiveInflexibleOver complicated for smaller busineses without a trained bookkeeperCompatability problemsImporting and exporting data is not always straight forwardIts layout is not intuitive

For large companies it's arguably the best, but for small to medium businesses, there are many better solutions available.





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21st Jul 2010 06:48


I have no doubt that, if used properly, sage would do a great job.  But herein lies the problem.  I have had clients who have been using sage for over 20 years and there are still areas of it which are a mystery to me.  Finding the right printout can be a challenge as there are so many choices.  Correcting errors can be a pain in the b******e as it won't let you do certain things.  You can't even post a refund to the sales or purchase ledger without going all around the houses and inventing "dummy" invoices.  WHY???

Compare it to VT - learnt to use it in about 5 minutes and have no problems with it at all.  Why should I spend hours trying to perfect sage?

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By DMGbus
21st Jul 2010 08:58

Poor user interface and unituitive

Having the misfortune to *have to* use SAGE software I am very familiar with it's defects so far as very important issues such as:-

Ease of use - it's bad, you have data on screen, try and print that data and it won't without going through another screen, or it'll print the data in a badly formatted format (SPS and SL50)Ease of use - bad - you wish to print off Abbreviated Accounts - you have to tell the Sage Accounts programme *twice* (once in each of two different places) to do this - why not once - maybe it's beyond the technical abilities of Sage programmers or maybe they just don't care how bad they are as Sage is too strong in the market placeEase of use - bad - you choose to exclude a note from the accounts - user interface to achieve is absolute trash in this respectEase of use - bad - a note in the accounts needs fine-tuning, find that formulae do not work to add figures up - the result is the syntax of a formula displayed instead of the result of a formulaEase of use - bad - updates destroy prior year corrections.  Example 2009 accounts are all fine, well produced and look good (after a lot of corrections to unsatisfactory master copies).  Prepare the 2010 accounts and back to square one, Balance Sheet doesn't balance.  This refers not only to Ltd Cos but of late to partnerships - where some form of "background" updating has taken place, ie. updated without asking my permission to do so, totalling unnecessary on partnerships and sole traders.Ease of use - bad - (Sage Practice Solution) SPS - continual ongoing database problems largely down to over complicated user interface requiring costly training that's unaffordable - a hidden cost of poorly written software.Uneconomic - in the case of small clients it becomes uneconomic to use Sage Accounts Production as the continual errors (unpredictable in many cases) increase the time costs to  such a level that using an Excel based TB and accounts typed in Excel is quicker.   Last year a business with a turnover of just £2,400 had accounts produced in Sage Accounts Production and the comparative figures on these 2009 accounts were headed up "2008" but in fact were 2007 figures!   Goodbye Sage for this set of accounts, produced them in Excel this time around (2010) - a lot more confidence in the end result.   An advantage that Excel has - that Sage is incapable of - is that tax computations can be linked to the accounts and updated as the accounts are amended.Puzzling errors - the update process in a recent Ltd Co example, having gone through the over-complicated recommended method, resulted in incorrect (out of date) Companies Act and FRSSE references.  Totally puzzling.  Trial and error solved the issue.   Nothing had been done wrong from a user viewpoint, it was a quirk of the Sage Accounts Production software.

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21st Jul 2010 09:09

Offical Response from Sage Needed

Thank you really helpful responses.

Sage - this is great customer feedback for you and its free. Can you please give your offical response as to how you intend to address these issues. 


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21st Jul 2010 09:27

Sage Lite ????????

If Sage listened to accountants it would have addressed these problems ages ago.

For instance, before going any further most accountants would not recommend small/medium clients use sage because it is over complicated and too expensive.  £500+ for SL50 and thats before you add on modules to get the facilities you need (payroll etc). 

If I was advising Sage - I would suggest a "lite" version - basic sales/purchase ledger etc, include payroll facilities for up to, say, 30 employees, and sell it for >£200.   Until they do accountants will recommend other systems to clients, and once with a system it's rare that they change.  

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21st Jul 2010 10:15

(Line) 50 Accounts or Accounts Production

DMGbus has given a long reply on Accounts Production, the software that produces statutory accounts, while everyone else seems to be talking about the (formerly Line) 50 Accounts, the book-keeping software.

