Intuit stresses usability in upcoming QuickBooks 2008 release

At an event in Toronto recently, Intuit Canada gave members of the accounting industry a peak under the hood of QuickBooks 2008, the next release of the company’s flagship accounting software.

Due to be released in December, Intuit is calling the 2008 edition its biggest release in years. Meg Rosgen, product manager, small business division for Intuit Canada, says many of the features are the same but company developers wanted to focus on usability, making those features that people use every day easier to use and faster to access.

“Users will now never be more than two clicks away from the critical information they need to access,” said Rosgen.

The user interface redesign is centered on a new homepage, as well as a customer centre and a vendor centre.

Through the customer centre, users will be able to manage all their customer information and tasks through one window, view their customer list and contact info, go right to customer billing information and view all customer transactions without having to run separate reports.

And through the vendor centre, users will be able to manage all vendors through the one screen, see all suppliers and money owed, view supplier histories and follow-up on late payments.

“Customers can now see the big picture of how the product works,” said Rosgen. “We’ve put it all on one screen and it can be customized to how they work with QuickBooks.”

While usability was a key development with QuickBooks 2008, Rosgen says a number of new features have been added as well. Among them is a partnership with Google that gives the users the option of installing a customized version of Google Desktop Search to index and search their QuickBooks files.

The interview set-up process on installation has been streamlined to only ask critical questions, and a number of enhancements have also been made around payroll and sales tax. The new sales tax model is something Intuit developers have been working on for a number of years, says Rosgen, so small businesses don’t need to be GST experts.

“This has been one of the most popular features for accountants on our road trips so far,” she said.

The QuickBooks line-up has been streamlined to three main product SKUs: EasyStart, Pro and Premier. There will also be a Premier Multicurrency edition, and a Payroll edition. Pricing information for the 2008 edition has not yet been released.

The Premier Accountants edition will now include licenses for all the different product SKUs with the ability to toggle back and forth between different versions and industry specializations, such as contractor, retail and non-profit, something Rosgen says will be a money-saver for accountants. Based on user feedback a secure, always-on audit trail also been added. It will continually be running in the background, tracking who makes changes and what their impacts are.

On the backend, QuickBooks 2008 has moved to a new SQL-based Sybase iAnywhere to make the new edition compatible with Windows Vista, as well as improve application performance.

“It really makes for a much more robust system,” said Rosgen.

It also means slightly higher system requirements, including at least 1GB of disk space, plus more for data files. If running Windows 2000 or XP at least a 500MHz Pentium II processor is needed with a 1.8 GHz Pentium III recommended, along with at lest 256MB of RAM with 512MB recommended. For Vista, at least a 1.2 GHz Pentium III is needed with at least 1GB of RAM.

One of Intuit’s Canadian distributors is Synnex Canada and Mark Hardy, vice-president, product management with the distributor says QuickBooks holds a two-fold appeal for the company. Not only do the clients of Synnex’s reseller base tend to be SMBs that are ideal potential QuickBooks users, but Hardy says Synnex’s resellers themselves also tend to be SMBs that use the product to run their own businesses.

“A lot of these accounts are doing paperwork on the back of envelopes, they’re using spreadsheets; they don’t really have the analysis tools to help them make effective business decisions,” said Hardy. “We want these guys to be stronger. It helps the economy; it helps us. We think it’s a fantastic tool to get into the hands of these customers.”

Looking at the 2008 edition of QuickBooks, Hardy says he’s impressed with the ease of use, which he says is getting better each edition. He also likes the analytic tools such as expense analysis and forecasting, which would be difficult to do offline.

“(SMB) is a huge, huge market opportunity in Canada,” said Hardy.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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