Category Archives for "Technology"

Evernote for CPAs
Jul 16

Evernote for CPAs: Developing a Super Power

By Charles Hall | Technology

While there is no Evernote just for CPAs, it’s still a game-changer for beancounters. I’ve used this tool for about ten years and it is one of my favorites software packages.

So, what is Evernote?

What is Evernote?

Think of it as your digital library. 

Evernote is a cloud-based storage system that allows you to capture and file voice recordings, documents (including Word, Excel, PDFs), pictures, and videos. Once information is placed in Evernote, it is searchable in a Google-like fashion. Even hand-written notes are searchable.

What can CPAs do with this killer app?

Evernote for CPAs

Picture from AdobeStock.com

Things CPAs Can Do with Evernote

Here are examples of what you can do with Evernote:

  • Create a personal digital library (e.g., use an Evernote digital notebook to store Journal of Accountancy articles, CPE material, and videos of class instruction)
  • Share individual files or notebooks (a compilation of files) with others (with the premium version you can collaborate with others, allowing them to change Excel or Word files)
  • Capture meeting conversations with your smartphone and save them to Evernote
  • Use your smartphone to take a picture of meeting notes on a whiteboard (remember manually written words are searchable)
  • Encrypt selected text within an Evernote note (password protected); it can’t be viewed without the password
  • Add selected web information to Evernote using an Evernote clipper 
  • Email any document directly to your private Evernote email address (which adds the emailed information to an Evernote folder)
  • Create a local Evernote notebook for sensitive information (the notebook resides on your local computer and does not synchronize to your Evernote cloud account)

So, what are the main components of an Evernote storage system?

The Skeletal Framework: Notes, Notebooks, and Tags 

The skeletal framework for Evernote has three elements: Notes, notebooks, and tags.

 

Evernote for CPAs

1. The primary element of Evernote is a note.

Think of a note as a blank piece of paper on which you can type. You can also attach other files to the note (e.g., an Excel spreadsheet or a picture taken with your cell phone or a voice message recorded with your cell phone). Once you create your notes, organize them in notebooks. 

2. Notes are placed in notebooks.

Think of a notebook as a three-ring binder.

For example, if I want to create a note about comprehensive income, I can do so. Then I can attach related files (e.g., PDFs) to the note. Next, I might add a note about other comprehensive income and another about reclassifications from other comprehensive income. The separate notes can, for example, be a text file, an Excel file, and a voice message.

All three notes can be added to a notebook titled Comprehensive Income.

Another way to organize your information is to tag each note.

3. You may also tag each note.

I could place the comprehensive income notes in a notebook titled accounting (a more generic category) and tag each note as comprehensive income. Then I can search and find all comprehensive income notes by using the comprehensive income tag. When I type tag:”comprehensive income” in the Evernote search bar, all notes tagged as such appear.

Use both folders and tags to help you more readily find information.

And how do you move information into Evernote?

Getting Information Into Evernote

Feed your Evernote account in multiple ways. How?

You can use Evernote apps or programs on your iPad, PC, and smartphone to add information to your account. 

I use the smartphone app to make and save pictures, notes, and voice messages to my Evernote account.

Evernote also provides you with a unique email address that can be used to feed information into your personal cloud. When you find something you want to store, you can email it to your Evernote account.

Also, you can use the Evernote clipper to capture information on the fly, such as when you are browsing the Internet. Just download the Clipper program from the Evernote website. 

Another neat way to get information into Evernote is with your scanner. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap to feed scanned pages directly into Evernote.

Create Your Evernote Account

To create your account, go to the Evernote website and follow the directions. There is a free version if you want to try it out. The premium version is $7.99 per month. You can see a comparison of their plans here. I have not received any type of commission for this recommendation. 

See my article An Auditor’s Cell Phone.

CPA's Office Setup
Jun 14

CPA’s Office Setup: A Behind-the-Scenes Spotlight

By Charles Hall | Technology

Is a CPA’s office setup important? You bet.

