Here's what's new. QuickBooks 2007's forms designer now has a preview window that shows changes as you make them. Let's say you're designing a packing slip to include the new company logo. When you check the Bill To box in the Print column, the Bill To box appears in the preview window to the right. In previous versions, you had to print the form to see if your design changes worked. Helpful? Yes. Earthshaking? No.
You'll find similar touch-ups elsewhere in QuickBooks 2007. For example, the Chart of Accounts--used to track how much money's coming in, how much is going out, and how much you have--has been simplified to reduce common errors that occur when you classify expenses. Specifically, the number of expense options has been sliced to 30, way down from 130, and includes only those mostly commonly used. Fewer choices mean fewer misclassified expenses and fewer headaches for your accountant come tax time. QuickBooks 2007 makes it easier to manage sales taxes. Plus, the program will learn how you describe common business expenses, then automatically categorize them to spare you from manual entry.
We tested QuickBooks Premier 2007, whose flowchart-style interface is pretty much the same as its predecessor's, aside from the home page icon for the Google Marketing Tools. Premier 2007 retails for $400 and is designed for small businesses with up to 20 employees; 5 people can use it simultaneously over a local area network. It also comes in various industry-specific editions for contractors, nonprofits, and other organizations. The $200 QuickBooks Pro can serve shops with 10 or fewer employees, with access for up to 3 people over a local network. It's a powerful package, although it lacks some of Premier's high-end analytical tools. For mom-and-pop businesses, the $100 QuickBooks Simple Start provides basic invoicing, check writing, and other accounting essentials.
The new Google services, which have little to do with accounting, signal Intuit's goal to turn QuickBooks into a comprehensive, small-business management tool. Granted, some of these services, such as the free business listing on Google Maps, are something a small-business owner could sign up for independently anyway. More intriguing, however, is the upcoming QuickBooks Product Listing Service, which remains in beta testing. It will allow QuickBooks users to automatically upload inventory information (such as, Tasmanian baby carriages), complete with photos and descriptions. The QuickBooks Product Listing Service then publishes this information to Google Base, which allows it to be searchable via Google. However, this isn't an e-commerce tool. While potential customers can find out via Google where your products are sold in town, they can't buy them at either the QuickBooks or the Google Web site. Microsoft Office Accounting 2007, by contrast, will allow you to manage eBay auctions within its desktop interface.
QuickBooks 2007 also includes the thorough Google Desktop search for scouring transactions and customer and vendor records. However, you can use Desktop to search QuickBooks data only from within QuickBooks, and the search respects permission levels to keep, say, an employee from inadvertently accessing the business owner's private data. Intuit has kept QuickBooks' own search engine as well.
Intuit's support is good yet pricey. You get 30 days of free support, after which assistance gets costly. For instance, a one-time support call is $49, but annual plans are available, too. Intuit promises to respond to support calls and online queries within an hour.
Should you upgrade to QuickBooks 2007? Yes, if you're a user of QuickBooks 2005 (or earlier) who hasn't already made the jump to QuickBooks 2006. But for those already using QuickBooks 2006, it may make sense to purchase the 2007 version only if you're interested in checking out the Google features.