Many of you readers are already going strong with QuickBooks 2014. But a lot of folks are using earlier versions and have postponed upgrading for a variety of reasons:

* Waiting until potential bugs are worked out of the new version.
* Waiting until your older version is no longer supported
* Waiting until a new version gives you something you really need

Here we are in March 2014. Is now a good time to upgrade to version 2014?

RELATED: QuickBooks 2014 Screenshots

* QuickBooks 2014 is currently in its fourth release (R4). Lots of bugs have been fixed, and stability has certainly increased since R1.

Most QuickBooks 2014 users don’t have any significant problems with their version.

As far as data errors related to version 2014, we seem to observe a proportionally higher incidence of inventory related errors, encrypted data errors (problems with social security numbers, vendor tax IDs, bank account numbers, and customer credit cards), and user data errors (difficulties when adding, changing, or deleting users, or their passwords, or their permissions).

RELATED: What to Do When You Can’t Add or Change Users
        
Problems with Customer Credit Cards in Enterprise 13

These problems were also present in version 2013, but seem (in our anecdotal experience) a little more common in the 2014 version. Please note, however, that these errors are not typical of the experience of most version 2014 users.

RELATED: Is It Possible for a Corrupted QuickBooks File to Be Recovered?

* Sunset issues. Version 2011 will probably be sunsetted — officially become an unsupported version — this May. At least, that is what has happened in previous Mays: support for the version 3 years back is discontinued.

So if you are using QuickBooks 2011, now would be a very good time to consider upgrading to QuickBooks 2014. (Although you could upgrade to version 2012 or 2013…you don’t have to necessarily upgrade to the latest version.)

RELATED: QuickBooks 2010 About to Depart into the Sunset
              The User Who Sailed Around the Sunset (Policy)

* Features. New features in version 2014 have been well documented by others.

Are you getting ready to take the plunge into QuickBooks 2014? What are your thoughts about it?

Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation:

* You use QuickBooks 2012 and your client uses QuickBooks 2013. They want to send you their file for review.

* You have an old computer with an old version of QuickBooks on it, and you want to open up your current QB file on that computer.

* Your computer crashes and dies. You buy a new computer. When you go to install QuickBooks, you can only find your install disk for an earlier version. You install it anyway. You restore the backup you made to the cloud (whew!), but it was made by a later version of QuickBooks.

In all of these cases, you are trying to use an old version of QuickBooks to open a new file.

It doesn’t work.

QuickBooks is backwards compatible — it can open and convert files made from earlier versions — but it is not forwards compatible. If you think about it, there’s no way it could be. The version of QuickBooks you have installed on your system today doesn’t know what future releases of QuickBooks will be like, including their revised data structures.

You see, most new releases of QuickBooks come with internal changes to the database. That’s why the size of your QuickBooks file changes when you upgrade to a newer version. It almost always grows. And that’s why, when you upgrade your file to a newer version, QuickBooks gives you a warning that that change to your file is irrevocable.

So the bottom line is that, unfortunately, you can never use an older version to open a newer file. You can never open a QuickBooks 2013 file with QuickBooks 2012, as one example.

The solution is simple, if not free: get a version of QuickBooks that is equal to or later than the version of the QuickBooks file you are trying to open.

There’s always a little excitement when you install your new version of QuickBooks. You’re eager to see what the new interface looks like, and check out some of the new reports and features. So if your data won’t upgrade, eagerness can turn into frustration.

Let’s back up a step. Normally, QuickBooks is designed to automatically convert your file to the new version simply by opening the file. Let’s say that you have been running QuickBooks Premier 2012 and you now install QuickBooks Premier 2013. Your data will automatically be updated to 2013 format just by opening your company data in the new version. The software will make you create a backup and tell you that your data will be irretrievably converted to 2013 format (you can’t go back). With your approval, QuickBooks converts your file to version 2013, and you’re good to go. That is the normal user experience.

But what if that doesn’t work?

RELATED: Case Study/Interview: QuickBooks Won’t Verify or Rebuild

Sometimes QuickBooks doesn’t encounter problems with a company file until it tries to upgrade it to a newer version. Some kinds of data problems don’t get exposed until all the information in the file has to be touched, which is what happens when you upgrade your file. If there is just one bad record buried down in the file, it can throw a wrench in the file upgrade process.