I am no techie, but I am told that the problem with 50 Accounts is its archaic infrastructure.  Other book-keeping software (including TAS Books, which is owned by Sage) uses a relational database in which individual items of data are associated by numerous links to all the various categories of analysis.  It is therefore possible to change either the item (say, the amount) or the links (say, the nominal account code) of items which have already been posted to the system.  The structure also makes it easy to drill down by (say) nominal account code to all the data transactions currently linked to the account code.  Relational databases not only allow mistakes to be corrected, but also give flexible reporting.

Sage 50 accounts has effectively a flat file database.  Transactions put in at the front end are posted through the system to all the categories of analysis that Sage consider necessary.  It is a one way process with no return.  Once a transaction is in the system, you cannot change it - you have to put in another transaction to correct it or preferably, two transactions to cancel the original and then post the correct details.  The reports are processed from the back end of the system and will show every transaction that has ever been posted to the (say) nominal account code whether it was right or wrong.  To make matters worse, there is a separate database for each year.  It is impossible to produce reports covering two different years.

The surprise is that Sage has not implemented the superior structure it acquired with TAS Books into its own brand Sage 50 Accounts.

Note for C_D.  Don't Sage already have Sage Lite?  They call it Sage Instant Accounts.


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21st Jul 2010 11:30

Sage works fine

It is just not the very bottom end product and it seems many bookkeepers and smaller accountants have not learnt to use it fully.

If you just want to analyse your bank account you are better off with the many cheaper products that are often praised on here, including the various 'cloud' products.

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21st Jul 2010 12:45

Sage Accounts 50

I never use any other book-keeping package but Sage. I either do clients' book-keeping myself or train them how to use Sage. Used properly Sage is a good package that is easy to turn into a good set of accounts.

However, I cherry pick my clients and they are all reasonably intelligent and well-organised.

From many years' scrutiny of Any Answers I have discovered that lots of small businesses are not disciplined/competent enough to learn and use Sage properly and VT seems to be flavour of the month for those people. I accept this point of view - other accountants know what they are talking about.

Sage has a lot of flaws, not the least of these being failure to properly test their "upgrades" before letting them loose on the public, and for a small business I agree it can be very expensive.

It therefore seems to me to be horses for courses. If you can guage what the client is capable of, you can advise them accordingly.

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21st Jul 2010 13:14

Sage Database

In response to Euan:

"Once a transaction is in the system, you cannot change it - you have to put in another transaction to correct it"

Not strictly true albeit it does depend on what you want to change - you can make changes to certain fields without the need for another transaction to be posted.

"To make matters worse, there is a separate database for each year.  It is impossible to produce reports covering two different years."

Not true, the Sage database will, unless you tell it otherwise (either by Archiving or clearing data), contain everything that was ever entered in to it from day 1, a seperate database is not created when moving to a new year.  Due to the way that the figures are stored, reports covering more than year can be a pain although certain versions of Sage 50 do have reports that run on a transactional basis so this problem can be overcome to a certain extent.

"The surprise is that Sage has not implemented the superior structure it acquired with TAS Books into its own brand Sage 50 Accounts."

Sage are currently beta testing new version of Sage 50, which is going to be called Sage 100 which uses a SQL database backend so issues relating to speed, data size, etc. will disappear.


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By DMGbus
21st Jul 2010 13:37

(Line) 50 Accounts or Accounts Production

My detailed listing of issues with Sage software referred to experiences primarily with Sage Accounts Production but also refers to SL50 and SPS.   I have experience of Sage Business Tax, Sage Partnership Tax and Sage Personal Tax software too, which do have some useability issues too - like the partnership tax return that was OK for 2008, but for 2009 stated a deceased individual's UTR instead of the partnership UTR - occurred without any user intervention - an automatic process arising from that horrendous programme known as SPS which interferes with other "integrated" Sage products, I believe.

SL50 I expect might work well if I were to use it at least weekly and learn about the defects in it's user interface (*) and how to work around them.

The user interface is the relevance of mentioning other Sage products - the common factor seems to be that Sage's programmers have programmed their various software products the way that they have presumably to "not go the extra mile" - to save on cost and effort for themselves - less effort because they're strong in the market place so they can get away with it - no need to "go the extra mile".

(*) Example of poor user interface in SL50  : can view data on screen - it looks fine, and wish to print it.   In the same window go File > Print and get a totally differently formatted report missing some of the on screen data and it's a landscape format print out when a portrait format would have been better.  Perhaps Sage can't interface their SL50 with Windows / printing properly (too much trouble for them?).






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21st Jul 2010 13:43

Johndon68 ....

AFAIR, Sage 100 has been around for some years.

