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This section of the manual is rather thin. We assume that if a menu appears with the buttons labeled Billing, Payments, Reporting, Administration, and Change Organization, most people can follow along. We will, however, discuss some of the automated processing that happens behind the scenes.

Also, don’t hesitate to create a bogus organization for demonstration and training purposes. Use this organization to create practice Contacts, Accounts, and Transactions.

A Word of Warning

There are two types of notes in Open Accounting: public and private. Transaction notes are public, meaning they appear on account statements. Notes associated with records in the Accounts, Contacts, or Organization fields, however, are private: they do not appear on customer statements.

As a general rule, never type anything in a transaction note that is not for publication. Although it is possible to create a payment transaction with a category of Admin Credit and a note of “Applied to account in lieu of cash for sexual favors received,” that is generally not an acceptable practice. Except perhaps for transactions posted on April 1.

Data Entry Conventions

Open Accounting follows some data entry conventions:

Selecting an Organization

Start Open Accounting and the Login screen with a drop down of defined Organizations appears. Choose the organization to work with and the Main form with that organization’s associated identifier appears. To work with a different organization, click the Change Organization button on the Main form.

Under Window, Unhide the database window. Then look at the Macros list and run Autoexec.

Two-Phase Posting

Billing and payment processing operations have two phases: in the first phase, work entered in a form is saved and validated. In the second phase, the work is posted to the database. This allows one to visually proof forms before committing any transaction. It also allows one to save a session and return, say after a lunch break, in some (but not all) cases.


There are four forms used to bill customers: expenses, time, jobs, and retainers.

Expenses and Jobs

Expense billings are pretty self explanatory: Choose the account this transaction applies to. Enter the the post date, the amount, and a note explaining why the expense was incurred. Choose a category. Click the Validate button, check the form, and click the Approve button if things look OK.

What is the difference between an expense and a job billing? The categories available in the form: one has items that are expenses and the other has items that are services. Otherwise these forms are the same.


Billing for a service is a bit trickier because this form is automated. Note when selecting the customer, the associated hourly rate is pulled from the Accounts table automatically. Change this number if desired. Enter a start and stop time as a twenty-four hour based decimal number (13.25 means 1:15 PM), click Validate, and the form calculates the bill amount.

Note two things: one can change the rate and times, but not the bill amount. Also the start and stop time are appended to the end of the notes field. Click Validate twice and the time is appended twice.


Jobs are services billed as units instead of by the hour. For example, a video production company may review a script and quote a flat rate to complete production instead of charging the customer for every hour worked. The job billing form is very much like the expense form, except the categories are service related.

As with time billing, a message is appended to the notes field. Validate twice and the message appears twice.


Retainer postings are automated. After entering the post date for retainer billings, the system selects Accounts where the monthly retainer is positive, i.e. more then zero. Data on the approval screen cannot be modified: this form merely previews changes resulting from the posting, if approved.

Note that in many professional practices, retainers are good for a block of time and excess hours are billed separately. Unfortunately the system does not track those hours for you: that is a manual process. But since retainer postings are merely Transactions, it’s not a problem to mix all three billing types on an account.


Detailed Payment Processing

When this feature is enabled, Open Accounting applies payments to each and every billing transaction. So if one posts two billings of $50 each and processes a single $100 payment, statements will reflect two $50 payments. This may be irritating for some organizations. But for non-profits using pledges (retainers), it shows credits for regular and ad-hoc billings separately.

This feature may be turned on or off at any time using the Organizations form under the Administration menu. Changes are reflected the next time payments are processed. Existing transactions in the database are not impacted.

Batch Deposits

Another potentially irritating or invaluable feature is payments are grouped into batches called Deposits. For example, one can group together five checks for one banking transaction. This helps reconcile banking and billing activity: a report tracks payments by deposits for just this purpose.

Deposit numbers are free-form text. They are limited to sixteen characters, can be anything, but should be unique for each banking transaction. Filing deposit slips when returning from the bank? The slip number may be used. Or in a professional practice, the biller’s initials and date may be used, for example JPK060928.

Since deposit numbers are not numbers but text strings, each should have the same length for sorting purposes. At print time these “numbers” will sort alphabetically: T1, T10, T11, T2, T3, ... T9 for example. But T01, T02, T03, ... T11 will sort as expected.

Deposit numbers need not be unique. Using the same one for three different sessions means the payments collected for all three will be aggregated in one batch at report time. It is also possible to have a single deposit number for credit payment types, for example Credits, to group non-banking transactions in reports.

One final note on deposit numbers: these are saved in memory, not on disk, until Transactions are actually posted. So one has to remember what deposit number was used when saving and resuming a payment recording session.

Payment Recording

When starting a payment processing session, one may choose to display all Contacts who have an account with the current organization, or only those Accounts that have an outstanding balance. The initial payment amount is zero. Only payments with positive amounts are actually posted as Transactions.

Reconciling Deposits

After returning from the bank, use the Reconcile Deposits button under the Payment form to assign deposit numbers to various payments. These numbers are assigned one at a time. Unlike the Record Payments form, changes to this form take place immediately. Once the form is closed, changes must be made in the Transactions form under Administration.


Reports are “live,” meaning changes to the database will be reflected immediately. Reports do not change the database, so it’s safe to run any report at any time. Most report launch forms have the following features:

The Account History report uses the PostDate column in the Organizations table as an input. This report returns transactions from January 1 through December 31 in the current PostYear.

Manual Transactions

While it is possible to manually add Transactions to the database using a form under the Administration menu, we recommend against doing so. Instead, insert a transaction using a billing or payment form. Then modify this transaction, for example the notes field, using this manual form.

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