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Pina coladas by the pool

The top non-accounting tools accountants recommend


As the summer draws to a close, grab a last piña colada and dip into this selection of non-accounting tools recommended by your peers.

25th Aug 2022
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It’s nearly the end of summer and to help come to terms with it we can remind ourselves that there is more to life than compliance and tax. And indeed there is more to life than compliance and tax software!

Among the seasonal social chatter, a question was posed on LinkedIn that if we took away all the normal tools of the trade and excluded anything directly aimed at or created for the accounting profession, what software would you recommend to your peers?

After exhaustive analysis (over a piña colada at the poolside), I have come up with the definitive list.

Excel isn’t (just) for accountants

Let’s deal with the Excel question upfront. On the back of support from popular luminaries such as John Toon and Paul Meissner, the judges let this one through because the general population actually use spreadsheets for more human things, such as creating Christmas card lists, that could really be done on paper. And trying to remember how to play the hidden flight simulator.

Hard to Fathom

Full credit to Drew Murray, who suggested Fathom which we thought was actually Fathom (naturally excluded). Obviously Fathom or Fathom would be a bit far-fetched, and, while Fathom or Fathom could be relevant, we’re pleased he chose the one that transcribes Zoom calls.

But is it art?

Accountants, like many of us, are not automatically destined to be good graphic designers. Fortunately, Hilary Lewis and Emily Deakin have had much success with Canva and can heartily recommend the app. For the uninitiated, it is a simple and easy-to-use tool for creating social media posts, graphics and all manner of engaging content – no experience necessary. But it still can be useful to have a teenager nearby to help unpick the mess.

Moving pictures 

Thankfully TikTok did not get a single mention, but the power of video was not far away. Weaving Loom, the self-described “Async video messaging for work” (no, me neither) into the discussion, Caroline Harridence points to the screen and camera capture software as an ideal way to share short training videos with clients and staff. 

But are we not consumers as well as producers? Izzy Rosenberg was quite right to point to YouTube for educational purposes. Accountants posting on YouTube has been covered before, but let’s not forget that HMRC can be helpful, and tax advice is out there for everyone.

To me, to you

The annoying back and forth of trying to work out when a meeting or call can be scheduled is now officially a thing of the past with Calendly at your fingertips. Integrating directly with your calendar(s), clients can now schedule when they will bother you without actually bothering you in the process. An essential part of Mark Lee’s tool kit, as well Alan Woods and Jonathan Ford.

Inbox zero

Not to be confused with Xero Inbox, which would have been disqualified on the simple grounds of “which one?” for a start, there is a tool which Sam Mitcham promises will revolutionise your cluttered inbox called ClearContext. While we poor Gmail users will not be able to use this Outlook plugin, the option to continually defer emails sounds like a very smart feature.

A simple Outlook

Speaking of which, Robert Stell points out eloquently that email is at the heart of many workflows, and perhaps is still a mainstay of both business and personal communications. Asked to elucidate why this software staple was so essential, he replied: “Errrr, it’s where I get my emails from?” And that dear reader is concision itself, a skill I wish more would apply to their own emails.

Making the dream work

A by-product of this highly scientific investigation was just how many Microsoft products still dominate our thinking. Given all the communication, collaboration and video call apps available, Microsoft Teams was by far the most ubiquitous. The benefits derived from being able to work remotely (both as a team and with clients) are perhaps only made possible by apps such as these. Yet even as I delve further into this territory, the options start to get a little baffling and overly complicated. And don’t get me started on the difference between Sharepoint, all the various storage points for 365 and now Teams. Honestly, I thought we were doing so well…

Capturing ideas

But, to pull things out of the fire we have Dave Sellick and his endorsement of Xmind, the mind-mapping tool of extraordinary capabilities. Filled to the brim with useful templates and ideas – such as Conventional Classification of Species, the colourful Comportamiento Organizacional, and Culinary Herbs and how to use them – this to me has to be the stand-out winner. What every detail-obsessed accountant needs is the ability to catalogue and organise every part of their lives, not just their work.