I note that most of the comments have been about line 50 or SAP.  Personally I am happy with both, and I would certainly choose them over an Excel solution in most cases (but perhaps not over some of the bespoke competition).

Personally I find it is their tax products that really make my teeth grind.  And when you point out problems, even when they accept the flaws, they are soooo sssslllloooooowwww in putting them right.

With kind regards

Clint Westwood

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21st Jul 2010 13:47

Sage 100...

Clint Westwood

This is one of the problems with Sage's new product names...

Sage 100 is a new product, yet to be launched, that is, effectively, Sage 50 with a MySQL backend database.

The product that has been around for years and the one that you are thinking about is Sage Line 100, a completely different product to the one I'm talking about...


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22nd Jul 2010 12:09

Thanks for that clarification, John

Anyway, I have another gripe that came up today in relation to Line 50.

We have an HMRC enquiry in which they want a backup of the data.  Currently the only available backup includes transactions that relate to a period after the period under enquiry (as well as the full period under enquiry).  I can find no way of deleting the transactions relating to that period subsequent to the enquiry period.  We spoke to Sage support and they confirmed that this was not possible.  Sheesh!  OK, the client would have helped himself by keeping an archive backup of the data before embarking on posting the next year's transactions, but even so ...

I suppose it is possible that I was misinformed by Sage support, so if anyone else has any bright ideas ...

With kind regards


Clint Westwood


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By Optegra
22nd Jul 2010 12:38

Backup file to HMRC

Hi Clint

Should perhaps go as a seperate post, but do you have to send the backup file to HMRC? Are you obliged to do so?

Perhaps you could wrap up the year under review into a pivot table TB so HMRC has access to that years data only.

This features drill down capability to the underlying transaction and once exported can be split from the sage data table to enable emailing the file.

I have a program which can automatically connect to Sage and do this in under 5 seconds in microsoft excel.

It can also split the TB by VAT code, dept, month etc

Would that help? If so email me at [email protected]



PS: Going back to the original post - I would recommend Sage every time for businesses with adequate bookkeeping resources. Having experienced Sage and Quickbooks in my career, Sage wins all the time.

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22nd Jul 2010 12:40


All I like to add to this is that most of the problems you are describing are more down to your own understanding of how to use Sage than anything else. For example, you can enter customer and supplier refunds though the respective modules without having to create invoices.


I think Sage is robust for the price one pays but certainly it may not be suitable for very small businesses but this is where excel comes in.

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22nd Jul 2010 12:47

Sage has/is marketed very well, hence its popularity. Existing customers are frightened of change.There is far more competition and better products out there for SME's.VT Transaction is a far better product for SME's at a fraction of the cost. Sage is too expensive.Sage, I think, is liked by those who like robotic double entry book keeping and daybooks, and consider it a safe option.

So there!

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By Robjoy
22nd Jul 2010 12:49

Strictly a bookkeeper's point of view

I'm not qualified to judge from the accountant's point of view - producing 'submittable' accounts for a range of clients and so on, but, from the point of view of someone trying to keep accurate, complete and informative records of business activity, for management information as well as statutory purposes, I was gobsmacked at the comparison between Sage Line 50 and QuickBooks Pro.

I was expecting, from my limited prior knowledge of Sage, that it would be more difficult to produce customised or ad hoc reports (oh boy, was it!), that editting existing transactions was limited, and that drill-down was practically non-existent, but what really astounded me was the lack of full stock recording. I am a 'proper' bookkeeper - I could do the whole bookkeeping job with a pencil and a paper, and I am a very experienced IT person, so learning the beast thoroughly would have posed no problem, but after careful exploration and experiment I was forced to conclude that Sage Line 50 just would not do. With QuickBooks Pro I have automatic, constant calculation and re-calculation of cost of sales, based on average cost. I could hardly believe that with Sage I would only get periodic COGS from the old steam-age end-stock-based calculation.

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22nd Jul 2010 12:49

To big for it's boots

I use Sage Line 50, Tas Book and Sage Production. I have to agree with you, Euann. Why Sage has not utilised the gift of Tas I will never is by far the superior product (I have also dabbled with MYOB and Quick books)

Yet clients frequently purchase Sage Line 50, complaining that it is expensive and difficult to use. All without asking us what would be best for them.

Sage has many downside, which have been listed but my most irritating is the inability to edit a transaction from any ability that TAS has no problems with.........................although I am still waiting on R&D from TAS re the errors on the Flat rate scheme vat handling. I suppose that with Sage owning them, it is to be expected that they still have not replied let alone fixed the issue after 8 months



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22nd Jul 2010 12:56

There is a Positive Side to Sage............

