Linux for the Accountant?

by CXOtoday Staff    Sep 08, 2009

It is possible for your company’s accounts department to migrate from Windows to the
Linux platform, however before we show how it can be achieved let’s take a look at findings of our survey of
a typical accounting SMB, and then see the solutions offered by Linux.

The Hardware

We conducted a dip-stick survey and found that
almost all the SMBs we spoke to did not allocate a high end system for
accountants. The hardware is either built around an older Intel Celeron
or AMD Sempron processor. In case of a newer system, entry level
processors are used. Some of the systems we came across still had the
Windows 9x series of OS’. This is good news if you want to migrate as
the chances of all the hardware being supported by Linux are higher. On
the other hand, it you have a mainstream system-an Intel or AMD
processor, an Intel, VIA or an entry level Nvidia Chipset motherboard,
then Linux is bound to support it. Most of the latest flavors of Linux
support almost all hardware components. Linux’ support for ATI based
Chipsets is still not up to the mark, however with a little bit of
research you could find a solution to it. Also, Linux supports a large
number of laser and dot matrix printers, though setting up an inkjet or
laser MFD on Linux might be an issue.


  • Accounting Package:
    Tally is the de facto accounting package used by most SMBs. Even though
    there are many other accounting packages available for Windows and
    Linux they still don’t match the functionality, features and ease of
    use that Tally offers.
  • Spreadsheet program:
    A spreadsheet program is absolutely essential for creating graphs,
    reports, and so on. Also if you require using formulas for your
    calculations, you need to use a spreadsheet program, as this feature is
    not available in Tally.
  • Word processor:
    A word processor is a must on every desktop, and an accountant’s
    desktop is no exception. Word processor helps composing and formatting
    documents, which can be used to communicate with the management or
  • Email Client:
    Emails are a faster and convenient method of communication. Hence, an
    email application helps an accountant to send documents, reports,
    balance sheets to clients, and also to communicate with the clients and
    the management.
  • Web browser:
    The Internet can be termed as a large database of information, and to
    access this information a Web browser comes in handy. An account can
    use the Web browser to browse the Internet to research on topics
    related to accounting. 

Generally an accountant in a SMB uses the
following software:

  • A pirated version of Windows 9x, ME, XP or Vista as the OS
  • An
    original or pirated version of Tally
  •  Internet Explorer as the default browser
  • A pirated version of Microsoft Office 2000, XP, 2003 or 2007 as the
    default office suite
  • Microsoft Outlook as an default email client,
    which is integrated with Exchange Server or other Email servers 

Linux alternatives are as follows:

  • Operating System: Free OS: Ubuntu 8.04, OpenSUSE 11, FreeSPIRE. Paid OS: SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, Redhat Enterprise Linux Desktop 5, Xandros Desktop Professional

  • Accounting Package: Tally (Though Tally is not
    officially supported on Linux, you can run it under an emulation
    environment called WINE in Linux).
  • Office suite:
    Free: OpenOffice, Abiword, Gnumeric, Koffice
    Paid: Sun’s Staroffice, Novell’s Openoffice (it is free if you choose the SUSE Linux Enterprise as the OS)
  •  Email Client:
    Thunderbird, Evolution, Kmail
  • Web Browsers:

How do I go about setting up Tally on Linux?

As mentioned earlier, you would need to use Tally
under a virtual environment in Linux. The following procedure will
guide you as required
First you need to choose a distribution. We recommend that you use with
Freespire, which is a free and easy to use Linux distribution.
You can download
the latest ISO copy from
Once you have downloaded and burned the ISO on a CD, boot your system
from CDROM and run the LIVE CD to check if all of your PCs hardware is
supported. After that, you can begin the installation
process. You can also check out an easy to follow installation video on Youtube.

Installing Wine:

After you are instal and configure the operating system, you should install the Windows Emulator as follows:

  • Open up a terminal window
  • Type "sudo apt-get update"
  • Type "sudo apt-get install wine"
    This will automatically download and install all the applications that are required to run Wine and the Wine program itself.

Installing Tally:
Presuming you have bought a copy of Tally, you will either have the
setup files on a CD or any other storage media

  • Insert the CD/storage media that contains the setup files for Tally.
  • Double click on Setup.exe
  • Once the installation process starts, follow the on screen steps.
    Installation an application under Wine is same as installing under
  • After the installation process is over, a desktop icon will be
  • Double Click the desktop ICON to run tally.


We asked an accountant to evaluate the use of Tally on Linux as compared to its Windows counterpart.

What works: All keyboard shortcuts work out of the box. The application works
perfectly as it is supposed to work on Windows.

  • Since Wine uses CUPS
    for default printing, we were able to print from Tally to the laser
    printer that is connected on the network.
  • The import, export, backup and restore featured work out of the box
    as they work on windows.

What doesn’t:

  • You cannot use the upload function
    directly to export data.
  • You cannot use the email function directly to mail export data.
  • Mouse clicks on the menu items do not work out of the box.
    Accountants who are used to the keyboard shortcuts will not find this
    an issue.
  • If you are using the gold version of Tally, the server does
    not work over the network. Let us do a cost analysis on the basis of
    which we will be able to balance the pros and cons of using Tally on

 Initial costs

System 1 System 2 System 3 System 4
Operating System Windows XP Service Pack 2 (Rs 3500) Windows Vista Business (Rs 11,100) FreeSPIRE / OpenSUSE/ Ubuntu (Free) SLED 10 (Rs 2300)
Office Productivity Office 2007 Basic (Rs 6700) Office 2007 Basic (Rs 6700) OpenOffice (Free) OpenOffice (Free)
Email Microsoft Outlook 2007/ Thunderbird (Free) Microsoft Outlook 2007 / Thunderbird (Free) Evolution / Thunderbird (Free) Evolution / Thunderbird (Free)
Browser Internet Explorer / Firefox / Opera(Free) Internet Explorer / Firefox / Opera (Free) Firefox (Free) Firefox (Free)
Accounting Package Tally 9 (Rs 13,500) Tally 9 (Rs 13,500) Tally 9 (Rs 13,500) Tally 9 (Rs 13,500)
Total Amount Rs 23,700 (75% more) Rs 31,300(131% more) Rs 13,500(Base Price) Rs 15,800(17% more)

The price of additional software that is required for Windows platform
like an integrated security suite and additional software like Adobe
Acrobat professional to create PDF’s are not included.

Support and training costs:

Most SMBs find support and training as inhibiting costs to adopt Linux.

Windows Linux
OS Installation 200-300 300-500
Telephonic support Free Free
Support availability Widely available Lesser Available

seen from the above table, the costs of a Windows based solution is
almost twice that of the Linux based solution. If we assume that we buy
a new basic system for accountants to run Tally, the costs of software
would be between 75-131% of the hardware infrastructure. (This figure
would be significant if you use multiple computers.) Also commercial
Linux support is available in most L1, L2 and L3 cities through LUGs
and Vendors / Vendor partners like Novell and Redhat.

Though this does
not provide a complete picture, SMBs can look at Linux as analternative
solution that is cheaper to setup and use if it works for you. Also,
you could use a combination of applications like Novell OpenOffice on a
Windows based computer to reduce costs. 

Tags: Tally, Linux