From the July 2009 Issue
QuickBooks, as versatile it is, cannot do absolutely everything, nor can it satisfy all business needs for all types of industries. End users in a variety of industries often keep some detailed industry-specific information outside of QuickBooks, and then re-enter summary or detail information into QuickBooks for the purposes of preparing financials.
Many of these programs perform functions that are vital to specific industries or business processes, while eliminating the need for the end user to change to a custom or industry-specific accounting package. This allows the end user to track more data and produce better reporting than QuickBooks alone provides, while staying with the familiar, comfortable and user-friendly QuickBooks program.
THE CASE OF INVENTORY TRACKING
A perfect example of the need for add-on solutions is the case of inventory tracking. While QuickBooks does track inventory, the inventory module has its limitations and falls short of the full functionality that many end users need. For example, QuickBooks can only employ average cost inventory, and users cannot choose another costing method such as FIFO (First In, First Out) or LIFO (Last In, First Out), which are more appropriate for many businesses.
Other inventory limitations include the fact that QuickBooks cannot automatically track serial numbers, bin locations, lot numbers, bar coding, multiple warehousing, warranty periods or expiration dates. So to handle these types of tracking needs, you could use QuickBooks for inventory, but you would need to track the additional information in a separate program such as a spreadsheet. However, this duplicate entry of information would quickly become unworkable as the amount of data increased.
INTUIT DEVELOPER NETWORK & SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT KIT
To address these issues, Intuit formed the Intuit Developer Network (IDN) to enable third-party developers to develop and offer products that integrate with QuickBooks. The developers in the IDN make use of the Software Development Kit (SDK), which is provided at no charge to them by Intuit. The ideology of the SDK is “Never Enter Data Twice” (NED2) and to facilitate the sharing of information both ways behind the scenes between QuickBooks and the add-on product.
When an add-on is used properly, it expands the power of QuickBooks without creating extra work.
LIFE BEFORE QUICKBOOKS ADD-ONS
Prior to the release of the SDK, IIF (Intuit Interchange Format) files were used to import lists (and, to a limited extent, transactions) into QuickBooks. IIF files are specially formatted tab-delimited text files that can be opened and edited in Excel. Although the IIF method still can be used with the current versions of QuickBooks, I highly discourage any system that relies on IIF imports. Intuit also discourages the use of IIF for anything other than the most basic of list imports.
Here are some of the limitations of the IIF method:
- Import files are very difficult to create properly, especially for files containing transactions as opposed to just lists.
- There is no error checking or log file of IIF imports.
- There are no safeguards against duplicate imports of IIF files, and multiple imports will create duplicate transactions in QuickBooks.
- There are no safeguards against accidental overwriting of existing list entries.
- Erroneous IIF files can create unintended list entries in QuickBooks, such as a new bank account or new service item.
- Two-way transaction synchronization is not possible using IIF files. You can import IIF, but you cannot export transactions to IIF files.
- The integration is not seamless; it requires separate file preparation, single-user mode, and being signed in as the Admin user in QuickBooks. It also requires the user to specifically choose a menu item to import the IIF file, and the user must search the windows directory to select the correct file to be imported.