Internet Explorer 7.0, which Microsoft released to the public last month, has numerous advantages over the Redmond company's five-year-old Web browser, IE version 6.0. But not if you're a user of Intuit's QuickBooks 2004, 2005, or the original build of 2006.
If you install IE 7, according to Intuit executives, it can cause the affected versions of the QuickBooks small-business bookkeeping package to display "page not found" errors and unexpectedly crash.
QuickBooks isn't the only program that has trouble with IE 7, either. Before you undergo the browser upgrade, read some of the following cautions.
The Joys of Small-Business Accounting
Users of QuickBooks, according to Theresa Geraghty, the product's group marketing manager, may experience any of the following symptoms if IE 7 is installed:
Problems using "navigator" pages;
"Page not found" errors when attempting to use some QuickBooks features;
Unexpected crashes when using the program's help system.
The new QuickBooks 2007, which shipped last month, doesn't exhibit any problems with IE 7, company officials say. Users of QuickBooks 2006 are also fine if "automatic updates" are enabled or you've manually updated the product to Release 8. Older versions, including QuickBooks 2004 and 2005, don't yet have a workaround, but a free update for the 2005 version will be released by mid-December, Geraghty says.
The fix for QuickBooks 2005 and earlier isn't trivial, Geraghty explains, or it would have been ready as soon as IE 7 was released. In the meantime, Intuit provides recommendations on how affected users can revert to IE 6, which requires uninstalling IE 7.
Upgrading QB 2005 to the new QB 2007 also eliminates the incompatibility. That can be pricey, however, since Intuit charges the same for an upgrade as for a new purchase. The entry-level, professional, and premier editions of QB 2007 list for $99.95, $199.95, and $399.95, respectively (all prices USD).
Other Intuit products are also affected by IE 7. For details, see the company's IE compatibility page.
Other Applications in the Same Boat
The QuickBooks incompatibility may be the IE 7 "gotcha" that affects the largest set of Windows users. Approximately 3.7 million active customers are currently using some version of QuickBooks, according to company records. About 1.4 million copies of QB 2006 were sold before QB 2007 recently shipped. That suggests as many as 2 million people may still be using QB 2005 or earlier versions.
But a surprising number of other software applications also have problems, minor or major, with IE 7, which is integrated with Windows in several ways despite theoretically being just another program:
Microsoft Word 2003 doesn't save changes in some documents edited in an IE window when you close the window;
Secure (https) Web pages produce security warnings in IE 7 when using certain HTML procedures that worked fine in IE 6;
Microsoft Visio 2003 files cannot be opened in IE 7 if the files used Vector Markup Language (VML) as part of the "Save as Web Page" feature of Visio.
These and many other problems are explained -- sometimes even with manual workarounds that you can apply -- on Microsoft's IE 7 troubleshooting page.
IE 7: Not an Unalloyed Good
My personal recommendation is that all IE 6 users should upgrade to IE 7 as soon as possible, primarily to get the security improvements the new browser offers. In this case, however, "asap" means that you need to make sure IE 7 works in your company before rolling it out.
To help you learn the quirks of its new application, Microsoft provides an IE 7 Solutions Center. This page links to a document explaining your options for automatic updates of IE 7, including blocking upgrade notices from being shown to your company's users, if you find an incompatibility that requires a lag before widely installing IE 7.
Finally, even with the security improvements in IE 7, I've found that it can be made significantly more secure by changing some simple settings in the so-called Internet Zone. These changes protect you from rogue sites that might infect your PC even though you're using IE 7, not IE 6. For details, see my article elsewhere on hardening IE 7.
No software is perfect, and IE 7 is a good example of this adage. Fortunately, you still have a choice of whether or not to install IE 7, and the resources to learn about potential conflicts are generally being posted for all to see by Microsoft, Intuit, and other companies.
My thanks to reader Michael J. Parks, who will receive a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of his choice for his research help.