Billing for small businesses and freelancers


Article from Issue 189/2016

Finances and accounting are among the more unpopular tasks in small businesses. With Linux and the free program Yabs, however, you can easily keep track of your finances.

Traditional business software is usually primarily aimed at larger organizations and therefore includes many modules that small businesses don't need. The administrative overhead often increases with the complexity of the software, and small businesses in particular are thus reluctant to use such solutions. However, Yabs (Yet another Business Software) provides a lean and ballast-free solution without compromising on operating convenience.


Yabs is available for download as an about 37MB zip archive at GitHub [1]. Yabs is a Java application, so you'll need a Java runtime environment to use the program. The business software cooperates with both the proprietary Java environment from Oracle and with the free OpenJDK version. Because OpenJDK is now found in virtually all package management systems of major Linux distributions, it is worth installing it from the software repository of your Linux derivative. If you aren't sure whether a Java environment has already been installed on your system, you can check the status by entering the java -version command in the terminal.

Then, unzip the Yabs zip archive into a designated directory using a tool such as Ark or PeaZip. You can then move it to a program directory of your choice later. Third-party programs are typically stored in the /opt/ directory in Linux. After the subsequent change to the Yabs program directory, you can enable the software by entering the java -jar yabs.jar command. No entry for Yabs is created in your desktop's menu tree, so you need to create a corresponding starter – if you want to start the software from the menu via mouse click in the future.

Yabs opens a wizard when the program is first launched. The wizard steps can be completed without changes if you use the software on a single system. Unlike many larger business programs, Yabs doesn't need a separately installed database back end to operate; instead, it works with Apache Derby, a Java-based lightweight database. At the same time, other databases can also be used if necessary. The database structure is automatically created by the installation routine.

Once you have run through the wizard, the actual program window opens. The window is set up very intuitively: In a horizontal menubar at the top of the screen, you will find a button bar that provides quick access to some important features. In the two-part main area of the window, there are vertically arranged buttons on the left that are assigned to the groups Contacts, Accounting, Products, and Extras depending on the context. If you click on one of the buttons, a large input and overview area opens on the right-hand side of the window (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Yabs program window is clearly structured.

Basic Configuration

To perform the initial configuration with your data, select the Tools | Settings menu. All the options are now shown as colored icons in the Settings tab (Figure 2).

Figure 2: You can access the settings dialog via the colored icons.

The first step is to enter your company data in the Company Information menu. After completing this work, click the Save button on the bottom right and then click the green button to get back to the main view of the settings menu. No other configurations need to be performed at this point, meaning you can start with creating your databases.

Master Data

The next step involves recording all the master data required for the most extensive automated accounting possible. To create records for your customers, click the Customer button on the left in the program window in the Contacts group and then, after Add: at the top in the middle, the Customer button on the right in the contact list.

Next, enter your customer's basic data in the gray-shaded entry dialog that opens in the Addresses tab. Click the Contact tab to enter contact information such as phone and fax numbers. You can enter more data in the Account Data and Info tabs (free text can be entered in the Info section), and you can either print it or just use it internally.

We spotted an inconsistency in the Account Data segment: As usual, the account number and bank sort code is asked for here in all input dialogs in the Contacts groups. Because this data has now been replaced by IBAN and BIC, program developer Andreas Weber told us that the BIC number needs to be entered in the Bank Sort Code field and the IBAN in the Account Number field. Weber informed us that the field names would be changed to match the new guidelines in future versions.

You can also create your own keys in the Settings tab (e.g., payment conditions), which only apply to current customers, however. Once you've completed your entries, save the record by clicking the disk icon in the button bar in the top-left corner. If necessary, you can add different contacts or additional addresses under the primary address by clicking the Add Address button and then filling out the dialog that opens. The new address is then stored on the far right in the program window next to the address field in its own vertically displayed tab.

You can record your product range in a similar way: To do this, click the Products button on the bottom left and then the New Article button. An input dialog now opens on the right-hand side of the program window where you can record your desired products. You can also enter a large amount of free text in the input dialog and add a product image at the bottom left. The software also allows automatic calculations using the corresponding input fields and tabs (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Extensive descriptions can be entered in the product screen.

Yabs also lets you enter services as a product. To do so, use the New Service button on the left in the program window. This opens a similarly structured entry dialog where you can enter all the necessary data. You can again save the data by clicking the disk icon.

As part of the conventional product management system, the program also makes storage easier. Yabs can, for example, warn you if inventory falls below minimum values for certain articles. To set this up, open the Inventory tab in the window for the respective product and, in the Inventory Management section, enter the current inventory and the warning threshold. At this point, the software should inform you whether there is not enough inventory for the particular item. You can also define a supplier for the article in this status window, although the supplier can also be taken from the stored data in the Contacts group via the selection box. The software can also handle multiple suppliers for an article.

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