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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

I hate QuickBooks

I bought a copy of QuickBooks Regular for doing my accounts. So far I hate it.

With no accountancy background I'm totally confused about what is supposed to be a bill, a cheque, an item, a sales receipt, a deposit etc. The help isn't much use on this.

It just seems ridiculously over-complicated and arcane for my needs. I'm seriously thinikng of using the 30 day money-back guarantee and going back to Excel.

I could probably write something adequate for my needs in a week. But thats a week wasted.

All I want is to keep track of my incomings and outgoings and have something my accountant can easily create my company return from. Can anyone suggest a *really* simple bookkeeping application:
-tracks money in and out of accounts
-simple reports, e.g. monthly profit, amount spent by category
-available for Windows

Supporting VAT calculations and tracking unpaid invoices would be nice.
Andy Brice Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Intuit Quicken and MS Money are much less complicated.
Andy Miller
Thursday, February 23, 2006
I bet people will come up with dozens of apps for your needs, but with such a "overseeable" feature set, I don't know a reason why Excel shouldn't suffice...
Philipp Schumann Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Haha.  Your requirements sound like you need..... quickbooks!

The first time I had to use quickbooks, I didn't get the whole sales recipt vs invoice thing either.  In fact I was sending invoices out to customers who had indeed paid.  Thankfully the owner of the company wasn't too pissed :-)

Here is how it works:

Invoices - You (customer) owe me money.  This invoice is your bill.

Receive Payments - You (customer) just gave me money for an invoice I sent you.  You paid your bill.

Sales Recipts - You (customer) just gave me money for a product you just purchased (like going into a store and buying candy).  This isn't to be confused with receive payments.

You'd do well to learn a bit about double entry bookeeping and cash vs accrual accounting.  None of it really clicked with me until I took an accounting class.  Dont worry though, it's all just (very simple) math.
Cory R. King
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Quicken does exactly what you want.
Phil Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006

I've managed to understand the stuff you mentioned, but :

-what is the correct way to enter an interest payment you received from the bank?
-why can sales receipts only be entered against customer jobs, not just customers?
-why are cheques 'to' an account, but not bills?
-what is the tick box column in an account window for?

Surely its all just money in and money out.

I'd rather spend a week writing my own accounting software than spend a week reading accounting books or going on an accounting course.
Andy Brice Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
There doesn't appear to be a UK version of Quicken.
Andy Brice Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006

It is a learning curve for sure.  Some of what you mention is preferences that can be turned on or off.  The rest is just learning a language you dont yet speak.

Once you get rich and famous (and I think your market will let you grow to several employees) you'll hire a bookeeper.  That bookeeper will only speak quickbooks.  So will your accountant.  So will your investors (from yahoo, who will buy you out).  The world revolves around quickbooks whether we like it or not.

I guess my advice (which I need to follow soon!!) is to go see an accountant to get your system set up initially so you can maintain it yourself.  I've seen the fall out from poorly maintained accounting and belive me it is expensive to fix down the road.
Cory R. King
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Andy, get your money back since you are in the UK.

I originally used Excel and had all the same exact feelings when I switched to QuickBooks several years ago because of my accountant. I actually lost the continuity of a lot of data because of this switch since I was keeping better records before. It is still not set up quite right in terms of things you mentioned and where the heck do you record bank fees etc. my accountant doesn't feel it matters.

Notice Cory didn't even answer your specific questions which is so typical of the type that says "its easy! just go take a course on it." It is just so ridiculous that it has to take such a learning curve even for someone like myself who won math competitions etc. It is not the principles or the math that is difficult, it is this stupid field of accounting where they've managed to make it so arcane and complex for no good reason. I guess you can chalk it up to a weird culture born through centuries of accounting creepiness as baggage.

The value of QuickBooks though is that it is the lingua franca of small business accounting in the US. Quicken is supposedly easier, its the same company, but it is not compatible -- Intuit is the most horrendous of companies with their selling practices, and overly complicated junk junk junk.

Since you are in the UK, get your money back. Try Quicken or another smaller package if you want. See also here on this forum:

QuickBooks - a product hated and loathed by it's users
Anon and anon
Thursday, February 23, 2006
[self promo] My T-Ledger Add-In for Excel might work for you
Noam Almosnino Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
I use MYOB but hate it. It does what I need but looking at it as a software developer makes my skin crawl.

