Intuit Inc. will officially release QuickBooks 2006 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 come together in the latest version. First, a four-year effort to re-engineer the technical infrastructure of QuickBooks was been completed, allowing for a new SQL database component offering both Intuit and its third-party developers more flexibility for the future. 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 specifically 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 new "always-on" audit trail will help accountants quickly detect client errors and track changes, a capability that had been heavily requested. And a 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 hundreds of customers for the last year, and the basic functionality of the program remains familiar and based on simplicity of use. Pricing for QuickBooks 2006 will be announced in the fall.

Earlier this month, Intuit also announced that it will increase its commitment to accountants by rolling out a series of new and enhanced programs, including free technical support for QuickBooks ProAdvisors, an accountant-dedicated support team, and free in-person training seminars in 80 cities.

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