Other than minor tweaks to cope with legislative changes, accounting packages don’t change very often these days. So it comes as no surprise to discover that QuickBooks 2010 is the first major update to Intuit’s bookkeeping package for over two years. More than that, it offers no major leaps forward in functionality: the emphasis being, with the odd exception or two, on making the software easier to deploy and use.
QuickBooks is designed to be used by small to medium sized businesses, including sole traders and start-ups who are best steered towards the SimpleStart edition (£99 + VAT). A basic implementation, SimpleStart can be used to generate quotes, handle invoicing and track cashflow. It can also help take the pain out of VAT, including electronic filing, but only on a cash accounting basis. Plus there’s free version, offering everything that’s in SimpleStart, but limited to just 20 customers and/or suppliers.
The Intuit software can be used by both product-based and service companies, the big seller being QuickBooks Pro (£249 + VAT) which offers enhanced stock control and additional bookkeeping tools compared to the entry-level SimpleStart.
Enhanced VAT and multi-currency support are among other key features of the 2010 Pro edition, multi-currency having been dropped in the 2008 release. The Pro edition also enables the company file to be shared by up to five users, although each still requires a licensed copy of the software. Plus it’s possible to add QuickBooks payroll, starting at £41 per month (+ VAT) for which you get both QuickBooks Pro and the payroll service.
Lastly there’s QuickBooks Premier – the most complete of the QuickBooks editions, adding extra budgeting and forecasting tools plus the ability to set prices and discounts by customer, job, item and currency. Concurrent access by up to 30 users is another option along with payroll, plus remote access to accounts data and tools to enable professional accountants to review, modify and return client accounts electronically. There’s even a QuickBooks ProAdvisor programme (£345 per year + VAT) giving accountancy professionals a fully supported copy of QuickBooks Premier plus a listing in the QuickBooks accountants directory.
You don’t need anything special to run QuickBooks: just a Windows PC, with support for all versions from XP onwards (32-bit and 64-bit), including the latest Windows 7 implementation. Setup is simple with everything needed included as standard, although for full functionality Microsoft Word and Excel are required, together with Outlook to do things like send invoices and statements out via email.
A basic knowledge of bookkeeping is assumed, but it’s not essential with a user-friendly graphical interface and lots of wizards to help novices get to grips with the procedures involved. Intuit also bundles 30 days free support on all versions apart from the free SimpleStart edition, added to which it’s possible to upgrade from one edition to another should your requirements change.
Like previous versions, QuickBooks 2010 is a pretty big application which can take a while to load. It can also take a while to get to grips with as the interface can be a little idiosyncratic. Like it or not, little has changed here in the 2010 release, apart from the addition of a new QuickBooks Coach plus self-teach videos to guide new users through the required processes. An online forum (Intuit calls this a live community) has also been added and, if all else fails, you can always ring the company up and speak to a real person.
When it comes to other improvements, the most obvious change is an enhanced company snapshot window to quickly see who owes you money, what bills to pay and so on. This is now much more web-like and easily customisable to display the information most important to your business.
VAT handling gets a big makeover too, with a single window to organise all VAT processing and reporting options plus new wizards, for example to help setup and modify VAT code. A new exception report has also been added to identify and cope with mistakes in filing. Moreover, you can file VAT returns direct to HMRC with full accreditation for electronic filing of both VAT and PAYE returns.
Multi-user access gets a much needed boost in the 2010 release, with users now able to work on data concurrently, run reports and so on. Previously users would have to ask others to first close out of the application before they could work on the company file, so it’s a major step forward.
Other enhancements include beefed up security with facilities to both encrypt the company data file and stop unauthorised users viewing or modifying customer credit card details. A QuickFilter search tool makes finding customer and supplier information a lot easier and there’s a new batching facility when emailing invoices and statements which should make life easier if you’ve lots to get through.
Overall we were pretty impressed with what QuickBooks 2010 has to offer. It’s not a huge leap forward, but like its predecessors it should meet the accounting needs of most small businesses. It’s also a very affordable solution for those just starting out, especially when compared to alternatives like Sage. As an upgrade, however, it’s less compelling, although there could be just enough in this new release to tip the balance.
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