Goldenseal Basics

This section explains some basic things about the Goldenseal accounting software, project management software, small business management software and estimating software..

       Using this Manual | Goldenseal Overview
       Accounting | Estimating | Project Management | Rentals

       Cash and Accrual Accounting | Double Entry Accounting | Job Costs
       Bank Transactions | Customer Billing | Expenses | Payroll | Purchases | Sales

       Cost Categories | Unit Costs

       Contact Management | Project Billing

       Data Fields | Data Records | Passwords | Security | Customizing

       Accounting Software | Estimating Software | Project Management Software | Business Management Software

       Accounts | Back-Up Copies | File Management | Getting Started | Lists | Transactions

Using This Manual

The Goldenseal Reference Manual is a set of "hypertext" documents that you can view with any web browser.

The hypertext links make it easy to view related information. Just click your mouse on the link, and you'll go there.

Here are some hints to help you to find what you need in the manual, without getting lost:

  • To go back to the most recent page, click the Back button in your browser.
  • Use the Back button repeatedly to go all the way back to where you started.
  • Most browsers have a Go menu or some other way to see all the places where you have been recently.
  • Scroll to the bottom of any page in the Goldenseal Manual to see links to a few frequently-used places.
  • The Index is often the best place to start, if you are looking for something specific.
  • The links to related material will often help you to find useful features that you many not have discovered otherwise.

Goldenseal Overview

Goldenseal is an integrated business management software program that handles all of the following:

It uses "real world" accounts for the people and companies you do business with.

Goldenseal includes a wide variety of business transactions that cover your expenses and income sources.

It also has "action dialogs" which make it easy to pay bills for expenses, do billing for sales and projects, deposit funds, write payroll or see job costs for the work you do.

Goldenseal also creates project schedules and material takeoffs , and it writes contracts that include detailed specifications for your projects.

Accounting Software

Goldenseal helps you to manage your small business. It handles all of the following accounting areas:

Data entry windows, printed forms and reports are all fully customizable. You can change the look of any layout, and even change the data fields that are included.

Bank Transactions

Whenever you receive or spend money, enter a bank transaction.  There are seven classes of bank transactions to handle money in your Cash, Checking, Credit card, Escrow, Investment, Loan and Savings accounts.  All use a similar format.

The bank transaction window looks different, depending on the type of transaction. A bank transaction can be a Check, Payment, Deposit, Transfer In or Transfer Out.  When you switch between different transaction types, the window layout changes.

Every bank transaction must have a bank account where the funds are added or subtracted.
Every bank transaction must also have a main account which pays money to the bank account or receives money from it.

Every bank transaction must be allocated as an expense or revenue.  You must do that in one of the following ways:
     Bank Fees-- Enter miscellaneous charges and income as a Transfer In or Transfer Out.  You can allocate them to job costs.
     Direct purchases-- Enter a Category or Item breakdown and list the items purchased.  You can allocate them to job costs.
     Payments On Account-- An amount paid on account is credited to specific transactions later.
     Payment Breakdowns-- When you use Pay Bills or Deposit Funds, Goldenseal lists all paid transactions in a breakdown table. You can also enter payment breakdowns directly.
     Transaction References-- You can pay for one specific transaction by entering it into the Transaction Paid field.
     Transfers-- Transfers between bank accounts change the balance of both accounts, but aren't an expense or revenue.

You can write checks individually, or you can enter them in bulk via the Pay Bills and Write Payroll commands.

You can enter deposits individually or enter them in bulk with the Deposit Funds command.

You can also create bank transactions automatically with an instant purchase when you enter a Material Purchase, Other Cost, or Subcontractor Cost, and give it a Payment Method of Cash, Check or Credit Card.

For more about bank setup, click here.

Cash and Accrual Accounting

Goldenseal handles both accrual and cash accounting.

In accrual accounting, you record income and expenses when the transaction first occurs. In cash accounting, you record income and expenses when payment is received or made for them.

