As fall slips away and winter approaches, it's time again for the latest iteration of QuickBooks. As in recent years, it's difficult to fathom what small business owners could possibly need from such a mature product. However, this year, Intuit proves light on its feet and manages to wring out a fairly impressive new version. While last year's edition offered a revamped interface that everyone could appreciate, most of this year's features will appeal to the more experienced customers.
Service-oriented businesses will be able to use the sophisticated new Web-based time-tracking capabilities, and retail and manufacturing firms will appreciate the new unit conversion features. There are also some tantalizing new marketing features that work with Google. The significant new features, with the exception of those that work with Google, are found only in the Pro, Premier and Enterprise versions of QuickBooks.
Time Tracker is a new, optional service aimed at companies that track billable hours. It lets employees and contractors enter their hours into time sheets that reside on Web pages. Workers can enter hours from almost anywhere, at least anywhere with Internet access, and the data can then be downloaded directly into QuickBooks.
For employees, the online forms resemble familiar paper-based time sheets that are easy to understand and fill-in. A Start/Stop feature allows employees to record the time that they spend on a project or task, and then transfer the elapsed time directly into their time sheets. The system also fills-in dates and calculates totals.
In QuickBooks 2007, employees use online forms that resemble the familiar paper versions.
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When using Web-based time sheets, employees enter hours only entered once and don't need to be entered a second time into QuickBooks. If you have several employees or contractors to manage, the time savings can be significant.
Of course, the Web site offers password authentication, and if you're the administrator, you can edit time sheets as necessary and even view sheets that haven't been submitted yet. QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise offer 60-day free trials of the service.
New and Improved
Convenient measurement conversions make it easier to work with different product quantities that companies receive and sell. They make a welcome addition if your business repackages shipments into multiple selling units. For example, if you purchase wholesale goods in bulk by the gross, you can more easily manage the process of selling goods by the dozen or in pairs. It's surprising that Intuit took this long to deliver such a vital feature.
People who like to tinker with forms will appreciate the improved customization tools that let you more easily modify invoices and other forms and immediately preview changes. The improved shipping manager now offers thermal printer support, creates shipping documents from within QuickBooks and does a better job of handling multiple parcels.
Through an optional service, the improved Payroll Center provides a convenient end-to-end view of your pending payroll tasks. Most importantly, the service reminds you when to file and pay taxes and how much to pay. It's a guiding light when you're trying to navigate a daunting payroll maze that's fraught with confusing requirements, deadlines and painful fines.
A Web World
QuickBooks 2007 offers new features that, while technically not accounting-related, work with Google to help you market your company's products. Keep in mind that you don't need QuickBooks to use these services. But having them available through all the QuickBooks products, including Simple Start, is convenient.
You can now perform Google searches from within QuickBooks to look for invoices and other documents within the program. You can also list your business with Google Maps so that it comes up when local customers search for related products and services. If you like, you can even offer coupons.
QuickBooks 2007 now offers access to Google services such as Google AdWords.
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QuickBooks comes with a $50 credit to try out the Google AdWords service, which can potentially bring up your ad when customers search on related products and services.
You define the search terms and the amount you'd like to pay for each lead. Once your ad is set up, you only pay when interested prospects "click through" and visit your Web site. You can also have the service display your ad solely to local customers that you define by neighborhood, city or state.
A new QuickBooks listing service lets you make your merchandise searchable via Google, Froogle and Google Maps. You can list product information, images and even availability in Google. While the service was not final at press time, it offers intriguing possibilities. But this feature makes us wonder why QuickBooks doesn't support eBay auctions.
Accounting for Every Business
QuickBooks comes in several versions: Simple Start, Pro, Premier and Enterprise. Beyond the features found in Simple Start, Pro allows up to three employees to simultaneously access the program and adds payroll, inventory and the ability to download credit card and bank transactions.
Premier supports up to five simultaneous employees and adds forecasting and sophisticated inventory features. Enterprise, Intuit's top-of-the-line app, offers faster performance and simultaneous access for up to 20 employees. Intuit also offers an online version of QuickBooks.
QuickBooks Premier comes in versions for contractors, remodelers; retailers; professional service firms; nonprofits; manufacturers and wholesalers and accounting professionals. Accountants will appreciate the new "dividing date" feature that lets small businesses and accountants simultaneously work with books without causing conflicts in the data. This feature alone makes the upgrade a must-have for accountants.
Definitely consider upgrading from the 2006 version if you want to use the time-tracking or unit conversion features. While Peachtree Accounting has some minute advantages, particularly when it comes to managing inventory and manufacturing, overall, for features and ease-of-use, QuickBooks is hard to beat.
All prices are based on MSRP.
QuickBooks: Simple Start Edition 2007 $99.95
QuickBooks: Pro Edition 2007 $199.95 (three-person version - $499.95)
QuickBooks: Premier Edition $399.95 (five-person version - $1,499.95)
QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions starts at $3,000 for a five-person version
Wayne Kawamoto has written over 800 articles, columns and reviews about computers, new technologies, the Internet and small businesses. Wayne has also published three books about upgrading PCs, building office networks and effectively using and troubleshooting notebook computers. You can contact him through his Web site at www.waynewrite.com.
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