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QuickBooks 2005: The Missing Manual by Bonnie Biafore

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Starting the EasyStep Interview

You can create a brand new company file from either the Welcome to QuickBooks windowor the No Company Open window by clicking "Create a new company." The EasyStep Interview window opens to the Welcome screen with a charming digital rendition of a spiral bound notebook to put you at ease. As the number of tabs you can see in Figure 1-3 suggests, each step in the EasyStep Interview might be easy, but navigating through them could be a challenge. This section explains how to survive.

Each main section contains several subsections and each subsection contains several screens. As you click Next, QuickBooks takes you to the next screen, the next subsection, and the next section without you having to worry about where you are. The EasyStep Interview is meant for beginners who need instructions and explanations, so many of the screens contain information rather than questions. If you don't need assistance, click Next until you reach the screen with an actual Interview question. The instructions on the following pages of this book focus on the screens that require action on your part, but you'll also learn the things that are significant on the intervening instructional screens.

Tip

When a company file is open, you can open the EasyStep Interview by choosing FileEasyStep Interview. When you do so, QuickBooks fills in the fields in the EasyStep Interview with the information for the current company, which is great if you want to review and edit your company file information.

The tabs that hang off the right edge of the digital notebook are the main sections of the EasyStep Interview. In each main section, the tabs along the top of the notebook are subsections. As you click Next to move from screen to screen, you'll navigate across the top tabs from left to right. For example, in the General section, you progress from Welcome, through Company Info, Preferences, finally to Start Date.

Figure 1-3. The tabs that hang off the right edge of the digital notebook are the main sections of the EasyStep Interview. In each main section, the tabs along the top of the notebook are subsections. As you click Next to move from screen to screen, you'll navigate across the top tabs from left to right. For example, in the General section, you progress from Welcome, through Company Info, Preferences, finally to Start Date.

The Welcome tab

On the initial Welcome screen, click Next to get started. The first thing that QuickBooks does is give you a chance to hire professional help. The "Do you need assistance in setting up QuickBooks?" screen includes the "Find a Certified QuickBooks Professional Advisor" link. If you click that link, QuickBooks opens your browser to the Web page for Intuit's Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor Referral Database.You can search for an advisor by location and additional characteristics.

Tip

If a decision you make in the Interview is hard to reverse, QuickBooks highlights it with a warning icon: a yellow triangle with a black exclamation point in the middle.

"Setting up a new QuickBooks company" is a pivotal screen—it's your chance to skip the rest of the EasyStep Interview. Here are the two paths you can take and why you might prefer one over the other:

  • Skip Interview. If you would rather create a company file with the bare minimum of information and perform most of your setup using QuickBooks features, click Skip Interview. This route is ideal if you already know how to use QuickBooks and don't want handholding or hints. You still have to enter basic company information, but QuickBooks gets to the point with fields assembled in a few compact dialog boxes and little or no instruction.

  • The Company Info tab. You can skip the remaining Welcome screens of instructions and start entering company information by clicking the Company Info tab. In the Welcome screens you skip, what you really need to know is that you must complete the General section before you can progress to other main sections.

The Company Info tab

In the EasyStep Interview,QuickBooks asks you for a few bits of company information on each screen, as you can see in Figure 1-4.

Top: For some companies, the legal company name is not the same name that the company uses in conducting business. For example, United Airlines' legal nameLegal nameis UAL, Inc. In the Company Name field, type the name that you want to appear on invoices, reports, and other forms. In the Legal name field, type the company name as it should appear on contracts and other legal documents. If you own a corporation, the legal name is what appears on your Certificate of IncorporationCertificate of Incorporation. Fill in both fields even if the company name and Legal namelegal name are identical. Bottom: The second screen of company information includes basic 411: company address, telephone numbers, email, and Web site.

Figure 1-4. Top: For some companies, the legal company name is not the same name that the company uses in conducting business. For example, United Airlines' legal nameis UAL, Inc. In the Company Name field, type the name that you want to appear on invoices, reports, and other forms. In the Legal name field, type the company name as it should appear on contracts and other legal documents. If you own a corporation, the legal name is what appears on your Certificate of Incorporation. Fill in both fields even if the company name and legal name are identical. Bottom: The second screen of company information includes basic 411: company address, telephone numbers, email, and Web site.

The "Other company information" screen has a bunch of required fields: the federal tax ID number you'll use when you file your taxes, the first month of your fiscal year, the first month of your income tax year, and the tax form you file. If you don't know the difference between fiscal and physical, click More, as shown in Figure 1-5.

Note

If you don't know how to fill in the fields on the "Other company information" screen and you click Leave to exit the EasyStep Interview, QuickBooks won't create your company file or save the information you've already entered. Consider clicking through the rest of the screens in the Company Info section to identify all the questions you need answered. Then, when you run the EasyStep Interview the next time, you'll be able to create your company file.