No matter which accounting method you use, you enter the same data. Reports such as the Income Statement show numbers for both a cash and accrual basis, so the only difference is in the numbers that you look at.

HINT-- Use the Custom Layouts command to change any reports, if you'd like to see only accrual or cash numbers.

The following transactions cover your accrued expenses: Equipment Hours, Inventory Used, Labor Hours, Material Purchases, Subcontractor Costs, Other Costs.

The following transactions handle your accrued income: Billing Records, Rental Transactions, Sales.

The following bank transactions cover your cash expenses and cash incomeBank Checks , Bank Deposits, Bank Payments.

HINT-- If you do cash accounting, you can still use accrual reports to see when income and expenses occur. If you do accrual accounting, you can still use cash reports to get a clearer picture of your cash flow.

Contact Management Software

Goldenseal includes several simple record classes where you can store basic information about everyone you interact with.  They are all optional-- you can use just the items that seem important to you.

Use the following records for contact management:

  • Address Book-- a simple record of prospective customers and others who do not have an account.
  • Appointments-- meetings and other scheduled events.  Goldenseal will remind you about them.
  • Contact Log-- a simple record of phone calls and other contact with customers and others.
  • Document Log-- a simple record of paperwork and other "transmittals".

Each set of records includes a Find command, so you can quickly locate any person or business. This lets you use Goldenseal as a phone book or address book, when contacting people or preparing mailings for them.

HINT-- Goldenseal accounts also make a good "address book" when you need to contact customers, suppliers or others you do business with.

Cost Categories

Every business needs a convenient way to classify expenses and income so they are easier to track. Goldenseal uses Cost Categories for that.

HINT-- Goldenseal also includes traditional expense and revenue accounts for its internal use. However you will probably find that you don't need to use them directly, since cost categories are a much more convenient and accurate way to track your expenses.

How Cost Categories Help you

A system of cost categories will do all of the following for you:
  • Track and identify expenses.
  • Organize the items included in cost estimates.
  • Give you a quick way to locate the items you buy and sell, or the services you provide.
  • Speed up data entry for purchases, estimates and sales.
  • Calculate payroll taxes or insurance that are based on the type of work that is done by the employee.
  • Identify completion amounts for progress payment billing.
  • Provide convenient groupings for job cost reports.

Types of Cost Categories

You can use a simple list of Cost Categories, and add as many categories as you need.
You can also set up one or more Category Systems. Category systems let you create a two level hierarchy of cost categories and subcategories.  Category Systems also let you group Cost Categories into larger Category Classes.

HINT-- Goldenseal includes pre-set category systems for several business types. You may be able to use one of them as a starting point.

For more about category setup, click here.

Customer and Project Billing

Goldenseal offers several specialized types of billing via the Billing command.

For retail sales, enter Sales transactions and then use Sales billing.

For projects, use Draw Schedule, Progress Payment or Time and Materials billing.  You can also bill separately for project Allowances and Change Orders.

For rentals, enter Rental Transactions and then use Rental billing.

For more about billing setup, click here.

Customizing Goldenseal

You can customize most aspects of Goldenseal so they match the way you do business.

Use Calculators to change the numbers in reports.

Use the Custom Layouts command to change any data entry layout, printed form or report.

Use Dimension calculators to change the numbers for estimates.

Use Passwords to control the access that each employee has to your company file.

Use Preferences to change the way Goldenseal runs.

Use Record Numbering to change the display of record numbers.

Data Fields

Every record includes one or more data fields.  Each field is a piece of data for a record-- for example, a name, money value or date.

Every record in a record class includes the same fields, though the data in the field may be different for each individual record.

Fields can be any of the following types:

  • Money values.
  • Number values.
  • Percentages.
  • Integer values.
  • Popup menu values.
  • Clairvoyant field values.
  • Checkbox values (on or off).
Each field is identified by a brief title or by a four-letter tag.

