Intuit QuickBooks Pro 2006 review

Price when reviewed

UPDATE This review has been updated as the cost of the BACS subscription has risen to £45 per month.

Intuit QuickBooks Pro 2006 review

QuickBooks Pro 2006 is part of Intuit’s venerable suite of business accounting applications. This ranges from the basic invoicing and VAT-tracking features of SimpleStart, through to QuickBooks Accountant, which offers specialist features for accountants and business advisers. The target market for the other two programs in the series, QuickBooks Regular and QuickBooks Pro, lies somewhere between the two.

Thanks to additional budgeting, cashflow, time-tracking and multicurrency features, QuickBooks Pro is more suited to medium-sized, expanding businesses. It’s easily extensible – up to five people can use the same QuickBooks Pro file simultaneously over a network, simply by being granted privileges by an administrator.

Intuit says that the main drive for this year’s update was for simplicity, rather than for a more comprehensive bookkeeping application. That’s understandable considering the program’s user base will include those who migrated after Intuit stopped UK development of Quicken, its flagship home-finance application, last year. The result is that almost every improvement made to QuickBooks Pro 2006 is aimed at ease of use, rather than feature count.

It’s an approach that may dismay the program’s more experienced users, who have witnessed countless tinkerings with its interface in the past. These users will probably have been looking for more fundamental changes, particularly after the recent dramatic overhaul of its sibling US version, which replaced QuickBooks’ bespoke and often clunky underlying database with a more robust SQL version.

This is related to another change that’s taken place behind the scenes: Intuit has made available the program’s UK application programming interface (API), which allows third-party developers to write applications that integrate with it. A similar approach, again in the US version, has already met with impressive results: extensions available include tools to integrate eBay and PayPal revenue into QuickBooks automatically. But there’s no cause for celebration just yet: the UK API differs slightly from its US equivalent, so similar tools will have to be built from scratch.

For now, those on this side of the pond will have to satisfy themselves with more prosaic additions, such as a new browser-based resource area that provides guided links to help files, updates, support options and advice on developing your business.

The resource area, which appears every time you open QuickBooks or access its Help menu, is a great idea in principle, but often comes across as a marketing opportunity. For example, the ‘Grow Your Business’ section merely offers a paragraph of superficial business advice followed by links to other Intuit products. Given the quality of QuickBooks Pro’s existing help options – the excellent contextual help function has added well-written explanations of accounts and inventories in this version – we can’t see the need for another layer of assistance.

Its EasyStep Setup wizard, which guides you through the creation of a basic accounts framework, is almost faultlessly simple, and the program’s interface is logical, albeit still rather cluttered. A navigator list on the left divides the accounting process into half-a-dozen areas, which each expand into icon-based diagrams illustrating business cashflow, and make it easy to find the relevant transaction list. And with features such as a customisable icon bar and the ability to track open windows through a navigable Open Window list, the interface is much more flexible than others we’ve seen.

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