QuickBooks 2013 New User Interface

Written by Charlie Russell

This is the change in QuickBooks 2013 that everyone is going to notice. This is the one that is going to create the most discussion, and perhaps the most angst with people who upgrade.

Intuit has implemented a wide-ranging overhaul of the QuickBooks (Windows version) user interface. In my mind this has been long overdue, because over the past few years as new features have been added the product has become a mishmash of different user interface styles. Look at QuickBooks 2012 and compare the Item List, the Quick Setup window (in QuickBooks Accountant), the Home page and the Calendar for example – each has a different visual style, and in some cases different methods of navigating. It’s starting to get messy. With QuickBooks 2013 Intuit is trying to freshen up the user interface and make things more uniform.

Unfortunately, change isn’t always welcomed by people who are used to things the way they were.

According to Intuit, QuickBooks 2013 user interface changes will:

  • Introduce a new visual design which modernizes and standardizes the look and feel.
  • Reduce the cognitive burden by using larger fonts, bigger rows, and green highlighting.
  • Add a left icon bar that provides quick access to common functions. This removes the top icon bar to take better advantage of widescreen monitors.
  • Provide better integration with Intuit Partner Platform (IPP) apps.
  • Include a refreshed design for the Home Page.
  • Provide first time use guidance for upgraders by adding an overlay of tips to highlight major changes. The goal is to orient upgraders quickly so any disruption is minimalized and you can get back to work in the new version quickly.
  • Add a Ribbon interface to the 13 most commonly used transaction forms, making it easier to find what used to be hidden and hard to find controls and options.
  • Maximize workspace control for transaction forms .

Has Intuit achieved their goal? Let’s take a look.

QuickBooks 2013 new user interface

New Visual Design – Reduce Cognitive Burden

I said it earlier, and I’ll repeat it here. QuickBooks has been overdue for a user interface upgrade. We need some uniformity in things like colors, font types and sizes, organization of windows and so forth. Intuit certainly changed all that in this release! Uniformity – but does it work?

The screen shot below is representative of what you’ll see throughout the program. Just about all windows have this same look and feel now, with very few exceptions (exceptions are things like the add-on products such as Loan Manager, and windows that open in a browser).

QuickBooks 2013 Customer Center

In many cases they are using slightly larger fonts to display information, which many people will find helpful. The height of the rows is also larger, spacing things out a bit, which makes it easier to see and recognize the information being displayed. Highlighting is done with green bars – you an see the customer that is highlighted in the left (where the focus is at this time), and the lighter highlighting of the invoice on the right. You also see more white space (blank areas) in some “panes”, which make things less busy (but show less info) – which supposedly is easier for your brain to deal with.

Compare this with what you see in QuickBooks 2012.

QuickBooks 2012 Customer Center

Overall, I like the new look, it is more “friendly” and it is easier to see (particularly for someone without great vision, like me).

However, at least in this first implementation, there are some issues that may bother some people. Particularly people who are upgrading from the prior versions and who are used to things the way they were.

Less Information in the same amount of space: Perhaps 30% less information (a rough guess) is displayed in the same size window?

We have lost control over colors: Look in your Desktop View preferences. In QuickBooks 2012 you have color scheme preference, but this has been removed in QuickBooks 2013. If you don’t like the color settings in the new program, you can’t change it. People who work with multiple QuickBooks company files will sometimes set each file to have a different color scheme, so you can easily recognize which file you are in by the color. No more!

Note that you STILL have control over the colors used used in some individual windows like Write Checks. In fact, I like the way that they have improved this feature, with the color change being less intrusive.

Comparing QuickBooks check colors

Some labels are too faint, tiny: Maybe it’s just me, as I get older my eyes don’t work as well. Some of the labels are just WAY too small. The light gray color used in some cases is just too faint to be comfortable, and I have to strain to see them. Also, don’t Windows programs usually indicate that a field is not available by “graying” the field and label?

Invoice font problems

Small little scrollbars: I know that I’m sometimes commenting about some things taking up too MUCH space in this upgrade, so it is odd that I’m also complaining about something that was changed to SAVE space. See the tiny scrollbar on the right of this Item List window? It can be hard to get your mouse cursor on that. Note, though, that you can still scroll using the mouse wheel.

Scrollbar Anxiety

OK, so I have a few gripes. I’m sure that we will hear a LOT of discussion about these changes. This may be a polarizing issue for some people. However, I have to say that overall, I’m reasonably happy with the changes if you look at the complete change. I like many of the changes, but hate some others. There are some issues, but I hope that we can see some tweaks in upcoming releases to address some of these. Intuit certainly got a LOT of feedback on this in early testing.

We’ve lost some things, but we’ve also gained some. There will be those who disagree with me, though…

Icon Bar

Here’s another change that is going to start a lot of discussion.

The Icon Bar is one of the main navigation tools that you have in QuickBooks. You can customize it to fit your needs. Some people can’t live without it (well, that is a bit overboard – perhaps “some people can’t use QuickBooks without it”), but others don’t use it that much. Here’s what you might see in QuickBooks 2012.

QuickBooks 2012 Icon Bar

Well, we have pretty much the same thing in QuickBooks 2013, so what’s to discuss? The biggest change here is that it has gotten a LOT duller, with these drab gray icons (poor contrast, I don’t like them as much).

