Wednesday, 04 June 2008 08:16

New look QuickBooks goes Web Services

Integration of Web services and a new SQL database engine has made Quickbooks 2008/09 the most significant upgrade to the small business accounting package this century. Will Reckon start selling its popular system as a service?

"Anything you can do in QuickBooks" is accessible via Web Services, explains Gavin Dixon, CEO of Reckon's business division. (Reckon customises and distributes Intuit's Quicken and QuickBooks software in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.)

For example, this could be used to integrate an e-commerce web site with QuickBooks so that orders are entered into the accounting software without human intervention, or the web site can display up-to-the-minute inventory figures.

This capability is available in all versions including the entry level package.

Another major change is the adoption of Sybase's SQL database as the back end for improved performance, reliability and scalability.

The improved performance has allowed the maximum number of users of the Enterprise edition to be increased from 10 to 30, though Dixon explains there is "technically no limit" other than the performance of the hardware used for the server.

All editions of QuickBooks 2008/09 have a common code base (various features are enabled as you move up the range) and a common database.

With all that data, there's also improved searching.


To make it easier to locate information in what may be a hugely expended database, a special version of Google Desktop Search is incorporated. This familiar search interface can return a list of bills, cheques and other items matching the criteria, and can be restricted to QuickBooks or extended to all files on the computer.

Also new is the adoption of a "two click principle" in the user interface. The idea is that no more than two mouse clicks are needed to get from any main screen to any function provided by the software.

"We've made the product's functionality more accessible," says Dixon, but familiar layouts for specific tasks such as creating invoices mean users quickly feel comfortable with the new version.

Other changes include greater customisability of reports on a per-user basis, Word and Excel integration allowing the easy incorporation of QUickBooks fields in Office documents, and additional functions to make it easier for an external accountant to work on the business's books.

The new version has been well received so far. "We are attracting a higher volume of new business than we have in the past," says Dixon. "It's pretty exciting."

Macintosh users may be disappointed to hear there's still no short to medium term prospect of the return of QuickBooks to their favoured platform. While Dixon would like to see that happen, even though Sybase SQL Anywhere is available for Mac OS X, QuickBooks makes extensive use of Windows technologies such as MFC and .Net. Reckon spent $A5.5 million bringing QuickBooks 2008/09 to market. and it "would take us probably 50 years to get that back" on a Mac version, he explains.

As usual, there is a way round the omission - plus a special deal for students.


Some customers are using Parallels to run QuickBooks in a virtualised Windows environment under Mac OS X, he adds.

But despite growing interest in SaaS accounting systems such as NetSuite and (formerly NetAccounts), there's still no indication from Reckon that QuickBooks will be available in the cloud.

In related news, Reckon today released the $A19.95 QuickBooks 2008/09 Student Edition. Aimed at secondary, TAFE and tertiary students, it combines most of the features of the Accountant Edition. Exceptions include BAS lodgement, multi-currency accounting, multi-user capability, and some services such as credit card processing and electronic bill payments. It also has a limit of 650 transactions.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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