This morning we applied a major update to the AcuInvoice code and are designating this the 0.3 release. We have managed to stay on track with our development calendar, but held off on this release until we were able to get all of the languages files updated appropriately. Thanks again to Charles Jean for his outstanding translation services. The 0.3 release includes a number of significant updates, most notably an improved sales tax system and support for Google Checkout and Amazon Flexible Payment Services (Amazon FPS). With the release of these features, we now have only minor updates to apply prior to the initial commercial release of AcuInvoice. We expect these updates to be completed throughout the remainder of December and into the first week or two of January. As a reminder, subscribers who sign up prior to the initial commercial release will be entitled to a subscription plan that will not be available to those who sign up after the 1.0 release. Details on 0.3 can be found below.
Perhaps the most obvious update in the 0.3 release is the integration of Google Checkout and Amazon FPS. For those who may not be familiar with these payment options, both Google and Amazon.com have recently entered the online payments market and are offering extremely competitve rates for payment processing. Google Checkout currently has the simplest of fee structures: FREE. Payments processed through Google Checkout are completely free until February 1, 2008, after which they will charge 2% plus $0.20/transaction. Additionally, if you advertise on Google AdWords, Google will credit your Checkout account for the processing fees on charges of up to 10X your monthly AdWords spend. For example, if you spend $100 with AdWords, your first $1000 of Google Checkout processing is free (a $20 savings in this example). Lastly, non-profit organizations will not be charged any processing fees for donations processed via Google Checkout until 2009.
Like Google Checkout, Amazon FPS offers advantages that are likely to accelerate its adoption. First, since every Amazon.com customer already has the ability to make payments through FPS, Amazon FPS enters the online payments market with an astounding 70 million accounts. Second, as Paul Stamatiou has very keenly noted, Amazon FPS is an ideal solution for micropayments and will be the only economical choice for businesses selling a large number of low cost items.
Improved US Sales Tax
The current release includes expanded support for sales tax, with an emphasis on US markets (for now). Subscribers can specify sales tax rates for different states and can even create different tax rates at the city level. The improved sales tax system is located in My Account–>Sales Tax. Please try out the system and let us know what we can do to make it even better.
Please Kick The Tires!
The overwhelming majority of the improvements to AcuInvoice are attributable directly to feedback from our users. We love hearing from you and strongly encourage you to contact us at support (at) acuinvoice (dot) com if you find something that doesn’t look quite right or if you have constructive criticisms of any kind whatsoever. Thanks again for your support.
The AcuInvoice Team
On Friday we released AcuInvoice 0.2. This update includes multi-language support, translations into Spanish, French, and German, several minor feature updates, and a handful of minor bug fixes. Additionally, we have finished programming our improved tax support system, though (for reasons described below) it is not included in this release. We’re considerably closer to a 1.0 release than the 0.2 nomenclature suggests and are targeting early January for the initial commercial release of our service. Additional details on this release are below.
The most significant feature of the 0.2 release is multi-language support (MLS). Though MLS has been programmed for some time, the textual content of AcuInvoice has been evolving so much that it would have been impractical to have translations performed prior to last week. MLS is quite simple; just click on the flag indicative of your language of choice and the new language file will be loaded. These icons are found in the header area of the site and application. Our server logs indicate that many of you have already discovered as much.
What Gets Translated?
The application, the static portions of the AcuInvoice marketing site, and certain application email templates. The email templates we have translated are those that are system generated, not those that are editable by an AcuInvoice user.
Item Numbering Updated
When adding items to invoices, you can now have things such as 1.50 hours. This might get tweaked a bit more in the future, but for now it should provide the additional flexibility that many of you have requested.
We have updated AcuPort to include some bug fixes, minor changes, etc. This will probably be released as a standalone PHP script, a desktop application, or both in the coming months. Prior to releasing this, however, we have more features we will be adding.
