intuit-app-centerFinancial software maker Intuit is releasing the latest version of QuickBooks, its bookkeeping tool for small businesses. The company showed me a bunch of new features, but the most interesting from a technology perspective is an App Center where customers can buy applications that make QuickBooks more powerful.

Intuit actually launched the Intuit Partner Platform, its platform for applications built by outside developers, last year, and it says it has already signed up 90,000 developers. But this is the first version of QuickBooks to include the App Center — users can click on a button in QuickBooks and are taken to a website where they can purchase apps that plug into the software and use the financial data entered there. The apps are broken up into four categories — running your business (employee management and expense tracking), managing your productivity, managing your customers, and reducing costs. The last category even includes apps that make your business more environmentally friendly.

Even though QuickBooks 2010 is desktop software (Intuit offers a separate online version), the company has added some other web-enabled features. Users can scan and upload all of their documents, and they’re stored online as a backup. Users can also scan their checks and send the image to the bank, where the money is deposited. QuickBooks 2010 also includes a Marketing Center, where business owners can launch email marketing campaigns — it’s a bit of a stretch from QuickBooks bookkeeping purpose, but the connection has its advantages, since businesses can use the customer and sales data in QuickBooks to plan their campaign, and later to judge its success.

Other new features include:

  • Faster installation, with the number of set-up screens cut from 15 to 6
  • The ability to enter multiple lists of data at once, and to copy that data directly from Microsoft Excel
  • An easier interface for customizing forms
  • An improved dashboard providing a summary of the company’s finances

QuickBooks Pro and Premier are available at Intuit’s website today, and will go on-sale at other retailers on Oct. 7. Intuit says there are 4 million active QuickBooks users.