Quickbooks -- Steadily Worse Each and Every Year

A quick note to many small businesses out there that use Quickbooks.  I know that most of us are cynical about annual upgrades from people like Microsoft as they seldom add any new functionality one actually needs, so they are seldom worth the price.  But there is an additional reason not to upgrade Quickbooks.  Every single version, since at least 2004 and up to and including 2009 has been worse than the previous year's version.  Somewhere around 2006 we got data file bloat, where the size of the company data file mushroomed 10-fold.  Around 2008 we got a goofy and intrusive place-a-phonecall-to-India authorization process.  In 2009 most of the online banking features were broken.

It is kind of funny to read Quickbooks reviews on Amazon, with each successive generation getting fewer stars.  Every version is dominated by reviews that begin with "worst quickbooks version yet."   Quickbooks 2009 right now is at about 2 stars, and is buoyed that high only by an aggressive campaign by Intuit employees to post 5-star reviews.  I stopped upgrading my business version around 2006 (and wish we had stopped earlier) but one of the non-profits I do the books for upgraded to 2009 and it is a mess.  Unfortunately, if you use the online banking functions or payroll service (we do not) Intuit forces your company to upgrade as there is apparently a 3-year clock built into the software that shuts down and forces an upgrade.

Its time for those market forces to get to work and make someone rich by bringing out an alternative.  Intuit is right for the plucking, if someone has the right product.


  1. Evil Red Scandi:

    We stopped upgrading our companies at 2005 (muah ha ha ha ha). Somewhere in my boxes I still have my floppy disks for v1.0 (on DOS). You missed the worst part of Quickbooks / Quicken updates though - the flood of upsells. Seriously. It's like using the web pre-Firefox. Any missed click brings up an ad for something. There are even pop-ups (until you disable them all). Intuit is one of the most obnoxious companies in the IT world. Competition would be welcome.

    Thankfully, we're using a different package for POS / Inventory (CounterPoint from Radient Systems - we like it a lot), but we're still looking for something else for GL / banking that we can still dump on our CPA and bookkeepers. Fun.

  2. T J Sawyer:

    This is a practice that they first learned with Quicken. I quit upgrading and stabilized at "Quicken 6 for Windows" circa 1996. That's Windows 95, I believe! Works fine on XP.

    Held my breath in January, 2000, but it's just plain Quicken and keeps on ticken.

    How did I stuff those 3 1/2" diskettes into my CD-ROM drive? I didn't! It's not "installed," it's just a plain old quicken.exe file - no registry entries and no problems. Truly a thing of beauty!

  3. K:

    Upgrades are a plague for software. And even more for software must respond to legal or tax changes. You might look into NetBooks (that name is bound to be confused with the small computers) an online small business package.

    Trusting everything to the net is ????? but, hey, it is your money not mine.

    I became so disgusted with MS Money that I quit it. Then, as I recall, it was almost impossible to totally purge. I think there are still pieces of my Money records in online limbos and lurking on my hard drive.

    And TurboTax which I have used for ages won't support W2K for 2009. Frack and double frackfrack.

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  5. DaveK:

    Not just Quicken... Turbotax has become a cash-cow monster for Intuit, as well. I gave them up when price began to reliably escalate each year, but to get the functionality you had the previous year, you had to upgrade to yet another level; a double-whammy on the price! I ended up going to TaxAct, much more reasonably priced. Not so slick as Turbotax or the other big-name products, but if you know pretty well how your return should go, you can get through the rough patches. Perhaps not so good for a business return, however.

  6. Paul:

    We use Quicken, some free version from 2002. It's still chugging along. I was considering upgrading for more functionality, but maybe I'll skip it.

    I also prepared my taxes using TurboTax. After spending $700 to have an accountant do it, TurboTax at $70 is a huge bargain and just as easy. I've not compared other tax prep software, but I'm a big TurboTax fan, and I'm more than happy to pay $70 a year for it.

  7. Candyman53:

    QB2007 was where I separated my business from my personal finances in Quicken. I have always relied heavily using online banking to assist in the bookkeeping. I upgraded to QB2009 last October and boy, I'll never, ever be at the front ever again. It was a true purgatory right from Dante. The cost in time was debilitating. The general uproar was huge. Intuit just weeks ago came out with an actual online banking fix after 11 months that essentially brings online backing back to 2008 functionality (yeah). This October I'm popping popcorn, sitting back and watching the show. This year's follies are bound to be entertaining, too.