Tax Support Finished
We have finished programming our improved tax support system. A minor consequence of our new multi-language platform, however, is that it is necessary to have language translations performed in advance of new feature releases. Therefore, we need to hold off on releasing this until such time as we can have translations of these new screens performed. We’re going to bundle these translations along with a few other forthcoming feature releases (Google Checkout, etc.), thereby minimizing the amount of work required by our translators.
Two unexpected business trips rendered this blog quiet for the past several days.Despite the silence, we continue to make considerable progress and will be releasing a series of important incremental improvements over the coming weeks. Below is a tentative release schedule for these features. Please continue to email us your comments, questions, and feature requests to support (at) acuinvoice (dot) com. The amount and quality of feedback has been exceedingly helpful and we thank our users for their support and active participation in this effort.
Multi-Language Support: Week of 11/19
Translations into Spanish, French, and German have been performed and multi-language support will be released this week. While the homepage and tour page of the marketing site will be translated as well, the blog and our responses in the user forums will remain English only.
Improved Tax Support: Week of 11/19
We are actively coding an improved sales tax system that will allow you to specify the states/regions where you need to charge sales tax. This will be a useful feature for those who send large numbers of invoices and who are required to charge different rates of tax based on the presence of a local office in one state or another. We expect to launch the improved sales tax system late this week or early next week.
Partial Hours: Week of 11/19
Several people have asked us to loosen the current restriction on having only whole hours. By the end of the week you will be able to input things such as 1.4 hours as a line item on your invoices. Thanks to several people, in particular Phillip Blake, for feedback on this issue.
AcuPort 0.2: Week of 11/19
We are implementing a series of new features and bug fixes to AcuPort, the import/export scripts that allow you move data between AcuInvoice and Blinksale with just one click. Thanks to Luc Latulippe for providing a robust test case for AcuPort and for helping us uncover a few subtle issues related to this important functionality.
Various Fixes: Week of 11/19
There are a few other minor fixes that will be released this week, among them an issue related to the invoice date picker.
CSS Based Invoice Layouts: Week of 11/26
The invoice template file includes a few unnecessary tables. In the coming days, this will be revised such that
divs are used whenever possible. This will let users float most elements in the invoice and will enable more sophisticated customization of invoices. If you are currently using something other than the default CSS file, you will likely have to update your style sheet once this new template file is released.
New Invoice Designs: Week of 11/26
Concurrent with (or shortly after) the release of the revised template file, we will start releasing a series of CSS files that will allow you to apply a different look to your invoices. Thanks in advance to Ben Gray for what are certain to be beautiful invoice designs.
Google Checkout and Amazon FPS: Week of 12/3
A few users have asked about the timeframe for the release of Google Checkout and Amazon FPS support. As of today, we are anticipating support for these gateways in early December. This will bring the number of supported payment gateways to five. Please post additional payment gateway requests to the forums or email us (as most of you seem to prefer) at support (at) acuinvoice.com. We’ve already had requests for gateways including WorldPay and eWay. If you’d like to second your support for these gateways, or if you would like to nominate others for inclusion in AcuInvoice, let us know and we’ll consider putting them on the development roadmap.
Today we are happy to announce the release of AcuPort. AcuPort lets you move your data from Blinksale to AcuInvoice (and back) with one easy click. Now you can import your Blinksale information into AcuInvoice and try it for free. Invoices imported via AcuPort don’t even count against your monthly invoice limit, so if you have a large existing Blinksale account, this isn’t an obstacle. If you like AcuInvoice, we’d love to have you as a customer. If you like Blinksale better, AcuPort gives you the freedom to move your data back the same way. Simply put, AcuPort lets you try AcuInvoice for free, with no risk and zero hassle.To use it, just go to “My Account” and click on “Import/Export”.
Under The Hood (For Geeks)
AcuPort utilizes the APIs of each service to map data fields between the respective applications and efficiently transfer account data from one service to the other. Since both APIs operate over encrypted connections, data transfer is safe and easy. AcuPort currently resides in My Account→Import/Export, but will soon be included as an option during the sign-up process. Additionally, AcuPort will be released as a standalone PHP script that can be loaded onto your server. We plan on adding additional services to AcuPort, and will update the script as we finalize the data transfer routines for our other competitors.