Our flag flying friend in the valleys had almost 'hit the nail on the head' with his initial list. I would add only one extra point which is that their Call Centre reduced me to a nervous wreck. Not for the feint hearted.

Practitioners should however embrace the idea of clients using Sage for their bookkeeping as it is a major source of turnover.

Rarely, in our experience, can clients' bookkeepers cope with the complexities of Sage and need us to spend far more time resolving their errors than might otherwise be the case.

Long Live Sage! (even though we don't use Sage anymore ourselves)




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22nd Jul 2010 13:00

I like Sage Line 50

Until my current job I'd only used Sage and I have to say I found it excellent (one or two upgrade problems aside).

It's robust, it's relatively easy to get around, it integrates well with Excel (both importing and exporting), you can call information from it using VBA macros, and contrary to what everyone else is saying, it's inexpensive for what you get and I found it pretty intuitive.

As with all software though you've got to find out how to use it, and if you don't you'll find yourself with "rubbish in rubbish out".

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22nd Jul 2010 13:12


In 20 plus years I have used vitually all the software pacakages on the market.

Nothing wrong with sage its a great product.

Experiance tells me that two major problems arise:

1. Expensive

2. Clients/book-keepers and some accountants using the products  without the relevant knowledge or training.


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22nd Jul 2010 14:15

Sage 50

Yes, Sage 50 is bad.  It doesn't have drill down facility.  A book keeper can not see the complete entry (all debits and credits) of any transaction in GL.

I don't know how my other colleages are managing with it.


Syed Khaleel Ahmed

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22nd Jul 2010 15:07


In reference to my earlier post - I have just restored a V8 client backup into V10, then backed up and restored into V12, etc, etc. for an accountant friend who doesn't have the older versions of Sage.

Sooooooo annoying to have to do this .... and all these versions clutter up my PC's (but happy that I could help my friend).

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22nd Jul 2010 16:27

Sage is the best thing on the market for bookkeeping and producing accounts and having the audit trail to back it up. The trouble with most people is they don't take the time to learn it, it only took me a day in the early 1980s, and the same people tend to listen to other people's opinions. Most firms, with a days input from their accountants(that are trained users, would find it a doddle and be able to cut their annual accountancy bills down by at least 1/3rd.

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22nd Jul 2010 16:30

It depends

In my 20 years in practice specialising in financial systems design, installation, implementation and training, I have learned many accounting packages. I have an in-depth knowledge of these packages as it is not possible to implement and train otherwise. In my experience, Sage 50 is aimed at small companies (not micro companies that Sage instant has been designed for). The main competitors in this segment in recent years have been Quickbooks, MYOB, Tas Books, etc. (FYI I have not implemented VT and therefore will not comment on it - my level of expertise is not as much as on the other packages).

From a bookkeepers point of view (as one bookkeeper told me recently) Sage has the F6 key which none of the other packages have. The F6 key makes it much more efficient to input large volumes of data. Otherwise the competitor products are easier to use ahve have much better user interfaces.

Once the data has been input, the reporting is very limited in Sage compared to the competition. Quickbooks wins hands down in its ability to produce customised reports easily. This is more important to management and accountants rather than bookkeepers doing basic data entry.

In terms of cost, Sage is the most expensive of these packages.

Functionality wise, the competitor products have better functionality than Sage 50.

Sage Support is not good at all. The competitor support is not much better ...

In summary, Sage 50 is antique software - the back end has not improved much since the 1980s!!! It has had a windows front end put on to make it look like it has moved along with the times. The functionality is limited, the usability is is not good enough, the reporting is crap and it is too expensive for what you get. Sage do not listed to users!

The good points about Sage - there is a huge user base, it is easy to find a bookkeeper that knows how to use it, the way it handles VAT is terrific, it creates a lot of work for me in supporting clients that use it (and refuse to move on to better solutions).

I still occassionally recommend Sage to clients where I think it is the right solution for them (I just recommended it to a new client today!).

I know a lot of acountants who will recommend Sage saying it is the best solution available only because that is the only software they have used. In my opinion these accountants should not be recommending siftware at all as they are not qualified to do so.

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22nd Jul 2010 16:46

Message from Sage

Hi all,

Thanks for the feedback. We really do appreciate you taking the time to share this.

