One look at the newly-released QuickBooks Accounting 2009 for Mac, and you can tell this isn't like any recent version of Intuit's accounting program. In fact, this Leopard-compatible version of QuickBooks--the first Mac update to the product in two years--marks the application's most radical redesign since long before the days when Intuit stopped updating its Mac accounting application to focus on monetarily greener pastures. Even when QuickBooks returned to the Mac platform in 2003, it retained the look-and-feel of previous versions; not so the 2009 edition.
And, at first glance, it appears that QuickBooks Accounting 2009's design changes are a useful, time saving departure from earlier versions of the program, giving you better access to and more ways to interact with your accounting data. This is quite possibly the most compelling update to QuickBooks in at least a decade.
We'll have a full review of the US$200 QuickBooks Accounting 2009 at Macworld.com soon. But given the substantial changes to the application, I'd like to take you on a tour of QuickBooks' new look and features now that the update is shipping.
There's no place like home
You'll notice one of the major changes to QuickBooks as soon as you open the program. A new, five-panel Home Page acts as a single point of reference for almost all of QuickBooks' features and becomes a "heads-up" display for your business that gives you at-a-glance insight into how your business is doing. Each panel is devoted to a specific area of your business--vendors, customers, employees, company, and banking--and puts almost 30 of QuickBooks' features a click away.
Many of the buttons on the home page feature badges similar to the numbered badge you find in programs like OS X's built-in Mail client that show when new mail arrives. In the case of QuickBooks, these badges provide you with quick visual cues about the number of outstanding items you may need to address in specific areas of your business. Unpaid bills, outstanding customer invoices, receipts that have yet to be deposited--each has a numbered badge that appears when something needs your attention.
Hovering your mouse over any of these buttons opens a small window displaying the outstanding dollar amount associated with the item you've hovered over. Clicking a button in this small window opens another window from which you can attend to the outstanding items.
The center of your universe
Centers are another prominent addition to QuickBooks. From within these new centers, you view, add, and edit customer, vendor, and company information. Intuit has designed each center so that the most important information for your business is just a glance away.
The customer and vendor centers allow you to "live-search" your vendors and clients by name. Selecting an individual item in your list brings up detailed customer information that includes open invoice and payment information, editable customer notes, and the option to get directions from your place of business to your customer's business location. These centers work in essentially the same way for both vendors and customers.
The Business Center displays a graph of your current income and expense trends, reminders for to-dos, such as deposits you need to make, or purchase orders you need to print, lists of account balances, outstanding customer invoices, and vendor bills. Double-clicking any item in the Business Center lets you to drill down into the details of specific transactions so you can gain better insight into your business.
QuickBooks' Report Center mimics OS X 10.5's Cover Flow view to give you a quick idea of what your reports will look like before you print them. This is a major improvement over earlier versions of QuickBooks--and quite possibly over any other business-class accounting application.
For the first time in years, it appears that Intuit is taking the Mac business community and its Mac business accounting application seriously. I can't wait to dig in as part of testing for our final review and find out what else QuickBooks Accounting 2009 has to offer.
[Jeffery Battersby is a regular contributor to Macworld.]