Top: Corporations and partnerships obtain a Federal Employer Identification Numberfederal employer identification number from the federal government. If you run a sole proprietorship, you can use your social security number as your federal tax ID, but getting a business federal tax ID is the better approach. Using a federal tax ID is one way to separate your business from your personal finances, which protects your personal assets from a business lawsuit. Besides, you'll need a Federal tax ID numberfederal tax ID number if you plan to pay Employeesemployees or Subcontractorssubcontractors for their work.Bottom: When you click More, QuickBooks displays more information about the fields you must fill in. If these explanations leave you scratching your head, your best bet is to ask your accountant. If you decide that you need some help before you go on, click Leave to exit the EasyStep Interview.

Figure 1-5. Top: Corporations and partnerships obtain a federal employer identification number from the federal government. If you run a sole proprietorship, you can use your social security number as your federal tax ID, but getting a business federal tax ID is the better approach. Using a federal tax ID is one way to separate your business from your personal finances, which protects your personal assets from a business lawsuit. Besides, you'll need a federal tax ID number if you plan to pay employees or subcontractors for their work. Bottom: When you click More, QuickBooks displays more information about the fields you must fill in. If these explanations leave you scratching your head, your best bet is to ask your accountant. If you decide that you need some help before you go on, click Leave to exit the EasyStep Interview.

The "Your company income tax form" screen includes only one field: the tax form you file to report income. When you select a tax form, QuickBooks links the lines on the tax form to the accounts you will create a few steps later in the interview.

Don't take the "Select your type of business" screen lightly. When you choose an industry on this screen, QuickBooks can do great things such as recommend accounts and preferences, and link your accounts to lines on your tax form. Some of the industries in the list are generic. For example, Answering Service isn't one of the industries on the list, but the Service Business industry encompasses it. Choose Other at the bottom of the list if the most generic of industries still falls short. After you choose an industry, QuickBooks displays tips for creating a company file specifically for your type of business.A green left-pointing triangle identifies these industry-specific tips throughout the rest of the EasyStep Interview screens.

Note

Be careful choosing an industry. You can't change the company type after QuickBooks creates the company file. If you make the wrong choice, you could spend hours trying to correct what QuickBooks added to the file–or you could just start the EasyStep Interview from the beginning.

When you see the "We're ready to create your company file now" screen, you're on the verge of actually creating your company file.Here are the steps to complete this significant milestone:

  1. Click Next to open the File name for New Company dialog box.

  2. Navigate to the folder in which you want to store the new company file.

    QuickBooks tries to store company files within the Program File QuickBooks folder. To ensure that you back up your company file, consider storing it in a folder with the rest of your company data. For example, if you use Shared Folders in Windows, you could store your company file in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\QuickBooks.

  3. QuickBooks fills in the File name field with the company name that you entered earlier in the Interview. Keep this name or type one that better identifies the company's records that lie inside.

  4. Click Save to create the company file.

    QuickBooks can take a minute or so to create the new file, and in the meantime, the "We're ready to create your company file now" screen reappears. If you're not paying attention, you might think that QuickBooks didn't create your file. If the mouse pointer is an hourglass, be patient. When the company file is ready, the "Your income and expense accounts" screen appears.

    QuickBooks displays a list of accounts suitable for the type of business you chose. You can also see an industry-specific tip that tells you that the accounts are for that industry only. Scroll through the list to make sure that the accounts are at least close to what you want. You can use the accounts that QuickBooks suggests or create your own, as shown in Figure 1-6.

Note

With the company file created, you can click Leave to exit the Interview without losing the information you entered so far. When you're ready to pick up where you left off, make sure that the correct company file is open. If it isn't, choose FileOpen Previous Company and select the file name on the list. Then, choose FileEasyStep Interview. Click tabs or Next to navigate to the field where you left off.

After QuickBooks adds accounts to your file, the next screen is "Accessing your company." In the "How many people (besides yourself) will have access to your QuickBooks company?" box, type the number of other people who will work on this company file. Regardless of the number you type in that box, QuickBooks reacts the same way when you click Next: it opens the "Accessing your company: users and passwords" screen. Type the login name you want for the QuickBooks administrator (that's someone with all-encompassing power to set up other users and access any area of the company file), and type (don't cut and paste) the administrator passwordin both the Administrator's Password and Confirm Password boxes. Write down the login and password in a safe but memorable place.

If the accounts are close enough, choose Yes to start with this list of accounts. Later, when you've finished the EasyStep Interview,EasyStep Interviewyou can edit, add, or delete accounts (Chapter 2). If you want to create your own accounts, choose "No, I'd like to create my own." You don't actually create the accounts in the EasyStep Interview. Instead, exit the Interview and create them from the Chart of Accounts window (Chapter 2). By doing so, you can include account numbers and other fields.

Figure 1-6. If the accounts are close enough, choose Yes to start with this list of accounts. Later, when you've finished the EasyStep Interview,you can edit, add, or delete accounts (Chapter 2). If you want to create your own accounts, choose "No, I'd like to create my own." You don't actually create the accounts in the EasyStep Interview. Instead, exit the Interview and create them from the Chart of Accounts window (Chapter 2). By doing so, you can include account numbers and other fields.