QuickBooks 2013 Icon Bar

Update 12/5/2012: QuickBooks 2013 R4 has been released and offers new options for the top icon bar.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, by default, QuickBooks is going to present a different view of the icon bar, the Left Icon Bar. Lots to discuss HERE. Note that you can switch between these by using the View menu.

Here is what we see, top to bottom:

QuickBooks 2013 Left Icon BarAt the top, the Search box. You can’t hide it from here, even though you can hide it from the top icon bar.

Next down, My Shortcuts. This is your icon list, just as you see in the top icon bar. You can manage this. Still those dull, gray icons. Intuit’s thinking is that you don’t want a lot of attention here, it isn’t your main working space, so they have muted colors.

After that, My Shortcuts again? This confused me at first until I realized that the top “bar” changes to show whatever bar you have clicked on to expand, as a duplicate of what you have chosen. It wasn’t what I was expecting. No big deal.

My Apps will be a listing of any apps you have set up to work with this QuickBooks company file. Apps that you get from the Intuit App Center (IPP apps, not SDK based programs).

Do Today contains a listing of transactions due today, to-do list items for today, and icons for your Reminders list and the Alerts Manager.

View Balances shows the accounts, and their balances, just as you would see in the Account Balances pane on the right side of the Home Page in prior years.

Run Favorite Reports has an icon for the Report Center, and will list any reports that you mark as a “favorite” there. You can also add reports from the customize link at the bottom of this section. Jacint Tumacder of Intuit pointed out to me that in prior versions, many people would add the reports that the commonly use as an icon in the icon bar. Heck, I do that myself. By adding these commonly run reports in the Favorite Reports section you don’t clutter up the shortcuts section of the icon bar, and you are placing all of your reports in one convenient location. Makes sense to me.

Open Windows will be a list of all windows that you have in QuickBooks, similar to the Open Window List that we had in QuickBooks 2012 and earlier (which is still available if you use the Top Icon Bar instead). This is a good place for it given the left icon bar – but so far I’ve found it to be a bit less convenient to access this way.

Next down is the Do More With QuickBooks section, which used to be on the Home Page. Advertisements for QuickBooks. HERE they have the nice colored icons that are easy to read…

You can shrink the left icon bar by clicking the “<” symbol at the top. This is when I really start to dislike the dull gray icons, since they are very hard to understand.

Left Icon Bar Minimized

When the left icon bar is minimized, clicking on the top selected section (such as My Shortcuts as shown here) makes that one section “fly out” temporarily, so you can see the contents.

Left icon bar flyout

Screen Resolution

I’m putting this in a section by itself, separating it from the visual changes, even though it is affected by these visual changes. What kind of monitor are you using now?

I’m sure that Intuit has done extensive research on this, and I’m guessing (since I don’t have their data) that this research says that everyone is moving to large, high resolution, widescreen monitors.

I’m a bit of a techie freak in this regard – I have four monitors on my office computer, One is a widescreen, the others are various size monitors that I’ve had for awhile. Heck, that 19” monitor on the right side seems ancient and cramped now!

I’m not sure that EVERYONE, in a business environment, has moved to large widescreen monitors?

If you look at the technical requirements for QuickBooks 2012 you see that the minimum screen resolution supported is 1024 X 768. I believe that this will be the same minimum listed for QuickBooks 2013. However, there are a few changes in the user interface that are going to make this tougher to work with:

  • Larger fonts are used in many places.
  • Detail lines are taller.
  • Many transaction windows have been rearranged to introduce more “white space” around some elements.

Intuit has introduced a number of features that help you maximize your workspace, which I’ll explain in more detail later. You can minimize the left icon bar and ribbon toolbar, for example. But is it enough? Let’s take a look.

Here’s QuickBooks 2012 open, and maximized, at 1024X768, with an invoice window.

QuickBooks 2012

Here’s QuickBooks 2013 with the same settings.

QuickBooks 2013

Not that different? Now, notice, I’ve turned off the Icon Bar and I’ve turned off the ribbon for the invoice, so this isn’t directly comparable. In the old version you still have easy access to your navigation tools, in QuickBooks 2013 they are hidden.

Let’s look at QuickBooks 2013 again, with the icon bar at the top, and the ribbon showing. This more closely matches what we had last year.

QuickBooks 2013 with bars and ribbons

Now we are starting to see an impact. There are far fewer detail lines in the invoice visible. This is something that people complain about often – not being able to see enough lines in a transaction with smaller monitors.

Will this impact you? I think that if you have smaller monitors, you may not be happy with the new product. With larger monitors it isn’t as much of an issue. Intuit has added a number of little features that help you to get the most out of your workspace (more on that in an upcoming article).

One side note – if you change your monitor resolution to a lower value QuickBooks notices this, and will ask you if you want to move the icon bar from the left to the top. Nice touch.

Changing monitor resolution

When I started testing this product I was working on a smaller monitor, and I didn’t like the results. However, as I look at it on my normal production system, with larger monitors, it isn’t an issue for me. Certainly it is something to consider when you look at the kind of system that you are going to use.

