Financial and accounting software publisher Intuit Inc. is poised to launch QuickBooks 2006 sometime this fall, marking the first major overhaul of the software's underpinnings since it was launched in 1992.Intuit's vice president of product management, Dan Levin, said that two key components the company has been working on for years have come together in the latest version.

First, a four-year effort to re-engineer the technical infrastructure of QuickBooks has been completed, allowing for a new SQL database component that offers both Intuit and its third-party developers more flexibility. Second, a two-year project has made it easier for product-based businesses to automate their inventories.

In addition to targeting changes for product-based businesses and midsized firms, Intuit is also targeting accountants.

For CPAs, Levin said that key pieces of QuickBooks 2006 came out of talking to many of the 230,000 accountants using the software. Levin said that the product's "always-on" audit trail will help accountants detect client errors and track changes - a capability that Levin said had been frequently requested by users.

Another new feature called "Toggle" allows accountants to switch their own screen views (from QuickBooks: Accountant Edition) to see whatever version a client is looking at and better provide phone support.

Other program improvements include single-page overviews for customer, vendor and employee information; customized home pages; and a simplified set-up for new users.

"It's up to the customers to determine when is the time for them to upgrade," Levin said. "We've spent a lot of time talking to our customers, going out to the tradeshows and working towards making sure this is a completely seamless upgrade experience." He added, "We want to continue being the platform of choice for small businesses in the future."

Levin said that beta versions of the software have been in use by several hundred customers over the past year, and the basic functionality of the program remains familiar and based on simplicity of use.

QuickBooks 2006 pricing will be announced in the fall.

Earlier, Intuit announced that it would increase its commitment to accountants by rolling out a series of programs, including free technical support for QuickBooks ProAdvisors, an accountant-dedicated support team, and free in-person training seminars in 80 cities (see Tech Briefs).

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