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Wednesday, September 07, 2011, 04:44 am PT (07:44 am ET)

First look: QuickBooks for Mac 2012 aims to meet unique needs of Mac enterprise

The new QuickBooks for Mac 2012 is designed to satisfy the unique characteristics of Mac business users, who are very different from their Windows counterparts.

Intuit recently offered a sneak peek of the latest version of QuickBooks for Mac, which is set to become available on Sept. 26, to AppleInsider. Pranay Kapadia, group product manager of QuickBooks for Mac and Mobile, explained that the financial application is different on Mac OS X than it is on Windows because the average customer for each product is different as well.

For example, the average QuickBooks for Mac user has a much smaller business size compared to a QuickBooks user on PC. Intuit revealed that 60 percent of its QuickBooks for Mac customers are sole proprietors of their business, and most of them are in service-based industries.

"It's about solving the jobs well," Kapadia said of the differences between QuickBooks for Mac and PC, "and not about check-boxes and feature parity."

One major focus in this year's update is a new user experience, which Kapadia said aims to make sure that new users start with QuickBooks for Mac on a confident note. In that respect, Intuit has three things to help: Guide Me, a list of top-used features; an active blog where users can get updates; and assistance and support that comes in the form of a 60-minute personalized setup with each purchase.

One key change highlighted by Will Lynes, QuickBooks for Mac product manager, relates to invoices. A list of transactions has been added to the left, along with search functionality, allowing users to find transactions and invoices quickly. The customer info panel and transaction list also appears on estimates, receive payments, sales receipts, credit memos and refunds, bills, write checks, enter credit card charges, and general journal entries.

QuickBooks for Mac 2012


An available new customer summary includes information like open balance, recent transactions and notes. The development team's effort, Lynes said, has been to make QuickBooks for Mac more efficient, presenting users with all information in one place.

But Intuit has also worked to simplify its finance software with the 2012 version. For example, developers have reduced the number of save buttons in invoices to just one, making what Lynes referred to as an "elegant solution."

QuickBooks for Mac 2012


Customer polls showed Intuit that the top places where Mac users are spending time are with invoicing, bills and expenses. For all of them, the company decided to adopt a paper-like design that they felt would help users view data in an un-cluttered way.

Another major feature of the latest version is an improved search function. Lynes admitted that the previous search experience didn't work like Mac users, who are familiar with Apple's Spotlight feature, would expect.

QuickBooks for Mac 2012


Now, just like with Spotlight or Google, users can simply type in a search term, like a customer name, employee name, amount or transaction number. Results show up quickly, and large amounts of data can be further filtered by options like transaction type.

Users can also save their search criteria, just like Apple's own smart searches in Finder. The option doesn't store the list of results, but the criteria itself, allowing for dynamic results to be delivered.

QuickBooks for Mac 2012


For online banking, Intuit has taken lessons learned from its acquisition of Mint.com in improving transactions that are imported into QuickBooks. Now, the software will analyze how users are renaming their payees, and suggest names based on that.

Among beta testers who have been using QuickBooks for Mac 2012 ahead of its launch, more than half have said they're saving an hour or more per month in time compared to the previous version of QuickBooks, Intuit said.

QuickBooks for Mac 2012


"This is where we want to take lead and lead with Apple and make sure we're doing the right thing for our customers," Kapadia said. "It's not about the laundry list of features."

For more on QuickBooks for Mac 2012, see an extensive rundown on the list of features highlighted by Intuit.