inFlow is an inventory management software program meant to be used by small and medium-sized businesses to help them track inventory, fill customer orders, reorder stock, generate purchase orders and invoices, and create customized reports. By the standards of the inventory management world this software has been around for a while, and unlike the newer online inventory software, inFlow is something of a self-contained system, a throwback to a time before the ubiquitous “cloud” and all it entails. That is to say, it’s not online software but software you download and install.
Introduced in 2007, inFlow Inventory has built up an established customer base and is by all appearances extremely popular with its users. The company claims inFlow is “the world’s most loved and downloaded inventory software.” That’s a hard thing to verify, of course, but I’m inclined to think it may not be too much of an exaggeration.
Currently, more than 720,000 small businesses in more than 120 countries use inFlow. It’s also used in a wide range of businesses and industries, including wholesalers, retailers, manufacturers, health care, e-commerce, and government. The Facebook and Twitter accounts for inFlow are pretty active (especially for a piece of software) and have a healthy number of fans and followers.
In today’s hyper-connected business environment, using inventory software that’s not online may seem a bit limiting – and in some ways it definitely is – but it’s not hard to see why people like inFlow and stick with it. The software handles all the basic inventory management tasks and then some, and it’s not at all intimidating to use, despite everything it can do.
The origin story of inFlow is a familiar one: Archon Systems, the Toronto-based company that created it, started out in 2005 building custom inventory software for other businesses. It didn’t take long for Archon to realize that its customers would have gladly bought pre-packaged software if they had found anything that fit their needs, but the choices at the time were expensive, complicated, or not powerful enough. Thus the impetus for inFlow: why not build something that works for all kinds of businesses and make it available to the public?
To see if inFlow Inventory might be what you’re looking for, read on.
There are three different editions of inFlow software available:
- Free Edition – Always free
- Maximum of 100 products and customers, combined
- 13 reports
- Multi-user mode: read-only
- Live chat, phone, email, and forum support
- Regular Edition – $399 per license
- Unlimited products and customers
- 25 reports
- Multi-user mode: read-write
- Separate user logins
- Ability to customize documents
- Live chat, phone, email, and forum support
- Premium Edition – $799 per license
- Unlimited products and customers
- 30 reports
- Multi-user mode: read-write
- Ability to customize documents
- Live chat, phone, email, and forum support
- Separate user logins
- Ability to restrict access rights
- Bill of materials and work orders
- Count sheets
The prices are one-time costs, meaning there are no monthly or annual fees and no other charges for using the software once you download it onto a computer.
There are also optional maintenance plans: $99 per year for the Regular Edition, $199 per year for the Premium Edition. These give you unlimited updates and support after the first year (included in the purchase price).
You can install one license on an unlimited number of computers, but licensing is per concurrent use, so only one computer can run the same inFlow license at any one time.
If you want to upgrade, you can do so anytime without needing to re-install anything. There’s also a 45-day money-back guarantee if you decide inFlow isn’t for you.
Note that the Free Edition allows a combined total of 100 products and customers. That’s a decent deal for very small businesses that are just starting out – it’s free, after all. But even if you have only a very limited selection of products you sell, you will probably very quickly reach the 100 mark simply because the number of customers you have is always (hopefully) growing. In other words, while the Free Edition is “free forever,” it’s meant to be a temporary edition; inFlow is counting on your liking the software enough to upgrade (the idea being, of course, that once your business starts growing you’ll be able to shell out a few hundred bucks for it).
Web-Based or Locally Installed:
The inFlow software must be downloaded and installed on your computer.
Hardware and Software Requirements:
You must have a Windows-based computer (or environment), with at least 512 MB of RAM and 700 MB of free hard drive space. The inFlow software does NOT work on Mac or Linux computers.
Ease of Use:
Right off the bat, I had problems installing the software on my computer. This is because inFlow installs Microsoft SQL Server on your computer along with the software. Because I already had a version of SQL on my system (why, I have no idea), this caused some issues. Fortunately, inFlow has clear and detailed instructions on how to fix these kinds of issues if you have trouble. I had to remove files and clean up my system before trying to install inFlow again. I went through this procedure two or three times, with the install ultimately failing each time. Finally I ended up having to install SQL separately through the Microsoft website. All told, it took me more than an hour just to get the software installed properly.