Invoices, contacts, tags, invoice histories, and comments. Blinksale does not support estimates, so if you have an AcuInvoice account and want to go to Blinksale, you’ll lose those.
Sounds Cool. Why Are You Doing This?
We have a strong—and improving—service and want to get the word out. For those of you who have already created AcuInvoice accounts, you’ve no doubt seen a series of incremental improvements and feature releases that makes AcuInvoice competitive with any application in this space. In addition to the features you’ve seen released, we have a variety of forthcoming features, API-based extensions, and UI improvement that will make AcuInvoice a formidable presence in the area of small business accounting.
Why Try AcuInvoice Now?
Strong Product & More To Come
AcuInvoice is a great product that’s already competitive with other applications, but we’re still adding features. If there’s something you want in your billing application, let us know and we’ll strongly consider it. This is your chance to help shape AcuInvoice.
More Powerful, Less Expensive Subscriptions
Early Adopters will have exclusive access to a feature rich, lower cost subscription plan that will not be available to subscribers who sign up after the initial commercial release. If you sign up now, you get more features for less money.
During the time you are trying AcuInvoice, you could move to the free Blinksale plan and save money.
Blinksale allows users to create invoice numbers using a free form text variable. For example, “whatever:56!:?:)” is a perfectly acceptable invoice number. AcuInvoice maintains numbering conventions whereby invoices are ordered incrementally as they are created. Therefore, when invoices are imported from Blinksale, AcuPort re-orders imported invoices according to the date of creation and assigns them an invoice number.
Blinksale Invoice Caps
Blinksale limits the number of invoices you can create per billing period; invoices transferred into Blinksale via AcuPort will count against this limit. Therefore, if you want to switch to Blinksale using this script, make sure that the account type you have is sufficient to accommodate all of your invoices.
AcuPort has been tested on medium sized accounts going both to and from AcuInvoice. Large accounts might take some time to transfer and might exceed our server’s current timeout interval (30 seconds). If you have a large account, drop us a note at support (at) acuinvoice (dot) com and we will be happy to run the scripts outside of the web interface during off peak hours; we will then email you when the data has been successfully loaded into your AcuInvoice account.
If you encounter trouble of any kind, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have run several test cases, but there may be a few troublesome import scenarios that were impossible to identify during testing. If you see something that doesn’t look right, please contact us and we’ll fix it.
The AcuInvoice team has been hard at work implementing features, bug fixes, and UI updates. Expect blog communications to pick up considerably next week, as we unveil some significant new features and communicate a few exciting developments within the company.
Since the initial AcuIvoice launch on October 7th, we have closed 50 tickets, including 16 this week. On behalf of the entire development team, I would like to thank the AcuInvoice subscribers for emailing us with your feedback and change requests. We can’t emphasize enough the impact that your suggestions have made on product development and sincerely hope you will continue to support this development effort by providing constructive criticisms.
A Big Thanks
We would like to extend a special thanks to an AcuInvoice subscriber from Northern Ireland who has provided feedback that, both in volume and quality, surpasses anything we could have imagined. UK and EU subscribers will be particularly appreciative of this user’s eye for detail. In addition to prompting us to repair issues related EU date formats and the proper display of the British pound, said subscriber made suggestions leading to improvements to the manner in which AcuInvoice handles non-US addresses. Subscribers in the UK, Canada, and Australia will now find a pre-populated pull down menu having a variety of provinces/regions available for selection. We will be tweaking this feature a bit more, but it is far improved over that which was included in the previous iteration. Additionally, it was suggested that users be allowed to disable the printing of logos; this excellent suggestion, which shall soon be be implemented, will allow subscribers to print to their own letterhead without duplicating their logo. Lastly, thanks to his inquiry, we posted a description of how to disable the display of URLs and other header/footer information when invoices are printed. We thank you, sir, for your feedback and promise to buy the Guinness when next we’re in Ireland.
