Ray Richards is founder of Mindspan Consultants and a technology journalist hailing from Ottawa, Canada

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Intuit Quickbooks Review

Last month we initiated an investigation of the small enterprise administrative application, Intuit's QuickBooks Pro. This time around we will take a closer look at this product in order to gain an understanding of the reasons behind its ubiquity in the SOHO market.

But First...

As you may recall, in the last issue I outlined a situation in which I was experiencing difficulties with my Rogers@Home high speed Internet accounts - in that they weren't exactly speedy. After the issue was published, Rogers offered to give me a free month of service. While this certainly didn't compensate me for the lost time and general frustration I experienced during this period, I feel that what Rogers did was fair. Further, you may be interested to hear that I was informed by one of their more knowledgeable service representatives about a potential solution to many of the speed difficulties that are often encountered by Rogers customers. This fix, which is unfortunately unsupported by Rogers in general, is iSpeed, from High Mountain Software. What it does, is allow you to optimise the IP configuration in the Windows registry. Many users that have tried it report a dramatic speed improvement even by simply using the default settings. It seems that Windows IP parameters sometimes need to be reset for users who have gone from a standard dialup connection to cable modem. Best of all, the software is free and available for download at www.hms.com/ispeed.

Let's get started...

While, as detailed last month, the setup program of QuickBooks is elegant and intuitive, the actual functionality of the application is equally so. After you have completed the setup, you are presented with a variety of options as to how to proceed. If you are new to accounting, there are numerous methods by which you may obtain assistance, including a well laid out manual which describes basic principles (including your chart of accounts, its elements, cash basis vs. accrual accounting etc.), a great drop down help feature located on numerous screens entitled "How do I ?" which details functions available on them, and excellent instructional videos on the CD-ROM which definitely shorten the learning cycle. Overall, the documentation is  superior to what I found in Quicken Home & Business '99 - but as we discussed a few issues back, this product is significantly more robust all around. One thing I found particularly annoying however is the book's habit of briefly summarising a topic and then referring you the online help files for more detail. When I learn a new application, I typically gain primary knowledge from initially using  the application itself, and when stuck, search the help files. After I am pretty well familiar with the rudiments,  I sit down with the manual (away from my PC) to discover all the interesting features and tid bits I hadn't realised were there. Maybe this is just me, but I want a complete maual.

Security

One of the first areas where improvements over Home & Business is evident is the security model. While H&B allowed for limited multi-user access, QuickBooks is designed to accommodate concurrent multiple users with ease. You may set up user permissions for individuals enabling or disallowing access to areas of your choosing and restricting things such as posting to prior periods all through the administration function. You can also select whether an employee can merely enter data, or be able to view reports based upon its entry. While this certainly not the most comprehensive security model I've seen, it's certainly more than adequate for its target market.

Other improvements over Quicken Home & Business

User of QuickBooks enjoy several enhancements over H&B, including substantially better forms generation, considerably more robust AP and AR functionality, and 113 valuable reports vs. the 20 which come standard with the latter product. The forms generator comes with 5 stock document templates which you can customise to your specifications - or design your own from scratch using the built in tools. Accounts payable includes support for such functions as automatic notification of bills which qualify for vendor discounts, and expense accounts. Accounts Receivable is also significantly improved. I recently too a look at my unpaid invoices report in Home and Business to see that the one year anniversary of non-payment on my final column for Monitor Magazine had come and gone (perhaps you were wondering why I now write for OC!...) and could do little about it from within the program except write it off as bad debt. With QuickBooks, I can create "reminder notes" as a form letter, apply it to my ageing receivables collections list, print address labels and additionally have the program calculate interest based on terms I've established with each customer - much better!

Not Included In Home & Business

Stay tuned as next month we will delve into the features that make this product truly stand apart from its little brother - payroll, inventory, customer/vendor tracking, time tracking, estimate generation, job costing and more.

Quickbooks Pro Review - Part 2

Originally published in Ottawa Computes! magazine, December, 1999, by technology columnist, Ray Richards.

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