Integration with the Intuit App Center

The Intuit App Center lists applications  that work with QuickBooks. These are what we call IPP apps, which use the Intuit Sync Manager to copy your database to a “cloud” server, where the app can access the data. There are perhaps 70 IPP apps now, although some of those just work with QuickBooks Online, not QuickBooks desktop. There are far more add-ons in the Intuit Solutions Marketplace, which are SDK programs that don’t require the Sync Manager.

Intuit is working to make access to your App Center apps easier by bringing them in to the left icon bar, where they will be accessible with just one click.

If you have been using Apps from the Intuit App Center, you already have an account with Intuit. If not, you’ll create one, and then you can sign up for Apps (for a fee) that will work with your QuickBooks database. I’ve not spent any time analyzing the changes in detail here, but from what I see they are trying to improve the user experience in how you access these apps, and how you work with the Intuit Sync Manager (the tool that copies your data to the “cloud” so these Apps can access it).

Here’s a screen shot showing the final steps of signing into your account (or creating one). Notice that My Apps in the left icon bar is empty, to start.

Signing into APP Center

Once you sign in, and sign up for some apps, they will be listed in My Apps for easy access. Here we have three apps, QuickBooks Attached Documents, ViewMyPaycheck and QuickBooks Connect. You will also find advertising links for apps that are “recommended for you”. I’m not sure what criteria are being used for these “recommendations” at this time.

MY APP Center

This removes the Online Solutions menu option that we used to see in the top menu in QuickBooks 2012.

Many thanks to Laura Madeira for the screen shots of the My Apps section. She is the author of a wonderful book, QuickBooks 2012 In Depth, and is working hard on the 2013 version (available in November).

New Home Page

Not much to say here. It’s a bit prettier, with cleaner icons. If you have selected the left icon bar then the block that is normally on the right side of the Home Page (account balances, reminders/alerts, etc.) is moved to the left icon bar.

QuickBooks 2013 Home Page

What’s New!

This might catch some people by surprise at first, if you are upgrading. Don’t worry, it goes away, and it can help you! When you first open a converted company file with QuickBooks 2013 you will see these orange/yellow (reminds me of those marshmallow “peanuts”?) overlays that point out new features and things that have changed from before. Each new window that you open may show this overlay. Click anywhere on the screen and they go away, and they don’t come back unless you ask them to.

QuickBooks 2013 What's New

Once you click on the screen to dismiss this overlay, you will see a smaller orange/yellow bar on the right side of the window (just windows that have something new). Click on that, the overlay comes back. Click on the “X” on that bar, it turns this feature off. You can bring this feature back using the Help menu.

Shrunken What's New

I like this new feature, and it seems to work very well. Easy to turn off if you don’t like it.

Ribbons in Transactions / Maximize Workspace

I’m actually going to dedicate a whole article to the Ribbon for transaction forms (including the Maximize Workspace feature). You can see what the ribbon looks like if you look at the Invoice transaction screen shot earlier in this document. Lots to talk about here.

In-Product Advertising

Intuit always finds a way to sneak in a little in-product advertising. In the past it was a case of hitting you over the head – popup windows and things like that. They got a lot of negative feedback on that. As time went on they started making it a bit less intrusive, but it is still there.

The Home Page is salted with advertising icon/links. For example:

QuickBooks Home Page In-Product Advertising

Then there is the bottom section of the Left Icon Bar, with more ads. Icons with color, to catch your attention.

QuickBooks Left Icon Bar In-Product Advertising

The Ribbon interface for transactions (which I haven’t talked about, more on that in another article) seems to be a new venue for this kind of thing (note, this could change as the product rolls out, I think). For example, see this icon in the Estimate ribbon?

Product advertising in Ribbon

Click that and you are taken to the Intuit App Center page for an app by Mavenlink.

Intuit App Center advertisement

My Conclusion

This is going to generate a LOT of discussion. You are going to see people who say “I hate it”, some who will like it, some who will wonder what all the hullaballoo is all about. It is different, and that alone will create complaints.

Overall, I applaud Intuit for working on making the user interface more uniform, for trying to bring out features that were hidden and make them more accessible. That is something they really needed to do.

I’m concerned about the screen resolution issue for those with smaller monitors. There are a number of clever features that help to minimize this, but many people will have issues there.

Navigation changes may be problematic for some people. Smaller scrollbar buttons, moving things around from where we are used to them, making SOME activities take more mouse clicks than before, all are the kinds of things that may drive you crazy.

Personally, my biggest problem is the lack of color (such as the icons), the poor contrast for many labels and icons. That may be just me, as I get older I find these soft grays harder to deal with.  Visual acuity is a major concern to many QuickBooks users. A long time ago I wrote an article titled “Relief for Tired QuickBooks Eyes” where I talk about a hack that you can use to enlarge many of the fonts inside the QuickBooks user interface. That is one of the most popular articles that I’ve written, if you look at the comments. Anything that makes it harder to see your information is a drawback.

The more I use the program the more comfortable I get with the changes. I’m hoping that early revisions will do some fine tuning to resolve the remaining issues.