Will someone please blow these programs out of the water with something better! Tough market to crack though :(
Thursday, February 23, 2006

I started with Excel & Graduated to Quickbooks when I started out and I had the same complaint -- which stemmed from my lack of knowledge about Accounting.


I write Accounting/ERP software -- hilarious.  My 1 week endeavor to write a system turned into a pet project and is now an enterprise solution.  When I started out I was using Excel to track my collo customers.  As we grew I need a way to automate the reminders and invoices so I started writing backend databases with Perl queries kicked off by cron jobs.

I honestly give Quickbooks more time!  Once you get it going correctly it really does save time even though it does suck.

Most important thing I can recommend is ask your accountant to set up your "Chart of Accounts."  Then, as I did, I simply used the invoice feature and the check printing feature and never touched the other aspects such as quotes and credit card stuff.
Eric (another ISV guy with his company)
Thursday, February 23, 2006
+1 to Eric. Have an accountant get you *started* on QuickBooks. Better to have someone who makes a living doing this get you on the right foot. Once your chart of accounts is set up and you know how to categorize all of your income and expenses, keeping the books becomes child's play. I mean, it's boring child's play, but child's play nonetheless.
PWills Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Accounting is its own form of math, and it's not in the "science" division of most universities for a reason.  When I went to school, it was a social science course.  Two engineer friends and I (a chemist at the time) took it our senior year for distribution requirements, thinking it would be easy after calculus and P-chem, and we died.

I still hate it.

But allowing myself to know accounting is its own language helps some.  Kinda like reading astrology--lots of words with their own meanings, or finding myself speaking Russian in Mexico because it was the only "other" language I knew.  (Didn't score any points with the taxi driver, though.)

Good luck, Andy.  It doesn't make sense to people to whom it doesn't make sense.  I've heard the explanations again and again and accountants speak slower as if that will help.  If your brain's not wired that way, it's just not.  Some people can match colors flawlessly, and some can do accounting, and maybe some can do both.  Basic wiring. 

Unfortunately for you, they control the field.  If you can't master the program, hire out the work.  Just depends on where your own break points are.
Ideophoric Send private email
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Thursday, February 23, 2006
We've used QB for 10 years not. It's not perfect, but the nice thing is:

We enter everything ONE time and it keeps all the accounts organized and prepares us for taxes, etc.  I'm not sure how well the UK version works.

Unfourtunately accounting just isn't as simple as you'd think it is. Think of it as a financial API that connects to the IRS, your company and your customers and spits out all sorts of reports (comparing various metrics from this year and last, etc.).  There's a lot of different ways to slice and dice the data. Not all of it is really NECESSARY for just doing taxes, etc, but it's nice to be able to visualize the data that way.

There's a reason that accounting systems are expensive and accountants make a lot more than most programmers (that I know).

Oh, and learning the accounting terminology is probably the hardest part of QB and IMHO, you *should* understand that terminology.

If you set up your own spreadsheet you risk reinventing the wheel , and spend lots of time learning to do it your own quirky way.

That's my $.02 worth after 11 years as an ISV in the USA. YMMV in the UK.
Mr. Analogy {uISV} Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Oh, Andy, have you talked to your accountant about what software to use?

A good accountant who works with small companies might have some good insights.
Mr. Analogy {uISV} Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
But I don't want to be an account. I want to be a lion tamer!

Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
As a business owner you need to understand accounting and bookkeeping, you should not outsource it.  Double entry bookeeping is simple once you understand the concept.  QuickBooks makes it even easier in that it hides most of the details.

I ran across a great tutorial a while back when a friend asked me an accounting question:


With that tutorial in 45 minutes you should have a firm grasp of accounting and bookkeeping -- QuickBooks should make sense after that.
Doug Martin Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Add me to the QuickBooks haters who have used it for many years (we actually got into the whole accounting system integration business, which means that we have some understanding of a number of accounting systems).

-what is the correct way to enter an interest payment you received from the bank?

When you get a bank statement, you will want to reconcile the statement against your books and enter the interest payment at the same time.  Go to reconcile under Banking.  Select the bank account.  Interest paid / Service charges / Interest Earned can be put under transactions to be added. 

-why can sales receipts only be entered against customer jobs, not just customers?

You can enter a sales receipt against a customer.  I know that it is labelled "Customer:Job" - but that is bad design and does not means it is not a customer.  If it is just a job, it will show up under the customer, slightly indented and will be labelled "Job".  My version anyway.

