After many years of using QuickBooks, I am moving to FrontAccounting.
I started using QuickBooks sometime in the mid-1990’s and I have updated it many times since. It always did what I wanted with little fuss and I have been quite happy with it.
However a couple of years ago Intuit announced that their future strategy was to move to an online solution and they started ‘encouraging’ people to migrate by introducing an annual re-licensing process. This was just a pain. All of a sudden QuickBooks would stop working and insist on a new licence key, which would require a phone call to Intuit (during office hours). This could take half an hour and you needed to supply various details (eg: serial number, date of purchase, etc) to prove that you were eligible. Now this was a bit of a shock as I believed that I had purchased a perpetual license and the prospect that my accounting package could simply stop working because Intuit decided they now wanted me to pay a monthly subscription for a different product did not appeal to me.
And with the announcement that Intuit is to sell it’s Quicken division, it was clear that the future for QuickBooks was limited.It was when I investigated converting my data from QuickBooks to something else that things got really ugly.
Unfortunately there is no easy way to export data from QuickBooks. The internal data is held in a proprietary format that has no interface other than the QuickBooks application. The lists (ie: COA, customers, terms, etc) can be exported as an IIF file, which is an Intuit proprietary text file format (http://support.quickbooks.intuit.com/support/articles/HOW12778). Transactions can only be exported by generating a report and saving as a CSV format file. Nothing can import these ‘as is’ (though the IIF file can be imported back into QuickBooks).
I considered the various online offerings (including QuickBooks Online) but they were far too expensive for my micro business. I wasn’t going to fall for a proprietary data format again so I mainly looked at FOSS solutions. One of my main considerations was to have an active user community and to be able to easily make my own modifications. I considered GNUCash early on as it has a large following and a lot of functions, but found that it seemed to be aimed at personal users (ie: a Quicken alternative) and the code base was in C which made making changes more difficult than I would have liked. I finally settled on FrontAccounting which seemed to meet all of my requirements as it was written in PHP and used a MySQL database.