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Zoho adds strong Invoice app to growing business suite

Zoho just released a new, and very good, Web service for creating and tracking invoices.

Zoho is preparing to announce the public release of Zoho Invoice, yet another Web-based app in the company's growing suite of paid business-focused services. Lately we covered Zoho People, a robust app for managing HR tasks.

Zoho Invoice is a clean, straightforward, and flexible invoicing service. I gave it a quick spin and was creating estimates and invoices within minutes after entering in customer data and product lines (which also took only minutes). There is a good collection of attractive invoice templates for goods and services, or you can create your own.

It was easy to take an estimate and convert it into an invoice, and the app has a solid template system that sends form e-mail cover letters with an invoice or estimate attached as a PDF file. The system tracks payments and has aging reports; it will send dunning letters and apply flat or percentage-rate fees for late transactions.

Zoho Invoice makes and sends PDF invoices.

The app lets customers pay via PayPal, but it does not process credit cards as far as I could tell. It supports multiple currencies and tax rates, however, this early version does not come with auto-populated tax rates for different states or regions.

Rather than offer its own full business accounting app to go with the invoicing service, Zoho will "probably" at some point integrate with Intuit Quickbooks, Zoho's Raju Vegensa told me. Intuit, of course, also sells an invoicing add-on for Quickbooks, and offers Invoicing in its Web-based QuickBooks Online Edition. But Zoho's full suite of business apps may help to push it into the primary app role in a business, while Quickbooks gets relegated to the supporting, accounting-only function. It's a bit early to see how this will shake out, and if Zoho will be able to win the trust of customers in small businesses, where Intuit currently has a dominant market position.

There are dozens of Web-based invoicing services, some of which we've reviewed on Webware (Blinksale, Simplybill, Freshbooks; also the full small business suite Netbooks). Most are easy to recommend: They're simple to use and reasonably priced. So is Zoho's. But Zoho has more than just another invoice app. The company is building a full suite of business apps, which at some point will connect together at the logical places: CRM to invoicing to project management to HR, for example.

Zoho Invoice is simple, but not too simple.

We still believe that Zoho's 200-programmer-strong developer team is releasing apps a bit too fast, and we have noticed some with light feature sets, inconsistent interfaces, or missing integration points. However, it appears that Zoho is improving with each new app. Invoices is an attractive online product, well worth trying out if you've got the problem it's designed to solve.

Zoho Invoice is open at the moment and will remain free if you run five or fewer invoices a month. When the company turns on the subscription service it will promise 99.9 percent uptime to paying users. There will be four service levels, but they're ridiculously tightly-grouped. The most expensive will cost only $35 a month and will allow up to 1,500 invoices per period.

See also: Working Webware: Can Zoho steal Microsoft's customers?