-why are cheques 'to' an account, but not bills?
I'm not sure what the question is here and I couldn't figure out what you are trying to do.  If you can be more specific about what you are clicking on, I can help you.

-what is the tick box column in an account window for?

The checkmark tells you whether that entry has been reconciled or not.  If you are not comfortable with accounting though, I'd stay out of that view as much as possible at first.

There are other pretty good help forums for QB - Intuit's forum for instance, unless you find something that is a bug, in which case they will often edit your entry out of existence.  You should also be aware that the moderators edit the text of the entry, so don't say anything negative about the product because you might come back and find that certain words got left out.  This may have improved, I got frustrated (Incidentally, I don't know what version you are using, but the last Canadian version has serious issues with multi-currency)

There is also always Experts-exchange.com who have a pretty good collection of QB experts and a solid knowledge base.
Friday, February 24, 2006
I am just about (1 month or so) to release a Order Processing  / CRM system that should fit the bill.

I have been thinking that because of the help this forum has been for me setting up a Company (well me and two other guys) and the Micro ISV book, We will give anyone that is activly posting to this forum a free copy of the software


Site not finished but it will give you an idea of the product.

Interested mail me cjt120476@gmail.com

We will check you have posted to this forum before sending a free copy.
Chris Thompson Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
I hate Intuit.  I tolerate QuickBooks.

I've used QB Pro since 2000 and Intuit has a way of really doing the least for their customers and the most for Intuit. 


QB 2001 - upgrade allows invoices to be emailed to a client

QB 2002 - upgrade now allows invoices and statements to be emailed to a client

fast forward to 2005 - Message appears that I will no longer be able to email invoices or statements from QB2002 in 30 days (unless I upgrade).  I call Intuit and the girl says no that can't be right, puts me on hold, comes back and says, yes you have to upgrade because in 30 days, QB 2002 is no longer supported (being 3 years old).

I understand that it is no longer supported, but why do they have to turn off functionality that I thought I already paid for?  Perhsps it is because when you "email an invoice" it actually goes to Intuit first and then they email it from their servers - or it so appears.  Why not just make an invoice that you can email from your default email client?

My solution:  Print to a PDF and then email that.  One extra step.  The long and short of it in my eyes is the software is fine when you get used to it, but the company downright sucks.
Mike Stephenson Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Thanks very much for all your input.

I was getting really exasperated. I was even seriously considering writing a book keeping app that I understood.

I have decided to talk to my accountant and persevere a bit longer.
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
OK, a specific question. I bought a laptop on my credit card. How do I record that transaction. Do I 'write a cheque' from my 'credit card' account?

If so, that seems a bit brain damaged. And 'money transfer' and 'pay bill' don't seem any more appropriate.

The example database doesn't include a credit card account.
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
There should be an "enter credit card charges" meni item for that sort of item.

PS - If you hate Quickbooks now, you will loath it more as you go on.  Wait until they start disabling features and forcing you to upgrade.  Intuit is the biggest gouger of customers around.  Makes MS look like a saint.

Friday, February 24, 2006
>There should be an "enter credit card charges" meni item for that sort of item.

I just found that. I had assumed it was for charges the credit card company makes (annual fee, interest etc). <sigh>
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
I don't actually use Quickbooks but we use it at our office and I'm forced to support it and I hate it. These aren't accounting related gripes but techy related gripes.

1.) If you have a bug and you didn't pay for software maintenance you are screwed. You have to buy a new version of Quickbooks. To avoid this you must pay them every year for the latest and greatest version.

2.) Yes we have had some pretty bad bugs, some that have corrupted and or lost data.

3.) The Enterprise edition supports 10 users concurrently! A whole 10 of them. This should give you and idea of the technology that's backing your important financial data.

3.) If the Quickbooks file gets anywhere near 200Mbs everything becomes extremely slow. One of your options are to purge data out of it, forget about storing things for the future. The other way around this is to run it in Single User mode so those other 9 people have to go on break.

4.) Good luck calling their Tech. Support, you are going to get an outsourced script monkey whose primary language is something other than English to walk you through some time consuming and not very helpful things to try on your data.

5.) There are 3-4 sets of names in the system. In older versions these names sets were distinct from each other. Employees, Customers, Other Names, etc. Now if you enter a name that is in one of these lists that matches another it is considered a duplicate. So you can no longer have Employee John Smith and Customer John Smith, you have to distinquish the names in some other way.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head, someone should be able to do this better but they are like the Microsoft of the accounting software area, good luck trying to get anyone to try another product.
Quickbooks Is The Devil! Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
It is obvious I'm not an accountant can't even create a proper numbered list.
Quickbooks Is The Devil! Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
You could have got a job with Enron.
Andy Brice Send private email
Friday, February 24, 2006
Andy --

"-why are cheques 'to' an account, but not bills?"