We speak to many of you throughout the development of our software and services through visits and our beta programs.  We are more than happy to add more practices into these initiatives and for those that would like to be involved in beta testing or would like to request a visit please sign up here Incidentally, we ran an event for accountants yesterday at which we received really useful feedback on usability, beta processes and how we can continuously improve them so it’s something we’re keen to progress further.

Kind regards,

Lisa Graveling

Sage UK and Ireland

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22nd Jul 2010 17:01

To Sage

Thanks for your response Sage (Lisa).

It would be really helpful if one of Sage specialist responds to the technical failures outline on this thread. Are these technical issues with Sage or is it a training issue?


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22nd Jul 2010 18:08

Sage slated? Yes!

 If you have used other equivalent software such as Pastel, Accpac etc. then you realise that Sage has a few problems.

The underlying problem is that its essentially 1980's based code. Hence compatibility problems, report extractions difficult, inability to access the databases. Its just old! Having a facelift and applying cosmetics does not make it better.

As for accounting. Well!! You cannot extract journal reports, bookkeepers can "make corrections", you can delete entries (even if visible should be a no no) and the audit trail is unreadable. Bank recons are difficult and you cannot get proper reports out (Yes I know you can get a Sage version of the recon but in my view not a proper one and yes I am familiar with Sage reports) I can go on but these will do for now.

Its also not a true double entry system.

Personally I think Pastel is far superior at a slightly lower price (Sage is damn expensive!). Learning to drive Sage, well all software requires learning. If it is so simple that monkeys can do it then is it suitable for a serious business?

I would suggest the only reason Sage still exist is that it has a 80%+ of the market and business does not like changing (And accountants are adverse to it! Sorry stick in the mud types) 

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22nd Jul 2010 18:20

Sage is just old!

 Euen Maclennon has hit the nail spot on.

Sage is just too old.....!!!!! its 20th century and we are 10 years into the 21st.

Tas has modern architecture but so has Pastel - also owned by Sage.

Sage is buying up all the good software companies for their profit stream but learning nothing from their tech guys.

Accountants recommending other software? Come on. Nearly all accountants I meet recommend Sage because "everyone uses it and we are familiar with it, too much effort to change"

All I hear in this forum is VT which I have never seen in any business.

Mind you software houses are not making much of an effort to break into the market. Keytime with Pastel is, following Patsel's highly successful market grab (from <5% to 80% in 5 years) using an Accountants Forum where accountants get all the software (£2,000) for a nominal sum plus dedicated help lines so you can sell accounting software support. Now how many knew that? No I am not employed by Keytime or am involved with them other than as a customer.

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22nd Jul 2010 18:25

Reply to 'It depends' by AS

Dear ASI don't know what your qualifications but think before you come out with rash comments such as 'accountants are not qualified to do so'. I spent three years at school learning bookkeeping and accounts followed by 40 years experience working for chartered accountants,the latter 12 years as a qualified accountant. I take your comment with a pinch of salt!

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22nd Jul 2010 18:25

Technical Issues

"It would be really helpful if one of Sage specialist responds to the technical failures outline on this thread. Are these technical issues with Sage or is it a training issue?"

I don't work for Sage now but I did for 9 years including a couple of years on Sage 50 support and some time as Senior Analyst Programmer and now 5 years as a Sage Developer so I hope I'm qualified to answer this one.

There is no doubt that the majority of the 'technical' issues surrounding Sage 50 (and, for that matter Instant Accounts) relate to the archaic flat file database that sits underneath both programs.  Such a database, and the way it is structured internally, does not lend itself well in 3 major areas:

1. Speed (especially with larger volumes of data)

2. Networking

3. Reporting

These issues should (will) be overcome when Sage moves to the MySQL database.

What you are then left with is the User Interface which, IMHO, is looking very tired these days especially as more feature are added to the product.  However, even for a company the size of Sage, replacing the UI with something that is, potentially, more intuitive and easier to use is a huge task and one that should not be underestimated.


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23rd Jul 2010 10:06

Reply to Southsands

Maybe I should clarify what I meant when I said that these accountants are not qualified to recommend accounting software. I was referring to accountants that are familiar with Sage only that recommend Sage as the best solution to clients. I think these accountants should be experts in several different packages before they start recommending to clients. The same comment applies to accountants recommending VT for example (or any other package) where these accountants do not have experience of any other software apart from VT. How can you say one package is the most suitable for a client if you cannot compare it to any other package?