Like you, I am continually looking for ways to be more productive. I buy books, watch videos, and take note of how others work.

I like to see the offices of other CPAs. Here’s mine.

Multiple Monitors

Docking Station – I use a docking station that allows me to push one button to disconnect and place my laptop into a bag for travel. The docking station provides connectivity inputs behind my computer. Rather than disconnecting several wires to “set my computer free,” I push one button.

Multiple Monitors – I use multiple monitors. See how to review financial statements on computer screens.

50″ Monitor (on a swivel hinge) – This monitor is about two feet behind my desk. I use this screen as a fourth working monitor. For example, when I am reviewing financial statements, I sometimes place the balance sheet on the 50″ screen and a second copy of the financial statements on my lower center monitor. Then as I review the remainder of the statements (e.g., notes), I can glance at the balance sheet.

The 50″ monitor hangs from a swivel hinge. The swivel hinge allows me to tilt the screen in other directions when I am sharing information from my laptop with others in my office. We also use the monitor to watch webcasts. 

Todoist Checklist – I place all my outstanding to-do items in Todoist. Since Todoist integrates with Outlook, I usually have Outlook docked on the 50″ monitor. With just a glance, I can quickly see what I need to complete. With one click, I can add a new to-do item. And the to-do items I add on my laptop show up on my iPad and iPhone Todoist apps (and vice versa)–this integration is why I started using Todoist.

Logitech Camera – I often have online meetings and share information on my computer screen with those I am speaking with (I use Zoom). This Logitech camera (C930e) creates an excellent picture and sound so those I’m sharing with can see and hear me

iPhone on a Stand – Do you ever lay your phone down and later you can’t find it? (We used just to lose our keys, now it’s the phone and the keys.) This stand provides me with a consistent place for my phone. elago M2 Stand for all iPhones, Galaxy, and Smartphones (Angled Support for FaceTime), Black

printer shot

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 Scanner – When I receive physical paper documents, my usual first step is to scan the paper and place it (the paper) in my shred box. I use this scanner several times a day. Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 Color Duplex Document Scanner with Touch Screen for Mac and PC

Deluxe Shred Box – My deluxe shred box is a box top. I know, sophisticated, huh?

Landline Phone – I keep my phone over on my side table to keep it off my main desktop.

HP Printer – Many CPAs use a central printer for several people but think about the cumulative time you waste walking to the printer. HP Laserjet P2035 Printer

CPA's Office Setup

iPad – This is my favorite device. I use it mainly outside the office, but I place it on the corner of my desk, so I can quickly pick it up as I go out.

The Physical Library – I order most publications electronically, but for my physical books, I keep them handy here.

Adjustable Standup Desk – In my attempt to be a (little) more healthy, I bought this standup desk about three years ago. About once a day, I will print and stand while I review a set of financial statements–mainly to get my rear out of the chair. There has been a great deal of press lately about professionals (slowly) killing themselves by sitting too much. This desk does adjust down to the level of my main desktop, and it is mobile, so I use it–when I’m tired of standing–as an extension of my main desktop. I recently purchased a Varidesk for my home (not pictured). It raises up and down electronically. Somewhat expensive but the quality is outstanding.

Paper-in Tray – I use a three-level tray for my incoming paper. The top shelf is for newly arrived paper information.

conference space

Corner Meeting Spot –  I use this corner area as a place to meet with partners and staff, especially if they bring paper copies in to discuss.

Coffee Maker – This is probably the most important appliance in my office. No coffee, no Charles.

whiteboard

Whiteboard – If someone needs to draw an idea out, here’s the place. I sometimes take iPhone pictures of the information drawn on the board and then store it in Evernote.

Watercooler – Drinking plenty of water each day will enhance your stamina. You want to create energy that sustains you.

Your Ideas

How would you change my office? What additional ideas would you add to these?

fences
May 31

How to Organize Your Computer Desktop with Fences

By Charles Hall | Technology

In this post, I explain how you can use Fences software to organize your computer desktop.

