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QuickBooks® Enterprise Solutions: Using Custom Fields to Your Advantage

Article Post Date
June 15th 2012 by Lance Wilkins

We all like off-the-shelf software because it saves money; often, a lot of money. But, we sometimes hate off-the-shelf software when it doesn’t have the customized solutions we would like to get. With custom fields in QuickBooks® Enterprise Solutions, the user has access to many custom features in a competitively priced off the shelf package.

Custom Field Basics

Let’s start with the simplest applications of custom fields, then move to the more powerful opportunities.

Custom fields are setup within the edit windows of certain lists like Customers, Vendors, or Items. See the screen shot below:

The left-hand portion of the graphic shows the familiar Customer Edit window while the right-hand side shows the Custom Field setup window that opens when the “Define Fields” button is selected. There are no custom fields set up for customers.

At this point, it may be hard to see the value of custom fields. Who wants to go into the Customer Edit window to see what custom information is there? No one. The real power of custom fields is when they are created, then used in custom templates and reports. Even though it’s not a perfect fit for this particular sample file, let’s use an example of a real client I worked with in the past.

The client repairs airplanes. They are required to record the serial number of each plane they repair on the invoice. There is no field on QuickBooks invoices for serial number. But, there are custom fields.

In the above graphic, the custom field is setup in the window on the right. This custom field, Serial Number, will show in Customer edit windows only, and can include any text. There are other parameters. Those will be covered in later, more complex examples.

The field in which data would be entered for Serial Number is blank in the customer record seen on the left side of the graphic. No data will be entered here. It will come from a custom invoice form.

In the screenshot at left, an invoice is being customized. The Serial Number custom field is shown near the bottom of the list of fields that can be placed into the header section of the invoice. The checkboxes for both Screen and Print will be selected. This will make the Serial number field part of a custom invoice for this QuickBooks Enterprise company file. The field can be filled in with each invoice, and the information will be retained with the rest of the invoice indefinitely.

See the screen shot of the invoice filled in below.






Serial number filled in on custom invoice. The data entered will remain unique on each invoice entered for this customer, even if the data is different from invoice to invoice.

Custom Fields on Reports

The scenario for this section is a QuickBooks user that is a contractor. An efficient way needs to be created to track the expiration dates for Worker’s Comp and General Liability insurance certificates for subcontractors.

The Contractor Edition of Enterprise and QuickBooks Premier adds this feature to the program making this solution unnecessary, but other editions would still need it if this information were to be tracked. And, the idea in this paper is to spark the reader into similar ideas for other problems that could be solved using these procedures.

The first things needed are custom fields for the dates to be tracked.

The right side of the graphic shows the new custom fields in the Setup window. Both are to be used with vendors. To the right of that setting are the columns that make custom fields in Enterprise so much more powerful than in Pro or Premier. The “What kind of data?” column has been set from a dropdown list to allow only dates of a certain format to be entered as data into these custom fields. This is what makes data in these fields truly usable for filters and sorts in reports and searches. The QuickBooks user will not have to wonder if “July second” is going to show July 2, July 2, 2012, 7/2/12, or some other format. That uncertainty keeps custom data without these restrictions from being very useful.

The left side of the graphic shows the custom fields filled in with data for Hamlin Metal.

The graphic below shows a Vendor Contact List customized to include the columns shown and sorted on the Workers Comp Exp column.

The report itself could be further enhanced by creating a Vendor Type, Subcontractor, and using this type for all subs on the vendor list. Then, this report could be filtered for that Vendor Type to keep it from displaying every name on the vendor list.

Adding Data from a Custom List

With custom fields in Enterprise, it is possible to create your own customized pick list. This is a very powerful and useful feature. In this example, the company ships products to its customers. Several people work in the process of order-taking, processing, and shipping. Using custom fields, it is possible to track at what stage the order is, and who completed each stage in the order completion process.

A custom field will be created to track each order and its current point in the order completion process. Other custom fields will be created to track who completed each stage of the process.

As can be seen from the last graphic, custom fields for the three main stages of order completion have been created. The ‘What kind of data?’ column is being set to a ‘User’s multi-choice list .…’

Here is the list of names used for the three custom fields asking for this data. The fourth custom field, named Order Status, needs a list corresponding to the different statuses through which the order will travel. That field’s custom list is shown as well.

The order entry person will complete the invoice and set the custom field Order Status, which will appear on the customized invoice template, to Ready, meaning the order is ready to pick. Note that this same scenario could be created using sales orders rather than invoices.

At this stage, a custom report will list all the invoices with the custom field ‘Order Status’ set to Ready. Note that without the control to pre-set the statuses a QuickBooks user could select, this solution would not work. There would be too much opportunity for error, typos, etc.

Following is a graphic showing the report that Jim, who is filling orders today, will use, either on paper or on a computer monitor.

