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Sage 50 Accounts productivity tips from AccountingWEB members

7th Apr 2010
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Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.’s Sage 50 Accounts discussion group has been documenting some of the frustrations users experience with their accounting application, but since we published a summary of the recent 2010 upgrade controversy, the forum has taken a constructive turn.

Sage 50 tips - contents

-Keeping database size down
-Compressing data
-Clearing the audit trail
-Networking tips

Navigation & enquiry
-Function keys
-Adjust windows & columns
-Sort data views
-Right-click heading options
-Search wild cards
-Selective payments
-Magnifying Glass

Payment procedures
-Credit card process
-Factoring/cash accounting
-Factoring/standard accounting software (notably Norton) slows Sage 50 Accounts 2010.

-Send data to Excel
-Excel Integrated Reporting
-Project reports
-Tutorials: MS Query exports etc.

Sarah Douglas, a software trainer as well as accountant, commented that some complaints about Sage are often due to a lack of training, where people don’t know how to do things. This is the same with every piece of software including Excel and Word. Rather than changing to another application, it might be that developing a better understanding of the software they already have could be a more economic approach, she argued.

The conversations that grew from that thread produced a glut of good suggestions from which this summary article is drawn. Once you have familiarised yourself with the tips and links below, do check in to the discussion group to see if any more have been added. Or perhaps you might have a few additions that you’d like to add to the mix by commenting below.

Our thanks to Sarah, Witch-Queen, David Carter and all the other contributors to this discussion – it’s yet another example of how useful the online community can be.

Housekeeping tips

“The size of the database and the hardware and software environment will have an obvious impact on performance; the larger it is, the slower it will go,” Sage UK accounts technical lead Jamie Saul advised users of the latest version when their performance slowed. The following periodic routines can help you keep your database to a manageable size, whichever version you use. NB: Always BACK UP YOUR DATA FIRST before carrying out any of these operations:

Archive inactive records – Sales orders, purchase orders and stock transactions can all be archived at year end. If you have 10,000 customer records, but only trade with 4,000, consider removing the inactive records from your customer list. Back up and remove the records, then choose the Reindex command from the File Maintenance menu to improve performance. The File Maintenance-Compress Data routine will remove the file space taken up by the deleted records.

Clear the audit trail - There is an option within the period end routine to clear the audit trail, which wipes out individual ledger transactions that are completed to a specified date. Do this at least once a year or more depending on the size of your data and your software should speed up considerably. If you need to save invoices, purchase orders, sales orders and quotes for your records, make them into PDFs. Try picking a range and saving it as one PDF, for by year or month.  Here’s the routine:

  1. Go to the Tools menu  and choose Period end-Clear Audit Trail. The Wizard appears – click Confirm (or follow a similar sequence for older versions).
  2. Enter the date up to which you want to remove transactions. Pressing Process clears the data.

Network troubleshooting - To resolve any network speed issues, Sage Support advises opening Sage Accounts and completing the following actions to identify your problem. Note: This is general advice only. If you are unsure about your network settings or network log-ons, please contact your IT Support team.

  1. Sage Accounts should be installed on the local drive of each client PC, with the data accessed through a network drive. Open the Help menu, choose About, then click System Information. From the left-hand pane click Directories. The Program and Data directories appear in the right-hand pane. The program directory should be on a local hard dive, for example C:\
  2. Ensure that all PCs have the same version of Sage Accounts installed. Check the version number in the Help-About window on each machine. If they are not all the same, you need to install the latest version on all PCs.
  3. Check whether the issue is PC or software user specific by logging on to both the PC and/or the program as a different user to see if the problem persists.
  4. If you have a multi-company licence, log on to a different company to see if problem persists.
  5. The volume of data in Sage Accounts may be causing excess network traffic. This may contribute to any network speed issues you are experiencing. Clear the audit trail or deleting old invoices or orders to reduce data volumes.
  6. Anti virus checks can affect network performance. Temporarily disable the anti virus software to see if this is the problem.
  7. Check the capacity of the network and that it is configured optimally.