  8. NormD:

    Wanta bet that Intuit has several thousand software patents on obvious things that protect them from competition

  9. Henry Bowman:

    I used QB2007 and have thought about 'upgrading' for the past several months. After reading this discussion, there's no way I will.

    HOWEVER, can someone please recommend an alternative to QB? That's what I would really like. A long time ago I happily used an OS/2 accounting code, which did everything I wanted. But, it's history, as well.


  10. Duane Gran:

    Keep your eyes on lessaccounting.com. It isn't a replacement yet for many organizations, but it looks promising.

  11. Ben:

    Intuit knows its offerings stink. They are terrified that someone will come along and (1) disintermediate them; and/or (2) do it better. They just bought Mint.com on the personal finance side of things mostly because it was eating Intuit's lunch.

  12. ElamBend:

    I started a business this year and bought 2009 Quickbooks Pro. I was shocked how much it sucked. Glad to hear it's just not me. The constant up-sells are truly annoying and it just seems to be missing so many obvious (and simple) functions.

  13. Sol:

    You know, I wouldn't mind all the upgrades if they actually improved something I used. It kills me how all the same stupid crap is still there a dozen years after I started using the program. Like autocompletion giving you the next alphabetical match rather than the most commonly used name that starts with those letters, meaning every time it tries to autocomplete to that diner I visited once in 1999 rather than the place I go every week...

  14. rob sama:

    I was an auditor for a big four firm and cleaned up more small business Quickbooks disasters than I care to admit. Quickbooks leaves no real audit trail and is made for someone who has no real understanding of accounting.

    Larry Elison started Netsuites, which is an online accounting package. May be too heavy hitting for what you're doing. Accounting packages for small businesses should run as ASPs tho IMO. And then scale. And frankly, there's no reason why they shouldn't be good opens ource ones available as well. OpenBravo is a noted open source one, but again, it's more of an enterprise level package.

  15. Heretic:

    I only use TurboTax, but talk about bloatware! Increasingly difficult to get to the raw underlying forms. Now when you need to drill down on something, you have to figure out what TT did in their various extraneous layers before you can even start to figure out what is going on in the IRS forms. Sometimes attempting to do too much handholding for someone in the name of supposed "simplicity" really just adds layers of complexity.

  16. Scott:

    I haven't use Quickbooks in a couple of years, but it's not a huge surprise that they've gone down this path. Too many companies discount the importance of good database design and maintenance. It is truly unfortunate.

  17. me:

    I work in a big software company as a developer. Let me explain that the reason the updates you get from autoupdate don't appear to do much is precisely what you're running into with quicken update: every change brings a risk of a regression, and retesting the complete product to make absolutely sure nothing broke is excessively expensive. In order to be able to deliver free updates, they are targeted at making the smallest possible change fixing a problem.

    On the flipside, consider how well inter-version upgrades usually go, and when you go from one version of some software to the next and the upgrade happens flawlessly, be aware that some soul slaved years in a cubicle to make this happen and thankful that someone cared enough to burn their weekends on work that is not a new feature and hence not a good way to advance your own career.

  18. me:

    Addendum: it is generally a good idea to create a virtual PC with the operating system and business software of choice you are using. Then you can just copy the virtual PC when you buy a new machine or upgrade the base operating system.

  19. Esox Lucius:

    You guys should try quickbooks online. No disks to buy, all your data is backed up all the time and I think the fee is reasonable. I used to hate the screens, being a software guy I thought their look was cluttered and difficult to use. The menu system sucked. But recently they cleaned out all the crap and the screens became easier on the eyes. Unfortunately they just bought what I thought was a great piece of software named Mint.com. What a shame. They will probably suck-a-fy it in short order.

  20. gn:

    I use SimplyAccounting which is 1/5th the cost of QB and works very nicely.

  21. Ian Random:

    Have you tried GnuCash? Looks like they have a winders version. The scheme based reporting sucks, but you can export it to a MySql database. I use it for personal stuff and tweaked the export for PostgreSql. Then slapped a php front end. There's also stuff like BANAL and others at Freshmeat.




  22. steep:

    I'm in the same position for my consulting business. I was thinking of upgrading, but not anymore. In order to unlock the payroll function in 2006, I had to have the help of my accountant to get the method from QB support. I don't want to go through that again.

  23. John Moore:

    I have several times been *forced* to upgrade QuickBooks and Quicken because my bank has required it.


  24. Calamitous:

    I agree with Duane, lessaccounting.com is looking very good. These are the same guys that wrote http://weallhatequickbooks.com, which was a fun way to keep up with the quickbooks hatred on twitter, until the spammers had to go ruin it for everybody.