rock climberWhen we repair QuickBooks damaged files, or supercondense them, we usually ask that people transmit them to us in the form of a portable copy.

Why? Because it’s by far the smallest kind of backup of your data that you can make. QuickBooks might take a 1GB Enterprise QBW file (native format company data file) and create a portable copy that is perhaps 150MB. Much faster to send electronically!

Some people worry about that, though. More than one person has asked me “Are you getting all our information if we send that kind of file?”

The answer is yes. The portable copy contains all your raw accounting information.

How can it be so small, then? It’s because the portable copy doesn’t have any internal indexing in it. The indexes are recreated when you restore a portable copy, and the file size of the QBW returns to ‘normal’. That is why restoring a portable copy takes a long time relative to a regular QBB backup; QuickBooks has to reindex the file.

Portable copies are a great format to send files electronically, or to back up to a USB drive or online drive that has limited space.

Sometimes QuickBooks files will get corrupted in such a way that a portable copy cannot be created — you’ll get an error when trying to create one. Otherwise, it’s a reliable method of backing up your QuickBooks file.

In traditional accounting (and traditional accounting software) you ‘close the books’ at the end of a year. How do you do that in QuickBooks? Short answer: You don’t.

Right or wrong, QuickBooks keeps your accounting data around more or less permanently. You can run the QuickBooks archive/condense/clean up command (the naming of it differs across versions) but that has limited results. You can have your file supercondensed. But otherwise, your transaction history sticks around pretty much forever.

That’s a good thing for running historical reports whenever you want.

The potential for problems, however, comes through the ability to add, change, or delete entries made in a prior year — after you have already filed your company’s taxes. Definitely a no-no.

So how can you avoid that? It’s easy. Use the Set Closing Date and Password command in QuickBooks. That will more or less lock down your prior years’ information so that it cannot be altered without your controlled permission.

With your company file open in QuickBooks, click Edit / Preferences. Select the Accounting preference in the left pane. Then click the Company Preferences tab. You’ll see this:

QuickBooks company preferences screen

Click the button at the bottom called Set Date/Password. Here’s what you’ll see:

QuickBooks Set Closing Date and Password screen

This screen represents powerful accounting control for you.

At the Closing Date prompt, enter the date at which you want to restrict any changes (e.g. December 31 of the previous year).

Enter a password that is unique for this purpose (don’t recycle a user’s password here). Reason? If anyone tries to make a change to a transaction in a “closed” year, they won’t be able to do so without knowing this special password.

If you don’t create a password here, anyone who tries to enter or change a transaction prior to the closing date will get a warning, but will still be able to make the entry. You are leaving the door open to all kinds of problems if you don’t create a password here.

There is a checkbox to exclude sales orders, estimates, and purchase orders from the closing date limitation. Why? Well, those kinds of entries aren’t actually accounting transactions — they don’t post to your general ledger or subledger account balances, so changing them doesn’t change your financial reports. You may or may not want to check the box, depending on your accounting control policies and how you handle those kinds of pre-transactions in your business.

Close the books in QuickBooks? Not really. But that doesn’t mean you can’t control the the books.

ice cream conesQuickBooks comes in lots of flavors. That’s a good thing.

I remember as a kid growing up in Houston going to the Baskin Robbins store on Memorial Drive. 31 flavors! Mint Chocolate Chip or Rocky Road…hmmmm…

QuickBooks users make choices too.

The hot choice these days, at least from Intuit’s point of view, is QuickBooks Online. I just read an article interview with Intuit’s CFO that said that QuickBooks Online is growing at 30% per year and accounts for two-thirds of sales.

That edition’s advantages? There are several. You never have to worry about updating your software or data. You don’t have to worry about local network IT, as far as QuickBooks is concerned. Your team can access the books from any office, anywhere.

The most popular choice in the desktop editions? QuickBooks Pro. It has all the general accounting functionality that most small businesses need, and has a ton of optional add-in offerings that extend its usefulness even further. It’s affordable. Main drawback? You can only have three licenses on a network. That means only three simultaneous users.

Next flavor? Premier edition. This actually comes in a number of sub-flavors according to the type of business you have: Contractors, NonProfit, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Professional Services, Retail and Accountant versions. The Contractors and Manufacturers versions are especially popular. You can have up to five licenses on a network with the Premier edition, and you can buy 3-bundle licenses.

The heaviest lifting is done by the Enterprise edition. There are subflavors here as well that are industry-specific. Intuit has tuned this edition to perform under heavy user loads. I spoke with a user yesterday who had 25 Enterprise users on their network. (And that sometimes can bog down if the data file is very large. That’s why we supercondense a lot of large files for Enterprise users these days.)

Enterprise also is the only QuickBooks edition that has advanced inventory functions. It is the only edition except for Premier Accountants edition that can have more than one company open at a time. But mostly, it’s about IT performance for businesses with high transaction volume or heavy-duty inventory.

The various editions of QuickBooks mix and mingle within limits. You can upgrade your QuickBooks file to a higher edition whenever you want. That is, a Pro file will convert to Premier no problem. Either of these will convert to Enterprise. Any of those will convert to QuickBooks Online.

There is a 250MB size limit for converting from any of the desktop editions to QuickBooks Online, however. We often see files from people whose file size exceeds that, and we remove old years’ data to get the file small enough to convert to QuickBooks Online. (This is another application of our supercondense service.)

Data can be downgraded from Enterprise to Pro or Premier, but only with special conversion services.

Within the same edition, older version company files will automatically upgrade to newer versions whenever you open the company in the newer version. The opposite is not true, however: Newer version data cannot be converted to older versions (QuickBooks Pro 2013 cannot be converted to QuickBooks Pro 2012, for example).

You’ve also got the Mac version of QuickBooks. It kind of lives alone in the QuickBooks universe.

Anyway, you don’t have 31 flavors to pick from, but you do have several.

What were QuickBooks users reading about in 2011? Here are the articles on our website that had the most reads during the year. Maybe what you learn in one of them will make your New Year just a little better.

1. 13 Steps to Implementing Job Costing in QuickBooks for Contractors

Job costing is an important function for every business that has employees, sells goods, or provides services to customers. Job costing is especially important for contractors, because you need to know if you are making money on the jobs that you have been awarded…

2. How to Open QuickBooks When It Won’t Open

Occasionally, QuickBooks users find themselves in a Catch-22: They need to restore a backup in QuickBooks, but they can’t get QuickBooks itself to open.

This can happen if your company file got damaged during your last session in the program. Perhaps the power went off and your computer turned off without closing out QuickBooks first, or there was a network hiccup, or some other kind of hardware problem…

3. How to Transfer QuickBooks from One Computer to Another

Did you get yourself a shiny new computer on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Or maybe you just need to get some year-end bookkeeping done on your laptop over the holidays?

If you need to get QuickBooks from one computer to another, it’s not a big deal. Here’s what you do…

4. My QuickBooks File Is HUGE! What Can I Do?

I’ve talked to a lot of QuickBooks users who have told me their QuickBooks file is too big.

According to several Pro and Premier end users, Intuit support told them that you should upgrade to QuickBooks Enterprise Edition if your company file size exceeds 100MB.

Whoa, hold on pardner…

5. What to Do When QuickBooks Is (Not Responding)

Has this happened to you? I’m guessing you’ve seen it before: You’re trying to update your company, or make a backup, or verify your company, or run a big report.

QuickBooks gets off to a good start, but then seems to stall. You make a couple of clicks and Windows pipes up: “(Not Responding)”. Oh, great…

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Well, that’s the best from 2011. Here’s hoping that 2012 is a great year for you and that QuickBooks is your stalwart helper in the back office.