However, once I got past this, getting used to inFlow was a breeze. The layout and design of the software are very simple and straightforward, almost what you might call “retro.” It took me back to the kind of Windows-based software I used in office jobs 5 or 10 years ago, and I’m not saying that in a negative way at all. On the contrary, it was somehow refreshing to see this type of extremely functional, no-frills interface. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like inFlow is ugly or displeasing to look at; it’s simply that it doesn’t waste much effort on looking like the coolest piece of software you’ve ever seen. Beautiful aesthetics can sometimes be used to mask a poorly designed underlying structure. You need to get things done, and that’s what inFlow is here for, plain and simple.
There’s really no problem in figuring out how inFlow works. Let me put it this way: If you have any experience with Windows and the type of software people use on it, inFlow is going to feel pretty familiar and intuitive to you. The Menu button in the upper left corner is kind of like the Start button in Windows, giving you quick access to everything you need: Sales, Purchasing, Inventory, and Reports, as well as General and Settings functions. The Homepage lets you jump to the most common tasks in each of these areas and also provides shortcuts to things like Dashboard, Reports, and Settings. When you’re working in the system, just hover over a field’s label to see a popup balloon with an explanation of what the field is for. I watched the introductory tutorial video, but I could really almost have skipped it and still had no trouble getting started within a few minutes.
- Dashboard: While it may not be as slick-looking as some other inventory software, the inFlow dashboard does the job, showing you a timeline graph that you can easily modify via a dropdown menu to show a variety of data. Sales completed, cost of goods sold, and sales profit are the defaults, but you can remove those and/or add in things like sales orders, purchase orders, cash in and cash out, net cash flow, customer and vendor payments due, and cost value of inventory. You can also choose whether to display the data as a line graph, bar graph, or pie chart. The dashboard also shows a “Top 5” table, with a dropdown to change the criteria of what to show there (customers with highest profit, highest sales, etc.; products with highest total profit, highest value sold, highest quantity sold, etc.; sales orders; purchase orders; vendors). You can even change the table to show the “Bottom 5” of any of these things. On the dashboard you can also see the number of outstanding sales orders, purchase orders, products to reorder, and more.
- Multiple Tabs: You can open multiple tabs, as in a Web browser, so that you can multitask. This is very convenient for completing tasks on the fly while you’re in the middle of something else. For example, if you’re adding a new product and then realize you want to put it in a product category that doesn’t already exist, there’s no need to abandon what you’re doing to go add the category first. Just open a new tab and add it right there. As soon as you’re done, go back to your product tab and the new category is available. Simple!
- Setup Wizard: The “Get Started” page has a Setup Wizard that guides you through the essential tasks you need to complete to get up and running: thinks like your company info, taxing schemes, and pricing and product settings.
- Instant Response Time: The fact that inFlow is downloaded software and not online means that there’s essentially no waiting for actions to complete or data to load based on your Internet speed or that moment’s connection to the cloud. You get extremely fast response times to whatever action you’re doing – everything happens right away. Maybe I’ve just become too used to online software these days, but this kind of instant response is really nice to see.
- Back and Forward Buttons make it easy to navigate within any tab.
- Simple vs. Advanced: For tasks such as purchase orders and sales orders you have the option to fill out a Simple version of the item, with just the basic information, or an Advanced version, so that you can add info about receiving, payments, returns, packing and shipping, invoices, and even returns.
- Sticky Notes: While you can attach additional documents to a record, you can also fill out a simple “sticky” note for miscellaneous info that doesn’t fit anywhere else – such as a reminder for yourself or a coworker.
Customer Service and Technical Support:
All editions include access to the following support options:
The online forum is where you can pose and get answers to questions from fellow users and, sometimes, inFlow support staff. The forum looks to be pretty active, with knowledgeable users answering all sorts of questions from others.