To see the field titles for a record class, open the data entry layout with the Custom Layouts command.

To see the field tag for one field, double-click on it.  To view the field tags for all fields, choose Field Labels from the Options menu and change it to Field Tag.

You can also see field titles or tags when you export data for a record class.

HINT-- To determine whether to export field titles or field tags, choose Preferences from the Options menu and choose File from the submenu.   Use the Export Tags not Titles checkbox to determine the heading to use.

Data Records

Goldenseal stores all your records in an object database, which allows quick retrieval of any record.

There are three "container" terms that we use to describe Goldenseal data:

Record Class-- Goldenseal includes 19 account classes, about 40 transaction classes and about 80 list classes.  These are the basic types of information that you'll use-- for example, customers an estimates.
Records-- A record is one specific item, such as a customer or an estimate.  Each time you create a new record, Goldenseal stores it in the Company File on your computer's hard drive.
Fields-- Each record contains one or more data fields.

To view the records in your company file, choose Security from the View menu, and choose Database Report from the submenu.  You'll see a listing of all record classes.  Double-click on a class and you'll see the specific records that are currently in that class.   Click on a record, and you'll see the fields that are in that record.

HINT-- The most recently used records stay in a RAM cache, which is much quicker to access than the hard drive.  If you give Goldenseal more RAM, it can store more records in the cache, which will speed up some operations considerably.

Double Entry Accounting

You enter transactions into Goldenseal as you would in a one-write single-entry system. You simply describe each transaction with as much information as possible.
Goldenseal automatically posts each transaction when you close it, so you don't need to worry about debits and credits.

Goldenseal offers all of the security of a standard double entry accounting program or manual accounting system. It does some accounting functions behind the scenes so it can be more understandable to non-accountants.

If you prefer a classic style of accounting, you can set up Utility Accounts to handle revenues, expenses and other balance sheet items.  However it's much simpler to use Goldenseal as it was intended, as an integrated job cost accounting package that uses concepts designed specifically for that style of accounting.

If your accountant is not familiar with the specific needs of your business, here is some helpful information:


Goldenseal uses Accounts only for real world items such as customers, bank accounts and employees. This is different from classic accounting, where accounts also cover abstract items such as Accounts Payable.

If you want to create classic accounts to classify income, expenses or other item, add them as Utility Accounts. However you really don't need to do that, since that kind of classifying is already handled more easily with cost categories, cost locations, job types, or cost account types.

NOTE-- If you don't need to use classic accounts, you can ignore the Utility accounts.

Some Goldenseal accounts would never be included in a classic accounting. This is not a problem, since each type of 'real world' account in Goldenseal is handled appropriately.

EXAMPLE-- Escrow accounts are used for money that you manage on behalf of others. Because of that, they are not included on either side of the balance sheet, and transactions to them are considered as expenses or income.

Basic Security

Goldenseal complies with all normal, sound accounting principles. When transactions are completed or changed, they are automatically posted to any other transactions that are affected.

EXAMPLE-- When payment is received for a sale, the status of the Sale transaction is changed to Paid. If only partial payment is received, the status is Part Paid, and the unpaid balance will still show up in Billing and Accounts Receivable.

Goldenseal will not let incomplete transactions dangle-- so normal use of the Pay Bills, Write Payroll, Billing and Deposit Funds commands will make sure that you don't neglect any items.

HINT-- If you want to check for possible dangling transactions on your own, use the Find command to find items with an unfinished status, or make a transaction report and have it include open items.

Estimating Software

Goldenseal includes a complete unit cost estimating system. It uses smart dimensions to make it easier for you to prepare rough estimates or finished bids.
Goldenseal's estimating can be used by anyone who needs to give simple or complex estimates for any type of work:

  • construction repairs, remodeling or new house construction
  • painting and drywall work
  • electrical work
  • landscaping
  • automotive repairs
  • printing jobs
  • any other services

For more about estimate setup, click here .