AcuInvoice Goes International
AcuInvoice has gained an international foothold. In addition to a large number of accounts in the US and Canada, we now have several subscribers from the UK, Australia, South Africa, Taiwan, and Iran. This Kentuckian was even shocked to see someone from a place called Tennessee. If our international subscribers would like to see AcuInvoice translated into their mother tongue, please post a ticket or indicate as much in the user forum. Multi-language support is coming soon, so please send us your language requests.
We’ve had a number of upgrades, features releases, and bug fixes this week, so we thought it appropriate to highlight the key updates implemented over the past several days. If you have any questions or comments, post here or simply email us at support (at) acuinvoice (dot) com.
User Forums Launched
The most immediately noticeable addition to the AcuInvoice site is the launch of the user forums. Accessible via the rightmost tab of the marketing site’s persistent navigation area, the user forum will become the go-to place for user questions, feature requests, discussions related to the API, and general chat. Rather than posting every detail of our progress on this blog, interested readers will be able to more closely track development by reading and posting on the relevant forum.
By far the most technically significant feature released, the AcuInvoice API will provide a platform by which developers can extend AcuInvoice’s functionality. I wrote about the merits of API-based extensibility at Luc Latulippe’s illustration blog. As an aside, I challenge you to find a more gifted artist that Luc—really incredible work.
Flooded By Feedback
We’ve started receiving a significant amount of feedback from our users and it is really helping us identify issues that we had missed in our internal testing. Thanks!!! We would like to encourage you to submit feature requests via the newly released forums, while continuing to post tickets or email us directly if you have identified what appears to be a bug. If you have not yet accessed our helpdesk system, you can quickly submit a ticket to the AcuInvoice help desk by clicking the link in the upper right of your account. This system will allow you to track the request or bug report and will automatically notify you when we have resolved your issue. User requests submitted via the helpdesk will be acknowledged—and frequently resolved—within one business day.
Newfangled Login Area
Waive Late Fee
Late fees, though often added to invoices, are frequently not collected. We have therefore added a feature that allows you to easily waive the remaining late fee on an invoice. This will prevent you from having to go in and edit an invoice to correct for what might be an annoyingly small late fee.
Streamlined Country Selection
Country menus have been streamlined such that those countries in which the majority of our users reside will appear higher on the list. We need to update this to include Australia. Next week we will be implementing similar updates to the currency menus.
CSS Updates Begin
For the next several weeks, the most visible change to AcuInvoice will be updates to the CSS of the application and marketing site. A small preview of this started this past week, when Ben started to apply a new CSS class to required fields in the signup process. Ben will be working on perfecting our look and feel over the next several weeks, so if you have any comments on this topic, please feel free to email us, post a comment here, or start a thread on the user forum.
Monitoring Service Added
We have implemented a network monitoring service to ensure that we are immediately notified in the event of a server outage. We will soon be extending this to include automatic high frequency tests for MySQL connectivity.
The AcuInvoice development team is pleased to announce the initial public release of the AcuInvoice application programming interface (API) and PHP client library. The AcuInvoice API allows developers to build applications that securely access and manage their AcuInvoice data. Possible applications include integration with third party shopping carts, integration with third party accounting packages, and more. We have extensive documentation and sample code (to be posted shortly), but wanted to provide a consolidated summary of topics germane to this API and its future plans.
The AcuInvoice API is open to all AcuInvoice subscribers. We currently have no plans to restrict API access based on account type. To use the AcuInvoice API you will need an access key. As of this writing, said key has magically appeared in the My Account→Preferences area of your account. Keep your API key safe. If you share it with the world, some nefarious pack of geeks might do something naughty with it. If you ever suspect that your API key has been compromised, simply change your master account password and an new API key will be automatically generated for you.
AcuInvoice API communications are transmitted via XML and secured via HTTPS; requests made over non-encrypted connections will not be served. Additionally, if you have mapped a domain to AcuInvoice (if you haven’t, you know you want to), note that for purposes of data encryption you will have to access the AcuInvoice API at https://yourid.acuinvoice.com/api/ rather than at http://www.yourdomain.com/api/.
