After undergoing a fairly major facelift in 2010, QuickBooks 2011 remains substantially unchanged from last year’s version. This, unfortunately, means that much of what lies beneath that initial facelift is pretty old school. QuickBooks 2011 can still provide you with valuable information on the health and welfare of your business, but all the tools and forms you use to enter data, every graph that’s used in a report, and pretty much anything that isn’t the initial user interface (UI) you see when you open the program looks and feels ancient. (Sorry, I wish I had something better to report.)
There is some good news here. Intuit has added a few new features to the application that make QuickBooks 2011 a little more Mac friendly for business users. First on that list is multi-user access to data files, which, in practical terms means that you can have up to five users access a single QuickBooks data file at one time. You set multi-user mode up by selecting Enable Multi-user Mode from the file menu, which does two things: It creates an initial Administrator user for the data file and at the same time it starts a QuickBooks Server that runs in the background, which allows more than one user to access the file at the same time.
Once multi-user mode is turned on, QuickBooks has you set up the other users you want to have access to the file. You have two different kinds of users that you can create within QuickBooks, which are Administrative and Custom users. Administrative users have full access to your data file, while Custom users only have access to the areas of QuickBooks that you define, including things like Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Inventory. Once a user is defined within the data file that user can log in on the computer where the data file and server are installed or using another computer on your network with QuickBooks installed.
It’s important to note that in order to use QuickBook’s multi-user features you’ll either have to have additional user licenses installed on the server computer or a fully licensed copy of QuickBooks on the client computer.
Multi-user access, of course, raises an important question: Can Windows users share the same data files? Unfortunately, no. On top of that, there’s still no feature parity with the Windows version-these are two completely different applications with two completely different sets of features. The file formats are different, although it is still possible, with some effort and limitations, to move files from Windows to your Mac. And Mac files sent your QuickBooks for Windows using accountant may be missing some information when reimported into your Mac. There’s also no online payroll, no bill pay, and no multi currency support, and you still can’t set more than one price point for an item you have in inventory.
Thankfully, Intuit has upgraded QuickBooks’ tools for creating reports, invoices, statements, and other forms. I found it much easier to add, move, and manipulate objects I added to my forms and QuickBooks now offers alignment guides similar to those you’ll find in Pages, making it easier to align objects on your forms. These are all welcome improvements that push QuickBooks ahead of any similar applications on the market that I’ve used.
Macworld’s buying advice
QuickBooks 2011 is an improvement over the last year’s version, offering necessary features such as better forms customization and simultaneous multi-user access to data files. But it’s still a mystery as to why the backend of this application looks like it’s left over from 1984. And it’s even more difficult to figure out why Intuit lets the Mac version of their business application lag so far behind their Windows product.