Navigation & enquiry tips

Function keys – The keys along the top of your keyboard can be very handy in Sage batch entry screens. So when you are entering batch customer or supplier invoices/credits, bank payments and receipts, goods in/out try these options:
F2 – Make the Calculator pop up anywhere in Sage 50.
F5 – Spell check. Just press F5 when you are typing to pick up any mistakes. “Especially useful for sales invoices, there is nothing worse than spelling mistakes on your customers invoices,” advises group member 19kings.
F6 - Copy the contents of the box in the line above to the next line down. When entering several invoices from the same supplier on the same date, for example, hit F6 for account and date in the next and subsequent lines. For something like bank charges where the charge is the same on a regular basis all you need to do is F6 the bank number, change the date, then F6 right across the line. “This saves a hell of a lot of typing. Just don't get carried away with it!” advises Witch-Queen.
F7 – With the cursor in the first cell, it will move the selected line down one and leave a blank line; handy if you like to enter things in order and miss one out.
F8 – Place the cursor in the first cell of a line and hit F8 to delete the entire row.
F9 – Gross to net calculator: enter the gross value of an item in the net box then hit Enter once to make sure the selected cell is the Tax code box; then hit F9 to calculate the VAT gross to net. This one is magic for entering petty cash receipts that do not show the VAT split.

Widen screen windows and individual columns
- Since Sage 50 2009, users have been able capabilities like those in Microsoft products to widen windows and screen column sizes. To widen a column in Sage, choose the right-hand side of a column heading that is shaded in grey; when the cursor turns into a double cross, dragging to the right to make it wider. To widen a window, position the cursor on the outskits of the area you want to widen; when the cursor changes to a line with arrows at either end, drag it to the size you want.

View or print activities and history in any order – In another Excel-like enhancement introduced in the 2009 version, Sage now lets you sort transactions  by date order, reference, description, amount and other column headings. Double left-click on the heading you want to sort and the list will change to the order you want (and click again to reverse it), You can then you use the Print List option and Custom Ranges to narrow the information down to the records you want. (NB: in Sage 50 Accounts 2010, this facility has been extended to the Suppliers Payment and Customer Payment screens).

Reinstate missing headings -  in some instances, when searching through long columns of figures, it can help if the headings remain in place while you scroll down. In any module where you are looking at columns with grey-shaded headings (Customers, Purchases, Bank, SOP, POP, Products, Maintenance), right-clicking on your mouse will give you a choice of different heading options. “I found it quite useful in the Bank Rec, where I could add the suppliers code and Customer Code,” says Sarah Douglas.

Search wild cards -  Most Sage 50 modules - Customers, Supplier, Financials, Invoicing etc – include a Search Button. If you find it frustrating to key in the exact number or spelling of the string you are searching for, use an askerisk (*) as a search wild card. To find a customer postcode in Nottingham, for example, you could type NG* and so on. You can also search for specific text in a field by using the dollar symbol ($). For example, entering the following conditions in Search - "Where" "Details" "Is Equals To" "$deleted" - will find all deleted transactions. "Where" "Details" "Is Equal To" "$Year" will find all the year end transactions generated by the system. A question mark (?) will find an individual character or number, so "?ear" will find year, bear, rear etc.

Selective purchase payments – Kath Gibson discovered this technique while experimenting with Search wild cards by looking for suppliers whos balances were not equal to zero. Ticking off selected suppliers due to be paid altered the total at the bottom of the list to confirm the amounts entered were correct. Now here’s the clever bit: “Once I had all my selected suppliers highlighted (and the total was correct), I switched into Bank - leaving the suppliers list highlighted - and selected Supplier payments. ONLY the suppliers that I had highlighted on the suppliers screen were appearing on the 'pick list' for supplier code, saving LOTS of scrolling/typing/remembering full supplier codes.” Because the Search criterion of only those NOT equal to zero still applied to the Suppliers list, newly paid suppliers disappear from the list, eliminating the possibility of paying the same supplier twice.

Magnifying Glass – In a similar vein, the top right hand corner of the Customers and Suppliers has a little Magnifying Glass icon which defaults to “All records”. If you double left-click the icon, it will then show only the ones outstanding . In the Bank module, you can use the Magnifying Glass in a similar way to knock out purchase payments or customers receipts you have paid or receipted. “Just remember to click the magnifying Glass to All records when you what to back to entering Invoices,” adds Sarah Douglas.

Payment processes and controls

Credit Card Procedure - Sarah Douglas dislikes the way that credit card purchases can undermine internal controls and reporting processes. Instead, she advises clients to require company card users to raise a purchase order and get it authorised before making purchases with the card. The purchaser should then give the invoice to the accounts department to enter into purchase ledger. “This will provide you with a more accurate profit & loss, balance sheet and cashflow information,” she says. When the statement comes in, you are able to view the items and instead of entering the cards using the Bank Payment, do a purchase payment instead using the 1240 account and allocate the payment to the right receipt or invoice. You can then mark your purchase order as complete.
Items that cannot be done by the Bank Payment method, such as direct debits that come out of your 1200 current account, have to be entered separately and you can use the Bank Transfer option to transfer the payment in to your 1240 bank account. As with your Bank Rec, you can give the item a statement reference and reconcile it on the date your payment came out to zero. When the next statement comes in, and you can always view PDF statements if you need to in view history within the Bank Rec window.

