There are three programs in MYOB's range for the Mac. The one we'll look at here is FirstEdge, which costs £79. It's the entry-level app aimed primarily at sole traders and small companies.

Above it comes AccountEdge, for slightly larger businesses, followed by AccountEdge Plus, which adds up-scale features such as tax form support.

Straightforward interface

The hub for all FirstEdge activities is the Command Centre window, where you can switch between working with Accounts, Banking and Sales. A row of drop-down menus provides access to an extensive range of reports, a search facility and a to-do list.

Looks-wise, the Command Centre has been given a face-lift to make it a bit less austere, but the basics remain the same and existing FirstEdge users will find it all reassuringly familiar.

Improved integration with other applications features prominently in this new version. Although FirstEdge still lacks any links to Office (available in AccountEdge), it can now talk to Address Book and iCal.

This means that you can synchronise your Address Book records with the contact details of customers, suppliers and employees that are stored as 'cards' within FirstEdge. The link to iCal enables you to publish recurring transactions, as well as due dates for sales invoices, so that they will appear, handily, as events in your calendar.

Low-cost backup

Another welcome new option enables you to back up your complete MYOB data to a .Mac account. This offers a simple and low-cost way of maintaining an off-site backup to secure your financial records in the event of fire, flood or theft.

This was always possible as a manual backup, but making it a built-in operation means it's far more likely to be done regularly.

Among other improvements, there's a new facility for transferring money between accounts, a pop-up calculator that enables you to enter simple arithmetical expressions into numerical fields, bank reconciliations can now be undone, and there are numerous other small tweaks that make using FirstEdge that little bit smoother.

As we've come to expect from MYOB, the UK localisation is very thorough. It's not just the essential things such as pound symbols and VAT, but also the spellings, address formats and even the sample data used in the tutorial that are UK-friendly. It's an example that more software companies could do to follow.

Support options

Over the years, MYOB has faced some criticism for only providing paid-for support. Is this really a problem, though?

Both the online help and the PDF documentation are excellent and many users, especially of this entry-level program, should never need any additional support.

If you do, or if you want the reassurance of a safety net, then you'll need to budget for an additional £19 per year to provide telephone and online support, or £29 to include all upgrades as well. That seems entirely reasonable.

Excellent accounting tool

The overall balance of features in FirstEdge v4 is well judged and will be appropriate for most of the small businesses that it's aimed at.

However, there is a slight bias towards sale of goods rather than provision of services, and some businesses will find the lack of time-billing a stumbling block. Also, there's no provision for multiple currencies, which may be a problem for anyone trading abroad.

Both features are available in MYOB's higher-level software, so it's worth comparing features across the range before buying.

If those limitations aren't an obstacle for you, then FirstEdge can be recommended as an excellent choice that provides the basic tools needed to balance your books and keep your accountant happy.