If I understand correctly what you're asking...

A bill is something that a customer is expected to pay.  They can usually pay thru one of several different means.  To your enterprise, a bill always falls in the category of "accounts receivable"; it's not real money anywhere, but a liability of the customer.

Cheques are 'to' an account because they represent real funds.  Say you have two bank accounts in your home country, one in an US bank, one each in two payment services (such as Kagi and 2checkout).  When a customer pays you, this is either through one of the payment services (a 'check' in that sense), or directly issued to you or to one of your servicing banks.  You typically don't want to know that you have $24000 this month; you want to know there's $9000 in Bank 1, $1000 in Bank 2, $1500 pending in Kagi (that will ultimately come to your bank accounts, but in a couple of weeks), etc.

My suggestion is... If you want to be in business at all - even a uISV business - don't fool around with incoming and outgoing funds; instead, study the basics of Accounting.  The moment you go beyond the extremely simple personal owing / owed money stuff, you'll appreciate why the entire world does double-entry bookkeeping.
Kamen Lilov Send private email
Saturday, February 25, 2006
The short answer is that (in the US anyway) Quicken has a version that includes invoices. That should do what you want. Much simpler than QuickBooks But make sure your accountant is aware of and supports what you're doing. That should give you some sort of real time analysis and keep your accountant's bills to a minimum.

The long answer includes an analogy. Did you ever know a computer user who didn't understand data tables or normalization and was trying to use Excel as a database and was getting all frustrated?

The problem wasn't with the tool, but that they (understandably) didn't want to learn what was required to do what they wanted done, and didn't want to hire programmers to do it.

Likewise - most business owners (myself at the top of the list) don't want to hire an accounting staff NOR do we want to learn accounting. It really does have it's own mindset and rules. Enter QuickBooks - it's an attempt to shield users from learning all the nasty bits while doing all the "right" stuff behind the scenes.

You can see why this would meet with mixed success, and frustration. Add in the fact that Intuit really is as skanky as many here have mentioned and the frustration level increases.

Why does Quickbooks sell so many copies? A lot of people find that as painful as it is, it solves the problem in the least painful way. No wonder most companies I work with don't get nearly the info they should from their books. But that's another story.
John Seiffer Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
As many of you have commented the problem mostly lies in the fact that I don't think like an accountant and the software does. Sort of an impedence mismatch. I'm reluctantly learning some of basics of accounting.

I've learnt loads in the last year on all sorts of topics, including marketing, ecommerce, support etc. I have found it all really interesting. Except accounting. Its both complicated AND dull, an impressive achievement. I now understand why they have to pay accountants do much - no-one would want to do it otherwise.

That said I believe Quickbooks could have done a lot more to make it simpler for non-accountants like myself. I am also unimpressed that the tutorial crashes and the program itself crashes every time I try to delete an account I erroneously added. Surely they tested that?

Intuit don't appear to sell Quicken in the UK any more. A US version isn't much use to me if I want to work out VAT.
Andy Brice Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I use http://www.acclaimsoftware.com

Seriously. I keep meaning to adopt MYOB but never really get around to it.

It does a ton of stuff that I don't really use and it's a piece of cake to understand because its paradigm is basically a cashbook with incomings and outgoings.

It's DEAD simple. It looks to me like an 'old fashioned' vanilla VB (or maybe Access) app on top of an MDB database. It even backs itself up when you want it to.

It prints off UK VAT returns *exactly* like the green VAT form. Brilliant.

You enter credit card purchases as 'Split' entries; i.e. a single entry containing multiple items (each of which can have its own VAT amount etc.)

You can have multiple projects, clients, rates, proposals, estimates, invoices pending/complete/outstanding.

It can reconcile your bank statements. Generate reports. Lots of useful stuff.
MonkeySpank Send private email
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I've only use Quickbooks 2005 but as a person who has used Sage in the past Quickbooks is a breath of fresh air. It's a great little program for a small business, many accountants also prefer it because their customers can use it a lot more easily than they can Sage (which is very popular in the UK)

So I'm going against the grain slightly and giving it a thumbs up for our small business use.

Friday, March 03, 2006

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