I first started working as a bookkeeper in my late teens, doing handwritten books in leather-bound journals down by the docks in my hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. Later, I emigrated to Australia, where I got a job working as a bookkeeper in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. There I worked with first-generation accounting software, substituting the peace of those inky journals for a battle of wills (myself versus the computer) that required a bizarre mixture of programming skills and native cunning.

By my late twenties, I had a small business of my own, employing four staff and offering bookkeeping services to local businesses. I finished a degree in accounting (which contributed surprisingly little to my bookkeeping expertise), and started writing for magazines and newspapers reviewing accounting software. In the following years, I wrote a fair few For Dummies titles, including MYOB Software For Dummies and QuickBooks For Dummies.

Even with all this experience behind me, I was in a bit of a quandary as to how to structure the project that you have in your hands right now — Bookkeeping For Dummies. I started looking around at other books about bookkeeping, and found that these books fell into two camps. The first camp took a traditional approach, explaining debits and credits, general ledger postings, and so on, all with the assumption that you’re doing books by hand. The second camp were accounting software how-to guides, such as the books I’d written about using ...

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