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-- by Joel T. Patz
Taking a cue from the competition, Intuit has vastly improved the navigation tools in its latest version of QuickBooks. The new QuickBooks 5.0 Navigator offers a graphical flowchart of the major processes (Sales and Customers, Purchases and Vendors, and so forth). Click in the diagram, and QuickBooks takes you to the appropriate data-entry form. New buttons at the bottom of each flow diagram let you choose only the reports that make sense for your desired area. No more wasting time wading through unrelated reports.
Similar navigational buttons are also at the bottom of the other program lists (such as Customers, Vendors, Inventory Items, and so forth). With the customer, vendor and employee lists, you can now hide entries for inactive records, keeping the list clean of one-time or older records. Filters, which provide greater flexibility, have improved reporting.
Improved customization in version 5.0 starts with a Layout Designer for building customized invoices, cash sales forms, statements, credit memos and purchase orders. The Layout Designer uses standard drag-and-drop and stretch-to-resize tools. In addition, QuickBooks 5.0 allows you to create multiple custom invoices. For example, you can design a different invoice style for retail and wholesale customers. A welcome word-wrap feature lets you enter longer descriptions for products and services.
The program allows you to download maintenance releases from Intuit's Web site (http://www.intuit.com), which also provides the most recent data to Payroll Tax Table subscribers.
QuickBooks Pro 5.0 provides other specialized features. You can bill a project by milestone, date or percentage complete. Unique to the Pro version is an on-screen timer that lets you record start and stop times for a project or parts of it. Although it won't rival TimeSlips for recording project details, it's adequate for most common tasks. You can also allocate payroll taxes, commissions and company contributions by job.
Previously, if you wanted an accountant to review your QuickBooks data, you were paralyzed until all adjustments were complete. With the new Accountant's Review feature, you can give the data to the accountant, continue working and import adjustments later.
Online bill payment (for a monthly fee) and online banking (if your bank participates) are available for all users.
Network support, which our recommended product Peachtree Complete Accounting offers, is missing. Nevertheless, QuickBooks 5.0 in either version stands out for its ease of use, improved navigation and enhanced customized output for the standalone user. We've therefore added it to the Recommended List.