Want to see QuickBooks 2013 in action? Join us for a FREE Webinar on September 28th, What’s New in QuickBooks 2013, presented by Doug Sleeter and Charlie Russell

Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been the managing editor and primary writer for the Sleeter Report since 2011. Charlie can be reached at charlie@ccrsoftware.com

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • On the Invoice, where are the History, Journal, and Customize buttons?
    We use these buttons a lot. I hope Intuit did not bury these icons.

    Defiantly do not like the estimated 30% loss in viewable space. I would much rather see more info than less. Seeing less info makes me hunt around for what I need, which is less productive. I work with financial data and spreadsheets all day long and these new larger fonts/screens look less business like and more game like.

    Also, many people use laptops as their day-to-day computer, and not the 17″ size. The loss of viewable information is just going to annoy laptop users even more.

    Another feature I have been wishing/asking for is a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of invoices, sales orders, purchase orders, Item List, and probably more. Our invoices have 19 columns. There is no way to see all the column information on the screen. We have to constantly resize each column to enter data, and see the data. A horizontal scroll bar would allow us to lock the column widths and not have to keep changing them. The Item List also needs a horizontal scroll bar. Intuit knows how to include horizontal scroll bars, such as the Add/Edit Multiple List Entries window.

    I do not like the black and white icons on the Icon Bar. Colored Icons are much better.
    The Home Page is an improvement.

    • Cliff, the transaction history and journal buttons are in the “Reports” tab, and the customize button is in the “Formatting” tab. I’ll have more detail on the changes in this window in an article on Thursday, where you will see it. There is one really nice improvement on the Customize button – when you click it you no longer get that annoying “advertisement” window for the online form editing feature.

      No horizontal scroll bar on invoices (etc.).

      This doesn’t bother me that much on my laptop (in comparison with QB 2012), but a lot of this depends on what features you are using and how you interact with the program. I generally have simpler invoices for my own business, fewer columns and fewer lines, so it isn’t as troublesome for me. However, that is MY use case, and I can certainly see that this will be less acceptable in OTHER use cases.

      As I said, this will generate a LOT of discussion…

      • For Enterprise users, Intuit has added a lot more features that have added columns to the invoice.
        From 5 to 15 custom fields
        Lot/Serial Numbers

        With all these additional available columns, it would make sense for Intuit to add a horizontal scroll bar to the Enterprise version.

        • Cliff, I won’t argue against you on this one. A scroll bar would be nice for the kinds of situations you describe.

          Note that the things you list are all things from prior years, not QB 2013. Although there are a few more possible columns in some forms this year.

  • One thing that I didn’t comment about in the article that I want to pass on to everyone.

    Intuit doesn’t make advance copies of QuickBooks available to software developers, which I view as a problem. As a ProAdvisor I can download my copy today, but add-on software developers still can’t get their hands on a copy (unless they happen to be ProAdvisors also).

    So, if you are using an add-on product BE CAREFUL about upgrading to this product, as you don’t know if it will be compatible with your add-on software.

    It SHOULD be compatible – in quick testing of add-on software that I produce, I didn’t find any problems. However, there can be issues.

    Case in point – when I opened my company file with QuickBooks 2013, my SmartVault add-on generated an error message. Problem! In that error sequence SmartVault gave me an option to send a problem report in automatically, which I took advantage of. In probably less than 30 minutes after sending in that report I got a phone call from the SmartVault technical support staff, who had me make a minor adjustment to my system, and the problem was fixed within minutes. That is one of the most fantastic tech support responses that I’ve ever received from a software company!

    • Charlie, you’ve touched a raw nerve here. Responsible developers such as BizTools (and many others) pay annual fees ($1495 in our case for Enterprise access to NFR software) in order to test our SDK applications against the latest release. I don’t understand how Intuit can expect developers to stay up to date with compatability testing when they delay the availablity of NFR software each time they go through their release cycle. It is frustrating to say the least and reduces our ability to “delight the customer” as Intuit is fond of saying.

      • Believe me, John, I feel your pain!

        I’m fortunate enough to be both an SDK developer AND a ProAdvisor, so I have access to products through different venues. This year I was able to see the product early because of the ProAdvisor membership (plus my involvement in the beta test program). In years past the SDK developers could get early copies too.

        This year, no early copies for SDK developers (IPP developers don’t need a copy, technically).

        Going further, there isn’t an updated SDK itself, even in beta testing (as of today), so we can’t develop features that would take advantage of database changes. I am CHOMPING AT THE BIT to be able to get to the “barcode number” field that was added.

        This, along with the problems with the “search” feature in the Intuit Marketplace (which Intuit shows no interest in fixing) is yet another indication that the SDK developers are not valued by Intuit, at least at some levels (I know that the Enterprise inside sales team likes SDK products, as they help Intuit sell Enterprise…)

  • I have heard that the new color (or lack of it) motif was intended to make it ‘more visible’ in terms of contrast, I didn’t see that at all during Beta testing. I do see a lot of drawbacks with the lack of color options, especially for clients with multiple companies, and multiple checking accounts.

    As you pointed out many users with multiple company files made each file its own unique color scheme so as to keep them apart more easily; this was especially important with the roll-out of ‘multi-instance’ where some versions of QB could have more than one company file open at the same time.

