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Bank Reconciliations 
and Closing Dates 

Older accounting software packages only offered only "batch processing".  You would enter your transactions, print a list of them to review, and when you were sure all was as it should be, you would post the batch.  Once posted, the batch could not be edited or changed.  If you wanted to make a change, you had to offset the original entry and create a new entry.

Newer accounting software packages (QuickBooks, Peachtree, etc.) offer "real-time posting".  No edit lists - you save and post the transaction simultaneously.  This type of posting saves time and is easier to use, but there are dangers inherent in it.

One of the most common problems I'm asked to resolve is when a bank reconciliation won't balance because "something has changed" since the last reconciliation was completed.  The cause is simple: a transaction(s) was either changed, added, or deleted in a prior period.  If you have the "audit trail" feature turned on, the change is easier to find.  If not, you're only option is to compare the printouts you made after the previous reconciliation with current printouts that cover the previous period(s).   

So, it's VERY important that you print out not only your bank reconciliation report every month, and an Account Register as well.  An Account Register can either be the month's activity in the cash account via a General Ledger report or a default report provided by the software.  Once these reports are printed, it's also VERY important that you don't change, add, or delete transactions in prior periods!  Once the reports are printed, the period is considered "closed" and should not be affected!

So, what happens if you receive a vendor bill in the middle of the current month that's dated in or applies to a "closed" period?  Most companies have a "closing date" - any documents received after this closing date are posted in the current period instead of in the prior period.  You can enter and date the bill the 1st day of the current period and note somewhere in the transaction what the actual bill  date was.

Some versions of QuickBooks offers a closing date and the ability to password protect it.  This prevents the user from accidentally or intentionally affecting prior periods - only the user(s) with the password can do so.  Some version of Peachtree don't allow you to post to prior periods unless you change your accounting period to that prior period.  These safety guards are helpful in preventing problems with bank reconciliations and help prevent your printed reports from becoming invalid.

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Anti-Virus Programs
and Firewalls  

Not my field of expertise and I don't want to jinx myself, but I have to say I've never gotten a virus.  Why not?  I break all the rules!  I open e-mails every day from people I don't know.  I open file attachments constantly.  I suppose the reason why I haven't gotten a virus is that I'm a avid user of Anti-Virus software.

My personal choice of Anti-Virus software is PC-Cillan.  I've been told there are better packages out there (that detect more viruses), but PC-Cillan seems to be the least intrusive in terms of resource usage and conflicts.  This means I can run my resource-intensive Accounting and Database programs without crashing all the time.  This means I don't need patches to make other programs run properly on my computer.

Regardless of which one you choose, be sure you choose and use ONE of them.  Other popular packages include Norton and McAfee.  Both do the job, but Norton is infamous for conflicts and both are resource hogs.  Any of them should do the job, as long as you keep your virus definitions UP TO DATE!!!

Most of the popular Anti-Virus packages have some sort of automatic update options.  All you need is a connection to the Internet and you'll be notified when new definitions or program updates are available.  The key here is to connect to the Internet long enough to be notified and to always select "Download Now" when the offer is made.

The analogy I use most often is as follows...  If you go to the doctor because you're suffering strange symptoms, would you choose a doctor that is up-to-date on current illnesses and trends, or would you choose a doctor who hasn't learned anything new in 10 years?  Programmers are out there creating new viruses every day.  Their challenge is to outsmart the Anti-Virus companies.  Your Anti-Virus software is only as good as the definitions it has - how can it recognize a virus it doesn't know about?

Once you've protected yourself from viruses, you need to protect yourself from hackers.  A Firewall is a program that blocks intruders from accessing your computer via the internet.  If you have a constant Internet connection (cable modem or DSL) and you're not using a Firewall, you're on the Internet with your pants down every time you boot your computer.  You have nothing to protect your computer from hackers.  If you have a dial-up connection (AOL, Earthlink, etc.), you're also vulnerable every time you go online and access the Internet or your e-mail.  The longer your connection, the more vulnerable you are.

Like the nasty programmers who write new viruses all the time, there's many nasty computer users out there who love to try to "hack" (break) into your computer.  They have automated programs that work around the clock to find computers with vulnerabilities.  Firewalls make you invisible to these programs and the people who run them.  What could they do if they're successful in breaking into your computer?  So many things!  

They could steal any personal information you've entered (credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc) and then steal your identity.  Everyone by now has heard the terrors of identity theft!  It takes years and years to recover from it.  They could plant viruses in your computer and/or do damage to your files.  They could use your computer in a daisy chain of computers to cover their tracks if they're hacking into the government's or a large company's computer system.  The list goes on and on.

Windows XP comes with a Firewall of sorts.  Some Anti-Virus programs now include Firewalls as well.  Either way, you need to know how to turn on the Firewalls and how to configure them.  ZoneAlarm is a free Firewall you can download on your own.  They have a more robust version of that package for sale on their website.  BlackIce Defender is another popular Firewall that's easy to configure, but it's not free.

Some viruses are so pervasive that you would probably need to hire a professional to clean it off your computer.  In some cases, there is no option but to reformat the hard drive.  The damage that can be done by hackers could also result in a trip to the computer store for repairs.  It's just not worth the trouble to have to recover from viruses and hackers - GET YOURSELF AN ANTI-VIRUS PROGRAM AND A FIREWALL NOW!!!!

