I grew up in Texas, where spring was spring — classic spring: redbud trees and azaleas blooming, daffodils coming up in neighborhood flower beds, patches of bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes along the roadsides.

Here’s my springtime experience here in the mountains of central Colorado.

spring ice fishing
No daffodils here!

Ha! Yep, I was ice fishing earlier in March and the ice was almost two feet thick at Antero Reservoir.

It just takes spring a long time to trudge up to elevation. It’s a game of king-of-the-hill, and winter is not easily pushed off the mountain. The re-greening of the earth comes to us in mid-May and even more so in June. Spring is not too green here.

There are signs of spring, though: the arrival of migrating mountain bluebirds this week.

Come to think of it, most of our signs of spring are in the animal kingdom. In the last week, I’ve seen the reappearance of robins, mourning doves, Clark’s nutcrackers, chipmunks, and golden mantle squirrels.

Previous springs inform me that the next sign of spring here will probably be the re-emergence of the prairie dogs from their winter stupor. One of these mornings soon, they will be standing up straight and watchful by the side of the road, enjoying the morning sun as I drive my kid to school. Prairie dogs are pretty smart about cars, and seem instinctively trained to “stop, look, and listen” before crossing the road — few are hit relative to their numbers and inclination to colonize next to roads. I hope this year’s batch is as savvy.

The most exciting event of spring, to me, has to do with another seasonal change in the animal kingdom: bugs maturing in the Arkansas River. Yes, the mayflies and caddis flies — little insects that hatch and develop underwater — will come to maturity over the next couple of months. They will experience insect metamorphosis, just like caterpillars turning into butterflies. These critters will turn into adult mayflies and caddis flies.

Why would anyone care about that? Because the trout in the river care about that. When river conditions are just so, the bugs will swim up to the surface of the river, sprout their wings, dry off a bit, and fly away. The trout are on to them. They will eat a bunch of them, in effect breaking their winter semi-fast and nutritionally preparing them for the rigors of living the river trout lifestyle the rest of the year.

And I’ll be out there with them, wading in the river, waving a flyrod with my best imitations of mayflies and caddis flies attached to long slender leaders. Can’t wait.

Until then, if I can’t enjoy springtime bluebonnets, at least I can enjoy the springtime bluebirds.

p.s. There will be a “sign of spring” within the QuickBooks world in May: the discontinuance of support for QuickBooks 2009. But for now, let’s think about bluebonnets and bluebirds, shall we?

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.

Getting ready to install a newer version of QuickBooks? Take a few minutes to prepare and you might save yourself some grief.

* Pick a good time. The installation will take a little bit of time, as well the data conversion when you first open your company file under the new version. Don’t do this right before your employees will be expecting their payroll to be run, etc. Pick a “down time” so that if there are any complications, it won’t result in an immediate crisis.

* If you are “downgrading as you upgrade” (moving from Enterprise 10 to Premier 2012, for example), coordinate the file conversion in advance to minimize or eliminate downtime.

* Set a Restore Point in Windows. It’s just good practice to do this before installing or uninstalling software. If for some reason you need to revert your Windows settings to their pre-install condition, you’ll have that option.

* Check your disk space, and defrag your hard drive. Computers have monstrously big hard drives on them these days, but even so, you can fill them up after a while. If your computer is a bit old, make sure you have several GBs of free space on your computer before installing a new version of QuickBooks. Simply click Start / My Computer, and then right click on your C: local drive to see the properties of your drive. If it has been a long time since you defragmented your hard drive, you can click the Tools tab and see an option to defragment your drive. That can speed everything up, including your install time.

* Test your company data. Successfully upgrading your QuickBooks company file to a higher version will require that the file’s data integrity is good. Upgrading sometimes brings data integrity problems to the surface — problems that are not evident in your day to day use of QuickBooks. The upgrade process will probably verify your company, but you don’t want surprises. So verify and rebuild your company in QuickBooks before upgrading to make sure that the data is in ready condition. If there are problems, your file can be repaired and converted for you.

* Backup your company data. QuickBooks will force you to do this when you first try to open your company under the new version, but it’s important that you do it correctly.

You can back up your data to your local drive or to an online resource like IDrive or Global DataVault where your files are not subject to localized problems on your system or office.

I’ve always found it helpful to name your backup something like “pre-upgrade backup” with today’s date as part of the backup name. If something goes awry with the upgrade data process, it’s much better to have a pre-converted backup available than otherwise. It’s also great in those circumstances to know exactly which backup is the last pre-converted one. This backup should be kept around for awhile, even after a successful upgrade.

* Have your install codes ready. Hopefully you will not have any issues registering your product, but if you do, have your software install codes at your fingertips so your time on the phone with support will be as short and painless as possible.

Anyone have any other suggestions for prepping an upgrade?

Autumn is typically the time that accounting software users evaluate their software and make plans for the immediate future.

In our experience, some of the factors affecting accounting software decisions include initial purchase cost, ongoing maintenance and support costs, software compatibility and integration issues, functionality, conversion costs, and learning curve.

What are QuickBooks users planning to do with their software in the upcoming months?

Our survey shows this:

50% – Stay the course with the version of QuickBooks they use now
29% – Upgrade to the 2012 version of QuickBooks
16% – Convert to some other software
3% – Upgrade from Pro or Premier to Enterprise Series
2% – Downgrade from Enterprise to Pro or Premier

What is driving your decisions about accounting software for the next six months?

Intuit has pulled the R8 update to QuickBooks 2011 and Enterprise 11 and their website acknowledges problems with it:

* Error 1603 when installing the update
* QuickBooks won’t open or stops working
* Inventory quantities are inaccurate after updating from QuickBooks 2010 to 2011
* Rebuild command fails (even when data integrity is OK)

The above link on Intuit’s site has workarounds for all but the last of these reported problems. Some of the workarounds, however, involve uninstalling and reinstalling the QuickBooks software, which is not much fun.

The R8 update is not currently included in the auto update protocol, so you don’t have to worry about being updated in that way.

Intuit says they will update their site when a new release is available (R9, presumably).

We will help pass the word along when that happens.

Updated 12/20/10 2:59 pm: There is now a correction for this — see comments below.

There are reported problems associated with the Verify command in QuickBooks if you are running under the R4 update. There are posts in the Intuit Community about this problem in Enterprise and Pro/Premier editions.

Charlie Russell wrote about this and advises against installing the R4 update at this time. I agree.

There are a few reports of  Intuit level 2 support having a fix. But perhaps the best approach for now is holding off on installing the R4 update, and holding out for R5 (whenever that comes out.)

This is a good example of the advantage of NOT configuring QuickBooks for auto-update. As with all software updates, there is always the possibility in a new release of several bugs being fixed, but a new bug being introduced. There is some wisdom to waiting a few weeks before installing updates, in case there are any serious unanticipated issues with a new update.

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.