Crowley Graphics, now in it's thirtieth year, started trading in England's 'Silicon Valley', in a village midway between Maidenhead and Slough on the Buckinghamshire/Berkshire border in September 1977. With just our founder, specialising in complex form-ruling and typesetting, we quickly flourished and moved to High Street office space employing five people and purchasing a state-of-the-art phototypesetter - costing the equivalent of a small house - to produce work to a standard high enough for the companies for whom we were designing invoices and other artwork - which included familiar names such as IBM, ICI and Currys Mastercare.
In the mid 1980s we relocated to much more pleasant surroundings here, in North Devon, and were among the first to invest in the emerging computerised page layout and design technology called 'DTP'. Seeing the advantages of Desk Top Publishing over the traditional 'cut and paste' drawing board method, we used our technical skills to demonstrate and sell our own range of computer-based typesetting systems to printers and designers across the UK. We sourced, from America, the 'best', 'low cost' laser printer (these days being a laughable 800x400dpi costing £6,995 / $12,000 each) and were authorized dealers for a then, little known in the UK, computer manufacturer called 'Packard Bell'.
Unfortunately, the recession in the early 1990s made the sale of these systems more and more difficult, so we reverted to our traditional typesetting, and by then, litho printing business. Investing further in modern printing and finishing equipment, we found a niche market and quickly established ourselves as one of the largest suppliers of Agricultural and Accounting Record Books in the UK, and it was in 1992 that our existing accounting package was showing signs of being eminently unsuitable for our invoicing requirements.
After downloading a number of invoicing programs on our latest 14.4kbs modem - and sending off for floppy disks containing shareware, we could not find any that fitted our needs so we decided to develop our own invoicing program from scratch - if you have the time and the expertise, this is easily the best solution. After a number of years of further development, we decided to try our hand at 'on-line selling' and offered our original in-house program for sale on the world wide web - selling a magnificent 13 copies in three months!
Unperturbed, we scrapped version 1, wrote a completely new version and in 1997 Account&See Version 2 was released to the world's marketplace. This version went from strength to strength (see version 2 history here) and still has thousands of loyal customers today. Due to the success of this version, we decided to sell our printing and publishing business to develop and support the software on a full-time basis and in December 2004, after a successful sale, we commenced work on Version 3.0. Some 5,000 or so man hours later, 1st February 2006 saw the launch of Account&See Invoicing and Accounting version 3 that included not only extra features requested by customers that we were unable to add to the previous version, but unique, ground-breaking functions, such as our dynamic address layout that automatically adjusts the screen layout to enter customers' addresses in the correct format, no matter which country they reside. As per our launch of version 2 which included features not included in 'off the shelf' products, such as Matrix Pricing (where you can sell the same goods at different prices, depending on the number of products sold) - the number one reason we had to develop our software in the first place - is now commonplace in competitors' products. Watch our competitors' slowly integrate our 'standard' features into their future releases.
Crowley Graphics, the company behind Account&See, has been around since the late 1970s and during that time, we've issued tens of thousands of invoices, have designed many hundreds of invoice layouts for some of the world's largest (and the world's smallest!) companies and offer you, our software, on a free-trial basis for you to test.
When you are looking for a solution to your accounting requirements, you have three options.
- Firstly - and this is by far and away the best option (if you have the time, financial resources and the accounting and programming expertise) is to write your own software. This allows you to add features as and when you require, make product updates to your own timescales - but is obviously out of the reach of the average small business. For instance, if you had commissioned us to write this software, the bill to-date would be in excess of US $250,000.
- Secondly, there are excellent 'off-the-shelf' programs you can purchase from any computer retailer - Sage, Quicken, Quickbooks, Pegasus to name a few. These 'big companies' offer fantastic products but do carry a 'big company' price tag (after all, the company, distributor and retailer all have to make a profit) - and they also charge 'annual maintenance' charges if you want product updates or need a bit of support. If you want a 'bespoke' change - this may not be possible, or if it is will be charged at a much higher cost than the third option, below, and may take a long time to happen.
- The third, and increasingly popular choice, is the 'Shareware', 'Trialware' or 'ISV' (Independent Software Vendor) sector. This option offers you, generally, good value, stable software at a fraction of the price of the 'off the shelf products'. Furthermore, you normally speak to either the developer, or can speak to a member of the development team. However, for want of a better word, the 'Shareware' route can often lead you to a programmer, employed 9-5 in a regular job and only has a limited number of hours per week to respond to customer requests, or a part time programmer who is a good programmer but has obviously never written an invoice in their life. In general, the days of 'Shareware' being sloppy, buggy, amateurish software has long since passed - although there are still some poor examples offered for sale - many large, internationally known companies started off, or have moved into the 'try before you buy' concept.
In the shareware market, if you find that magical mix of a company who works full time on software development / customer support, provides a good, stable program and has an extensive knowledge of the market - you get the benefits of 'off the shelf' quality at greatly reduced prices and the software can often be personalised to your particular requirements, quickly and at little or no extra cost to you.