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Keyboard Shortcuts

It's inefficient to constantly reach for the mouse when your fingers are mainly on the keyboard while typing a letter or entering data into your program of choice.  As a result, there are certain keyboard stroke combinations that emulate common mouse functions.  For example, if you wanted to copy something so you could then paste it into a different document, you'd most likely right click the highlighted text and choose "Copy" from the pop-up menu.  Next, you'd go to the destination document, right click and choose "Paste" from the pop-up menu.  This works fine, but it's not the most efficient way to go about it.

Instead, if you were to hold the Control key [Ctrl] down with your left pinky finger and hit the [C] key with your left index finger, you would copy your text without every touching the mouse.  Just remember - as soon as you hit the [C] key, let go of both the [Ctrl] and [C] keys.  Here's a list of some time savers that work in MOST (not all) Windows products:

[Ctrl] + [C] = Copy highlighted text/image to the Windows clipboard
[Ctrl] + [X] = Cut highlighted text/image to the Windows clipboard
[Ctrl] + [V] = Paste highlighted text/image to the Windows clipboard
[Ctrl] + [N] = Same as clicking File then New
[Ctrl] + [O] = Same as clicking File then Open
[Ctrl] + [P] = Same as clicking File then Print
[Ctrl] + [S] = Same as clicking File then Save
[Ctrl] + [Z] = Same as clicking Edit then Undo
[Ctrl] + [B] = Format the highlighted text as Bold 
[Ctrl] + [I] = Format the highlighted text as Italic
[Ctrl] + [U] = Format the highlighted text as Underlined

The Windows clipboard is an "invisible" holding place where Windows stores whatever you've copied until you paste it somewhere.  Some programs allow more than one item to be held on the clipboard.  In the old DOS days, you could press your Print Screen key [PrtScr] and your printer would spit out it's best shot at reproducing the image that was displayed on your monitor when you hit the key.  

In Windows, it's not quite that simple.  If you press [PrtScr], a copy of the image on your monitor is copied to the Windows clipboard.  You then need to open a Word Processing program (WordPad or Microsoft Word will do) and paste the image into the document.  The image is stored as a picture, so you can't easily edit any text that might be in the image.  You can resize the picture or change your Page Setup to Landscape so that when you do print it, it fits better onto the page.

Now, if you were to hold the [Alt] button down while pressing the [PrtScr] key, only the active window would be copied to the clipboard.  The active window is the window that has a blue (assuming you didn't change your Windows color scheme) border at the top of the window.  An inactive window would have a grey border instead.  For example, if you open WordPad, WordPad is the active window.  If you then click File then Open, the Open File window becomes the active window.  The [Alt] key has many other uses and here are a few:

[Alt] + [Tab] = Toggle between open windows/programs
[Alt] + [F4] = Same as clicking File then Close
[Alt] + [F] = Same as clicking File
[Alt] + [E] = Same as clicking Edit
[Alt] + [V] = Same as clicking View
[Alt] + [O] = Same as clicking Format

You can deduce other keyboard stroke combinations if you know that the [Alt] key allows you to use whatever letter is underlined in the menu options at the top of the screen.  Note that both File and Format start with [F], hence pressing [Alt] + [F] will bring you to the File drop down menu because the "F" in File is underlined, but you'd have to press [Alt] + [O] to access the Format drop down menu because the "O" in Format is underlined.

Designed for Windows NT/Windows 98The Windows Logo key is another helpful tool.  It's normally located     between the [Ctrl] and [Alt] keys and it resembles the colorful logo displayed here (except keyboard keys are normally NOT in color).  When you press this key alone, your Start Menu pops up.  When you press this key in combination with another, magical things happen:

[Windows Logo] + [E] = Opens Windows Explorer
[Windows Logo] + [F] = Opens the Find All Files window
[Windows Logo] + [R] = Same as clicking Start then Run
[Windows Logo] + [Break] = Same as opening Control Panel and selecting the System icon
[Windows Logo] + [M] = Minimizes all open windows

The Arrow Keys are helpful, too.  If you're in a document, these keys will move you one space or one line at a time in the direction the arrow points.  If you're in a spreadsheet, they will move you from one cell to another.  Many people tend to use the [Backspace] and/or [Delete] keys to correct typos.  They end up deleting the misspelled word and retyping it.  It's more practical to first use the Arrow Keys to reach your error, then delete just the typo (not the entire word) before entering the correction.

Above the Arrow Keys are six VERY helpful keys.  [Insert] will allow you to type text without typing over the adjoining text.  [Delete] can be used to remove characters to the right of the cursor, one at a time.  [Home] and [End] will bring you to the beginning or end of the text line your cursor is on.  [Page Up] and [Page Down] help you avoid dragging scroll bars when dealing with documents of multiple pages.  Finally, the [Backspace] key will remove characters to the left of the cursor, one at a time (opposite of the [Delete] key).

If you're hungry to learn more Keyboard Shortcuts, visit Microsoft's website for more information than you'll ever need.

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Last modified: January 08, 2009  Legal Disclaimer