In the EasyStep Interview, QuickBooks doesn't prompt you for the logins and passwords for the other people. After you leave the Interview, you can specify the logins and passwords for employees and your accountant, as described on page 549.

If you make it this far in the EasyStep Interview and you click Next one more time, you're finally rewarded with the "Company Info completed" screen. A milestone, but not the end of the EasyStep Interview! At this point, all but the newest of newbies might prefer to set up features without the EasyStep Interview's help, as you'll learn in the remaining chapters of Part 1. This section explains what the EasyStep Interview covers—and identifies which chapter to read if you want to set up the rest of your company file manually.

The Preferences tab

As illustrated in Figure 1-7, the EasyStep Interview looks like it's holding your hand. But the assistance is often no more than a pretty wrapper. On many screens, when you answer a question, QuickBooks turns on the feature and abruptly tells you to finish the job after the Interview is complete.

Here's how you set preferences in the EasyStep Interview with cross-references to the pages in this book that tell you how to accomplish the same things outside the Interview:

  • Inventory. In the Interview, QuickBooks asks if you want to turn on the inventory feature (see page 145 to turn on inventory on your own), but the screens for creating individual inventory items occur later in the interview. If you have heaps of inventory items, it's faster to create them in the Item List, as described on page 87.

  • Sales tax. If you say yes to collecting sales tax, QuickBooks asks if you collect one sales tax or several (for instance, for your state, city, and special tax districts). You can set up only one sales tax within the EasyStep Interview. If you do charge sales tax, set up sales tax items outside of the Interview, as described on page 82.

  • Invoice format. QuickBooks comes with invoices for different types of businesses. You can choose one of these templates or choose Custom if you plan to create your own. Chapter 22 tells you everything you need to know about creating your own forms, while page 186 describes how to apply a template to an invoice.

  • Payroll. You can turn on the payroll feature in the EasyStep Interview, but you must choose the rest of the payroll preferences and set up payroll after the Interview is complete. See page 305 to learn how.

  • Estimates. QuickBooks asks if you prepare estimates for customers and whether you use progress invoicing,which means you invoice customers based on the percentage you've completed on a job. To learn why you might use these features and how to turn them on, see page 203.

  • Time tracking. This feature lets you track the hours that people work. You can turn it on in the Interview, but you'll need the instructions on page 414 to set it up properly.

Top: QuickBooks displays different screens depending on how you answer the questions it poses. Bottom: Even if you turn on a feature, QuickBooks doesn't ask all the questions about that feature at the same time. For example, if you answer Yes to turning on inventory, QuickBooks still moves on to the Sales Tax screen. Later Setting preferencesin the EasyStep Interview Classessetting preferencesin the Interview, QuickBooks gives you a chance to set up your inventory items. Notice the industry-specific tip that QuickBooks provides about restaurants usually charging sales tax.

Figure 1-7. Top: QuickBooks displays different screens depending on how you answer the questions it poses. Bottom: Even if you turn on a feature, QuickBooks doesn't ask all the questions about that feature at the same time. For example, if you answer Yes to turning on inventory, QuickBooks still moves on to the Sales Tax screen. Later in the Interview, QuickBooks gives you a chance to set up your inventory items. Notice the industry-specific tip that QuickBooks provides about restaurants usually charging sales tax.

  • Classes. This feature lets you track company performance in different ways. For example, you can use classes to track the performance of business units within your company without creating gazillions of separate income and expense accounts. You can turn on classes during the Interview, but you're better off waiting. Unless you already know that you need classes to generate your company reports, run QuickBooks for a while. If the reports you generate don't meet your needs, you can turn on and configure classes for more detail, as described on page 107.

  • Bills and payments. QuickBooks asks whether you enter bills and then pay them later or write checks directly. You'll find bill and payment preferences described on page 25.

Tip

Collecting unpaid bills in a desk drawer and writing checks when you're ready to pay them requires fewer transactions than entering bills in QuickBooks and then writing checks. But when you go that extra step and enter bills, QuickBooks can remind you when bills are due or qualify for timely payment discounts, and tell you how much you owe.

  • Reminders. During the Interview, QuickBooks merely asks you when you want to see the Reminders list, but there's a lot more to reminders than that. To set your Reminders preferences and choose the Reminders you want, see page 146.

The Start Date tab

On the Start Date tab, QuickBooks recommends the start date by automatically choosing the "I want to start entering detailed transactions as of: 01/01/2005" option. The date in this option's label is always January first of the current calendar year. If you want to choose a different start date, select the second option and type the date you want in the calendar box.

When you click Next at this point, you reach the end of the General section. If you answered all the questions that QuickBooks requires, you'll notice that a checkmark appears in front of the General tab, indicating the first main section of the EasyStep Interview is at long last complete. When you click Next, you begin the Income & Expenses section of the Interview.

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