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Quick Tips to Help You Get Around QuickBooks Desktop

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

If QuickBooks Desktop ever begins to feel unwieldily, these five tips can help you navigate the platform more easily.

QuickBooks Desktop is an essential tool for small to mid-size businesses, but navigating through its various features and functions can feel like a daunting task. If you're struggling to get around QuickBooks Desktop with ease and efficiency, we can help. In this blog post, we'll discuss several tips and tricks to increase your agility within this powerful accounting software.

Practice with a QuickBooks Sample File

Before you enter actual data into your QuickBooks file (or if you’d simply like to try out a new feature without the risk of an error), you might want to practice with a QuickBooks sample file. This way, if something goes wrong, your company file won't be affected. To open a sample file, start by loading QuickBooks Desktop. You’ll see a window labeled No Company Open. Click the arrow in the box on the lower right that says Open a sample file. You can choose either a product- or service-based sample business; pick the one that makes the most sense for you. Once QuickBooks is open, you can easily alternate between your company file (this is your "real" QuickBooks) and a sample file by navigating to the File menu, clicking Open Previous Company, and selecting the sample file from the list. It should be obvious which one is a sample, but always be sure you’re in the QuickBooks file you need to be in before taking any action.

Familiarize Yourself with Lists in QuickBooks

You’ll consult and use lists often in QuickBooks. Transaction forms offer access to data you’ve already created and will use. So when you need to select a customer, for example, you can simply open a drop-down list and click the one you're looking for. QuickBooks also provides free-standing lists that you might need to use outside of transactions, though they’re often available there, too. Open the Lists menu in the ribbon bar at the top of your screen to see them. They include options like the Item List, Sales Tax Code List, and Class List. Click to open one, and you’ll see a series of menus running across the bottom of the window. These will allow you to do things like add or edit items, enter a sales receipt, and run related reports.

The Item List

Troubleshoot Transactions

What happens when you're confident you've entered a transaction but can't find it? You can try using the search tools included in QuickBooks first. If that doesn't work, it's likely because you need more detail to hunt effectively for the missing bill, invoice, etc. There are two reports that can help when this happens: Audit Trail and Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary (or Detail). Open the Reports menu and select Accountant & Taxes, then open the Audit Trail. Here you'll find a list of transactions that have been entered or modified, when they were modified, and by whom. If your QuickBooks company file has multiple users, you'll want to get familiar with this report. Another place to look for elusive transactions is the Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary (or Detail) report, since it's possible that the transaction you’re seeking was accidentally voided or deleted. This report is also located in Accountant & Taxes. If you have an idea of when the original transaction was entered, adjust the date range at the top of the screen accordingly. Realistically, you shouldn't have many transactions listed in the Voided/Deleted Transactions Summary or Detail. But, if you do, contact us so we can help determine why this is happening so frequently. Voiding or deleting a transaction usually isn't the best way to resolve a problem in QuickBooks.

Work with Windows

Whenever you open a window in QuickBooks Desktop, it'll stay open unless you close out of it. Of course, you can always close a window by clicking the X in its upper right corner (just make sure you don't accidentally hit the application's X, which is the highest and farthest right). If you haven't kept up with closing out your windows during your current session, closing them one by one might get tedious. Instead, open the Window menu to see your available options. Here, you’ll see a list of all open windows, and you can click to navigate to the one you're looking for. You can close all of them at once by selecting Close All. You can also organize your windows here, either in a “tile” formation (which arranges them vertically or horizontally so they overlap each other on the screen) or a “cascade” formation (which places them on top of each other with only the window label showing).

Use “Local” Menus

Most QuickBooks windows offer right-click menus, also known as “local” menus. Open an invoice form to see how this works (Customers | Customer Center | Transactions | Invoices). Right-click in the header of the invoice. Your menu options here include the following:

  • Duplicate Invoice

  • Memorize Invoice

  • Transaction History, and

  • Receive Payments.

You can also find these commands (and more) in the toolbar at the top of the window.

A local menu in an invoice

How’s It Going?

If you’ve been using QuickBooks for a while, how has your experience been working with the software? Are you struggling with any specific functions, or feeling like you’re underutilizing the technology? Or, conversely, are you beginning to think your company might be outgrowing your current version of QuickBooks? As your trusted QuickBooks expert, we're here to help in any of these situations. Contact us, and we'll make a plan to review your accounting experience and uncover ways to make it more productive and effective.

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