Factoring procedure for VAT cash accounting, or where the factor does not chase debtors - Create a bank account called Factoring. Use Bank Transfer from the Factoring Bank to the Current Account when money is drawn down from the factoring company. Pay off customer invoices using the Factoring Bank ONLY when the customer pays the factoring company. Factoring charges and interest are then posted as Bank Payments from the Factoring Bank. This method helps you track debtors in Sage and aligns them with the factoring company’s records. Because it only includes invoices the customer has paid, your VAT liability will be correct in Sage. The Factoring Bank can then be reconciled to the month-end statement, and the Customers accounts will match the Factoring Companies Aged Debtors. The balance owed to the Factoring Company will then show in Sage as an overdrawn bank account.

Factoring for VAT standard accounting - or where the factor chases debtors - Create a bank account called Factoring. Use Bank Transfer from the Factoring Bank to the Current Account when money is drawn down from the factoring company. Pay off ALL customer invoices at the point they are scheduled. Factoring charges and interest are then posted as Bank Payments from the Factoring Bank. The Factoring Bank can then be reconciled to the month end statement. The balance owed to the Factoring Company will then show in the accounts as an overdrawn bank account.

Reporting tips

More often than not, moans about Sage 50 surround its reporting capabilities, or the lack of them. “Pivot table king” David Carter has written a series of articles on the subject for AccountingWEB. Some of them go back several years, so before embarking on his workarounds, check first whether your version of Sage has new features that tackle your scenario.

Send file to Excel - There are many different ways of exporting data from Sage into Excel. The first is to export the data as a CSV file via one of the standard reports in the Sage Reports menu. This facility has been in Sage since the beginning. The second route is to display the data on screen, then from the main menu choose File-Send-Contents To Excel.

Send screen data to Excel. This feature has been available since version 8 and is much more convenient. It also has the advantage of inserting column headings, which the CSV export does not. (NB: the export technique will not work on Report Designer print previews.) So, for example, to export all the bank account transactions into Excel you would:
1. Choose your Bank account from the Bank command via the Record-Activity option.
2. When the transactions appear on screen, select File-Send-Contents to Microsoft Excel. Sage will automatically fire up Excel for you and there's your bank account in Excel, complete with column headings. You can also use Sage’s Search facility to filter the data before exporting it to Excel. If there are missing fields such as supplier or customer names, you can add them in using VLOOKUP - David’s tutorial shows you how.

Use Sage Excel Integrated Reporting (EIR) - Sage released this Excel Add-in with version 11 of Line 50 in 2005. Once you have activated the EIR in Excel, you can log in to Sage through Excel. The module offers a menu of predefined reports that you can select and filter in usual way. You get all your data in Excel in nice tidy columns, just the way you want them. “Beats exporting the report from Sage and having to tidy up to get rid of page headings,” said AccountingWEB member Jeremy Hall, who brought it to our attention. “DEFINITELY worth knowing this one.”

Project reports – If you want to see Purchase Day Books showing purchase invoices for specific projects, there is a readymade report in the Sage 50 Accounts Project Module. Within the module, go to Reports-Day Book Reports and select either the Purchase Invoices to Projects Detailed or Purchase Invoices to Projects Summary report.

David Carter's Sage reporting tutorials


Replies (6)

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By User deleted
08th Apr 2010 11:37

Stick to marketing

Sage really do have quite a good marketing ploy here

- provide a program release every 12/18 months that falls down in some area

- raise topics such as lack of database capacity etc.

- generate articles on how to fix the problems or achieve greater productivity from their dubious apps


- keeps them constantly in the news

- maintains a high profile; not necessarily beneficial with complaints but as a marketing organisation 'all publicity is good publicity'

The disappointing thing about this whole scenario is that Aweb an others actually seem to give them disproportionate air time with their whole sorry offering; possibly because of advertising revenues

Although, how an application falling down can be attributed to 'user training' does need to be challenged. Basically they are running an inadequate database and questionnable code that is not the same in all their applications over platforms that it was not designed for (networks).

As for networking - L50 was never originally designed to operate in this manner and whilst it is possible to 'force' it to run this is akin to a square peg in a round hole.

