Tools Of The Trade: Intuit QuickBooks

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The Independent Online

Financial software publisher Intuit argues that its QuickBooks accounting package offers features usually found on software aimed at larger businesses.

It is certainly true that QuickBooks provides plenty of functions, and in the main that these are handled through a clear and pleasing interface.

The software can meet pretty much all the day-to-day accounting needs of a small or medium-sized business, including VAT management, printing cheques directly from the program, managing accounts payable and receivable, and generating invoices. The Pro version of the software adds features such as tracking fixed assets and working in multiple currencies.

QuickBooks also supports a wide range of payroll management functions, including electronic filing of Inland Revenue forms. Companies using the software can add the facility to pay staff through the Bacs automated payment system (at £25 a month for the first 30 transactions) and can also subscribe to a credit- card payment service, from WorldPay, at preferential rates.

The Pro version of the software, in particular, supports some quite sophisticated reporting tools, although the most comprehensive aids for business planning and forecasting are restricted to the accountants' version of the software, aimed at professional practices.

Even so, most directors will find enough detail in the regular and Pro versions of QuickBooks to allow them to monitor the performance of their business. The way the software is designed also makes it easy for staff who have a specific role, such as purchasing or payroll management, to navigate their area of the package without having to learn dozens of extra functions. QuickBooks Pro also comes in a five-user licence version, for running over a network.

Setting up a new company file using QuickBooks is quite straightforward. One option, for smaller companies, is to import data from Quicken, QuickBooks' sister package for small businesses and sole traders. However, QuickBooks also comes with a range of financial templates to suit different industries, such as manufacturing and retailing. Most businesses will still need to customise their settings, but the feature does take a lot of the hard work out of building all the right ledgers and other accounts.

For firms whose accountants also use QuickBooks, the software supports remote access. Accounts can use this either to configure clients' software or to offer training.

This is a useful feature, as one of the main reasons for using QuickBooks, in place of a simpler package such as Quicken, is that it allows for growth. Intuit believes it has enough features to support businesses with more than 10 employees and with relatively sophisticated financial structures, such as cost centres.

A complete newcomer to accounting software is likely to find QuickBooks harder to navigate than a "Soho" (small office/ home office) finance package, but the extra power justifies the steeper learning curve.

From a bookkeeping point of view, the software seems to have most of the features a growing business will need and some, such as its web-based functions, that will be very useful.

THE VERDICT

Pros: comprehensive features, internet services.

Cons: more complex than a dedicated "Soho" package.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Price: from £149.99 (regular) to £899.99 (five-user Pro version), including VAT

Contact: www.intuit.co.uk

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