- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

Checksoft Home & Business, a $39.95 Windows-compatible software package from Elibrium, is a solid, easy-to-use application that will solve a problem you may not know you have.

One of the greatest assets the computer has brought to humanity is personal finance software. You can parse your checkbook and budget as fully as any congressional analyst can crunch the trillions of dollars in the federal budget.

But there is one thing lacking in Quicken, Microsoft Money and related programs: a way to create and print checks.

For this, you have some choices: Order checks from your bank (not cheap), order them from Quicken or Microsoft (not at all cheap), order them from one of those companies that advertise in Sunday newspaper supplements or on the Web, or print them yourself (reasonable cost, tremendous flexibility).

I prefer to print my own, for a couple of reasons. One is the flexibility: I can easily update my address and telephone information, and not waste preprinted checks with outdated information. I can also put any picture, bank logo or other design on a check, and change those designs at will.

Those features are what Checksoft Home & Business does, along with adding a program that records your transactions and lets you reconcile your checkbook.

Key to check creation is an included “Check Designer” program with templates covering a variety of styles, in wallet-sized and business-sized layouts. Editing these layouts, once you input basic account information such as name, address, bank information and account numbers, is easy and flexible. You can re-arrange several elements of a check’s design, such as the bank name and address, to make for a better layout. You can add a background picture.

There’s also a one-click way to make the picture fit the entire check, resulting in a more pleasing image. One of the final formats are forms that can be separated, stacked and bound into a wallet-style checkbook that is virtually indistinguishable from the bank version.

Instead of paying about 15-cents per check at the bank, the “roll-your-own” checks come out about 7 cents each, versus around 4 cents for the plain vanilla Web-ordered kind. But again, I can more easily control things using software and an inkjet or laser printer at my desk.

With or without pictures, the check printing is simple and straightforward, making it easy for recipients and their banks to read the check and process payment. I’ve had a .500 batting average with my bank, so far: one check sailed through their computers, another required the adding of a separate magnetic-ink character recognition strip.

However, some banks may require true magnetic-ink printing on checks you as a customer issue. That means using a laser printer and a magnetic toner cartridge for checks, with cartridges costing around $200. Banks may accept your checks with nonmagnetic ink, but add a processing charge. Chevy Chase Bank slaps a $1 per item fee for nonmagnetic checks.

My bank is far more accommodating. Also, the vast majority of my payments are online transactions, or are made with a debit card. As a result, I’m happy to print checks on an ad hoc basis. If you are like me — or if you have other specialized check-writing needs — Checksoft Home & Business is worth exploring.

E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit www.kellner.us

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