QuickBooks Premier: Contractor Edition adds a handful of contractor-specific features to the 2003 Premier Edition. At $499.95 for a single user (or $379.95 for an upgrade), the software costs considerably more than the remodeler-approved QuickBooks Pro ($279.95 new, $179.95 for an upgrade).

Gary Wiessinger, Intuit's Contractor Edition product manager, says Contractor's new features make the application easier to use and broaden its financial management utility.

In addition to a new user-friendly interface, Contractor offers data analysis tools and an expanded Help section featuring accounting advice from consultant Karen Mitchell.

Fourteen new contractor-specific reports include five for job costing. One of these, the "Expenses Not Assigned to Jobs" report, tracks payments and invoices not already attached to a specific job.

Also new is a change order tracking system that alerts users whenever a complete estimate is updated and automatically offers to record the new entry as a change order.

But whether Contractor is worth the steeper price tag depends more on the user than the product itself. Some QuickBooks Pro users who have extensively customized their own forms and reports say Contractor doesn't offer anything for them. Several remodelers we spoke to opted not to switch from Pro to Contractor, and others who bought the software say they're disappointed.

"We aren't as impressed as we thought we would be," says Eleanor Farmer, office manager for Revival Construction, a remodeling company in Atlanta. "Our own reports are so detailed, we don't use [Contractor's] standardized reports."

Wiessinger acknowledges that almost all of Contractor's new reports could have been created in Pro. But he says these reports are not meant to replace time intensive customization efforts.

Contractor, Wiessinger says, offers a turn-key alternative for contractors who are intimidated by the prospect of long hours at the computer and don't want to pay a consultant.

"The great majority of QuickBooks users aren't customizing their reports," Wiessinger says. "We're trying to prepackage that customization for them."