As the old saying goes, nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. The same holds true for QuickBooks: It isnt the cheapest program here, but you cant go wrong buying it for your small business. Intuit has earned this distinction, providing a robust, easy-to-use line of applications for a variety of company sizes and needs. Here we review Intuits top-end offering for small businesses, but note that QuickBooks Basic 2004 ($199.95 direct) and QuickBooks Pro 2004 ($299.95) deliver the same accounting engine less some bells and whistles.
QuickBooks Premier 2004 is not a must-have upgrade if you already have a recent version, but there are lots of tweaks and enhancements here to consider. Notable additions include fixed-asset tracking, a short-term cash flow projector, and support for custom pricing for individual customers and jobs.
QuickBooks EasyStep interview competently walks you through the steps needed to create your companys files. The program helps you set up your business and program preferences, build files of people and items, and fill in additional financial details.
Intuit instituted a main working screen configuration a few years ago that has served QuickBooks well. You can toggle easily among Navigators (company, vendors, employees, and so on) that display a variety of related data and tools. An interactive navigational flowchart spells out the main processes in each area, with links to frequently used functions. Reports are close at hand, as well as links to related activities. A customizable icon bar further simplifies navigation.
When youre ready to work, QuickBooks depth and layout maximizes the speed and thoroughness of your bookkeeping. Moving from list views of people and items, you can use specialized menus to work with records themselves, enter transactions related to that group, and run reports. Prefab record formats (items, employees, customers, vendors, jobs) are adequate to track the salient details, with several custom fields available.
New per-item price levels are joined by new flexibility in pricing: You can create up to 100 price levels for customers or jobs. Transaction forms are optimized for speed and simplicity in processing, and the program achieves both goals well. You can change some of your forms basic attributes easily or take on the very intuitive layout designer for more elaborate reconstructions. And there are new tools for tracking fixed assets.
Naturally, QuickBooks offers a full complement of standard business reports. You can filter the body of data that appears in the reports and drill down on line items to see underlying transactions. You can also e-mail reports and export them to Excel. A six-week cash flow projector utilizing what-if scenarios is new in this version. This and other QuickBooks data can be accessed remotely.
If the core features still arent enough, Intuit has built an impressive stable of add-ons—too many to mention here. There are also industry-specific versions, plus the ability to set up online banking and merchant accounts. And if thats still not enough, the QuickBooks Solutions Marketplace connects you with roughly 300 related programs that integrate with QuickBooks proper. This broad base of third-party developer support is perhaps QuickBooks greatest asset.
The strength of QuickBooks Premiere 2004 proper, and the power to customize it to your needs with the range of available add-ons, make the program the place to start if you are looking for a new small-business accounting platform.