FYI I am also a qualified accountant with 20 years in practice.

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23rd Jul 2010 10:20


 Thanks for the kind words Richard, we really appreciate them.

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23rd Jul 2010 11:05

Saged out

Sage has good marketing and business strategy but can’t back it up and has failed for years, they rarely had good solid products and I always knew about the experience or credibility of an accountant who jumped to recommend Sage products. It doesn’t say much about the “competition”!

The problems were obvious to anyone who tried to use the software or resolve the problems with their staff, though I had the advantage or working in Gosforth and knowing certain people.I remember meeting “Greg F” in about 2002, then a newly appointed head of software development for their accountants suite, and it was clear then that he had a hard job on his hands to change things around. Going through their then accountants suite I had to balance my comments very carefully, it was just terrible and many of the products were made worse after Sage bought them. I stopped using the accounts production software, within a year or so of Sage buying it, because I lost faith in their ability to correct the problems; to me they simply lacked the number/calibre of staff necessary to change things. Perhaps .... if someone spent less time building golf courses.

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23rd Jul 2010 12:41

So Sage is misunderstood is it?

The general feeling among Sage supporters is that it's brilliant if people would take the trouble to learn it properly.

My question is why should they bother when they can get another system, just as good, if not better for them, that costs less, is easier to use and takes far less time to learn.

One poster suggested a day's training to shave 1/3 of the accountancy bill.  Well, I can do the same by giving a client just an hour's training in VT or Kashflow or probably half a day for Quickbooks which is harder to learn to use - the client gets their reduction in accountancy bill, as well as paying less for the product & support and their data entry being a lot quicker and easier to correct any errors.

It's a no brainer.  Sage "may" be good in some people's eyes, but it's relatively expensive, has poor support, is slow to evolve, and has greater training needs.  For the vast majority of the smaller business market place, there are cheaper and easier to use alternatives that do the job just as well.

I'm not afraid to recommend Sage if and when the circumstances are right.  I've already recommended it once this year to a client whose needs demanding something that Sage could offer but which the likes of VT, kashflow or Quickbooks couldn't deal with.  But, I've recommended the other three named products to probably a dozen or two dozen other businesses, depending on their needs.

Sadly there's a lot of laziness about as regards Sage.  Many book-keepers and accountants just don't even think of anything else and probably havn't looked at the marketplace to see what else is out there.  With the pace of innovation in cloud computing and the ease in which data can be integrated between cloud products, i.e. sharing and transferring data between CRM, stock, accounting, banking, ebay, etc., unless Sage get their finger out and bring out a workable online product that integrates as well as eg Kashflow, then they're going to be left behind.  I'm seeing a lot of clients who are running their businesses entirely via online applications and there is massive growth in the cloud market for all kinds of business applications - the providers of which are busily working in the background to integrate seemlessly with eachother.  The big names aren't guaranteed a permanent existance - just think about some of the other "big names" in all walks of life that have disappeared - Rover, Woolworths, etc - being big isn't a guarantee that they'll even exist in 10 years time, let alone still be the most widely used.



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23rd Jul 2010 13:16


The biggest problem I find with Sage, having used it for a few years, is that often it does not do what I want straight from the box. There is, however, usually a way around this and once you have learned enough, it is pretty good. Also they tend to over promise and under deliver, but then some of the other software providers are also as guilty (I'm thinking specifically of an Iris salesperson and their quote "maximising the power of one click"!)

Once you have mastered the posting routines, you should also spend a bit of time with report writing and Import/Export routines. This gives a more thorough assessment of what is possible with no time restraints (Hah!)

I agree wholeheartedly with the user interface comments and lack of drill down features, having used Quickbooks which does have the facility it is quite horrible when you go back to Sage.

There are obviously a lot of Sage products out there and some are quite good.

I disagree with the comments about Sage support, they have been improving over the last few years and some of them really know what they are doing wit the software, although it would be good if they could employ a few more accountants to help with underlying problems, as sometimes you get the impression they are software designers and understand very little of what the software is designed to do.

Where they do fall down heavily is that they produce upgrades too regularly (why is bookkeeping software updated each year?) but without real testing. Then they get inundated with calls to sort problems and have to realease fixes - or worse yet, tell you they are aware of the problem and it won't be fixed until the next annual upgrade, or even later, despite the fact that it is a basic problem with the software. I have taken to sitting on upgrades for a few weeks so that others find the problems and by the time I upgrade they have fixes for them.