Expense Accounting

Goldenseal divides expenses into five basic types.  Each has its own type of expense account and expense transaction:

When you enter expenses, you can cost them against overhead, or against a specific project or customer account.  You can also allocate expenses among cost categories and cost locations, to make it easier to understand where you are spending money.

For more about expense setup, click here.

Job Cost Accounting Software

Job cost accounting helps you to track business costs in as much detail as you need. The general principle is that you'll match costs against income, so you can see which customers, projects or business sections are most profitable for you.
HINT-- Job Cost Accounting is also known as Job Costing, Cost Accounting or Activity Based Costing (ABC).

For many companies, job cost accounting is the best way to make the business as profitable as possible. It helps you see where you are making or losing money, so you can make business decisions based on that information.

Goldenseal integrates job costs very closely with your general business transactions.  In each expense transaction you can enter a specific job to which the cost applies.  You can also break the cost down by Category and/or Location within the job.

To make it easier to classify job costs, you can set up Category Systems which include cost categories and subcategories.  You can also integrate job costing with the Unit Costs that you use for estimates.

The Job Costs command gives you a quick overview of the latest job cost info.  You can also see detailed information about each job, or print Reports that show job cost info in different formats.

For more about job cost setup, click here.

How Does Job Cost Accounting Work?

Job cost accounting uses the same basic types of transactions as classic double entry accounting; you'll bill your clients, make sales, receive and pay bills, write paychecks, pay taxes and make reports as usual.

There are also some specific features that make it easier to track job costs:

  • Income sources are tracked with separate Job accounts for customers and projects.
  • Expenses are tracked using separate Cost Accounts.
  • Overhead accounts are used to track basic business costs, and allocate them to different jobs.
  • Cost estimates can be made for each type of job account.
  • Costs can be allocated among cost categories and subcategories within each job. You can use multiple category systems for different types of customers or projects.
  • Costs can also be allocated to different locations within a job.
  • Payroll taxes and benefits are included as a part of labor costs.
  • Job Cost reporting lets you see costs for each job-- broken down by categories or locations, or compared to the original estimate.

Who Needs Job Cost Accounting?

Job cost accounting is important for any business than needs to control costs in order to stay profitable.
While that applies to just about any business, job costing is particularly useful for some specific business types.

Companies that do Estimates

Job cost accounting is vital for any business that provides firm bids or other price quotes before doing work.  By tracking costs for each job, it is possible to see how accurate the original estimate was.
Goldenseal's job costing features are well suited for the following types of estimate-based businesses:
  • Construction, remodeling and home repairs
  • Insurance repair work
  • Plumbers, electricians, painters, excavators, masons, drywall installers, roofers and other construction subcontractors
  • Landscapers
  • Auto, appliance and furniture repairs
  • Printing and copying shops
  • Caterers
  • Any other service or manufacturing businesses that do bids or estimates

Time Billing Services and Professionals

Because job cost accounting is so good at tracking billable costs, it works well for service businesses and professionals that bill for services on an hourly or "time and materials" basis.
The following types of business professionals will appreciate the time billing features of Goldenseal:
  • Lawyers
  • Architects
  • Accountants
  • Surveyors
  • Professional engineers
  • Consultants
  • Therapists
  • Ad Agencies
  • Other Professionals
  • Other Companies

Service and Retail Business

Job Cost Accounting works well for any type of business that wants to track costs for different services, divisions or phases of work, to see which are most profitable.  Because it is so good at allocating income and expenses, job cost accounting can be used by:
  • Retail stores that sell relatively expensive items
  • Retail stores that have many repeat customers
  • Restaurants
  • Real estate agencies
  • Insurance agencies
  • Property managers
  • Beauty salons
  • Wholesalers
  • Other service and manufacturing businesses


When you first start with Goldenseal, it does not require passwords. Anyone can do anything, anywhere in the program. If you don't create any passwords, that is how the program will remain.

