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A Passion for QuickBooks by Sarah White, Director of Telham Training Ltd

My passion for Intuit QuickBooks remains unabated. It is still, in my mind, the best small to medium size business bookkeeping software out there, with both a desktop and online versions. It is suitable for the smallest business to those turning over up to approx. £5,000,000. At the upper end, it does depends on how many transactions you input as there is a fairly generous but definite limit.

Desktop
The desktop version came first and as such is the most highly developed. It had a major rebuild in 2007 and has continued to improve year on year. It handles the basic data input with simple user-friendly screens and has robust bank, credit card and VAT reconciliation processes. You can customise the estimate, invoice and statement templates to reflect your corporate identity, whilst useful reminders as you design your forms keep you the right side of statutory legislation.

QuickBooks Desktop can stand alone (on one computer) or be successfully networked peer to peer or via a server. It has the option of multi-user access and basic permissions for different levels of user to restrict viewing as required. For those trading with Europe and beyond, it handles multicurrency and for those tracking budgets it can do that too.

Online
The online version was launched in about 2010 and initially offered very basic functionality. The dedicated UK software team have continued to roll out improvements and are in a dash to include all the same functionality that desktop users have come to expect.

For example, there is only limited customisation tools for creating your own estimates, invoices and statements. There are some nice touches like ‘Auto-fill’ which speeds up completing common tasks by automatically inputting the information last entered for that customer or supplier and it handles all the usual reconciliations to Trial Balance.

Where companies have workers in two or more locations, the major benefit of this version is that it can be accessed from anywhere. Each user has log-in credentials which, so long as they have internet access, means they can access the data from their laptops, tablets, smart phones and even internet cafes.

Reporting
Where QuickBooks stands head and shoulders from its competitors is in the area of financial reporting. Get the set-up of the Chart of Accounts (Nominal structure for Sage users) right and in the Pro version you have upwards of 150 standard reports and as many easily customisable reports as you like.

Want to track you P&L by month for the year to date? Easy – in the Desktop version, just go to Reports/Company & Financial/Profit & Loss Standard, change the date range to ‘Year to Date’ and the Columns drop-down to ‘Month’. Hit ‘Refresh’ and there it is. If you need the report monthly, add it to the list of Memorised Reports and it will update automatically as the raw data is input, ready for you to view at your convenience.

Want to track two enterprises belonging to the same company? Easy – switch on ‘Classes’ and allocate income and costs to the relevant enterprise. It is then possible to produce a P&L for each enterprise and the business as a whole - in one report!

So, which version?
If you had to put my arm behind my back, it wouldn’t take much for me to admit opting for the desktop version every time. It is still currently the superior model, although the online version is catching up.

Both versions are reliably stable. New users seem to pick up either version with no real problems. Users coming from the desktop version are a bit unsettled as the look and feel of the online version is very different and not always as intuitive, something I have pointed out to Intuit recently.

The set-up of the Chart of Accounts in the Online version is similar, it took a while for sub-accounts to appear but it’s there now. The reporting takes some getting used to and I still don’t feel they have quite got it right yet.

The basic reports are all there, but not as many as the Desktop version. It is possible to customise and memorise reports but expect to take some time to establish your personalised reports as the windows where you make the choices are not that easy to navigate. Once you have memorised them, they are easily available in My Custom Reports

For remote workers, currently the Online version is the best solution subject to an internet connection. I have successfully used remote access to work on a Desktop version but it does rely on good broadband speed to make it effective. Perhaps as we all move to super-fast, this might become more of a possibility.

 “So, you pays your money and you takes your choice…”
I still stand by my first sentence – “My passion for Intuit QuickBooks remains unabated.” I use both versions constantly and would still rather be using them than any other product on the market.

That’s not to say that I wouldn’t try others. In fairness, I already successfully use Sage (desktop), who’s latest versions are much improved for data entry but the reporting is still painful beyond the basic P&L - and expensive if you have to ask for help. I have heard good things about Xero.com, the online bookkeeping software, but have yet to experience it.

What I would suggest is that if you are looking to computerise your bookkeeping, ask for a 30 day trial copy and get someone experienced locally who can help you evaluate if it is the right software for you and your business. Of course if you want to try QuickBooks, I’m happy to spread the love!


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