Obviously you can't get too specific on this thread as there are so many products, each of which has it's own quirks.

Regarding accountants recommending Sage, the reason from my point of view is that if you are capable on a piece of software, why would you suggest a different piece to a client as you would not be able to provide support. We have never promoted VT as no one in our office has used it. As such we cannot say that Sage is better or worse, however the advantage of Sage is we have the software and exoperience to support our clients. The local college runs training courses and there is masses of support avialable for Sage locally.

I once had a client who used Sage Line 100 - he seemed very upset that we would not buy a copy (if you thought Line 50 was expensive...) so had to export everything to Excel. No local bookkeeper was able to support him as they had never used it, so he ended up out on a limb.

We also recommend Quickbooks as it is cheaper for the full product and again we know how to use it, can provide support and assist the client throughout the year as necessary.

If you know VT, that's great as you can support your VT clients. If you are learning Sage, this should allow you to add support to more clients. I would certainly recommend that you do as many people would expect Sage support (as they have heard of it as well) from an accountant. It does need more than just a bit of training to use well and understand the quirks, but it is worth it.

The main thing to learn is to be able to backup and restore - once you have got this, whenever you are doing something new, do a backup first then try it. If it fails, restore from the backup and try again - far easier than trying to undo the postings!!!!

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23rd Jul 2010 15:48

There is another place where this conversation can continue

Wow - this has been a bruising, but enlightening exploration of prejudice against Sage and the cases for and against its software.

It was indeed brave of Lisa Graveling to show up and soak up some of the vitriol on the company's behalf. While nobody would enjoy having to suffer tirades like this, on the functionality I know that they do take user input and research very seriously.

The thread has become a little bit unweildy, so rather than asking Sage to continue the conversation here about the alleged failures of its software, particpants on this thread should pay a visit to our Sage 50 and Sage Practice Solutions discussion groups, which are designed specifically to cater for people who want to explore the software issues in more depth.

In the case of Sage 50, we have previously looked at technical problems with the most recent upgrade, which led to a separate thread on productivity tips and troubleshooting Sage performance problems.

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23rd Jul 2010 16:48

No thanks, John

Rather than 'explore the issues' I would prefer just to warn new practitioners against getting into bed with Sage. Once you are in (and I was an Accountant's Club Member for 10 years) it's a hell of a job getting out without a major upheaval to your business.

The implied idea that its good for accountants to recommend because your clients will struggle to use it and then you can get additional income by providing support is nauseating.

Bookkeeping is only of value if it is accurate and up to date. To meet this the software needs to be easy to use. Sage fails miserably in this regard and, as has been said, issues unnecessary upgrades, ceases supporting old versions to force the purchase of the upgrade and uses its customers shamelessly as testers after release.

It's just money, money, money. They have somehow got themselves in a priveleged position in the market only to exploit us with it.

-- Kind regards Andy

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23rd Jul 2010 17:13

A reply to John

Firstly, it isn't "brave" of someone from Sage to come on here to defend their software - presumably that's her job!

Secondly, I don't like your use of the word "prejudiced" which according to my dictionary can be said to mean:-

"An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts"


"Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion"

By using that word you are clearly implying that anyone who doesn't like Sage is either "irrational" or hasn't any knowledge or hasn't examined the facts.

Many posters who have expressed an adverse opinion HAVE used the software, some have many years experience of being an accountant and using various software options.  To infer that these people are somehow irrational or are making comments without knowing the facts is not the kind of comment I'd expect to come from someone like yourself if you want to retain any sense of credibility.  I think your use of the word "prejudiced" is inappropriate.


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23rd Jul 2010 17:48

Sage is a struggle to use???

"your clients will struggle to use it"

I have to say that this is one thing that does seem to come up again and again, personally, I'm still struggling with this statement.

I'm a Sage Developer and the nature of my main product is that the user has to use Sage 50 or Sage Instant so, as a result of this, my compay also became a Sage Business Partner - whilst a lot of our customers are existing Sage users who buy our product, a significant percentage come to use never having used Sage so we sell a lot Sage 50 and Instant to 'new' users.

We don't offer support on Sage (apart from where it relates directly to our product) but, in all honesty, we've never had a user come back to us and say that they are struggling to use Sage...

Could Sage do better, of course they could but the same is true of every other bit of software out there...


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27th Jul 2010 13:55


I am a partner in a firm of accountants. My business partner has 20 clients on Sage. I prefer not to use Sage but have to when the client uses it.

