Unless someone from Intuit wants to chime in and give us current figures, there are different ways to estimate the number of businesses using QuickBooks:

In mid-2008, Intuit claimed that QuickBooks had 3.7 million users, representing 94.2% of the business accounting market.

A current Intuit webpage asserts that QuickBooks holds 85% retail market share in small business accounting software.

SCORE says there were an estimated 29.6 million small businesses in America in 2009. How many of them license their own accounting software? Who knows? The vast majority of the ones who do their books in-house, however, have got to be using QuickBooks.

It’s a huge market, and there are thousands of software developers in the Intuit Developer Network who want to reach that install base. These developers can try to get their app listed in the Intuit App Center.

Those select apps have a built-in marketing connection to the user base, at least for users of the 2010 and 2011 versions of QuickBooks. The App Center — located as a button on the QuickBooks icon bar — makes those apps just one click away from the user. Selected add-on developers can also advertise on QuickbooksUsers.com.

How about users in the cloud?  Intuit now claims 215,000 users of its QuickBooks Online Edition, with growth last year of 44%.

Any way you look at it, QuickBooks dominates the SMB accounting software market.

What if your computer crashes, and you can’t find your QuickBooks install CD to install it on your new computer?

No worries. Just download QuickBooks from Intuit’s site. That page is here. As of today, you can download QuickBooks versions from 2004 to current.

Note: You’ll need to have your original install codes to be able to install QuickBooks after you download it.

I blogged before about the hassles many people had in registering a valid installation of QuickBooks 2010, and several people recounted their experiences.

My friend Scott Gregory, CPA, blogged this fall about possible upcoming improvements in the process.

Well, my registration of QuickBooks 2011 went without a hitch. As opposed to being forced to register by phone (and enduring the sales pitches therein), the process was straightforward and quick.

I chose to register online — not by phone. I filled out a webform, and that was it.

Does anyone else have an opinion or story about how the QuickBooks registration process has worked for them recently?

What version of QuickBooks am I using?

What edition of QuickBooks am I using?

What update patch do I have installed?

How big is my data file?

How fragmented is it? (And thus, how potentially unstable is it?)

Where is my data file located?

Where is my license number information?

All these questions and more are easily found simply by pressing the F2 key when you are in QuickBooks with your company opened.

If you find yourself needing support, through QuickbooksUsers.com or otherwise, this will probably be information you are going to need.

The update patch is shown right after your version. In this screen shot, it shows R5P.

If your file size is large (250MB or more for Pro or Premier versions, 750MB or more for Enterprise) and your DB file fragments are high (20 or more), then your file is potentially more likely to get corrupted. You can get those numbers down with supercondensing or a company recreate.

One other nice number from the F2 screen: free memory. QuickBooks likes to have lots of elbow room.

I’ve read a lot in the last few months about people having difficulties registering their install of QuickBooks. I’ve heard Intuit employees respond that improvements have been made.

So with some degree of optimism, I installed and registered a new license of QB Pro 2010 on a computer running Windows Vista.

Overall, I found that the process seems somewhat better than a lot of what I’ve read. But there is room for improvement. See my four suggestions at the bottom of this article.

I insert the QuickBooks install CD and it fires up. I put in my license code. I accept the default options for an express install. About 15 minutes later, it’s done! No problems so far. Do I want to run QuickBooks now? Sure! I’ve got a good working  QBW file. Let’s open it up.

Error -6000,-77. What!? I don’t recognize the -77 part right off, but 6000 errors often mean data damage. Sometimes they mean environmental issues. I know this data is clean. (I look it up, and a -6000 -77 error means there is a folder permissions problem where the data is. Not sure why that would apply here though.)

I close out QB and it closes cleanly now. I find my QBW file through Windows on My Computer and double-click it. Voila! It opens up just fine now. Now it wants me to register.

OK. I’ll be curious about this. There has been a kind of conspiracy theory on Twitter about the registration process. Some say that Intuit wants to upsell their users hard, so the online registration never works – it  always makes you register over the phone. Why? So you have to hear the sales spiels, you see. That’s what suspicious minds think, anyway.

I start the process of registering online. I already have an Intuit ID, so I log in. It wants more info about me. OK. I have to put in my billing information. Why? I am not going to buy anything. But the asterisks say it’s required info. so I enter it.

I’m in my account overview screen, but, uh, where did QuickBooks go? On my monitor, part of the information is off the screen, below the last field. Is there a submit button down there? This is not a scrolling or resizeable window. I have no idea where the focus of the window is right now. I dare not just press ENTER, fearing that I’ll then be signing up for all manner of optional services.

I monkey around with tabs and clicks, and somehow can now see the “Save” button. I save. Now what? I can’t see a “Return to QuickBooks” button, if there is one. There are no relevant navigation controls at all. The only thing remotely “exit-y” is “Sign Out”. I click that. Uh oh. The registration takes me down a dead-end street and drops me off. I see this screen:

What the heck? No navigation controls except links to Intuit corporate pages. I’m not in a browser window, although it kinda looks like one. Close Window control doesn’t respond. I’m tempted to Task Manager/End Task my way out of this but that definitely wouldn’t be right, and as far as I know, my company data is still open. It would be a sad thing to CTRL-ALT-DEL it into corruption.

I poke around. F2 brings up my QuickBooks Product Information. OK, QuickBooks is still alive in there… It says my product is still UNREGISTERED. Figures. I randomly hit ESC. Voila! Back in QuickBooks again. It says that the online registration failed and I have to register by phone.

Ah, so here we go. I call the 800 number. Please enter my phone number. I do, but it doesn’t like it. “You will now be connected with a registration representative to help you.”

You know those March-of-Dimes coin funnel things they have in grocery stores sometimes? I feel like a penny spiraling down the giant funnel of this registration process – my destination is inevitable. There is no way I’m going to avoid talking to a rep who is going to try to sell me a bunch of stuff.

So in less than a minute, a fellow named Brian comes on the line. He asks me a couple of questions. He gets my license codes. HE DOES NOT OFFER TO SELL ME ANYTHING. He gives me my validation code and has me press F2 again. REGISTERED.

Brian bids me good day. OK! All’s well that ends well.

I suggest that Intuit consider changing the following aspects of their product registration process:

  1. Launch a browser session to capture the information, rather than putting me in an ill-designed pseudo-browser with non-standard flow and controls.
  2. Don’t ask me for billing info. If I want to buy an optional service/app later, there is plenty of time to get my billing details later.
  3. Give me a nice, clear, “Return to QuickBooks” link somewhere, or other appropriate form controls. Don’t dump me in a blind alley. CTRL-ALT-DEL shouldn’t be coming into my head…
  4. If I registered, count it. In spite of the difficulties, I was able to save my information on the form. So why didn’t QuickBooks show that it was registered?

My first tech job long ago was doing software quality assurance, so it was kind of fun analyzing my experience with the QuickBooks registration process.

My final thought: Kudos to Intuit for listening to users’ complaints about over-marketing and toning that down. I am impressed that, though they are large, Intuit seems to respond to its users.

What are your thoughts on the current QuickBooks registration process? Was your experience like mine?