The knowledge base is pretty extensive, and you can access and search it from the software interface. Searching for something here will give you a list of both forum posts and support articles related to your topic.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
You’d be hard pressed to find many significant criticisms of inFlow from users. There are, however, certainly some drawbacks and limitations to it:
- No Integrations: inFlow does not directly integrate with any other software, and no API is available to make your own connections. While you can download and import sales or other data from e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and accounting software like Xero, that still means inFlow’s data does not sync in real time with the data from such programs, as online inventory software such as TradeGecko and Lettuce does. The folks at inFlow are working on including integrations in the future, although exactly how they’ll handle the synchronization between online software and a self-contained program like inFlow remains a question.
- Windows Only: Right now the software only works on Windows computers. You can’t use it on Macs except by using a program like Bootcamp or Parallels to access a Windows environment. On Linux systems, you have to dual-boot Windows and Linux or use VMWare. On tablets and smartphones, you could use Remote Desktop to access a PC with inFlow on it, but that’s clunky and definitely less than ideal, to say the least.
- Steep Up-front Price: While you can start out with a free version of inFlow, eventually you’re going to need to pay for it, even if your business starts growing just a little bit. The fact that you can’t just pay a modest monthly fee to stretch out your costs but instead have to plunk down several hundred dollars right away for a full-featured version of the software that will be more useful to you over the long term is something that may make some small business owners think twice. And since the fee is per license, if you need to run the software on more than one computer at a time your costs get even bigger. Granted, over time the fee evens out and actually saves you money over many of the online software offerings with their ongoing monthly fees. But if money is tight as you start out, the cost of inFlow may be prohibitive, or at least more than you feel comfortable paying.
This reviewer on Small Business Trends echoes the complaint about integrations:
“Some sort of automatic integration with the dominant financial account software would be great. For now, integration with QuickBooks (or any other software) is manually through exporting inFlow data and inputting into QuickBooks via CSV.”
Given that businesses of all types do an ever-increasing amount of work online, inFlow’s lack of connectedness to the cloud is something that may give you pause. Banking, accounting, shopping – it’s hard to avoid conducting a good deal of your daily business online, and that goes not just for individuals but for companies. While there are still plenty of stand-alone, installed software programs out there that work perfectly well, there’s little doubt that online software, or SaaS (Software as a Service), is the wave of the future, and let’s face it: the future is now.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials:
On the other hand, there is no lack of high praise for inFlow, like in these user reviews on Download.com:
I love the easy to use interface, I did not use any of the tutorials. Btw, awesome quickbook-esque report generation. You can generate reports of the inventory you have with your cost and what it is to be sold at, great for projecting profits and viewing actual profits. I use this inventory system to track sales, to know what types of items sell well and for accounting purposes. I have a low stock (6 or less of each different item), high turnaround (like selling out of items over the weekend) retail business. And yes, I do a lot of data entry, but being able to make copies of inventory items and changing a few things here and there is a time saver!
Tracks everything and is very user friendly. Takes little time to create reports and customize to your liking. Everything is self explanatory and easy for new employees to adapt to. Tracks everything we need, and entering new data is a breeze. Allows you to change field names on just about everything to help match your current personal inventory vocabulary/vernacular, which helps limit mistakes. Allows for transparency with product movement through multiple user mode. Also, you can create new fields so you can add new fields to track if the program doesn’t offer it already. Finally, if you have a problem tech support responds quickly to resolve any issues.
Downloaded this product today and purchased the full edition straight away. If [you’re] looking for a simple straightforward product that does what it says, this is it, look no further. We as a company have tried many different inventory products from ABC inventory to using quickbooks both programmes do not come close to this one. It is an absolute credit to its developers and creators. [Can’t] wait to use more of the facilities [inFlow] has to offer.
For more testimonials from inFlow customers in a variety of fields, check here.
- Manage Products and Inventory
- Organize your products with prices, categories, and images
- Handle more than 10,000 products on a normal PC with no problem
- Works with barcode scanners
- Multiple units of measurement (case, dozen, each, etc.)
- Multiple locations, including sublocations (bin, aisle, etc.)