    More importantly I have taught and many have followed my instructions to ‘color’ both check registers and checks to match actual check stock and use different colors for every account, to help insure that transactions were posted to the correct accounts. When someone like a lawyers office has maybe 20 different bank accounts this was of major importance. Now that thin band of color around the body of an otherwise dull check may or may not be noticeable if there is enough color variation (but tan and beige and taupe are going to be very hard to differentiate with the new color tape) in my opinion.

    Intuit said this new UI was in response (in part) to hundreds of comments and suggestions from Users; perhaps so, but I wonder just how many ‘thousands’ will be shouting “where have all the colors gone???”
    (I bet they won’t be shouting it to the tune of ‘where have all the flowers gone’ either!)

    Still the same, another ‘outstanding’ blog, my friend!


    • Murph, I actually prefer the new color implementation for the check window, the old way was garish and annoying. But, again, everyone looks at it differently. Note also that the REGISTER still shows the color very clearly, as before.

    • Agreed! Everything else on my computer follows the window color scheme I (the user) chose. Why does Intuit feel entitled to to take away that choice? Why do they feel that will cause the user to feel better about QuickBooks?

  • One other complaint with the invoice, which you already pointed out.

    The light gray letters on a white background is annoying.
    There needs to be more contrast between the letters and the surrounding background. Making the letters a darker gray would help.

    I like the way it is in version 2012, with a gray border around the letters.

    I wonder if there is an “eye ergonomics” industry standard for companies that create workplace computer software programs?
    The new format/contrast seems “ergonomically” incorrect.

    • I’m also not a fan of the light gray against white background. My company telephone number comes in much darker, for some reason. I’d love to find some way to make the whole page darker, too.

  • I think it’s a major drawback about the lack of color options in QB 2013. This reminds me of the look of MYOB back in the mid 90’s. Hated that look then in MYOB, and hate this new look in QB’s 2013 now. (Did any beta tester complain about this at all?) And don’t even get me started on the Font issue of being too small for anyone eyes, that are over the age of 40… Which, I know half of my clients are, including me. Intuit needs to really rethink this issue and include an update later on, so we the end user can change the Colors, and Fonts to how we use QB’s.

    • Ted, I’m not really supposed to talk about the beta test (NDA’s might still apply), but let me say that all of these issues were a hot topic of discussion.

      Small fonts – note that it is only a few labels in some places where the font tends to be smaller than before. Many places the font is larger, with more room around the text, which tends to make things more readable. But, I do have trouble with the poor contrast and color choices.

      I definately feel more eye strain, but I’m quite a bit beyond 40…

  • The lack of color is a BIG problem for me. I use it extensively and find it a very important feature. I create a LOT of new files every year for clients and it’s necessary to say ‘Use the Purple file’ – or whatever.

    I’m also having problems with headaches with the new color scheme (or lack thereof) – if I’m not careful I end up with a migraine! My eyes get tired quicker with all of this black and lack of color, which results in a headache about 30-45 minutes in. I can’t even get excited about anything new because of this – it’s a real problem for me and I know it will be for many of my clients as well.

  • I also wish we could turn off the stupid advertising on the bottom left hand corner – it’s a waste of space (and it has color). It’s distracting too.

    Ted – yes there was a lot of discussion on this color, or lack thereof. I have a lot of clients with multiple company files and also create a lot of new files (old file one color, new file another color. This is such a big deal it’s hard to get past it and even look at the new features.

    I also have to stock up on a lot of heachache medicine, I can’t believe the headaches I get from this new scheme. I’m with Cliff – this can’t be “ergonomically” correct or good.

    • Roxanne, I’ll note that the lower part of the left icon bar is mostly a duplicate of what used to be on the lower right of the Home Page. If you used the Home Page a lot, that isn’t much different. But it is interesting to note that these icons are in color, when they make such a big deal about NOT having colored icons in the left navigation bar.

      And as I pointed out, they have a bunch of new ways to introduce in-product advertising!

  • One of the things that I’m finding more and more annoying is the “open windows” tab in the icon bar. I can only have my list of open windows (which I rely on a lot) OR the shortcuts (icons) available at one time. With a top icon bar and the left side “open window list” as we had before (and that you can select this year as an option) I can see BOTH of those features at the same time. So at this point, navigation (using the left navigation bar) is much less convenient for me.

  • Maybe Intuit is wanting to increase their QB Online sales and have converted desktop software into a BAD for the eye program, so that people decide to make the switch…(the cloud fever is infecting everything). I really DON’T like icon bar and checks, all the visual part in 2013 is quite nasty. It’s kind of like gowing back to black and white TV from a flat screen HD set. There has to be something wrong with this decision. Why would they even consider this? If they already knew that a lot of people wouldn’t like it, why make it? Charlie, your eyes are fine, the new display is the problem…but today I have no choice, have to live with it…

  • There are people who like it, even prefer it. Those people tend to be less vocal. Not much to say, it is acceptable to them. People who do NOT like it tend to be more vocal, more likely to say something because they feel that they have lost something.

    It will be interesting to see what the opinions are of NEW users who don’t upgrade from a prior version.

    I don’t have any statistics on how many like it or not, although in one forum I’d say the majority had one complaint or another.