If they want a network or Cloud etc app then go away and write one - oops! sorry they tried this and got egg on their face! Stick to the marketing guys and give up the programming day job

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By kbrajput
08th Apr 2010 13:01

Sage L50 latest version 2010 & Sage Payroll

1.  both Sage L50 & Payroll have been released without proper testing.  At present you can not save any report as PDF in either Sage L50 or Payroll.

2.  I have called sage developer team and all they said was "sorry".  they are in the process of releasing the "patch" to fix this problem. 

3. in the meantime we have to deal with payroll year end.  Sage has done the same thing in the past with version 2007 which took many months to resolve.

4.   in the race for raising revenue early, the companys tesing the patience of loyal users.  we are accountant and we have been using sage for many many years and we now regret being "locked-in" wishing for a way out.



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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
08th Apr 2010 13:03

Try to strike some balance

I've got to step in here to answer the first Anon. This article is not a clever marketing ploy on Sage's part, nor is it a devious plan on our part to attract advertising support from them. We have had no qualms - aside from legal necessities, fairness and the other terms of AccountingWEB participation - about publishing a negative articles such as the one documenting problems with the Sage 50 Accounts 2010 upgrade.

Even with all our Budget coverage, that has been one of the most heavily read articles on the site in the past few weeks (7,000+). There are a lot of Sage users out there and they respond very positively to the material we produce - that more than anything else is the driver behind our editorial coverage.

None of the participants in the Sage 50 Accounts discussion group argued that training could overcome shortcomings in the application, but several of us (including me) made the point that often users' lack of knowledge about the program can limit their productivity. Another point worth repeating is that the cost and disruption of switching applications can be daunting - and far less reliable at delivering a return on investment than a little bit of training. The suggestions that underpin this article grew out of the conversations that subsequently took place in the group.

As we have proved very successfully with our Excel tutorials, this approach to helping members get more out of their software is very popular, so it seemed a good idea to put the Sage 50 advice into wider circulation.

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By jane71123
08th Apr 2010 16:28

Sage Line 50 & Tas Payroll

I agree with you entirely.

We have used Sage for many years and are now totally disillusioned with them.

After their takeover of Tas (which we use for Payroll), we have seen this service decline also - a downloadable yearend upgrade which inevitably fails, a telephone support system with so many options it is laughable and then an age to wait to be answered. They offer an email support system where an automated response states they will be in touch but they don't reply.

I will be looking for a new payroll software supplier that puts their customers first.





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Sarah Douglas - HouseTree Business Ltd
By sarah douglas
08th Apr 2010 17:37

To Provide Help

I can only speak for my practice and my clients, I run a payroll Bureau , and have clients who use Sage Payroll and nobody has had problems with the update disk this year  , they have told me that they think the payroll cover is excellent , and have all said they will be renewing this year.  

This view is not held  mind you about Sage Line 50 Accounts cover which most of my clients do not use as they think it is very expensive, but this does not mean that they do not like sage but there cover is too expensive.  I think sage really needs to sort this issue out.

I think there are a lot of problems with two many versions too quickly and I  agree with other writers that there are far to many versions. That said, they are not the only computer/ software  company having problems. I  updated to Windows 7 which has caused me loads of problems , but it is not only with Sage but with printers , browsers ,  other software.  This was also the same on Vista for a while , even Companies house using Adobe had issues with one of the operating systems .  I also think Microsoft could also stop with all the versions and actually sort one that works. 

That said I do like sage Line 50 as a bookkeeping package.   I really like Sages Bank Reconciliation side which is a area I and my clients use heavily.  I know every piece of accounts software has their strong points and we should all use the ones that we like the most. 

With all the changes in software at the moment and government legislation I feel that we all need to consider that maybe we should start budgeting for more training, no matter what package we use,  as software seems to be changing faster then we are. 

 I could add that I prefer the Apple to Windows (" I'm a PC   I'm a Apple ") which now allows them to have a good banter , but the reality is it is great to have both. The best of Both worlds . Hence  I think we all have our preferences for different accounts packages . The objective of the article is merely to help those who do like to use Sage. It not about criticising other peoples choices of software. As I think we all bright  enough to make our own decisions and take everything into account.  


Sarah@ Douglas Accountancy & Bookkeeping Services, Glasgow

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By User deleted
12th Apr 2010 13:59

Sage Productivity Tip No.1


In favour of a simpler, cheaper. user friendly alternative such a VT Transaction + ... which works smoothly without any glitches...unlike sage!!!

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