Only a small percentage of upgrading users encounter this. If it does happen to you, your file can be repaired and upgraded in almost all instances, and overnight turnaround is available. Here’s a comment from someone who experienced this:

We had a client with a corrupted QuickBooks file that wouldn’t upgrade to QuickBooks 2012 and had some other issues. We uploaded the file and a few days later had a working file. This is a great service when (not if) there are problems with QuickBooks data files.” — Scott Scharf, Catching Clouds LLC

Have you ever had any difficulty upgrading your file to a newer version? Tell your story.

looking towards 2013I’m cautiously optimistic that when Enterprise 13 comes out, it will fix some of the problems that a number of people are finding in Enterprise Series 12. I’ve talked with a number of clients experiencing…

* Problems in inventory: their file will not verify or rebuild
* Problems in sales orders or estimates: they can’t verify the file or make verified backups
* Corruption in the user list: their file fails rebuild
* Failure when they try to condense their file: condense freezes or gives fatal errors

We can repair the vast majority of these files, but it ain’t easy sometimes. Some of these problematic files are 3GB+ or have a kazillion inventory items and/or lots of corrupt assemblies.

Some of the files that clients are sending us to be supercondensed won’t verify and/or rebuild when they are sent in. We have to repair them first to get them healthy enough to work with.

Seems to me that there shouldn’t be this many files with these kinds of problems. We’ve been in the accounting data consulting business for a long time — since the 80s — and have seen and repaired thousands and thousands of sets of damaged accounting data. But it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a version that has clustered so many data integrity issues, many more than we saw under ES 11 or 10. (Actually, old version 6 had a ton of problems too; that was the first version that used the new underlying database system.)

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a lucky Enterprise 13, and wishing the best for Intuit’s development and testing teams…

Other consultants and QuickBooks advisors, what do you think? Does ES 12′s stability seem about the same to you as prior versions? Or a bit more problematic?

I hunted around to find you the best articles and short videos on QuickBooks 2012′s new features. Enjoy.

Charlie Russell / Sleeter

Excel Integration Improvements
Improvements for Accounting Professionals
Miscellaneous new features
Inventory Control Center (Premier and Enterprise 12)
Enhanced Inventory Receiving (Enterprise 12)
Automatic Cost and Price Updates (Enterprise 12)

Cordasco & Company P.C.
Document Management Changes in 2012

Laura Madeira
Notable New Features in 2012
Accountant Center (Video)
QuickBooks Accountant 2012 – File Manager (Video)
QuickBooks Accountant 2012 – Starter Copy (Video)

Nancy Smyth / Sunburst Software
Batch Timesheets (Video)

Reesa McKenzie
QuickBooks 2012 Accountant Statement Writer (Video)

AppleInsider Forum
New Features for QuickBooks for Mac 2012
More on QuickBooks for Mac 2012

Have you seen other good content online that highlights new features in QuickBooks 2012?

Favorite things about QuickBooks 2012QuickBooks 2012 editions just went on sale to the public. While the list of new features is perhaps not as extensive as in the 2010 and 2011 upgrades, there are still some things that might be quite helpful to you, depending on how you use QuickBooks:

* Better interfacing with Excel. If you export a report to Excel and then run the report again with new information, you can now update that previously created worksheet, instead of having to recreate it from scratch. This is a big help if you did some reformatting in the worksheet — you won’t have to redo that reformatting work.

* Document management. Online document management has been available to QuickBooks users (for a fee) over the last couple of versions. But with the 2012 edition, local document management is built in (the documents are saved on your computer, instead of the cloud). Best of all, it is free. So you can easily attach scans of purchase orders, bills, etc. to corresponding transactions in your QuickBooks file. QuickBooks will keep these documents in a folder called Attach under your QuickBooks file. Nice!

* Lead Center. If you want to manage leads — people who aren’t customers yet — you can add them here and convert them to customers later. This lets you keep your customer list cleaner.

