Zoho’s built-in automation tools set this accounting software apart from its peers. The ability to eliminate tedious, error-prone tasks and streamline operations is why Zoho Books is our best pick for process automation.
Small business accounting tasks can be tedious, time-consuming, and prone to errors. Thankfully, Zoho Books makes your company’s finances easier to manage by automating processes and helping business owners develop custom functions using a unique scripting language. You can use its scheduled reminders and additional notifications to reduce errors and stop financial items from slipping through the cracks. For these reasons, Zoho Books is our choice for the best accounting software for automating processes.
9.1 / 10
Small business owners, especially those with few employees, have a lot on their plate. They usually aren’t accountants or bookkeepers, but nonetheless they issue invoices, send reminders for those invoices, make payments, and track expenses and projects. They often need to do all those tasks on a budget, and to cap it off, they typically handle all financial tracking by themselves. For business owners who want to offload time-consuming tasks, particularly those related to accounting, Zoho Books is worth considering.
We found that Zoho’s strength lies in its ability to automate tedious, error-prone accounting tasks. Unlike many accounting software competitors we reviewed, Zoho features a dedicated automation section packed with tools, including the ability to set rules to automate workflow. We were also impressed that you can program email alerts, send automated invoice reminders, and set up in-app notifications to ensure you don’t forget critical tasks.
More tech-savvy business owners can even build custom tools using Zoho’s proprietary coding language. All this and more make Zoho Books our best pick for those in search of accounting software with automated processes.
During our demo of Zoho’s software, we paid particular attention to ease of use. We liked that Zoho keeps its interface minimalistic and uncluttered. A toolbar on the left-hand side of the screen houses the software’s primary features, each with a drop-down menu of additional tools. The main dashboard is attractive and displays essential business statistics, such as receivables, payables and cash flow. Based on our experience, users won’t have any trouble navigating Zoho’s intuitive user interface and figuring out how to perform essential tasks.
We found that things can be trickier beyond the main dashboard. Zoho allows users to drill down into the data and automate tedious tasks — a significant strength compared to better-known alternatives. However, we discovered there is a learning curve when you want to perform more advanced automations. Zoho also features its own scripting language that will likely delight tech-minded business owners, but which may discourage less tech-savvy users.
This screenshot shows how Zoho Books features a modern and clean user interface. Source: Zoho
During our demo, we experienced Zoho’s main features firsthand. Zoho shines thanks to its must-have accounting software features. Here’s an overview of some of Zoho’s notable capabilities, especially those designed to automate processes.
During our testing, we found that Zoho makes it easy and convenient to automate payment email reminders and create multiple messages that go out at different times. For example, you can create a payment reminder email and send it a week before the invoice is due, send a second email on the due date, and send a third email a week after the due date if you haven’t yet received payment.
If you connect your account to one of the best credit card processors, you can accept invoice payments online. Compatible payment gateways include PayPal, Braintree, Stripe and Square. Learn more about these processors in our review of Stripe and our Square review.
The Zoho Books platform features a dedicated automation section, as shown in this example screenshot. Source: Zoho
One cool feature we really liked from our demo is that you can schedule reports to be automatically generated weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually and emailed to you in the format of your choice (PDF, CSV or XLS). You can also set up the software to automatically email you a weekly report with an overview of your business’s performance. This report includes summaries of your income and expenses, cash flow, top expenses and active projects. More than 40 standard reports are built into the software, including general ledger reports, profit and loss statements, sales by item, timesheet details, accounts receivable aging, and aged payables.
Using accounting software is one of the best tax-saving tips we can recommend. Excellent accounting software can help you track key data, such as your profits and losses, to simplify tax filing.
We were impressed by Zoho’s ability to create customized automation tools. Tech-savvy business owners might appreciate the opportunity to geek out on Zoho’s ability to code custom functions with the program’s scripting language. We also like that Zoho maintains a team of coders who can help less tech-inclined business owners build what they need to automate additional functions.
Zoho Books has its own scripting language that allows you to create custom automations. Source: Zoho
Not every accounting solution we reviewed provides a mobile app. We liked that Zoho Books’ mobile app is available for iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices. You can use the app to create invoices, run reports, capture receipts, record expenses, and track billable time no matter where you are.
We were impressed by Zoho’s client portal, which makes it easy for your customers to view their invoices and pay their bills online. You can also use it to send estimates and chat within the program. Zoho even alerts you when your customer views an estimate or invoice, accepts or declines an estimate, or makes a payment.
Another key feature that we experienced during our demo was Zoho’s invoicing. We appreciate that Zoho lets you create projects, set tasks, track the time you spend on them, and invoice customers for billable time. The client-approval feature lets customers approve timesheets before you bill them. The software also allows you to track and invoice billable expenses — something not all competitors we reviewed make possible.
