Tuesday, November 22, 2011

QuickBooks 2012: Worth it or skip it?

I just installed my review copy of QuickBooks 2012 and wanted to share my immediate impressions.

Install went relatively easily.  I was asked if I wanted to replace my 2011 edition or put 2012 in its own directory.  Since 2011 was in a directory labeled 2011, I opted for a new directory and can uninstall 2011 when I feel ready.

Of course, you have to register by logging into your existing QB account online or by creating one.  I find this pesky, but standard.

QuickBooks 2012 did not automatically update and I can't say I understand why.  There was a prompt about it and I said go ahead, but it did not seem to happen.  So I did it manually.  First attempt failed with an error.  Second attempt worked.

In launching, I noticed that the Sync Manager was closed.  2012 doesn't use it the same way that 2011 did, which I consider an improvement.

Online Banking worked with two credit cards, but failed with my bank until the third attempt.  After the first attempt, I got an error message telling me to call the bank.  Fortunately I ignored it and kept trying.

QuickBooks 2012 includes a calendar on which you can enter To Do items and "Leads."  I can't think of a more useless feature and waste of resources.  Any business user has already got a To List process and probably a Leads process.  Why would QuickBooks want to try and replace such systems, e.g., the Outlook calendar or a lead system like ACT! or Salesforce.com?  There's no chance  it will compete, so why waste the resources?

QuickBooks 2012 now includes a Documents Center, where you can store scanned bills, invoices, etc.  You can then attach them to specific items, such a check.  On the one hand, this makes sense; it allows you to attach everything related to a job to that job.  Presumably you can then drill down and look at each item by opening something related to the job.  My issue with this is stability.  I simply don't imagine that storing a lot of attachments linked to QuickBooks items will increase the stability of the program.  I presume it increases the chances of file corruption and makes the amount of work required to recover from a corrupt file that much greater.  Geometrically greater.  I won't be using it.

QuickBooks 2012 also includes a Leads Center.  This aspect is presumably to compete with ACT! and other lead-tracking and sales-tracking programs and software.  It's exceptionally simple:  just an address book really, plus temperature-based tracking options (warm, hot, etc.), and the ability to "Convert to Customer" in one click.  Again, to me this seems like it will only create a more bloated file and increase the odds of errors and corruption in mission-critical software.

A better use of Intuit's resources would have been to increase integration with Outlook.  Seamless integration with Outlook would help users keep contacts' information in QuickBooks up-to-date.  Or how about simply coming up with a system that let's one contact be both a vendor and a customer, instead of having to have two different lists?  That would be far more useful than either a calendar or a lead-tracking option.  QuickBooks does offer an add-on option involving Outlook but I have not yet tested it.  I will report when I do.

Looking around the menus, I see that there is now a Condense Data function that replaces the Clean Up Company Data utility.  It seems pretty aggressive and should be used with care.  I would check with my accountant to determine the exact date before which I can condense all data.

QuickBooks 2012 works with both Intuit Payment Network and Intuit Payment Solutions and there are options for both within the program.  Confused?  I think Intuit maybe also.  IPN allows you to transfer money from you to vendors or customers to you for only fifty cents per transaction.  The party getting paid is charged the fifty cents.  Intuit Payment Solutions lets you accept credit cards and eChecks and the like.  It is essentially full-on merchant services and it all runs from within QuickBooks.  A lot of what you do with IPN may require you to go to the IPN website.  IPN also lets you accept credit cards and is less costly than IPS, but it's not as streamlined a solution.  My suspicion, though I have no evidence to support this, is that IPS is really a third-party vendor and that Intuit is getting ready to transition that service in-house to IPN.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that IPN is fully integrated by 2013 and that IPS as we know it is gone.  But will this mean lower prices for QuickBooks users who want merchant services?  Only time will tell.

Looking through the rest of the menus, I see the standard and annoying options to order checks and supplies that Intuit still puts in there.  Unfortunately, Intuit is still massively overpriced compared to other check-printing services and I've never had a problem using the checks I've gotten from Costco Check Printing or Checks-in-the-Mail.  If you really want to overpay, you can go through Intuit or Deluxe, but why would you?

Now Intuit has added some new features to QuickBooks over the years, including major improvements in the ability to file tax forms and pay taxes online.  Also Direct Deposit for Vendors (and a menu item to send those Direct Deposits; previously you had to know to use the menu item under the employees menu).  I can't tell if they yet allow Direct Deposit from two different accounts (say you have one for paying vendors and one for payroll), but I hope so.  I still think it's a must.

And I'm looking forward to processing my 1099s electronically this year, rather than using pre-printed forms.  Will it save me money?  I'm not sure, but I'm hopeful.  In playing with the process to see how it might go, I was confused by one Vendor item that did not seem to be showing up.  However, when I went to Preferences and 1099 Payments and opened the mapping window from there, it did show up.  Now, opening up the Print/File 1099 window includes it.

Mapping 1099 fields is entirely different in 2012, so be sure to double-check all of your fields.  Printing also appears to be different and likely going to present a headache for some.  For example, I have clients outside of the US.  I can't issue them a 1099, but I do need that 1099 figure to print out the form they get.  I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get that via QuickBooks now, since it didn't like the foreign address in one field.  Actually, looking at it, it appears QuickBook has a major bug!  It won't accept a non-US address in the 1099 Vendor list!  So even if you have US citizens living abroad, you won't be able to send them a 1099!  As Scooby Do would say, "Ruh roh!"

After going through the 1099 wizard, if you select print, you get back to the interface you'll recognize and you can preview your 1099s.  However, if you select "Go to Intuit E-File Service," it launches Intuit's Sync Manager and opens a screen that tells you you cannot file until January 2012.  You can print your 1099s on plain paper, it says, and you won't need a 1096.  There is no pricing information on the site, though, which is annoying.  If you are like me and trying to figure out which way to go, it would help to know what it would cost you.

Additionally, there's no sample form to show you what it would look like if you printed your own forms.  As I said to the rep when I called, using the pre-printed forms is pretty painless.  But if I have to print my own forms and those forms then have to be folded and put in envelopes that then have to be labeled, that's more of a pain than using the pre-printed forms.
Having now spent more than an hour and having spoken with several departments at QuickBooks, I could not find anyone to help me with this.  Thus, once again, I'm going to have to call the Office of the President at Intuit and see if someone there can actually get me an answer.  I've got Chad on the line now and we'll see what he has to say....

More to come!


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