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TUAW Review: Checkout, top notch Point of Sale software for Mac

Josh Carr

I had the opportunity to speak with the creators of Checkout: an excellent Point of Sale application for the Mac. I've been working with the app for several weeks now and have been thoroughly impressed by it, especially after the developers shared their perspectives. Many thanks to Ed and Dirk for walking me through it.

Whether you're starting a new store or transferring your current system to Checkout, it's the best Point of Sale I've worked with in my many years of retail. The creators explained that they designed Checkout to help small and mid-sized retail stores make sales, print receipts, manage stock, organize customers, and collect payments.

This application focuses heavily on ease-of-use in everything from installation to managing metrics and allows the user to remove "unneeded complexities" from the system they work with every day.

Read on for a full walk-through of the application.

From the first launch of the application, you can be up and running in just 15 minutes. If you're switching from another POS, I'll cover some of the transition options a little later in the article. Right now, we're gonna attack this as though we're a brand new store that's never had a customer and is ready to add products so they can make sales. Before you do anything else, you should visit the General tab to set up store options and the Taxes tab to get city and state taxes as applicable.

One hidden feature that I want to mention right up front: in the above picture, you see the customer list. At the bottom, you can click the cog wheel and export individuals or all customers to your address book in vCard, CSV or other standard formats. I was looking for a way to get some customers on my iPhone and missed this feature... so I thought I would point it out.
Product management is very easy with this system: from the stock room, you can click new product, type in the name, assign a code, default cost and the selling price. You can also add a description to the product which will flow nicely into some invoice templates as well as the online store features. Also, one of the most requested features in earlier versions of Checkout has been added in this version; you can now mark each product as physical inventory. This is great for companies that offer services and not just physical products. Once you have items in your products database, you can move to the suppliers tab, add a supplier, create a purchase order and check it in. Voila! You're ready to sell. That covers the Products, Suppliers, General, and Taxes tabs... let's move on to Reports.
According to the developers, they "built the Reports feature to give business owners/managers a quick overview to see how their business is doing." This tab lets you take a look at every aspect of the store in one place. It's really a great way to see your metrics at a glance. Right next to Reports, you'll see Ledger that can integrate with AccountEdge or QuickBooks -- making your life even easier.
The Template tab allows you customize the look and feel of the invoices you'll give to your customers. You can also download additional templates from Checkout's website. After choosing a template, you can add custom images and tweak other aspects of it including the footer -- which I used for my legal jargon. If you're feeling adventurous and know HTML and CSS, you can do even more customization by following the documentation they have listed here.
One of my favorite features of this application is the new EnStore online store. While it's still in beta, it seems to be very polished. Within the products database, you can enable the online store to display each item and attach a picture (800 by 800 max) for your customers' visual pleasure. The description that I mentioned before will also translate from the product management tab to the online store. Take a look at their online demo and see what it has to offer. It even comes with an online configuration tool -- there you can choose a theme and modify your web store. The developers were very excited about the release of their design tools... they're almost ready for public consumption. While this is still in beta, everything is free: once out of beta, you can choose between the free option, $39 or $99 per month (4%, 2% or 1% transaction fee respectively).

Since we're talking about pricing, let's discuss some of the options that Checkout offers: the first is the single user license that costs $399. Don't forget to download the free trial [download app] before you buy. The fully functional trial lasts 30 days so you can learn the software (which is already very intuitive) before you decide to buy it.

Each sales station will need a copy of the application, but they can connect to the host database on your main machine with the addition of the Checkout Server add-on -- it's free. If you purchase 3-4 licenses, you get 10% off. 5+ licenses will get you 15%. They have hardware packages available from $999 (including a license) as well. Going one step further, you can integrate a credit card scanner and with the packages offered, process payments directly through Checkout. If you decide on one of those packages, you can basically get Checkout and other integrated applications to manage all aspects of your business without fighting between them.

That's the walk-through of the application; it does what it does very well. If you're looking to switch from your current POS to Checkout, they include a handful of import/export functions throughout the application that will make the transition easier... it still won't be a mirror image of the source and will require tweaking, but much better than moving everything by hand.

After using this application for a few weeks, I'd really like to see more invoice and web store templates available for the people who aren't that awesome with HTML code -- like me. After talking with the developers, I found that I'm not the only one who wants that (go figure) and they're currently working on getting more templates added. They're also working on automatic sync between EnStore and Checkout, improvements to the label printing feature, and product recommendations. If you've scanned an item into an order, Checkout would actually make recommendations for good add-ons for that sale. I'm really looking forward to that one... anything to help improve metrics! They also want to do "something something images at least" -- which, translated to English, means they've done a lot of work adding the ability to assign images to products for the web store and want to do more with it, but have yet to decide what that will be.

There's so much more to this application and there's no way I could realistically cover all of it in one post. If you have more questions about the application, leave them in the comments... I'll try to answer them and the developers may even chime in for a few.

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