PHP Client Library
Our PHP client library is complete and can be downloaded at the URL conveniently located beneath your API key. Technical requirements for the library include PHP 5 compiled with SimpleXML and cURL. Documentation is included with the client library.
This 0.1 release is strong and has intentionally been structured such that the API’s scope and data formats are familiar to anyone who has developed applications using our competitors’ APIs. However, we believe that the AcuInvoice API can and should do more. To this end, we will be adding additional functionality to the AcuInvoice API as it becomes available. We welcome your suggestions.
API Developer Forum and Code Repository
We encourage API developers to join the AcuInvoice forum (just opened yesterday, so we’d love to have people join) to discuss API development issues and to let us know what you’d like to achieve with the API. If you have developed code that you believe has broad use, and which you don’t mind sharing with fellow API developers, we would be happy to promote your work and serve as a repository for this code.
Lastly, we want to thank all of our early adopters for their support as we continue to release features and upgrades. We love hearing back from you and encourage you to continue to contacting us with your constructive criticisms. We’re working to make this the best application in this space and we can’t do it without feedback from you, our subscribers. Please feel free to contact us at support (at) acuinvoice (dot) com with any questions.
In this post we will extend on our prior discussion on domain mapping by demonstrating how to map an entire domain to your AcuInvoice account. This feature can be used if you want to point a domain to your AcuInvoice account and, in so doing, more tightly manage your brand and strengthen your company’s identity. As we previously demonstrated, domain mapping entails two processes: 1) making minor modifications to your AcuInvoice account followed by 2) updating the DNS records for your domain.
Step 1: Update AcuInvoice Settings
The first part of the process—updating your settings in AcuInvoice—informs AcuInvoice that you would like to map a domain to your account and initiates a series of behind-the-scene scripts necessary to prepare your account for domain mapping. To complete this step, simply enter a fully qualified domain name (http://www.yourdomain.com/) in the “Domain Mapping” field in My Account à Preferences, save your settings, and you are finished. Alternately, this step can now be completed during the registration process.
Step 2: Point Your Domain to AcuInvoice
Having completed the process on the application side, you now have a choice of two options for pointing your domain to your account. The simplest method entails using the AcuInvoice name servers. A slightly more advanced option allows you to use your own name servers, but requires that you make some minor changes to your domain’s DNS zone.
Method #1: Use the AcuInvoice Name Servers
The simplest method of pointing a domain to your AcuInvoice account entails using the AcuInvoice name servers. To do this, simply login to your domain registrar and update your domain such that the following name servers are used:
Once you save your settings, it can take up to 24 hours for the name server changes to propagate and for you to be able to access your AcuInvoice account at yourdomain.com. The primary benefit of this first method is its simplicity; this approach can literally be implemented in 5 minutes from start to finish. The downside of this method is that you will no longer manage the domain’s DNS zone. The consequence of this is that you would not be able to do things such as point your MX record to a mail server of your choice. Therefore, method #1 is most appropriately used when you want to dedicate a domain for your AcuInvoice installation and don’t care about any other services that might be associated with the domain (MX settings, subdomains, FTP servers, etc.).
Method #2: Use Your Own Name Servers and Modify Your DNS Zone
The second method allows you to point a domain to AcuInvoice while retaining the ability to manage other services associated with your domain. The process here is almost identical to our discussion of mapping a subdomain to AcuInvoice, so we will be borrowing heavily from our prior post, making only minor modifications where necessary. In our example, yourdomain.com is registered and hosted with GoDaddy and we have the ability to update the DNS settings using GoDaddy’s Total DNS Management tool. To access this DNS manager, we login to GoDaddy, navigate to the Domain Control Center for yourdomain.com and click the link that says “Total DNS Control and MX Records.” Once in the Total DNS Control Panel, make the following additions to point yourdomain.com to your AcuInvoice installation:
- Create an A record directing yourdomain.com to 184.108.40.206, the AcuInvoice shared IP address.