HINT-- If only one person uses the program, or if all users are trusted, you can probably avoid using passwords. However you might still want to use a password for protection against snoopy outsiders.

Once you create new passwords, Goldenseal will ask you for a password each time you open the company file.

For more about password setup, click here.

Payroll Software

Goldenseal includes a full featured payroll system that handles all types of deductions, withholdings, insurance and taxes.

Payroll integrates with the other parts of Goldenseal-- the information that you enter for payroll is also used to calculate job costs and time and materials billing.

You can import Payroll Info for your state or province-- that way you won't have to spend much time setting up the Tax Items which calculate payroll withholding and employer taxes.

Set up Wage Schedules to determine pay periods, paydays and other payroll details.  Enter wage rates, marital status, number of exemptions and similar payroll information for each Employee Account.   Then enter employee hours into Labor Hours records, and use the Write Payroll command to create Payroll Records.  Each Payroll Record includes multiple breakdown tables so you can see the hours that are included, employee withholding, employer taxes, benefits and vacation info.

Goldenseal automatically tracks each withholding and tax item and makes sure it gets paid.  You can use the Pay Bills command to make tax payments to each agency.

For more about payroll setup, click here.

Project Management Software

Goldenseal helps you to manage projects, whether they are being done for clients, or for your company's internal use.

Goldenseal includes several tools to help you manage your projects. Some of the project management tools are simple organizational aids, and some are integrated into the general accounting functions.

Project management features include:

  • Project Accounts-- basic information for each project.
  • Allowances-- for fixed price budget items for project estimates.
  • Bids-- for subcontractor and supplier quotes.
  • Change Orders-- for items that change after a project is started.
  • Chargebacks-- for adjustments between subcontractors or suppliers.
  • Contracts-- contract tracking and contract writing.
  • Document Log-- a record of documents used in a project.
  • Estimates-- for price quotes and project budgets.
  • Problem Log-- to-do lists for unfinished project items.
  • Project Log-- a record of anything that happens on a project.
Goldenseal also calculates simple project schedules.

For more about project setup, click here.


Use Purchase transactions to handle the goods and services that you get from others.

Types of Purchase Transactions

Purchase transactions come in three basic types:

Payment Methods

There are three basic ways you can enter and pay for purchases:

1. Billed Purchases-- Create a purchase transaction, and enter Vendor Invoice into the Payment Method field.  When you close the transaction, Goldenseal automatically adds the purchase to your Accounts Payable.  Later on you can pay for it with the Pay Bills command.

2. Instant Purchases-- Create a purchase transaction, and enter Cash, Check or Credit Card into the Payment Method Field.  When you close the transaction, Goldenseal automatically creates a payment transaction in the bank account that was the source of funds.  If you pay by check, Goldenseal also asks you which checkbook to use.

3. Direct Bank Purchases-- Create a bank check or bank payment, and use a Category or Item breakdown to list the purchase details. The bank transaction will be the only record of the expense payment, so Goldenseal will use it for job costs and for time and materials billing.

Record Storage

        Billed Purchases-- there are two records for each purchase-- a Material Purchase covering the expense, and a bank transaction covering the payment.  You'll be able to see all purchases in one place.
        Prepaid Purchases-- there are two records for each purchase-- a Material Purchase covering the expense, and a bank transaction covering the payment.  You'll be able to see all purchases in one place.
        Bank Purchases-- there is just one record for the purchase-- the bank transaction.  You probably will not be able to see all your purchases in one place.

For more about purchase setup, click here.

Rental Management Software

Goldenseal includes two special transactions to handle property rentals-- Leases and Rental Transactions.  You
can also use Goldenseal's general business management features to handle property maintenance and rentals.