  • Well… Exactly at this moment I’m working on a QB/Microsoft RMS setup. I’ve noticed that software like Microsoft Dynamics and SAP, which are in the major leagues, have a poor visual interface but great functionality and stability. If Intuit sacrificed looks for functionality and stability I won’t complain at all; but did they?

    New users won’t have much to say I guess. Imagine a little kid who hasn’t seen colors in his life and gets a set of 5 gray play doh jars, bunches of fun!!!…and the other day he receives 5 colored jars… now try it the other way around. At this moment I feel like I’m receiving gray jars and I was fine with my colored clay.

  • The Home page icons are clunkier/cheaper looking. The current icons are more refined with more detail. Makes the program feel more child like.

    Taking away the color options, and making the Icon bar gray and black, could not possibly be to improve customer satisfaction. The change had to have come from the technical design team that probably wanted to make the program easier to design/maintain, or they became tasked to make a change for the sake of change. I am sure if Intuit had polled their customers the overwhelming vote would have been to keep the colors.
    I wish Intuit would focus more on fixing bugs and design flaws, instead of making cosmetic changes.

    • Cliff, actually, Intuit hired at least one person that I know of who is a user interface design specialist, who was tasked with the overall update to the user interface in several different product areas (not just QuickBooks desktop). Very nice person, who I met earlier this year. And, there are some very good reasons for doing a user interface update. I actually think that it was a good idea. The problem isn’t in the concept of doing an overhaul, in my mind, it is with the actual choices they made in implementing the overhaul.

  • Charlie, great article. I was involved in the alpha and beta testing of QuickBooks 2013 as well. Although I like the new color scheme, I know that not being able to change the colors is a big issue to some. One of the features I really like is the new icon bar in the various windows (Create Invoice, Enter Bills). No more searching – everything you need in that window is right there!!!

  • I just showed the new interface to a client who purchased 2012 a couple of weeks ago, she had never seen QB before in her life. Her impression was: 2013 looks like if it’s the old version and 2012 like if it’s the new one. Maybe the idea of these designers was to give QB a more Retro look…makes me wonder.

  • Regarding light gray words being to hard to see, one thing I’ve noticed when people complain about that is their monitor is misscalibrated or they are looking at it from an off angle (slightly to high or low). An IPS panel usually doesn’t have an off axis problem but calibration could still be an issue there.

    As for the redesigned interface one thing that I see which might be an issue for us is the movement of the “Notes” to a tab. We were using the top line in the notes field to flag a customer account with things like *** WITHHOLD SERVICE UNTIL PAYMENT *** or some such information on problem customers. Now with the notes hidden behind a tab we’ll have to find another way to make that info jump out at first glance.

    Two of your screen shots under Integration with Intuit app center are TIFF and don’t display in all browsers.

    • Jeff, it isn’t a calibration issue in this case.

      Good point about “notes”. While they add an ability that many people will like, when they change how an existing feature works there will always be someone who was using it the way it worked originally, who depends on that.

      Thanks for noting the TIF files, I have corrected that.

  • This page is called “QuickBooks and Beyond,” and QuickBooks Accountant 2013 should be renamed as “QuickBooks Beyond Belief.” I love the new Intuit QuickBooks Accountant 2013 (IQBA2013); it is the best release since 2005. The greatest improvements are visibility, visibility, and visibility. I spend whole days looking at a screen, and with prior QuickBooks Premier Accountant products, my eyes were raw/burning for most of the day from eye-strain. With IQBA2013, there is no squinting or eye-strain. I’ve seen complaints about the new left-side panel; all one needs to do is hit a small arrow at the top right corner of the panel, and it magically hides. Of course you can bring the panel back to the screen by hitting the same small arrow.

    People have complained about the colors. To me, Intuit/QuickBooks must have studied and thought very carefully about what would be easiest on the eyes. Every single element of the whole screen is now “easy on the eyes.” Black, white, and gray are not my favorite colors; however, Intuit/QuickBooks understands that it is the appropriate mixture of these colors that keeps a QuickBooks Accountant from going blind!!

    Thank you VERY much to QuickBooks, Intuit, and any of the other designers that participated in the development of IQBA2013. You definitely had in mind that we sit at our screens for long periods of time!! “I can see clearly now.”

  • I have been using QB 2013 Premiere for about 3 weeks and absolutely HATE the gray toolbars, it was much easier when the icons were color! I am definitely going back to 2012 UNLESS I heard that they were quickly putting colors and color themes back. What do you know abou that situation?

  • Please let me begin by confessing my very limited knowledge of QuickBooks. We recently moved from QB 2001 to QB 2013. There now seems to be a problem with our “Item List.” After transferring the old data to the new version, the item names did not convert. On the list, they are shown as: 1 (Rebuilt), 2 (Rebuilt), 3 (Rebuilt) etc. I see that the number of items in the QB 2001 version corresponds to the number of items in the QB 2013 version. Also, when an item name was shown in the QB 2001 version, the converted data in the QB 2013 version shows: 1 (Rebuilt), 2 (Rebuilt), 3 (Rebuilt), etc. Do you know of a solution to this problem? I sincerely appreciate any insights you may be able to provide. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Mike, it is hard to be specific without hands on the file. I would suspect that your original file had some problems that should have been addressed before you converted. If you can go back to the older version temporarily, find a ProAdvisor who can take a look at it to see if some repairs are needed. I don’t have the 2001 version, but if there is a “rebuild” feature in the File/Utilities menu, then that would be a place to start.

