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REVIEW: Overdue Upgrade - New QuickBooks Interface

Intuit logoIf you've been involved in accounting technology for a couple of decades, you remember what a pleasure QuickBooks was to use at first. That graphical flowchart on the home page. Those pretty icons. That uniform look and simplicity.

But that was hundreds of new features ago. Up until today, QuickBooks had become overcrowded, cramped and generally not very aesthetically pleasing, especially compared to today's state-of-the-art websites

Was this interface impeding workflow? Maybe not so much for long-time users; they got used to it (not that they necessarily liked it). But for the uninitiated and those who'd spent most of their time in the cloud, it looked primitive.

Not anymore. There are a few functional tweaks in QuickBooks 2013, but the big story is the completely redesigned interface as Intuit threw all its upgrade efforts at that dated interface. The  home page now looks like this:

QB 2013 Home Page

Similar Framework
Intuit has retained the basic look of QuickBooks' home page: the interactive flow chart graphic. The menus are still there, but you can now choose from the old horizontal icon toolbar (updated with the new color scheme) and a vertical navigational tool that appears on the left. You can also opt for no toolbar at all.

The new navigational panel contains three elements. My Shortcuts is your icon toolbar, which you can customize to display your choice of icons in the order that best suits you.

The second section of the panel gives you quick access to the following:
• The QuickBooks-integrated apps that you've installed, along with recommendations for more and a link to the App Center (Intuit wanted to make QuickBooks add-ons more accessible by giving them a prominent link on the main screen)
• Your reminders and alerts
• Your current account balances
• A list of open windows
• Your favorite reports, which you can specify.

Reports caption

The navigational panel's third section contains links to additional Intuit services.

Three Objectives
Based on user feedback - some of which involved a positive reaction to QuickBooks 2012's Lead Center - Intuit had three primary goals for this year's upgrade.

First, it wanted to scrap the old patchwork quilt look. The program contained many screens that weren't consistent with the look and navigation of other pages.

Second, recognizing that people have become accustomed to certain interface conventions both on the web and in desktop software, it wanted to present a consistent, familiar look. Third - and this goal was not met as successfully as the first two - Intuit wanted to make the order of steps required in a typical workflow obvious by, for example, using the same colors for the same action icons (Save and Close, among others).

Transaction screens in QuickBooks 2013 are cleaner and more readable, incorporating larger fonts and making better use of screen space. The old jumble of navigational links at the top of each screen is now gone, replaced with a more attractive and uniform - and more useful - Ribbon.

QB Ribbon

More Flexibility, and an Accountants' Version

Little has changed internally in QuickBooks 2013, though there are a few additions, particularly in the Customer Center and Vendor Center. You can now:
• Assign multiple contacts
• Attach to-do's
• Record many more contact options, including Facebook and Twitter.

QB customer page

The 2013 edition of QuickBooks Accountant has also been announced. New features here include the ability to batch-enter transactions, paste more than 1,000 transactions from Excel into QuickBooks and email journal entries directly to clients.

What Do You Recommend?
Should you upgrade? Should you suggest that your clients do so? Based on the chatter in Intuit's online community forums, there are a lot of people running very old copies of QuickBooks. The 2013 edition - combined with all of the features that have been added in recent versions -- gives that group a compelling reason to move up.

Seems like we always trot out the old. If you haven't upgraded in a couple of versions, go ahead line whenever we review QuickBooks these days. This year, it would be a good idea to make sure that all of your clients at least get a good look at the 2013 edition - and consider upgrading. There's something to be said for getting a fresh start, for performing sometimes-unpleasant tasks in a pleasant environment.

Looks and nifty navigational tools aren't everything, but exposure to today's best websites can make your clients impatient and dissatisfied with an obsolete desktop interface. So think about doing a webinar, or send out a special edition of your newsletter. Offer your clients a chance to see their numbers in a more contemporary, appealing light.

Kathy Yakal
Kathy Yakal has been writing about personal and business technology since 1983, as an editor and writer at COMPUTE! Publications. She writes frequently for The Progressive Accountant on technology topics.She began freelancing and specializing in financial applications in 1988. Her columns, features, and reviews have appeared in publications including Barron’s, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, and PC Magazine.
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