The latest offering from Intuit contains few new features. Instead, Intuit has focused on some structural and interface changes, with improved usability, particularly for a new user. Whether users of a previous version will find it worthwhile to upgrade to 2006 is really a personal choice: Aside from navigation and underlying file structure, there aren't a lot of improvements in terms of new abilities or options. But consider these factors:
- When users upgrade from an earlier version to the 2006 version, file sizes will be enlarged: the bigger file size is about 6MB + 1.25 x the size of a file running in the 2005 version. (So a 100MB file in the 2005 version will be 131MB in 2006.)
- There's a new “portable file” function that crunches the file size down to 15% of the original, according to Intuit (even smaller when I tested it).
- The new version includes a database manager, responsible for managing multiple users accessing a single company file. Hence, companies storing their company file on a data server must install QuickBooks on the data server, even though nobody will actually be running QuickBooks on the data server machine.
- Another new feature is heightened security associated with multi-user access to the company file: Users must enable the Multi-User hosting function on the copy of QuickBooks running on the data server.
- Optional navigators have been replaced with a single navigator called “Home,” located on the icon bar along with buttons for the four new “centers.” If you've filled up your icon bar with custom icons in a pre-2006 version, it may be frustrating to see your icons shoved off the bar, although the “missing” icons are available through a drop-down menu.
The screen, which may appear cluttered, does present a good visual of the order in which things should happen and could help keep users from making common mistakes (such as creating a bill but using “write checks” instead of “pay bills” when they make a payment).
New customer, vendor, employee, and report centers are visually different from past versions: The Customer Center combines the old “customer:job list” with a more convenient way to view both contact information and transaction history. Like the customer center, the Vendor Center has a vendor tab with quick access to vendor-specific transactions and a transaction tab that brings up lists of designated vendor-related transactions (purchase orders, bills, credit card activities). The Employee Center allows users to process payroll, pay related payroll taxes, and prepare payroll reports. A potentially useful feature allows users to set up deposit frequencies as a reminder system for when certain payroll taxes are due. The Report Center is useful for describing the purpose of each report, and reports are logically clustered.
One big plus is that Intuit offers 30 days of free support when you purchase 2006. — Melanie Hodgdon, based in Bristol, Maine, is a certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and business consultant for the construction industry. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.