Intuit has released the latest version of their QuickBooks business financial software. They describe the new 2003 version as follows: "QuickBooks 2003 gives small business owners the power to run their business more effectively. Built upon Intuits philosophy of customer driven innovation, QuickBooks 2003 retains the QuickBooks ease-of-use and simplified business processes that small businesses rely on and trust. The product offers new features that allow small businesses to run the essentials of the business all in one place and to look more professional, as well as planning and analysis tools that allow them to take their business to the next level." For the most part, this is true, but Iím sure youíll need some more specifics in order to decide if the new QuickBooks is right for you.
The first thing you should know is that you have a choice of three different editions: Basic ($199.95 new or $99.95 upgrade), Pro ($299.95 new or $179.95 upgrade), and Premier ($499.95 new or $379.95 upgrade). As you can see, thereís quite a difference in price here. So which one should you choose? Well, it really depends on your needs. If youíre running a very small home-based business, then the Basic edition may be all you need. But if youíre upgrading from a previous version, the Basic edition doesnít provide much in the form of new features other than more printing options for forms and more backup options for your QuickBooks data file. So upgraders should probably go with the Pro edition because you get a lot more for your money. And new medium-sized small business users will probably want to go with the Pro edition as well.
The Pro edition gives you a number of features beyond the Basic edition including: time tracking; integration with Word, Excel, Outlook, and ACT; job costing and multiple estimates per job; and customized price levels. There are also some new features in Pro: 100+ professional form templates for invoices and estimates, etc; automatic budget creation; more customization options for forms; and the QuickBooks Shipping Manager. The Shipping Manager provides integrated shipping tools that eliminate the need to maintain a separate address book. They also allow you to create and print FedEx shipping labels, receive information about the nearest drop-off location, schedule a pickup, as well as track and cancel packages to customers.
The Premier edition is for those small businesses with more complex needs. This edition provides more flexibility and advanced accounting functionality. The features it provides above and beyond the Pro edition include: forecast creation; business plan creation; sales orders tracking; inventory assemblies tracking; expert analysis and business optimization tools; and enhanced journal entry options and closing procedures. You even get a copy of ĎThe Official Guide to QuickBooksí in e-book format on the CD. Of course, your purchase of this edition may also depend on whether or not you want to spend the extra $200, but some of these extra features may be worth it to you. With the Forecasting feature, you can create an annual forecast of expected income and expenses based on actual QuickBooks data. You can adjust forecast numbers by applying a percentage increase or decrease to a line item and later compare the forecast to the actual results for better future planning. With the Business Plan feature, you are allowed to create a written plan with full color charts from automatically generated three-year pro forma financials in a format recommended by the U.S. Small Business Administration for loan applications or a bank line of credit. These features alone may be worth the extra cost for you.
All three editions of QuickBooks come with excellent documentation and help. In the box, you are provided with a very informative, 367-page userís guide that covers the software features in 24 chapters including business basics, organizing data, creating a professional image, tracking income, working with vendors, inventory, expenses, sales tax, time tracking, payroll and employees, tracking your progress with reports, and more. The help system is very well-integrated with the software providing context-sensitive help for the features you are currently using. Itís a good thing that QuickBooks provides plenty of helpful guidance because most users arenít going to want to call Intuit tech support. Not at these prices: Select Support Plan ($299), Ultimate Support Plan ($349), or if want to pay per call ($75 for the first 20 minutes, $25 for each five minutes after that with a $150 maximum charge). I should also mention though that you get free support for installation and upgrade problems.
Whatever you decide is the best edition for your needs, you really canít go wrong with QuickBooks 2003. Itís an excellent piece of software. I dare to say itís the best on the market these days. If you want my personal opinion, I would have to say that the Pro version provides the most bang for your buck. Many small business users may not need the extra features in Premier, but it really comes down to the size of your operation and how much you expect to grow over the coming years. The extra $200 may be worth it for you.