Although Sage does most things ok it could be easier to use.

Also when clients make mistakes or do not reconcile its more trouble than its worth! You cannot beat the spreadsheet for flexibility.


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By zebaa
27th Jul 2010 22:31

Too tempting

I have resisted the temptation thus far but can do so no longer. In my opinion Sage is just horrible. Getting the information in takes way too long as does extracting useful information. Almost anything else HAS to be better.

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03rd Aug 2010 13:45

One story from my own experience.........

 A few years back one of my clients employed a retired gentleman as a part-time book-keeper. He was an experienced and perfectly competent manual systems book-keeper, but not familiar with Sage.  When I went out to try to prepare annual accounts from the Sage records they were in such a mess we ended up concluding it would be easier to start from scratch and repost everything than try to sort out the mess by posting adjustments.  The book-keeper was so stressed out by his failure to cope that I feared for the effect on his health. I suggested VT as a more user friendly system. I went out a few days later to monitor progress and he was at one point literally in tears of gratitude over how much easier it was to understand.  

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By mwngiol
03rd Aug 2010 16:05

Using it is one thing!

"we've never had a user come back to us and say that they are struggling to use Sage..."

Perhaps because they don't know that they're struggling to use it correctly? I could probably use a Sherman tank but I wouldn't like to be the one to have to deal with the resulting mess!

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03rd Aug 2010 17:01


"Perhaps because they don't know that they're struggling to use it correctly?"

Or perhaps they've taken the time to learn how to use it due to the benefits that using it along with my software brings their business...


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03rd Aug 2010 17:31

@ John

Your loyalty does you credit, but it won't have gone unnoticed that you have a vested interest.

Of the respondents that don't there seems to be an overwhelming negtivity against Sage and many posters have gone into quite some detail to justify their comments.

Before you think it is easier to criticise on here than it is to praise have a look at comments concerning VT accounts, VT Transaction + and Moneysoft Payroll.

-- Kind regards Andy

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03rd Aug 2010 17:46



I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a Sage Developer albeit I do have plans to offer integration with other accounts programs.

I have no problem at all with people criticising Sage and, having carefully read the comments I'd suggest that most of them are justified and I've already stated that, of course, Sage could do better (version 2007 of Sage 50, for example, was an abomination that should NEVER have been released)

However, to suggest, as the earlier poster did, that my clients are not complaining about how 'bad' Sage is because they don't know they are doing it wrong is ridiculous and, quite frankly, patronising.

As for the other software you mention, I have, over time, got my hands on most of the current Sage competitor offerings and a lot of them are mightily impressive (I particularly liked Free Agent for example) and Sage should definately be watching their backs otherwise they are going to get a BIG surprise.  In fact I've even been know to offer praise for some of the other offerings on other forums I post on :)

And, whilst this may surprise you - would I recommend Sage to a startup business with simple accounting requirements and, in particular, no need for stock control - no, I wouldn't.


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By mwngiol
04th Aug 2010 01:54

Not that ridiculous

"to suggest, as the earlier poster did, that my clients are not complaining about how 'bad' Sage is because they don't know they are doing it wrong is ridiculous and, quite frankly, patronising."

It wasn't intended to be patronising. I don't think it's ridiculous to suggest that someone who is using software incorrectly will be unaware of it. If they were aware they would seek help. Have you honestly never received messy records, on any software, and for the client to be surprised when you point out how many errors there are?

Frankly the main problem with Sage is that too many people are using it who don't need to, and would be better off with something much simpler. The expense and time taken to train to use it properly just isn't worth it.

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06th Aug 2010 11:17

Sage! My pet hate!

There's been a blog on this site recently about what a dreadful piece of software it is.

I used it satisfactorily for a few years when I was in management accountancy.  If you know EXACTLY what you're doing, there is no problem.  However, if you aren't an EXPERT, it is awful.  It is user hostile, inflexible, and unreliable (unstable program and backup/restore failure in the worst case I heard of).

But Sage are laughing all the way to the bank.  Sage is about the only name lay-people know when asked about computerised bookkeeping & accountancy.

No-one can even start to use it without extensive training (ker-ching!)

No-one can manage without a hotline to the support service (ker-ching!)

Accountants need their own copy to make head or tail of the client's own work, as there are so many reporting options the client can never work it out on their own (ker-flippin'-ching)!

Its partly accountants own fault, too - many (who know no better, and have very limited experience with accounting software, but probably wouldn't admit this) actively promoting and recommending it themselves.

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