Review: Intuit’s QuickBooks Accounting Premier 2009

Helping small businesses connect to the rest of the world is a major theme in the recently released suite of QuickBooks 2009 products.  We looked at the Premier version, and find it extremely useful for people who use online banking and other online tools to maintain and grow their businesses. 

We tested the update on a single-user Windows XP Pro setup, connected to the Internet over a high-speed DSL connection.  There are multi-user versions of the program that include QuickBooks Messenger, a built-in instant messaging system, but we did not perform hands-on tests on those capabilities. 

QuickBooks screen shot
Once the installation is complete, QuickBooks interviews you to configure the program for your company’s needs.
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Upgrade in Process

Installing QuickBooks Premier really does get easier from one version to the next, and the 2009 edition is no exception.  Intuit has streamlined the interview considerably, and includes questions that tailor your chart of accounts to your particular business.  The questions it poses, nearly all in plain English, will not require a trip to a dictionary of accounting terminology.

During the installation, QuickBooks installs Office 2003 Primary Interop Assemblies and Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office. We had to enter a 15-digit license number and a six-digit product ID to verify that we were installing a legal copy of the program.  The QuickBooks installer looks for critical updates online right away, so having a live Internet connection is key to this version. 

QuickBooks screen shot
If your company plans to invoice or to collect in multiple currencies, be sure to answer the question about currency tracking with a “yes.”
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Early on in the install process, you’re asked whether this is a single or multi-person setup.  The install screens say that installation will take five-20 minutes; on our system it took 12, which is an improvement from last year’s QuickBooks review. 

The installation replaces the desktop icon for the 2008 version with one for the update; past versions have scattered multiple icons on the screen, so the cleanup is a nice touch.  If you don’t already have Google Desktop installed, QuickBooks prods you to include it for future searches within your data files. 

Banking On Change

One major annoyance for QuickBooks customers is using the online banking capability in previous versions.  According to product manager Pranay Kapadia, only 4 percent of the QuickBooks installed base was using the online banking feature, so the Intuit team revamped it entirely.  Intuit implemented a major change in the way the program connects with financial institutions, allowing business owners to directly download banking transactions into QuickBooks with fewer steps. 

It’s a good idea, when setting up a new accounting system, to start it at the beginning of your company’s fiscal year.  To properly use the online banking features in QuickBooks Premier 2009, you’ll need to have a bank statement from the end of your previous fiscal year.  Then import the transactions for the rest of the year and get them properly classified so that your reports are meaningful. 

QuickBooks screen shot
After starting QB09, choose your industry for file customization and then wait for program reconfiguration.
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The online banking setup involves picking your bank’s name from the long list of financial institutions connected to the Intuit network.  We found our bank, and then entered our user ID and password.  Once authenticated, QuickBooks picked up our account name and number, and then prompted us to download the transactions that had taken place since the beginning of our company’s fiscal year.  When we classified a transaction for the first time, say for our cellular phone bill, QuickBooks classified all subsequent transactions to the same payee, which is a nice time-saver. 

Since we have online bill-paying on our business account, we were able to activate it within QuickBooks.  The updated online banking features let us write checks, pay bills and transfer funds from within QuickBooks, rather than using our bank’s Web site. 

Check with your bank to see whether it charges for synchronizing your account to your QuickBooks files; the program lets you queue up checks to send to your bank in a batch when you sync ‑‑ in case you are charged by the number of times you connect to your bank from within QuickBooks.  Our bank doesn’t charge per synchronization, so we opted to send payments at the time we entered the transactions.

Note: Bank of America customers experienced some problems with QuickBooks’ online banking features in the 2009 version.  Intuit expects the connectivity issues to be cleared up during November 2008, and says that the fixes need to be applied by Bank of America.

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