To handle rental income, follow these steps:

  1. Create a Real Estate account for each property that you own or manage.
  2. Create a Customer account for each tenant.
  3. Enter the tenant into a Lease to specify the rental amount, time period and deposits due.
  4. Use the Billing command to create Rental Transactions for rent and deposits.
  5. If rents are not paid on time or if you send out formal bills, Goldenseal creates Billing Records for the amount due.
  6. When you receive funds, enter them into your bank account with a Bank Deposit (or use the Deposit Funds command to deposit several at once).
For rental expenses, enter Equipment Hours, Labor Hours, Material Purchases, Subcontractor Costs and Other Costs transactions, and enter a Real Estate account into the Job field.

For more about rental setup, click here.

Retails Sales

Goldenseal manages retail sales.  Follow these steps:

  1. Create a Customer account for each person who buys from you.
  2. Enter a Sales transaction whenever you sell something.
  3. Use the Billing command to create customer bills.
  4. Use the Deposit Funds command to deposit cash sales, and billed sales when they are paid.

For more about sales setup, click here.


Goldenseal includes several security features for safer operation:

  • Password Protection-- with different levels of access for different employees.
  • Record Locking--  older transactions or those that have been completed are no longer editable.
  • Audit Trail-- showing all entries and changes made by each employee.
  • Diagnostic Tools-- for checking the contents of your business records.

Unit Costs

Use unit costs for any part of your business that meets the following conditions:

  • It's an item that is easily described.
    It is used repeatedly.
    It costs about the same, each time you use it.

There are two types of unit costs:
     Cost Items-- the items that you purchase, sell or use in projects.
     Assemblies-- several Cost Items that you've grouped together

For more about unit cost setup, click here.

Unit Cost Design Hints

This section covers some "special tricks" that may help you when you are creating a system of unit costs for your business.

Splitting Items

It is often helpful to split work into two or more smaller unit costs, to give you maximum flexibility. For example, an automotive repair shop might have one unit cost for removing and replacing an engine, and then several unit costs for the specific types of work that might be done after the engine is removed.

Lumping Items

Goldenseal allows you to include assemblies as components in other assemblies. So after you have split an item of work into smaller components, you can create an assembly that combines several smaller unit costs into a larger package. For example, an automotive repair shop might have an "engine overhaul" assembly that would include engine removal and replacement, along with replacement of rings, valves, gaskets and timing belt.

Small Parts

Many assemblies include hardware, fasteners, or other small components.
If you want to track inventory for specific small parts, set them up as Cost Items and include them in your assemblies, the same as more expensive items. Doing that will make the calculated price more accurate, and allow you to automatically track your small parts inventory.
To make assemblies simpler, you can also create "generic" small parts, and use them instead of the specific items. For example, a plumber might create a "1/2 inch copper fittings" cost item instead of several specific fittings in that size.

Starting Costs

Many items are cheaper when done in larger quantities. Usually that is because a certain amount of labor is needed to get started.

You can add a Flat rate item in Assemblies that will cover the start-up costs, so one unit cost can cover a range of sizes.

You can also create multiple Assemblies for different ranges of quantities.

Different Working Conditions

You may want to create more than one Assembly for the same basic type of work, if it sometimes requires more labor. There are two basic ways to approach this situation:

  1. Create multiple assemblies in "easy" and "hard" versions, with more labor (and possibly more materials) in the hard version.
  2. Create additional unit prices for the extra work that is needed. For example, a painter might have one cost to paint normal ceilings, and then an "add for high ceilings" cost with the additional labor that is required.

Variable Sizes

If you perform a service or build an item that comes in a variety of sizes, you may be able to create two unit prices that will handle a wide range of sizes.
For example, a construction company pouring concrete sidewalks can create these two unit costs, that together will handle any thickness of sidewalk:

  1. A cost per square foot to handle forms and surface treatment, which cost the same no matter what thickness is used.
  2. A cost per cubic yard to handle concrete materials and placement labor.

Calibrating Unit Costs

If you create estimates, the best way to "calibrate" unit costs is to match the estimated cost against the actual cost. You can use previous projects to "calibrate" unit costs when you first create them. Then you can use job cost information to refine their accuracy, as time goes by.