During our testing of Zoho, we went through the process of creating an invoice. We like that the template gallery has extensive invoice customization options, more than most competitors. You can choose from 16 templates, several languages and multiple fonts to create custom professional invoices. You can also add your logo or brand image and a background image. Finally, you can select colors for the background, accents, your company’s name, customer name and the rest of the text on the page. Other document types, such as estimates and payment receipts, are also customizable.
While Zoho does a good job of letting you customize the look and feel of your invoices, we found the invoice-customization tool a bit less intuitive than some competitors we reviewed — something less tech-savvy users should consider. In our view, FreshBooks offers better invoicing capabilities.
Although inventory-tracking tools are available only with Zoho’s Professional plan, we found them helpful during our test run of the software. Zoho shows you the available quantity when you enter an item on an invoice. If you enter a higher number than the amount of stock you have on hand, the number turns red. We also liked that you can set up the system to automatically email you a notification when the inventory drops below a specific number.
If your inventory needs are more advanced — say you need to bundle items, for instance — you can add the Zoho Inventory app to the accounting program for an additional cost. Businesses that carry many items or customized products or have more complex inventory needs might want to read our review of Xero, which recently beefed up its inventory automation features.
We like that Zoho Books integrates with other Zoho systems and several third-party programs, including payment gateways, tax programs and Zapier, which allows you to connect to hundreds of additional apps. Check out our review of Zoho CRM to learn about another Zoho system that can work with Zoho Books.
If your company’s IT department needs a remote access and unattended support solution, read our review of Zoho Assist. Zoho Assist helps IT departments troubleshoot internal computers and assist remote customer support agents.
One particularly helpful feature that we noted during our testing was Zoho’s audit trail feature. When you view a transaction, Zoho’s audit trail shows you when it was created; if it was converted to or from another transaction type; and if the transaction has been updated, sent or paid. It notes the name of the user who made edits, along with the date and time of those edits, and allows you to add comments to the transaction. This is ideal for businesses that have multiple people tracking company finances.
Zoho Books stands out for its affordability, especially considering its many desirable features. The software is available in five paid plans, plus a basic free version for very small businesses. The free version helps separate Zoho from competitors, most of which do not offer free software. However, Zoho’s paid tiers do run a bit more expensive than other accounting software that we reviewed such as QuickBooks, Xero, and Sage. You can add a few optional features to your account for an extra fee.
The vendor gives you the option of a month-to-month or annual plan. Monthly prices are shown below, but Zoho offers a hefty discount if you pay for the entire year upfront.
Additional users cost $3 per month for all plans. Another Zoho add-on service called Autoscans costs $10 per month for 50 scans. When you upload documents to Zoho Books, such as vendor invoices or receipts, this add-on automatically scans them and extracts the data to create new transactions, saving you the time of manually creating them.
We like that Zoho offers two ways to test-drive its services. On the vendor’s website, you can try out a demo version of the accounting software, allowing you to explore the user interface and features using a fictional company. A 14-day free trial is available that lets you use the full-featured program with actual business data. If you need more time, you can request to extend the free trial once your two weeks are up.
We tested Zoho’s onboarding process and found that adding new users is extremely easy. Within minutes of visiting Zoho’s site, you can set up a new user account. You can also call the provider’s sales number or contact the company via email for personalized setup advice. Zoho maintains offices worldwide, so your time zone is unlikely to be an issue.
While some software vendors provide only minimal customer service, we were impressed that Zoho offers its paying customers multiple support resources. You can contact the company by phone 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday — a rare perk in this sector. Users can also chat with an agent or email the vendor either within the accounting software or via the company’s website. Zoho maintains a score of 4.5 out of 5 for customer service on user-generated review site Trustpilot, which is higher than both QuickBooks and Xero.
Online help resources include FAQs and a searchable knowledge base. In-house coders are also available to help less tech-savvy business owners make the most of Zoho’s automation abilities. Note that the free version of the software includes only email-based customer support.
Zoho Books offers multiple online support resources, including videos, blogs and help documentation. Source: Zoho
While Zoho Books has excellent accounting features and automation abilities, we found a few drawbacks.
We researched and analyzed dozens of the best accounting and invoicing software solutions to help small businesses choose the right accounting software for their needs. We evaluated features like payment and invoicing capabilities, integrations, mobile apps, report generation, supported user count and customizability. We also considered pricing, the availability of free trials and customer service.
We relied on vendor websites and software demos when conducting our analysis, in addition to studying user reviews for independent opinions on the highlights and drawbacks of each product. When looking for the best accounting software for automation specifically, we focused on the number of processes that could be automated via built-in tools and the ability to create custom tools.
Zoho Books is a cloud-based accounting software system used by small businesses to automate many financial management functions, such as invoicing, payments and workflow.
Zoho Books is free for businesses that generate less than $50,000 USD in revenue. If your business makes more than that, you can purchase one of its paid plans.
Zoho is used by 150,000 businesses around the world.