- Inventory movement history
- Assemble products or packages from raw materials
- FIFO/LIFO costing
- Serial numbers (Premium Edition only)
- Take Orders from Customers
- Simple workflow lets you enter orders and deduct inventory automatically
- Advanced workflow tracks more detailed info such as shipping, invoices, picking, and sales returns
- Create customized, professional-looking invoices to print or email
- Create Purchase Orders
- Reorder Stock button automatically creates PO’s for products getting low in stock
- Keep track of product costs automatically, including moving average
- Use your own and your vendor’s product codes to ensure accuracy
- Reports and Analytics
- See how your business is doing at a glance with graphed timelines
- Create customized reports on data such as sales, taxes, best-sellers, and inventory prediction
- Network Computers Together, Set Access Restrictions
- Multi-user mode lets all of your employees work with the same data in real time by connecting computers via LAN (Local Area Network) or the Internet
- Decide who has access to see or edit which data elements with different logins and permissions
- Customizable Fields, Data, Currencies, and More
- Rename field labels and messages to whatever fits your needs
- Add extra, custom fields
- Import and export data between programs like Excel and QuickBooks or even your website via CSV documents
- Set exchange rates, buy and sell in multiple currencies
- Software available in multiple languages, including Spanish, French, and Chinese
For a full list of features, click here.
What reports you get with inFlow depends on what edition you use.
The Free Edition gives you these reports:
- Sales by product summary
- Sales order summary
- Sales order profit report
- Customer payment summary
- Customer payment details
- Customer order history
- Product customer report
- Customer list
- Inventory summary
- Inventory details report
- Product price list
- Product cost report
- Vendor list
More detailed reports are only available with the Regular and Premium editions. These include:
- Sales by product details
- Sales order operational report
- Sales tax report
- Back order report
- Vendor product list
- Purchasing tax report
- Purchase order details
- Inventory by location
- Inventory movement summary
- Estimated inventory duration
- Stock reordering report
Reports are clear and professional-looking and can be printed or exported as PDFs.
Integrations and Add-Ons:
As I mentioned earlier, inFlow currently offers no direct integrations with any other software, and there is no API (Application Programming Interface) available. But integrations are in the works, so it will be interesting to see what other software you’ll be able to use with inFlow in the future.
However, inFlow has a variety of extra resources that you can import into the program to make it more useful, including:
- Custom document templates
- Accessories like barcode scanners, barcode printers, and barcode printing software to generate barcodes, since inFlow doesn’t generate them itself
- Language files for Hebrew and Portuguese. You can also import other languages if you like.
Check out inFlow’s Resources page for a more detailed look.
Because inFlow is stand-alone software you download and install on your individual computer(s), it doesn’t entail the same worries about security as you might have with online inventory software. Since it’s not stored in the cloud, your inFlow data is pretty much as safe as your internal computer network is.
Overall, inFlow Inventory software is pretty darn good at what it does: that is, help you manage and track your products, customers, and purchasing, while also giving you useful reporting and analytics to help you monitor how your business is doing. The interface couldn’t be much clearer or simpler to use. You’ll find that it’s very intuitive and straightforward, so you’ll rarely have to think about what a certain feature does. In those rare instances where you’re momentarily stumped, the online forum and knowledge base will likely be all you need to find the answer to your question or solve an issue.
The software’s main limitation is that it’s not online and thus cannot automatically sync with the data in any online sales channels or accounting software you may use. You can import and export this type of data, so this does mean that inFlow involves a bit more manual data entry. For this reason, the software is probably best suited to manufacturers, wholesalers, and other businesses that may not have an extensive online presence but still need to save time and get a better handle on managing their inventory, suppliers, and customers.
While the up-front price for a single license may be a bit steep for small companies and having multiple instances of it running at the same time will definitely ratchet up the cost, this is a one-time fee, and as your business grows you could see significant savings over the monthly fees you would pay for online, SaaS software.
That said, I suspect that if inFlow is to stay relevant and competitive into the future, it will need to include some integrations with other software, online or otherwise, and the folks at Archon Systems seem to be aware of this. As it stands now, inFlow is one of the most downloaded inventory software programs for a reason. It’s hard to argue with hundreds of thousands of satisfied users. Give it a spin to see if you might end up being one of them.