So now that Microsoft has finally released Windows Vista on the general public I could do what I’ve been waiting to do for a month. I picked up the phone and called Quicken Technical Support to ask about Vista compatibility for their range of accounting products.
Their answer: "Sorry sir, but none of our products will work on Vista. We’re currently testing the next version on the new version of Windows and expect it to be compatible."
Me: "When will that be released?"
Them: "It should be April."
April. We’re still in JANUARY here – they’re telling me that I have to wait three months before I can run one of Australia’s two main accounting packages (and the one we’ve used for the past 6 years) on my new computer we bought for the company? It’s not like QuickBooks is a video game where you can shrug this problem off and say what the heck. It’s a fundamental part of any professional company – if your accounting software doesn’t work you can’t invoice your customers, you can’t run BAS reports, heck, you may not even be able to pay your employees depending on what you use.
The other primary accounting package is MYOB, their answer is more equivocal: "download the latest version as a demo from our website and try it out. If it works on your copy of Vista, then go for it. If it doesn’t then you’ll need to wait." It turns out that their latest version DOES indeed appear to be compatible and it’s likely that they were just covering their butts because they hadn’t fully tested it out yet to make it a proper statement.
But back to QuickBooks.
When they say it’s incompatible, they’re not kidding. Let’s see…
1. Upon installation (which you MUST do as an Administrator, no regular user install here!) you will encounter several errors during the copy process. You can click OK at each point and the installation will continue, but some of the errors are interesting in that they reveal how non-standard Intuit are in their way of installing software into a user’s system.
1b. Not a specific problem with Vista incompatibility but I HAVE to mention this because it’s bugged me for years. At the end of installation, QuickBooks INSISTS that you reboot your system. There is no "do it later" option – you only have a Restart button on the dialog and the only way I’ve found around this (it’s a full screen install too) is to bring up Task Manager, locate the setup program and manually end the task. There is no reason for a reboot (as I’ve proven by the Task Manager trick in previous installs) and under Vista this kind of behaviour should be 100% non-existent. Their install doesn’t check to see if things might have been locked and therefore need a reboot to unlock files, they assume they have problems and do it anyway. Back to Vista.
2. When you eventually finish the installation of QuickBooks, you’ll need to do two things to the shortcut. Firstly, you MUST run QuickBooks as Administrator. Running it without Administrator priveleges will result in the program crashing for various reasons. Secondly, you will have a better experience if you select the option to run in XP compatibility mode (better, but still not perfect).
3. Assuming you make it this far and are able to run QuickBooks your next hurdle is activating the product. Activation in QuickBooks has always been a questionable thing for me (an issue I raised while I worked there) because of their particular implementation but I’m not going to go into that. Instead what I’ll say here is that Internet Activation just won’t work, so don’t bother trying. You’ll get web errors for each page of the activation wizard (yep, it’s a web browser embedded in a Windows application that doesn’t subscribe to Windows standards) and at the end you’ll get a message saying it couldn’t activate.
You will have to activate over the phone. Of course, to get the appropriate number to call, you’ll need to go through the online process to allow it to fail and then display some of the information you’ll need (the other information is only accessible through a special hidden keyboard shortcut – Ctrl-F12 IIRC). When you activate over the phone, do not mention Vista. As they officially don’t support it, they won’t help you. Just tell them internet activation failed and you want to activate over the phone. It works.
4. OK – now you have QuickBooks installed and activated, what can you do with it? "Some stuff" is the best I can do. Most actions actually DO work – creating invoices – fine, receiving payments – fine, looking at a customer list – fine, producing a report and viewing it on screen – fine.
But all the ease-of-use features they implemented (using non-standard mechanisms) don’t. Their "navigators" are again web-browser based and none of them will display. This isn’t too bad – you can get to everything through the menus – but if you’re used to that particular way of doing things, it’s a speed bump.
But a couple of key actions do NOT work and they are kinda critical as far as I’m concerned. Firstly, you cannot create an electronic version of an invoice – PDF creation just doesn’t work. It doesn’t display an error either – it just doesn’t do anything. This is the case for trying to email an invoice, printing it as a PDF, saving it as a PDF, and so on – all areas where PDF creation is involved, you’re out of luck.
We figured we could probably handle that – "old school" print-and-fax would do and that actually DID work.
Well, it did.
Now it doesn’t. As of yesterday, whenever we try to print something from within QuickBooks (and it doesn’t matter what it is but obviously Invoices are the most essential for a business) it fails to do so. It will either give an error about the printer not being able to handle the page size that is being printed, or it will just do nothing and display nothing (yes, that means no errors either). When it first happened, I shrugged and thought I’d use Printer Setup to choose a different printer or change the settings. Nope, Printer Setup does nothing either.
There are probably some other issues that we haven’t hit yet, but this one is significant enough to get me riled.
So, we have had to fall back to an older XP machine which we will install QuickBooks until we can get our hands on a version that actually runs properly on Vista.
Why on earth is a software package responsible for supporting probably half of the small businesses not up to date? Very poor planning it seems to me.