I work with a variety of small business clients. The three favorites, in order, are Quickbooks, Peachtree, and then Microsoft Office Accounting. Actually, I think Microsoft is probably better liked then Peachtree, but Peachtree has been around almost since the PC was invented, whereas Microsoft just seriously entered the market a couple of years ago. But they all compete in the same market, so over time, they all tend to copy each others best ideas. You won`t find a lot of difference between them.
Microsoft Office Accounting has the best integration with the rest of Microsoft Office - invoices are actually Word documents - so if you know Word, then you already know how to redesign your invoices before you even learn how to issue one through the program. It allows you to scan a document (say a supplier invoice) and attach it to a record like a check entered in the check register, just like attaching to an email. Peachtree does this too, but out-of-the-box, Quickbooks can`t do that (yet).
Quickbooks has very active user forums. If you have a question about a procedure, you can post it in their boards and you`ll probably get a good response from a real user before the end of the day. But these programs are simple enough that you won`t have a lot of questions.
For a new user and very small business, the biggest complaint for any of these three is that the have too many features you don`t need, so they can get confusing at first. Down the road, as your business expands and gets more complex you`ll appreciate the features. They also force you learn something about accounting, which is probably a good thing since most business owners that don`t understand accounting ultimately fail.
Spreadsheets aren`t a viable long-term option for a serious business. They actually are harder to use to use and provide less in return for the effort. Your CPA may even charge you more if you give her a spreadsheet than if you gave her a Quickbooks file.
R Scott Reynolds, CPA