* Lots of Inventory improvements in Enterprise 12: A new Inventory Center, similar to the Customer and Vendor centers. Support for FIFO costing. Serial numbers. Lot tracking. Automatic price increases. Product images. Expanded number of price levels.

Have you tried out QuickBooks 2012 yet? What do you like best about it?

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?

Since we specialize in accounting database consulting, we’ve seen tens of thousands of data problem cases over the years. You can boil them down to three categories:

1. Lurking data problems. In these situations, everything looks OK to the user in their daily use of QuickBooks. They can enter bills, run reports, do payroll, and backup their company without incident.

But there is a hidden data corruption problem lurking in their database. It won’t be uncovered until a process is attempted that systematically accesses their whole file; in particular, when they try to upgrade to a newer version. That’s when it fails — when QuickBooks basically touches every piece of data in the file.

Running verify and rebuild can detect many of these kinds of problems in the file. When rebuild cannot fix the corruption, most of the time the file can still be repaired.

2. Function-specific data problems. In this scenario, there is one part of QuickBooks that fails, and it fails every time you try it. For example, there was some data we repaired recently where if you accessed one particular invoice, QuickBooks would crash. (It turned out to be a problem with an “inventory loop” in the data and there would have been other ways to crash the file, but the user hadn’t encountered them).

Some people think that they can limp by in this scenario and they basically try not to provoke QuickBooks into crashing; they avoid the problem area. That is living a bit dangerously, I think. Better to either restore a backup made prior to the problem occurring (sometimes difficult to do) or else get the data repaired.

3. In-your-face data problems. These are obvious. You cannot open your file. Or you open it and as soon as you try to enter any kind of new transaction, it errors out and closes the program. Or your customer or vendor list simply vanishes.

This situation usually results in a crisis if there are no good current backups available. And this often (it seems) happens at the worst possible time — when payroll is supposed to be run, for example. Nothing like a bunch of employees coming by your desk to pick up non-existent paychecks to get your adrenaline going!

If you have a good current backup in that situation, you can restore it and go on with your business.

Have you encountered any of these three kinds of data situations?

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?

QuickBooks 2008 discontinued, unsupported, sunsetServices supporting QuickBooks Pro and Premier 2008, and Enterprise 8, were discontinued on May 31. It is Intuit’s policy to only support the current and prior two versions of their accounting products, and the end of May has been their cut off point for the last few years.

What is affected?

QuickBooks Payroll Services
For Assisted, Basic, Standard, and Enhanced Payroll, QuickBooks will no longer automatically calculate correct payroll taxes or provide payroll forms. Assisted Payroll will no longer send your payroll data.

Credit Card Processing
Merchant Service customers will no longer be able to process credit card transactions through QuickBooks, or download credit card transactions into QuickBooks if you use a terminal. Automatic credit card service will be discontinued.

Bill Pay
You will get an error and not be able to connect to your financial institution to pay bills.

Online Banking
You will get an error when trying to send online payments, download transactions, or conduct online transfers.

QuickBooks Email
You can no longer use the QuickBooks Email service to email sales receipts, purchase orders, etc. directly from QuickBooks. You CAN continue to email documents and reports out of QuickBooks by using Outlook, Outlook Express, or Windows Mail accounts, or by printing to PDF files and attaching those to emails outside of QuickBooks.

It would seem that the general pattern here is that QuickBooks 2008 will no longer be able to interface with much of anything in the outside world (through the internet).

If you are using QuickBooks 2008 with services that are now unavailable, the obvious, fast solution is to get a more current, supported version. Buying it new from Amazon seems to often be less expensive than getting an upgrade. The software is downloadable, so you don’t have to wait for delivery of a CD.

It is usually a painless experience to upgrade your company file from an older version to a newer version. You just open the company under the new version. But if your QuickBooks 2008 file will not verify, it won’t upgrade either, and the file may need to be repaired first, before it can be upgraded.

As far as I know, no company that makes accounting software supports old versions forever. It would be too expensive and would take technical resources away from development teams trying to make the product better for the future.

My company, AccountingUsers, Inc., will still continue to support QuickBooks 2008 and Enterprise 8 as far as troubleshooting data issues goes.

But for keeping Intuit services connected with QuickBooks 2008, the sun has already gone down.