QuickBooks vs Excel or MS Access

I have neighbors who have a very lucrative home business. However, the wife is the one doing the books and 1.) Her husband loves Apple and they have two Macs at home. 2.) Her accountant (who she has since fired) suggested using QuickBooks.

OK - so now she has software she does not understand and wants me to help her. I am pretty good with Excel and MS Access, but have never really used a Mac.

My questions:

  1. Will it be easy for me to figure out how to use QuickBooks, given my background with the other software?
  2. Does Excel or MS Access work with QuickBooks, without having to buy extra software?
  3. Is Quickbooks good enough to warrant spending the time and energy to learn, or should I suggest she simply get a cheap laptop PC or something and use one of the Microsoft programs?

Quickbooks is relatively straightforward if you know basic accounting. It does work on a transaction basis, so would she be writing checks using Quickbooks? It is fine too for reporting summaries based on transactions.

I don’t know about import/export between Excel and Access, although you could probably export text reports from Quickbooks.

We absolute love Quickbooks. I don’t know how we managed to do the accounting in the school before we went to it.

There is no MS Access for Macintosh.
QuickBooks is capable of importing from raw delimited text or XML markup sources. There is a plugin for FileMaker Pro (FileBooks) to exchange data on-the-fly between QuickBooks and FileMaker, but last time I looked it was a Windows-only plugin.
If they aren’t invested into QuickBooks and/or you are thinking of writing your own structure, I’d suggest doing it in FileMaker, which will let you do anything you’d want to do but which, unlike QuickBooks, isn’t a one-trick pony.

QuickBooks is excellent, and provides vastly more functionality than Excel or Access do. You can’t really make comparisons between them, it’s like asking whether a pickup truck or helicopter would be better for getting the groceries.

I’m sure they can import and export stuff to and from Excel, but I don’t know about Access - Access is not available on the Mac, while Excel is. I don’t know what you mean by “work with”, though.

As for how easy it is to figure out, I think it will have more to do with your familiarity with accounting specifically than Excel and Access in general. The only similarities between the programs are superficial. If you do know accounting, there’s nothing especially tricky about it, though.

If she is doing payroll and paying taxes, Quickbooks (or other accounting software) is pretty crucial to doing it right.

I was handed the role of accountant when we set up our business 5 years ago. I insisted we get Quickbooks. Then I insisted we get a bank account through National City because they have a free service that will download your transactions right in to Quickbooks (check out the Quickbooks site for a list of all banks that offer this).

My company is a service-based one, not product-based, so I am not really familiar with the product features it has.

We pay for the yearly tax table subscription. Quickbooks gets the latest tax tables every 30 days and applies the correct taxes to payroll for you. It also calculates liabilities for you, and you take the numbers and write checks to whatever tax entities you need to pay and at the frequency you need.

I don’t really understand or use the reports that are available. I don’t enter bills and then pay them. Mostly use it for a glorified check register and a payroll system.

I honestly could not do payroll without Quickbooks. Invoices and stuff I could probably do, but there is absolutely no way I would get my taxes paid and my employees paid without it. In fact, the only time we use our accountant anymore is just to give a quarterly check-up and to tell us what to pay quarterly, and our end of the year income tax. Everything else, Quickbooks takes care of.

In regards to learning…I know squat about accounting and am good at using a computer. Quickbooks’ help files are really good, use them. If you know anything about accounting terminology, it’ll be easier (i don’t) but you can always learn as you go.

In summary:

  • you need accounting software to correctly and efficiently do payroll
  • if you do payroll, get the tax subscription
  • be prepared to buy a new version every 2 or 3 years (they stop supporting versions quickly)
  • see if your bank’s online system integrates with Quickbooks
  • do not ever call Quickbooks for customer support unless you have some $$ to burn

Quickbooks is excellent and easy to learn.

If you’ll be doing payroll, double check that they still support the Mac version with payroll tax tables. several years ago, they stopped updating the Mac payroll tax tables, and their plug-in solution was a pain. So I switched to MYOB, which is a bit more powerful and full-featured. I know they started supporting the Mac version aain recently, but I don’t know the status of the tax tables.

Learning Quickbooks is very easy. t willbe much easier than trying to export something to Excel or using Access. And if you just hang loose for a bit, learning to use the Macs will be easy also.