Wave is one of several powerful accounting apps available for Chrome. It is primarily aimed at small business owners, independent contractors, and self-employed entrepreneurs, but inside you’ll find tabs to keep records of personal income and expenses as well.
Basically, Wave is Chrome’s free answer to expensive programs like Quickbooks. In that regard, I expected a free trial, or perhaps a “lite” version with the more powerful accounting features disabled, but the full version of the Wave app is actually free to use forever, no subscription required as with Quickbooks. The developers make their money from displaying offers from advertisers that are targeted to small business owners — things like business banking, office supplies, and so on. However, in retrospect I didn’t actually notice any ads while using the app.
The main appeal for business owners, besides the clean and easy-to-use interface, is that Wave cuts out the most time-intensive parts of accounting. By connecting the app to your business accounts, you can have Wave keep track of your income and expenses automatically. If you prefer, you can choose to add entries manually as you would in traditional accounting software.
Wave uses the same industry-standard security protocols that banks use to keep information private. It backs up your data automatically once an hour, so you don’t have to worry about random hard drive crashes wiping out your data.
When you open the app in Chrome for the first time, you are given the choice to import past financial records — or you can start from scratch. For this review, I decided to try the latter.
On the next screen, you tell the app what type of business you want to keep track of. There’s an extensive list of categories and subcategories to choose from. Choosing your business type tailors the app workspace to your specific business, by hiding things that are less relevant to your industry and vice versa. I chose “Graphic Design / Visual Artist” as my area of expertise… just to get a glimpse of that kind of lifestyle.
Once you’ve answered a few questions related to your business, you’ve got the whole app at your disposal. The Wave Dashboard is the main screen that displays summaries and snapshots of your finances. I was reminded on the sidelines how much time I would save by importing my accounts, but for the sake of providing screenshots, I opted to keep going forward with manual entries.
Wave automatically places expenses it recognizes — like food, transportation, and so on — in the right categories. As you continue to use the app, it learns how to categorize more of your expenses. Adding entries in Wave manually is very simple — you can opt to do a “quick entry” of the basic information:
Alternatively, you can provide more detailed information, and have the option to create invoices and bills.
From the Reports tab on the dashboard, you can choose from ten different report types, including Balance Sheet, Account Transactions, General Ledger, Income by Customer, Expense by Vendor, Aged Payables/Receivables, Foreign Currency Exchange Gain/Loss, and several more. From any of these screens, you have the handy option to export the data in e-mail, PDF, or Excel format.
Wave has a handy “Guest Collaborator” feature, where you can choose to share your Wave account with an accountant, bookkeeper, or business partner. You can choose whether you want to grant editing permission or “view only” permission. The idea is that a closed invite system is more efficient and secure than sending financial files back and forth as e-mail attachments.