Most accountants like organization, yet I often see total chaos on computer monitors.

A typical CPA’s screen looks like this.

Organize desktop

We’d be much better off if our desktops looked like this.

fences

Creating Order on Your Desktop

So how can you bring order to your desktop?

Use Fences. The cost is $9.99, but well worth the iconic bliss.

Once Fences is downloaded, you simply right-click and drag on your screen to create a new fence (see below). Above you see a fence titled “Programs.” You can arrange the icons in whatever order you wish. To add an icon to a fence, you simply drag it to the desired location.

Create Fence

Once you arrange your icons, they stay that way. When you reboot your computer the next morning, you’ll find your icons in the same order. 

Fences YouTube Video

Here’s a video that provides additional information:

My Experience with Fences

I’ve used Fences for about eight years and have found it useful. I recommend it.

Other Office Suggestions

For helpful ideas in setting up your physical office, click here.

readers digest - information for CPAs
Feb 14

Reader’s Digest: Information for CPAs

By Charles Hall | Accounting and Auditing , Technology

Here are a few articles (and one TED talk) that I believe you will find of interest as a CPA.

readers digest - information for CPAs

What AI Is--and Isn't

This TED talk provides you with a better understanding of artificial intelligence (AI). Educator and entrepreneur Sebastian Thrun is interviewed by Chris Anderson. Watch What AI Is--And Isn't. In the talk, Sebastian discusses how Udacity students created self-driving code in forty-eight hours.. In another AI example, he demonstrates the use of AI to diagnose skin cancer--even better than board-certified dermatologists. 

Revenue Recognition: A Private Company Disclosure Guide

Many of you are in the middle of adopting ASC 606 - Revenue from Contracts with Customers. As you have discoverd, there are many new disclosures to include in your financial statements. If you're looking for 606 disclosure examples for private companies, you'll find them here. Liz Gantnier with Dixon Hughes Goodman has created a wonderful guide. See section D. 

Langley Air Force Base Secretary Faked Payroll for 17 Years, Giving Herself an Extra $1.46 Million

This articles proves again that fraud schemes don't have to be complicated to be successful. In 2017, the fraudster's base pay was $51,324 but she took home $119,585. Between 2001 and 2018, she falsely claimed 47,8247 overtime hours. Read the article here.

Lease Accounting: Bus Example

This article provides a great summary of GASB 87 lease journal entries. It also shows you how to compute the right-of-use asset and lease liability. Check out Lease Accounting: Bus Example from BakerTilly. (You'll see a link to download the presentation.) If you audit governments or work for one, you'll find this article useful. The effective date of GASB 87 is years beginning after December 15, 2018. 

White House proposes folding PCAOB into SEC by 2022

The White House is proposing to fold the PCAOB into the SEC. Read about it here in an Accounting Today article.

Book Recommendations

If you missed my book recommendations last month, you'll see five that I recommend here. They will make you a better CPA--and person.

Save Time with Online Meetings
Feb 10

CPAs Save Time with Online Meetings: Getting Started

By Charles Hall | Technology

CPAs save time with online meetings. At least, they do if they know how.

Are you tired of driving hours to see clients? Or maybe you drive two hours to meet with a customer and realize you left files on your office computer. Online meetings solve these problems and make you more accessible. Below I show you how to get started. 

Save Time with Online Meetings

Pick an Online Meeting Solution

First, you need to choose a video conferencing solution.

Some popular alternatives include:

Here is a PC Magazine article that compares these products (and others). All of these packages offer free trial versions. And they all provide similar abilities. The main thing is they allow me to share what’s on my computer monitor and my voice. 

So, what video conferencing software do I use? Zoom. Why? It is easy to use and reliable. While Zoom offers a free version, I use their paid Pro version

The point of this article is not to sell you on a particular online meeting product (though I do like Zoom), but to sell you on the concept. I have spent years of my life (at least it feels that way) driving to and from clients’ offices. So when I heard about online meetings, I gave it a try.

