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For years now, autumn brings more than the new school year and Halloween. It also signals Intuit’s annual update of its QuickBooks for Mac bookkeeping software. This year’s version sports a few new features and—for the first time—upgrade pricing, but the stand-out addition is multiple-user support. Windows users have long collaborated on a single company file with up to five simultaneous users, and Mac owners are finally able to do the same. But we’re not all invited to the same party. Your QuickBooks sharing can be all-Mac or all-PC (using the PC version), but never the twain shall meet. Sigh.
For customer support, Intuit takes a page from Microsoft’s old Mactopia site with Little Square— a magazine-style site conceived and curated by Intuit’s Mac team. We were initially put off by the name, which sounds like an epithet toward diminutive nerds, but it actually refers to a town square–style gathering place. The included articles and videos cover a nice mix of nuts-and-bolts usage instructions, fundamental bookkeeping principles, and small business advice. Psychologically, it’s more gratifying to use a platform-specific site, instead of trolling the general discussion board’s Mac topics. The young site’s offerings don’t run deep, but if Intuit stays with it, Little Square has the potential to be a destination site for more than just QuickBooks for Mac users.
The much-improved custom report settings employs palettes with real-time updating on the report.
As for software itself, QuickBooks’ reporting tools got a major facelift for 2011. The old report-filter interface was probably designed when neon sweatshirts and acid-wash jeans were still fashionable. Filter options now appear as a list: check off the ones you want to use, and they float to the top of the list while unused options remain dimmed below. Report formatting is now handled primarily with floating palettes that change the report in real time. The whole experience is a significant improvement over previous versions.
Intuit also added a module for tracking vehicles and mileage this time around. After entering vehicle information, a quick trip to the mileage-entry window keeps track of your business trips. Users can tag entries with specific customers and designate them as billable, if necessary. We were a trifle disappointed to see that the starting odometer reading for a given trip doesn’t automatically load the ending odometer value from the last trip. And while QuickBooks calculates total miles based on the odometer entries, manually changing the total miles doesn’t change the odometer to match—you must manually correct them before saving trip information.
Creating business forms and invoices is much easier with QuickBooks 2011’s substantially improved layout designer. Stability issues in prior versions are under control, and some fundamental layout tools have been added or enhanced. Grid units are now customizable, and objects can be snapped to that grid for quick, clean designs. Dynamic guides appear as you drag an object, making it simple to align the components of your form.
But our enthusiasm upon learning that upgrade pricing has finally been introduced wilted upon closer examination. Intuit simply raised the price 15 percent for 2011 and offers upgrades for—you guessed it—15 percent off. Another thing that hasn’t changed is the feature gap between the Mac and Windows versions of the product. For the same $230, Windows users get more sharing options, more reports, access to a whole range of third-party software integration tools, and at least eight other features absent from the Mac version of QuickBooks.
The bottom line. QuickBooks for Mac 2011 is the first compelling update to the product in several years. Still, we’re disappointed by the continued lack of true cross-platform integration, the Windows feature gap, and the upgrade pricing shell game.
QUICKBOOKS FOR MAC 2011
Mac OS 10.6 or later
Multiuser capable. Mac-specific support site. Better report interface.
Major feature gap with Windows version. Not cross-platform. Terrible upgrade pricing.