software life cycleEvery QuickBooks version has a life cycle. Understanding that life cycle might save you some grief.

When a new version is released to the public, that version has already been tested thoroughly by Intuit’s development team. It has also been tested by a group of non-Intuit users — the beta testers. These testers put the new version through its paces with unplanned, real-life tests.

Still, relatively few people have used the new version prior to its official public release. And as you know, QuickBooks is quite complex in its feature sets and functionality.

Therefore, every new release will have bugs. This is true not only of QuickBooks, but of any complex software or app. There are simply too many lines of code being written and changed for it to be otherwise.

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My first job out of college was as an accounting software tester. The company I was working for was developing general accounting software to be co-branded with IBM on the original PC (yes, this was back in the 80s). IBM already knew a thing or two about software testing protocols, and our company had already published industry-leading accounting software for the Apple computer market (pre-Mac!). So I had a well-planned script to follow when testing pre-released software.

I’m sure Intuit does too. In fact, Intuit’s test process is bound to be better than the test process we used way back when.

Even so, software testing processes are inherently imperfect and incomplete. Coding accounting software is hard. Programmers and testers are human and make mistakes. Real users in the real world will do things with the software that were not anticipated. (Just ask your QuickBooks consultant or accountant about some of the crazy things they’ve seen people do in QuickBooks.)

So, every new version of QuickBooks comes out of the gate with some problems. This is “normal”.

Problems are reported by users to Intuit. And I’m sure that Intuit prioritizes the problems and assigns their programming team to fix them.

Intuit then releases an update to QuickBooks. You download the update and install it, and it fixes problems.

There’s a good chance that there will some new problems in the update that are unique to that update — problems that weren’t there before. Hopefully the update fixes 10 or 20 or 100 problems for every new problem that it creates. Hopefully the new problems aren’t as serious as the ones that were fixed.

But an update isn’t a miracle worker — it probably doesn’t fix all the problems in the previous version. More problems will be reported, and after another month or two or three, another update will be made available to the user base.

After a few go-rounds of this, you usually have an updated version that works pretty darn well.

OK, so what? Well, if you understand that brand new versions are likely to have more bugs in it than older, updated versions, it might make you decide to wait a little bit before jumping on the upgrade bandwagon when a new version comes out.

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You may decide to read some reviews and blogs and forums and see what kind of experience users are having with the new version. If you decide to wait until the new version is updated, you can check these same sources and see what folks are saying about the update.

If the word in the street is favorable, then you’ll feel more comfortable about committing to the new version or update. But if a lot of people are having problems with it, then maybe you’d want to think about waiting until another update comes out and gets good user reviews.

That’s one approach to take, anyway. What’s your policy on installing QuickBooks updates?

my quickbooks wishlistQuickBooks 2013 hasn’t been released yet, but it probably will be pretty soon (new versions usually come out in the early fall). Here’s my wishlist for the new version:

  • Faster, using more processing power and memory for intensive tasks. I’ve watched my Windows systems resources performance monitor while running 2012 Enterprise and Premier. It seems that QuickBooks sometimes leaves a lot of computing resources on the table during intensive processes. Better resource use = faster processes, usually. Seeing less of the “(Not Responding)” message would be nice too.
  • Better performing Condense command. This command crashes a lot of the time. (We are happy, though, to provide our supercondensing alternative which shrinks the file down more than the built-in condense does anyway.)
  • Allow more networked users to be licensed under the Pro and Premier editions. These editions currently max out at three and five users respectively. I think it would be a good thing if Premier users didn’t have to upgrade to Enterprise when they want to add a sixth QuickBooks user on a network, unless they want to.
  • Enhanced dashboard/snapshot. Add trending gross profit or net profit, and multi-year date comparatives
  • Enhanced user permissions control. In particular, an “enter-only” permission where you can set up a user to be able to enter original transactions but not revise them later. And more total lockout of users who don’t have module permission. Three cheers for accounting control! By the way, I got both of these ideas about permissions from some comments by my wonderful readers — thanks!

Maybe some of my wishes will come true in the 2013 version, or if not, the 2014 version. What’s on your list?

We were curious. So we evaluated all of the new members of the QuickBooks Forums so far this year, and tabulated the results by version.

chart of most popular versions of quickbooks
As tabulated by new member data in the QuickBooks Forums

What about editions of QuickBooks? We tabulated the editions that new forum members this year reported using. We limited that to users of 2012, 2011, and 2010 versions. Here’s the breakout:

graph of editions used by quickbooks users
Breakout by edition for users of 2012, 2011, and 2010 versions

“Other” includes Mac, EasyStart, and Plus versions.

Interestingly (to us, anyway), the proportion of Enterprise users to the overall share was much higher for 2012 version users than 2011 or 2010 users. Does that mean that companies that can afford the software and support costs associated with Enterprise can also afford to upgrade to the latest version every year? Perhaps.

Along that same line, the proportion of users using the Pro edition, 2010 version, is much higher than the comparable proportion using the 2011 or 2012 versions. Perhaps there is a greater cost sensitivity, and therefore a lower tendency to upgrade every year, with small business users of the Pro version.

What do you think? Would most Enterprise users upgrade every year as a general practice?

Upgrading your version of QuickBooks is supposed to be easy: You install the new software, open your QuickBooks company file, and voila! Your data converts to the the new version, and you carry on.

But sometimes you hit a bump. You open your data file with the new version and you get an error. Sometimes it says you have to rebuild your file first — but it fails the rebuild. Or sometimes it just freezes up and never completes the upgrade process.

That’s a tough place to be. Sometimes your QuickBooks data file appears to be healthy in your day-to-day use of it, but there is a data integrity issue under the surface that isn’t revealed until you try to upgrade it.

If you find yourself in that spot, you have a couple of options.

1. You can just keep using the version of QuickBooks you were using before. This is obviously not a great option, because there was a reason that you are trying to upgrade — you want some of the new version’s features, or you’re trying to maintain payroll support, etc. So not upgrading has some disadvantage for you. But this is the cheapest alternative. If you were not having problems in the previous version, you can probably keep using that version for awhile (or maybe even indefinitely) without encountering data errors. You’ll have to restore a backup of your company to use under your prior version; the semi-converted copy of your file won’t be usable by either version.

2. You can get your data repaired and converted. This can be done overnight or over a weekend, so there shouldn’t be too much downtime for you. There have only been a couple of instances over the years where we couldn’t correct the data problem and convert the file.

Most upgrades have tweaks to the underlying database structure, which is why the file has to be upgraded in the first place. Does the new version have new features in it? Then there are new places for data in the file to support those features. The underlying structure has to be modified to account for the changes. Sometimes the version of Sybase (the underlying database QuickBooks uses) changes, and so the database has to be updated.

Hopefully, in your case, everything will update just fine. But if you are reading this blog post to its end, there’s a pretty good chance everything is not fine in your situation. Give us a call for options.