Intuit's QuickBooks dominates the market for accounting software in companies with 5 to 20 employees, so the company's yearly upgrades hold the potential to dramatically affect how small companies run the business side of their organizations.
Most QuickBooks users upgrade every other year, depending on the new features and their applicability to a particular business, said Intuit senior product manager Laura Messerschmitt. In an effort to increase that frequency -- and to attract new users -- the 2010 edition includes new capabilities designed to speed installation and operation, increase visibility into the business, and take advantage of online "connected services."
Messerschmittsaid the new version speeds overall performance by 15% - 20%. The biggest improvements will be noticed by long-time users "with really large files," she added, who may see load times cut from 5 minutes to 3 minutes (a 40% improvement).
Getting started should be faster, too. Messerschmitt said the new version uses smarter defaults to trim the number of required installation screens from 15 to 6, which she said cuts installation time in half, to "just a few minutes" in most cases.
More importantly, the new ability to add and edit multiple list entries can make it much faster to enter Excel data into QuickBooks. According to Messerschmitt, users simply adjust QuickBooks or Excel to match fields, and then cut and paste the data into a QuickBooks page. Any issues -- duplications, unrecognizable entries, etc. -- are highlighted for quick resolution.
This represents a big change from earlier versions which required users to paste in Excel data field by field, or use a sometimes confusing field mapping functionality. Messerschmitt said the new "copy down" functionality also makes it easier for long-time QuickBooks users to fix issues in existing QuickBooks data -- users can change "chunks" of data, not just individual items.
In addition to copy-down, QuickBooks users can now edit multiple lists of items, customers, or vendors using the new rapid data entry feature. Messerschmitt said that feature can save time for long-time QuickBooks users who may have pages of outdated or incorrect information, for example on inventory coding.
QuickBooks 2010 uses a similar "grouping" approach to speed customization of invoices and other forms. A new wizard-based forms designer comes with 35 templates -- categorized by industry -- which can then be tweaked with company logos, for example. The final design can then be extended to any and all QuickBooks forms -- and individual forms can also be tweaked be altered if need be, Messerschmitt said. (In the past, each form had to be customized individually, Messerschmidt explained.)
For businesses who need a more personalized look, Intuit Creative Solutions works with 99 Designs to offer a crowd-sourcing approach that lets businesses offer the job to outside designers. Companies pay only for the chosen design -- and even that comes at bargain basement prices.
Note: bMighty is not usually a big fan of crowdsourcing. We worry that it devalues creative work, and that while prices are low, you pretty much get what you pay for. That said, it may be a viable option for small businesses who simply can't afford to pay standard prices for creative work.
One final new customization feature: users can now add personalized check signatures directly onto checks in QuickBooks.
Snapshots, the ability to display the results of multiple reports on a single page, was the most popular new feature in QuickBooks 2009, Messerschmittsaid. For 2010, Snapshots has been redesigned and expanded, with a new income/expense trend chart and the ability to add and remove a dozen new widgets, including detailed expense and income breakdowns and a top-customer list. The new version also adds the ability to print the Snapshot page or individual widgits.
If Snapshots isn't slick enough for you, QuickBooks 2010's Report Center now offers three different ways -- Carousel View, List View, and Grid View) to navigate through more than 100 different reports. The Carousel View resembles flipping through albums on iTunes. It's very attractive, even if it's not a particularly efficient way to find a particular report. More to the point, each report is now tagged for easier searching. According to Messerschmitt, commonly used search terms -- "overdue" for example -- will now access all reports associated with that term.