My First Online Meeting

My first online meeting sold me. A few years ago I was assisting an attorney with a forensic project. My final report was several hundred pages long. Rather than making a 4.5-hour trip to meet with my client, I did the following:

  • Opened the draft report on my center computer screen
  • Opened supporting documents on my two side computer screens
  • Shared my center computer screen using my online meeting software—the attorney, once he clicked the link I emailed him (see the next bullet), could see my screen
  • Sent the attorney an email (with a hyperlink) to join the meeting—my online software automatically created the email as I invited him 
  • Called the attorney with my cell phone and went hands-free so I could use my mouse (you can use your computer audio, I just prefer using my phone)
  • When the attorney answered my call, I told him I had sent him an invitation email, and I walked him through connecting (which took less than two minutes)
  • We reviewed the draft report from my center computer screen
  • When needed, I moved supporting documents from my two side screens to the center display (and then moved them off as needed)—think of this as moving information on and off stage

The meeting lasted one hour. Once done, the attorney said to me, “This is one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended.” 

So rather than taking 5.5 hours (4.5 hours of driving and the 1-hour session), the meeting took 1.5 hours (including setup time). I saved four hours—and I didn’t even have to sit in the attorney’s lobby and wait for him. Also, I didn’t have to stop and refuel my vehicle—or file an expense report.

If sharing video works with an out-of-town client, does it work with in-the-office staff?

Online Conferencing in My Office

Yes, online meetings work with others in your office as well. Why? For the same reasons. I can share any information from my computer screen. And I can invite several people to the meeting at the same time. They can view what I am sharing from the comfort of their offices. Believe me, it’s better than several people huddling around one computer.

Other Online Meeting Thoughts

Here are some additional thoughts about online meetings.

Though I don’t do so often, I can record my online meetings in Zoom. Then if I need to watch the session, I can.

Once you are in a Zoom meeting you can share your mouse. This allows your client to control your computer. I find this useful when my client wants to show me something. Rather than the client telling me where to click, I simply hand the mouse control over to her. Then she can move around in the documents we are viewing.

Are there any downsides to online meetings? Yes. Some people don’t want to be seen. Perhaps they are working from home and are still in their pajamas. If they have their camera on, you will see them, and if your camera is on, guess what? Yep. They can see you. You can, however, turn your camera off. And they can as well.

For a more professional look, consider buying a video camera. I use a Logitech 930e (cost is $71.50). It sits on top of my right monitor. Why buy a camera? For higher quality video. Additionally, the camera has a microphone. If you’re wondering about the quality of the video from this device, see the recording above. I used the Logitech 930e for that one.

Sharing Video with a Client

What if your client is too busy for an online meeting? Record a video and share it. I can do so from Zoom, but I use Camtasia to record my videos. (A single license is $249.)

Say you need to explain the details in a lease document. And you want to show and explain the related journal entries. Turn Camtasia on and shoot the recording with your Logitech camera. Whatever appears on your monitor (e.g., lease agreement in a PDF; journal entries in Excel) is captured in the video. Once done, save the video and send a link to your client. And why do this? So your client can watch the presentation at her convenience.

Don’t want to be seen on video? Then turn it off. Camtasia provides that option. You can record what you present on your monitor and your voice narration–with no video.

I store my videos on Screencast. The cost is $99.95 per year.

You may wonder why I use Camtasia and Screencast, especially when I can record and store video with Zoom. The short answer is I create training videos. Camstasia gives me better editing capabilities. And Screencast was built for the purpose of sharing videos. So the two products (both made by TechSmith) work well together for the creation and sharing of video.

Sharing Video with Your CPA Firm Members

I create and share videos with my partners and staff. Once a video is created, I store it on my Screencast site. Then I share the video link on our firm intranet. That way I can demonstrate something once and share it with everyone. 

Your Thoughts

Do you already use online meeting or video capture software? If yes, what solutions do you use? Share your suggestions below.

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