- Add a CNAME record pointing www.yourdomain.com to yourdomain.com.
The new entries will say “Pending Setup” and you will be presented with a message notifying you that it can take 24-48 hours for the settings to take effect. Though sometimes true, our changes propagated in about an hour. That’s it. We have successfully yourdomain.com to an AcuInvoice account. As soon as the changes propagate, our account can be accessed at yourdomain.com. The major benefit of Method #2 is that you retain the ability to manage your domain’s DNS zone. Combined with our previous discussion of subdomain mapping, you now have a variety of options that allow you to carefully manage your brand and retaining AcuInvoice’s ease of use. If you have any questions about this post, please post a comment, submit a ticket from within your AcuInvoice account, or simply email us at support (at) acuinvoice (dot) com.
Today we are pleased to announce support for domain mapping. Domain mapping is an advanced feature that allows subscribers to point a domain or subdomain to an AcuInvoice account. When coupled with an appropriately customized invoice template, domain mapping enables you to closely manage your company’s identity and more tightly integrate AcuInvoice with your existing web property. Overall, your clients will be impressed with the professional look and you’ll feel an enormous sense of accomplishment for having achieved something so profoundly geeky. In this post, we’ll demonstrate how to map a subdomain to AcuInvoice (we will show how to map an entire domain in a subsequent post) and get you started down the path towards incorporating AcuInvoice with your existing website.
Expanding Your Options
Before we delve into our detailed description, we would like to emphasize that domain mapping is a supplement to—not a replacement for—your standard AcuInvoice login areas. In other words, if you map a domain to AcuInvoice, you will be able to access your account from subdomain.yourdomain.com in addition to your unique AcuInvoice URL (yourid.acuinvoice.com) and the persistent login area in the header of the marketing site.
- An AcuInvoice account that supports domain mapping. Beta Tester accounts obviously support this. Following the beta period, however, a paid account will be necessary to utilize this advanced feature.
- A domain name and access to DNS management utilities.
In the following scenario, we will illustrate how to map a domain to AcuInvoice using contractlive.com, a domain we’ve had in our GoDaddy account for some time, but which isn’t otherwise being used. In this example, a subscriber wants to maintain a public website at contractlive.com while letting http://acuinvoice.contractlive.com point to his AcuInvoice installation. To enable this functionality, we must first update some settings in our AcuInvoice account, then make minor modifications to the domain’s DNS zone. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Update AcuInvoice Settings
Enabling domain mapping in AcuInvoice entails a single step and takes mere seconds to implement. Once logged into your AcuInvoice account, navigate to My Account→Preferences, enter the subdomain you wish to map to AcuInvoice (http://acuinvoice.contractlive.com/), and save the settings. Alternately, if you are creating a new AcuInvoice account, you now have the opportunity to enter this information as part of the registration process.
Step 2: Modify Your DNS Zone
In our example, contractlive.com is registered and hosted with GoDaddy and we have the ability to update the DNS settings using GoDaddy’s Total DNS Management tool. To access this DNS manager, we login to GoDaddy, navigate to the Domain Control Center for contractlive.com and click the link that says “Total DNS Control and MX Records.” Once in the Total DNS Control Panel, we make the following additions to point acuinvoice.contractlive.com to our AcuInvoice installation:
- Create an A record directing acuinvoice.contractlive.com to 220.127.116.11, the AcuInvoice shared IP address.
- Add a CNAME record pointing www.acuinvoice.contractlive.com to acuinvoice.contractlive.com.
The new entries will say “Pending Setup” and you will be presented with a message notifying you that it can take 24-48 hours for the settings to take effect. Though sometimes true, our changes propagated in about an hour. That’s it. We have successfully mapped acuinvoice.contractlive.com to an AcuInvoice account. As soon as the changes propagate, our account can be accessed at acuinvoice.contractlive.com. In the coming days we will provide a similar description on mapping an entire domain to AcuInvoice. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about domain mapping, please post a comment, submit a ticket from within your AcuInvoice account, or simply email us at support (at) acuinvoice (dot) com.