August 14, 2012, 10:30 AM — QuickBooks maintains its grip on the small-business accounting leadership year after year because it's relentless in its pursuit of small-business owners and managers who need help with the books but aren't versed in accounting. QuickBooks Pro 2012 is built on the same standard accounting structure as its competitors, but it does a pretty good job of minimizing the professional jargon--and adding features that help with chores that all businesses must tackle--from taxes and billing to rudimentary customer relationship management.
Like its higher-end sibling, QuickBooks Premier 2012, QuickBooks Pro 2012 lets you get started within a couple of minutes with an Express Setup routine involving just two screens. You need to provide a business name, basic contact info, a tax ID number, and industry type (from a preset list).
After that, Intuit lets you enter information--say, a customer record or merchandise item--on the fly. You can, however, opt for a more systemic approach if you prefer. For example, you can download a free app that syncs Outlook contacts with customer, vendor, or employee lists, or you can import an inventory list from Excel. Like other accounting software packages, QuickBooks lets you edit the default accounts that it creates based on your industry type.
QuickBooks' home screen shows a flow chart of business processes that the software manages. Clicking one of the chart's component icons takes you to the appropriate ledger or form. On a narrow pane to the right, a small window shows key account balances, a list of to-do reminders, and links to add-on products and services such as payroll and checks. And regardless of what's on the center screen, a row of icons above it and the Windows menu bar offer you quick transportation to other areas both within and outside the software.
For example, an App Center icon summons links to dozens of third-party add-ons, which can greatly enhance QuickBooks' usefulness. Indeed, the breadth of third-party support is one of QuickBooks' geatest strengths.
By the same token, however, the explosion in third-party support suggests that, on its own, QuickBooks has weaknesses. It still lacks the rock-solid inventory management features found in Sage 50 Complete Accounting 2013, and even Acclivity AccountEdge Pro 2012 does a better job.