Xero is modern, yet mature accounting software for small business. It lives in the cloud, has a crisp clear user interface and integrates with hundreds of other financial or business management apps.
It gives small business owners or operators the tools needed to stay on top of paperwork, GST returns and annual tax filing.
You could do everything yourself. Or you can use Xero for day-to-day bookkeeping then give your accountant access to the files where they can add their professional value to your data.
Living in the cloud
Living in the cloud means you can use Xero in a web browser on your computer, phone or tablet. That’s a huge advantage over more traditional accounts software.
Xero is a classic example of software-as-a-service or SaaS. You don’t buy an application with a one-off purchase, you pay Xero a monthly fee to use the service.
Other examples of SaaS that small businesses will encounter are Gmail, Google Docs and the web version of Microsoft 365.
The browser version of Xero works fine on any computer and can be good on a large screen tablet. It works fine on a 12.9 inch iPad Pro.
Away from the browser
Things get tricky with smaller screens. That’s where the iPhone and iPad apps are essential for anyone wanting to check or update Xero while on the move.
Here we’re looking at the iPad app, but Xero’s apps work much the same on iPadOS and iOS.
The Xero iPad app allows you to track important information, enter data and reconcile transactions. It’s fast and easy, but you don’t get all the Xero functionality.
That means you’ll still need to tackle more complex reports and reviews using the browser software. Yet you can do most things with the app.
Logging in on an iPad
Accounting software needs security. The last thing you want is for crooks to get their hands on your books.
Xero takes security seriously. It insists on a two-factor authentication – sometimes you’ll see this referred to as 2FA.
Two-factor authentication is a way of checking you are who you say you are when you log-on to the service.
With the browser version of Xero that means typing a name and password, then using an authenticator app – most likely on your phone – to enter a one-off security code.
You can set the software to remember your log-in details for 30 days, but after that it resets.
In practice, it is best to accept the process when logging in as it means no-one can jump on your computer and get control of your money.
iPads handle two-factor authentication much better than most computers. You’ll still need to get an authenticator code the first time you load the app.
After that, iPadOS’s built-in face recognition system acts as your second factor. Look at the camera and you are away.
Older iPads do much the same with Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint reader. Your fingerprint becomes your second identification factor.
Made for touch screen
One problem you’ll come across using the browser version of Xero on a small mobile screen is the touch buttons can be tiny and hard to navigate.
This is not an issue with the iPad app. The buttons are big, easy to see and hard to miss even when you have sausage fingers.
Xero has done a fine job of making the mobile app work sensibly in both portrait and landscape modes. That is you can use whichever way around you hold your iPad.
As mentioned, the functionality is simplified. There are four activity areas in a menu ranged across the bottom of the display: dashboard; sales; purchases and contacts.
Dashboard shows your bank accounts and the balance in each of them. You can see what invoices are unpaid and those overdue.
Likewise you can see what you owe and your unpaid invoices. There’s an indication of this month’s profit and a bar chart showing cash in and cash out over the last four months.
You can click on each of these to get a fuller report. Click on Profit this Year and you can chose from a chart showing the year-to-date, the quarter-to-date on the month-to-date.
In some cases you can go down a level. Clicking on unpaid invoices tells you who owns money and lets you click through to the invoice details in case you need to answer a customer query while you are out and about.
You can’t dive deeper from all screens. For a full analysis you’ll need to use the browser app.
In effect the Sales takes you to the same information as the invoices section of the dashboard. It’s more a shortcut to the data.
The Purchases option gives more information, including an overview of recent spending. Again you can click through to get a fuller list of spending.
Much of the data is presented in Xero’s crisp, spacious design making it easy to read and navigate. A couple of options take you to an iPadOS style dialogue box – the reconciliationsoption does this.
The contacts option takes you through to a list of everyone you have transacted with. Where appropriate you can click through and find details of transactions and notes. It’ll tell you how long a customer takes to pay their bills on average.
At the time of writing the Xero iPad app is on version 9.4.0. You can set your iPad for automatic upgrades, which can be a smart move if there is ever a security issue that needs addressing fast.
Xero makes a lot of changes to the software. The 9.4.0 version is upgrade 16 for 2021 and we are at the start of August. That’s an update every two weeks on average, which tells you the software is maintained.
Verdict – Xero iPad app
There’s no charge for the Xero iPad app. Apart from a demonstration company, the only way you can use it is with a full subscription to the Xero service.
If you run a business and use Xero, the iPad app is a great tool for handling enquiries, entering data and checking information while you are on the move.
The iPad user experience is as good as you’ll find in a small business application.
Please note: This is a review of the iPad app, not the full Xero product. If you’re interested there is an earlier review of this software written soon after it was first launched in 2015.