Intuit seems happy with the basic set of double-entry accounting tools that the QuickBooks family offers. Much more functionality, and Premiere would be bumping up against Enterprise Solutions. So while 2012 represents a more substantial upgrade than 2011 did, it, too, focuses on making the available content accessible in different ways, with one exception: the new Lead Center.
A Massive Report Library
Should your clients upgrade? Besides the standard, Yes, if you haven't upgraded for more than two or three years, there may be some advantage to recommending this latest version to a subset of your clients, those for whom report-generation and modification are almost daily activities. QuickBooks 2012 gives you access to a huge, growing compendium of innovative report templates.
Contributed Reports, available via a tab in the Report Center, consist of familiar report frameworks that have been re-jiggered to stretch QuickBooks' stable of standard offerings. They're designed by Intuit itself as well as members of the QuickBooks user community. Click Run, and the report opens, populated with your clients' own numbers. You can read a brief description and reviews, give a star-rating to each and mark it as a favorite.
Report templates are stored both by type (Customers, Vendors, Inventory, for example) and by industry. There are also a few search filters, like Highly Rated. Intuit claims that the current list of reports numbers about a thousand, and expects it to keep growing. Some are simple (Sales By State), some more complex and clearly industry-related (Hours Spent By Attendant By Service), and some are just, well, different, like Customers Who Have Not Purchased Anything During Last Year.
Your clients - especially those who regularly create reports for external individuals and organizations - are likely to sometimes change the formatting of their exported Excel reports. They probably occasionally add or edit formulas. And if they have to run the report regularly after plugging in a new time period or other data, they waste a lot of time setting up the same format over and over.
Excel Integration Refresh significantly speeds up that time-wasting activity. Once a QuickBooks report is exported, formatted and saved, it becomes a template of sorts. Later, when you access that same type of report with changed content, you can drop it in the previously formatted worksheet (which opens by default; QuickBooks saves the original format as a worksheet in the workbook).
If you're working from Excel, you click the QuickBooks tab, then the Update Report button. The latter operation opens a window where you can enter a new date range. The report will refresh using the new data along with the saved formatting.
You can alter elements like:
• Row and column header font formatting
• New formulas
• Renamed column and row headers, and report titles
• Resized columns
• Inserted columns and rows
• Inserted formula text
Support for additional formatting changes is in the works.
There are, of course, a number of ways to track down past transactions and other important business tasks, along with your to-dos. QuickBooks 2012 adds a new combination activity history/calendar in a new, all-encompassing view that can shave time off of your daily planning and help keep you from missing important tasks.
Can't remember if you invoiced someone yesterday? Pull up the monthly, graphical Calendar view, and you'll see a tally of the actions you took in QuickBooks each prior day, ranging from invoices and bill payments to paychecks and purchase orders to payments received. Click on a date to see a list below of that day's events; links take you to the original screen. Past due activities appear in a pane on the right, and tasks that must be completed the current day also appear.
You can also view this content in daily and weekly list format, and select which transaction types should appear. I like this approach. Surprised Intuit didn't do this sooner.
Not a blockbuster change, but one that can save a lot of clicking around. Item-related descriptions, transactions and other housekeeping tools are now located in the Inventory Center, which works like the Customer, Vendor and Employee Centers, making it easier to tinker with your products.
Also debuting in QuickBooks 2012 is the Lead Center, a bare-bones framework for tracking your interaction with leads. You can paste in a set of potential customers from Excel or enter them manually. It, too, is fashioned like the other Centers. A vertical pane on the left displays a list of your leads, with the status of each (hot, warm or cold). Click on one, and the contact record appears in the upper pane.
A very simple contact management tool lies below; you can track interaction, tasks, and notes, and quickly view them and their progress in a list. Leads can, of course, be easily converted to customers. In the past, your clients may have tracked this information by creating leads as inactive customers, assembling a list by filtering their status in a report and eventually making them active. This is easier.
As always, intuit has included a number of lesser modifications in its upgrade release. QuickBooks 2012, for example, offers a new, faster startup tool - Express Start - for eager beginners. It only requires that you enter company name, industry, company type, tax ID and contact information. No information about fiscal year or Chart of Accounts or other questions that needed answering in previous versions. The final screen includes tools for adding or importing contacts, items and services, and bank accounts, but you can skip this and just dive in.
But with what? This doesn't seem like a good solution for anyone but an absolute from-the-ground startup with a couple of customers. Even then, it's frustrating to have to keep backing up and adding elements on the fly. At some point, decisions have to be made, and users might as well understand upfront that this is real double-entry accounting, not Quicken. This seems a bad idea.
On the other hand, changes to QuickBooks report functions - Contributed Reports and Excel Integration Refresh - are the crown jewels in this upgrade. Are they enough to warrant the extra cash? For very report-centric businesses, yes. Business managers who do a great deal of report modification and those who find themselves wishing for more creative report options may well benefit from these new tools. But at $399.95 for a new single-user version ($229.95 for Pro), I'd have to have a more compelling reason to recommend this expenditure to other clients.