      Also, many of us like to do the conversion in steps, since there are BIG differences between the database in the 2001 version compared to the 2013 version. I usually would do a conversion to 2006 first, then up to 2013 (and, only with the R3 or later version of 2013, never the R1 release). That isn’t something that you can do yourself, probably, but an experienced ProAdvisor could (if they have been around for a few years).

      • Charlie: Thanks for the good advice (11-22-12). Sorry for the delay in expressing my appreciation. The conversion has worked out well. The 2013 version has some nice features. Again, thanks so much!

  • It’s too bad I needed to purchase this version to keep our 5 users pricing. I look at the QuickBooks screen for most of my working day and would love to have the 2012 back.
    I can’t imagine who thought this design was pleasing to the eye.
    I’ve been using QB since version 4.0 and this is the first time I wanted to send it back.

  • I have used every version of QuickBooks ever made. This is the nastiest thing I’ve been forced to deal with since the Online version (which I wouldn’t use if you paid me 100 bucks a day to do so). I guess this is one more way that real computer users are being overlooked and forced to deal with the apple-i-zation of software.

    Headed out to research other software.

  • Hello Charlie,

    Is it possible to interface a third party software to do real time transactions to this version of qb. Such as having invoices auto created in real time and or even cash receipts. We attempted this before in a version a few years ago but it was very slow and even crashed a few times. I really enjoy qb but need to make sure we can create these transactions in real time from our custom software before buying.


    • You can create transactions (such as invoices) in QuickBooks using a variety of methods. You can import via IIF (not recommended), import using a third party tool like Transaction Pro Importer from Baystate Consulting (very solid product), use the ODBC driver from http://www.qodbc.com, use the tools from Method (a web oriented custom programming tool), use the QuickBooks SDK (which I use extensively), or use the IPP interface (not something that is simple to do). Most methods are going to have some delays as the programming interfaces they provide tend to be slow, but there are things you can do to improve speed. As far as crashing – I’ve been writing products that import invoices into QuickBooks since the 2006 version using the QuickBooks SDK, and as long as you follow the proper practices it is a very reliable approach.

  • I have to say I strongly agree with many of the complaints. Color options, light gray text over white background hard to read, and more. In addition, I’ve had to reduce my resolution for my whole desktop to make everything fit on the screen. For example, the “Write Checks” screen would cut off the Save & Close, Save & New, and Clear from what I could see on the screen, even after I reduced the check window to the minimum height. I tried using the left icon bar too, and that still did not help. Now everything is smaller in resolution so I have to squint just to read it. In addition, why did they make some of the often-used icons much smaller and add much larger icons that are rarely used to the screen? For example, on the Write Checks screen again, the two arrow keys to move forward and back on checks are now tiny, yet they added much larger “Reorder Reminder” and “Order Checks” icons.

    • I also agree that the lack of color is annoying. I very much get eye strain from the black and white frozen tundra look. I also moved my icon bar to the top so I can have the open windows list back on the left where it has always been. Hopefully INTUIT will fix the issues that we really didn’t want but they, in their infinite wisdom, assumed we wanted. I really liked 2012, the jury is still out on 2013. I my not upgrade my client accounts to this version unless they give us back the colors, etc.

  • Horrible, horrible, horrible. I was forced to upgrade in order to keep using Payroll and I wish I hadn’t. The new look reduces the amount of information on the screen and adds all sorts if garbage that I don’t need. Unfortunately I think I’ve reached the end of the list of options that I can turn off, no I am left trying to decide if I should enter my day’s data or just bail on the whole thing. Some basic advice to the geniuses at Intuit who masterminded this fiasco – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  • I find the screen resolution and lack of color to be BIG problems. I just upgraded a client to 2013 and wish that I had upgraded him to 2012.

  • Just love the way the Write Check window lets one see two entries. If you have split entries it is a real pain. If you are working in the Write Checks screen one would think more space would be allocated to it.
    The invoice customizing was pretty neat.

  • Version 2013 is almost a joke. It was assumed no one wanted the CHOICE of color along with assuming everyone is going blind and needing larger lines, and larger font. Nothing short of wasting valuable real-estate with blank, unusuable space. Really?? I mean Really??

    What’s with the joke of a “Memo” area on the “Receive Payments” It is soooo small and in the lower left corner . . . No comment.

    The accuracy of reporting ????? Payroll summary is now pulling information from the TRASH and placing it in the report as valuable information instead of pulling from PAYROLL. Hey INTUIT, I’ll be sending my Worker Comp Insurance underpayment bill to you because your new and improved Version 13.00 didn’t pull the correct information. I was on the phone over an hour with Daniel, an Enterprise expert and he also, HAD NO EXPLANATION regarding the ERROR FILLED report.

    Let’s just make it as USER UNFRIENDLY as possible and call it a “Feature”.

    I remain,
    Judy Mac

    • Dam, they have screwed up the program again. How do we turn off the shortcut bar on the left. it’s a real pain to have to minimize it every time. Colors are terrible and print is too big.

