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Tapping Into QuickBooks

QuickBooks, the ever-popular accounting software for small business, is emerging from isolation. Intuit Inc., the Mountain View (Calif.) company that makes the program, announced on Feb. 12 that it plans to allow outside developers to create programs that connect with QuickBooks.

Ultimately, that decision could save business owners considerable time. Retail stores, for instance, may be able to transfer data from cash registers directly into the accounting program, eliminating the need for owners to key in sales figures by hand.

Other potential add-on programs include time-tracking software for lawyers, online bill-paying applications, and industry-specific programs that produce price quotes.

WAITING GAME. Intuit adopted the open-platform approach after a survey of customers found that 80% wished they could tie the software to other programs, says company spokesman Charles Var. "By doing so, Intuit can reach out to customers who said this is just not right for me, if only it had..." he adds.

But don't look for this integrated world to appear overnight. A final version of the technical specifications needed to create compatible, add-on programs isn't expected to be released until the end of 2001. That means QuickBooks-friendly software isn't likely to be on the market till 2002.

Intuit is, however, testing the open-platform approach this year with two of its other products: QuickBooks Site Solutions, a tool for creating Web sites, and QuickBase, a program for sharing information in databases. But sales of those products are minuscule compared to QuickBooks, which Intuit says is now used by 3 million small-business owners -- many of whom will be eagerly awaiting the open QuickBooks. By Julie Fields in New York

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