Dive in with your own

Word count is always against us and so this article must draw to a close. But if your peers have inspired you, but left your own software favourite unmentioned so far, add it to the comments below, close your laptop smugly and head back to the pool for one last dip…


Replies (10)

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By TaxTeddy
25th Aug 2022 10:53

Oh heck.

I am clearly out of step with the rest of the community because I don't use any of the applications mentioned above, not even Excel (I use OpenOffice).

Just looking along the taskbar of my iMac there is one application which stands out for me and which I would recommend to absolutely anybody - dictation software. I first started using Dragon Dictate about eight years ago and honestly it has transformed the way I work. This note is being dictated into a text file.

Sadly, the latest iterations of the OS X platform no longer play nicely with Dragon so I now have to use the Mac native dictation software which frankly isn't anywhere near as good. But for anyone on a Windows or OS X platform I would highly recommend dictation software - you will whizz through your email replies and your draft letters like never before.

Thanks (1)
Replying to TaxTeddy:
By Tornado
25th Aug 2022 11:24

"I am clearly out of step with the rest of the community because I don't use any of the applications mentioned above, not even Excel (I use OpenOffice)."

Same here although I do use Excel extensively (but have OpenOffice installed as well).

How on earth do we manage to run successful businesses without all these wonderful programs that other people use?

We are either very astute in only using programs that are necessary, or we are idiots for not embracing the exciting array of non-essential programs that would add extra dimensions to our life.

I can't make up my mind about this.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Tornado:
By Hugo Fair
25th Aug 2022 22:37

I've never encountered any of the other 'things' mentioned either ... except for MS Teams.
Of course that might be because I've always ignored any product that appears to have been named by an illiterate.
If that means I'm missing out (as I may be since I ignore people with the same deficiency), then so be it ... but it keeps me happy.

Thanks (2)
Replying to Hugo Fair:
By Nick.Ferriter
26th Aug 2022 12:56

Aren't you special then

Thanks (0)
By Nick.Ferriter
26th Aug 2022 10:05

Some good suggestions on here. I have found a good few solutions as well.

Simplemind Pro - Perfect for mind mapping and planning.
Click Up for work project planning
Monday for Team workflow and staging
Duet Display allows you to turn your iPad into a second screen
Notability is a fantastic note taking app, includes hand writing to text & audio recording
Liquid Text is the perfect not dissection app, for when you have huge documents to review and want to break off and review separate bits and a whole lot more.

Lastly if you can get it on expenses, Remarkable 2. The leading note taking device, simple, poweful and I couldn't be with out it.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Nick.Ferriter:
By Hugo Fair
26th Aug 2022 18:48

"Definition of special:
1 : distinguished by some unusual quality especially : being in some way superior
2 : held in particular esteem a special friend
3 : readily distinguishable from others of the same category : unique"

Thanks for the recognition!

Thanks (1)
By spilly
26th Aug 2022 13:18

Don’t forget the very useful pen and paper - for when the internet goes down and renders most of the above unusable.

Thanks (1)
By May bee
26th Aug 2022 15:39

OneNote for grabbing screen clips of just the relevant section of a HMRC manual for instance.
PrimoPDF - you can drag a word file onto the PrimoPDF icon and it gives you a PDF of the same with a matching (but .PDF) file name. You can even drag a large PDF on to it and it'll give you one at smaller resolution.

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By James Power
01st Sep 2022 11:44

For 1-man-band and small teams of accountants who want to manage their practice and client tasks efficiently:

WhatsApp & SMS integration, Bulk-Emailing functionality, along with timesheet recording and invoicing functionality.


Thanks (0)
By Jo Nokes
06th Sep 2022 13:34

Simplyfile by Techhit is wonderful if you wish to file emails and the incoming one you are replying to, if you maintain an Outlook folder for each client. One click does the job, after a short learning period

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