      They just want to charge everyone for something so they come up with this nonsense.

      only reason I updated was to send invoice and certainly didn’t expect more nonsense……………

      Any Ideas on how to stop shortcut bar permanently ???????

      • Dave, make sure you are on the current release (R6). Select “View” and then “Top Icon Bar”.

        There are other changes relating to color options and font improvements in the past several revisions (you may not feel that they are enough of a change, but they do help some), which is one reason that you want to be on the R6 level.

      • Go to the View Menu and select “Top Icon Bar”. This will remove it from the left and put it at the top. I hope this helps.


    • Judy, I couldn’t agree with you more. If I were writing these comments, I would write verbatim to yours! This upgraded product has reduced my ability to perform my bookkeeping functions in any reasonable amount of time. They need to have a view mode that will put us back to “Classic” as we liked it for the past 15 years!

  • Sleeter has lost all creditability. The Black and grey is a big leap back to the early dos computers before the commodore 64 brought us color! It is extremely hard to read the grey on black. There is a reason that no other software company in the world uses color for contrast. Color is easier to read. Black and grey is for programers who are bucking for a pay raise. Tell management to fire them all and the designers as well and get a kindergartner to show them what color is all about. Have the programers and management all lost their minds. If grey on black was better, everyone including the big boys (apple, microsoft, google, etc) would be doing it too.

      • As I use 2013 I am running across features I find useful, such as being able to add an email address to the customer profile while editing invoices so I can then send the invoice, without having to click over to the customer & jobs tab (etc etc) much smoother action, also running a second instance of QB is cool, not sure what I will use that for yet, but I am sure there is something.

        My MAJOR peeve is the in app marketing icons being in color and the long awaited side bar icons being grey on black, YUK, I mean seriously! ( I was SO glad to get that top real estate back). I was thinking the same thing, i programmer was trying to be slick, and it would have passed (begrudgingly) if they had not had that nice pop of color on the stupid sales icons that I am forced to lose screen space to. I have to stare at this ALL day, yes I am all about function, but I do enjoy a little color as well. I was glad to at least have the illusion of having some of the ol’ intuit bloat stripped away, but that color scheme blows my mind, such a douchy marketing thing. (Note to intuit, we spend LOTS of money on many products from you, from field services to payroll, I will make it my mission in life to make sure NOBODY I know or talk to orders ANYTHING from your in app marketing until we get some color. 😉

        Charlie and Sleeter, GREAT, relevant, article as always!


        • oops did not mean to post under this, I was going to poke fun at that post and ask you to swap that color scheme around for me, then went into a more “serious” post. 😉

  • […] Click here to see the screen shots and detailed explanation of these changes from the previous versions of QuickBooks. Thank you Charlie Russell for this valuable information. Although Charlie introduced this article in Sept, 2012; if you are using QuickBooks 2012 or earlier and wondering if you should upgrade, you will see that there are a lot of improvements that could make it a good move. Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. […]

  • I need to know how to change the overall font style in the program.. It’s all in italics and hard on the eyes.. How do I do this?

    • Hey Angela. I have the same problem and its driving me CRAZY. Have you found a solution yet? I’ve search around and only found this post that mentions the Quickbooks font being italicized. Please help me!

  • We are disappointed with the new, smaller Bill To and Ship To boxes on invoices. We have customers with long names and when using the Customer Jobs function, we can’t see enough of the customer name to tell which job we are working on. Is there a way to make the boxes on the screen (not the printed invoice, which is fine)larger and also to move them from the right side to the left?

      • Same thing with the memo field on the Receive Payment screen. It is in small and in the lower left corner. There is not enough room for what I put in there, and I now have to pick up my mouse to move to that field in lieu of tabing one time to it. Tab will work, but I have to tab through each invoice listed before it gets to that field. What a waste of time!!!

  • Charlie – thanks for the heads up that I am going to need a larger monitor to somewhat enjoy 2013 QuickBooks. Now – my question is, what size do I need to get?

    I currently have one of those “ancient” 19″ monitors. The only place I’ve noticed an issue (so far) is when I “Write Checks”. The bottom of the screen doesn’t show the ‘Save and New and ‘Save and Close’ icons.

    QuickBooks technical staff reduced my entire computer Display to make everything smaller, but I need granny glasses to read anything other than QuickBooks and the Internet (which you can adjust and zoom).

    Microsoft Documents and spreadsheets, and Outlook, are literally too small to see much at this setting.

    Thanks for the help! Appreciate it!

  • Greetings:

    I also have multiple monitors. Since installing 2013, Quickbooks randomly changes the screen resolution from 1920×1080, my normal display, to 640×480, which is completely useless. It does this during launch, then again from time to time while I’m working. It only stops when I close QB completely.
    I have to manually restore the proper screen resolution, and put any other open windows back where they belong, or they gradually migrate off the edge and are no longer accessible.
    QB is the only program that does weird things to the display. The PC is mature, and I run all sorts of other stuff on it. I called Quicken, who informed me that it’s a problem in my driver, which is clearly not the case. Frankly, I wish I could get my money back.
    Any help from the user community would be greatly appreciated.


Leave a Comment