When Jim has completed the first two orders, he inserts his name, from the list, in the Pulled field and sets the Order Status to Picked. The order then shows up automatically on Nancy’s report. The report used for Nancy contains more information than Jim’s. The only reason being to show these are completely customizable solutions and can be approached from different angles. The important thing is what works for the individual company.

Nancy works on her list, marking each order she completes as Packed and with her name in the Packed field. The next person in the process is Terrence. Terrence is shipping the orders. Once Nancy has completed packing her orders, Terrence’s report looks like this:

Having the control over data formatting for input into custom fields makes these solutions possible. Alternatives to this solution could be using dates instead of initials in some of the custom fields, creating different custom report settings to reflect more or less information on the reports, and so on. The important concept is the flexibility and customization possible in QuickBooks Enterprise by use of custom fields.

Tracking Future Dates

This scenario creates a custom field named Future Ship Date. It will track orders placed with the company that, even though the products are in stock, will not be shipped until some future date determined by the customer. A Sales Order will be customized to include this new custom field. It will look something like this:

The report that would show these orders would require several filters to make it work. But, in the end, would look something like the following graphic.

There is a ship date field already in the customization window for templates. That could be used instead. This scenario would enable a different field to be used to track orders with ship dates farther into the future, rather than falling into the more immediate work flow.

Custom Fields for Items

Custom fields are available for items as well. In Enterprise, they contain the same powerful data template rules that custom fields for name lists do. A scenario has been constructed to demonstrate here using custom fields for items.

The company sells products at wholesale, but products that have a suggested retail. They want to show on invoices to their customers, both wholesale and retail prices. They don’t want to discount from retail, there is a definite price for each item. But, for informational purposes, they would like to provide this retail information to their customers.

To make this work, a field needs to be created to hold the retail price of each item. Also this field should be required so that sloppy or hurried data entry didn’t skip it in the process of creating a new item. This screenshot is the edit window of an assembly type item in the sample file being used. Note the button labeled “Custom Fields.”

This screenshot is the edit window of an assembly type item in the sample file being used. Note the button labeled “Custom Fields.”

Note that the custom field “Retail Price” has been created. The data type has been restricted so that only a number with two decimal places can be entered into the custom field. Also note that this has been set as a required field for both lists and transactions. When the restriction Required on: List is selected, an option is presented so that which types of items will require an entry in this field must be selected.

In this case, only Assembly type items are required to have an entry in this custom field. A QuickBooks user will not be able to create an Assembly type item in this company file without entering the retail price.

It will also be necessary for this data to be on each transaction. Any invoice created using an Assembly item must have the retail price. That’s just a double check. If each Assembly item must have a retail price when created, that amount will populate the invoice without the data entry person entering it.

To the left is a screenshot of the Custom Fields window for one of the assembly items in the sample file. The retail price for this item is $80.00. An invoice template will be customized to add a column for the custom field. Custom fields for names like customers appear in the header portion of the invoice template. Item custom fields will appear as columns.




The graphic at right shows the customization window when adding a custom field for items to an invoice template.









The amounts in the Retail Price column on the invoice shown above, filled in automatically during data entry. These amounts were present in the Item record so nothing for this column needed to be keyed in to complete the invoice.

These amounts do not affect the invoice amounts or calculations in any way. They are here for the customer’s information only.

Limits for Custom Fields

When you experiment with custom fields in your QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions company file, you will find it feels much more like custom accounting software and a lot less like off-the-shelf accounting software.

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  • About Lance Wilkins

    Lance Wilkins Lance Wilkins is a member of Intuit's Trainer/Writer Network and has taught for the California CPA Education Foundation. He holds the following designations: Advanced QuickBooks Certified Pro Advisor, QuickBooks Point of Sale Certified Pro Advisor, QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions Certified Pro Advisor, Sleeter Group Certified QuickBooks Consultant. See all of Lance's articles…

    You can also visit Lance's Website

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  1. This is a super breakdown of custom fields, nice work! I only wish we could add them to an item receipt, bill check or credit card charge. Alas…Also, why use field for serial number when they can use the new advanced inventory and track serial numbers as columns…Still, tremendous article and effort here!

    Comment by Woody Adams — June 25, 2012 @ 8:42 am

  2. Hi Woody, thanks for the read. Yeah, wherever custom fields become available in the system I think someone will find good use for them.

    As far as serial number. I try to use real-life experiences wherever possible for examples. In this case, I was helping a company record aircraft serial numbers on invoices each time my client made some kind of repair. It’s an FAA requirement and as the example notes, was a very easy fix for them with a simple custom field.

    So, they weren’t tracking serial numbers by part, but by invoice.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Comment by Lance Wilkins — June 25, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  3. Thanks a lot for the detailed guide, very helpful! But I also have a question, is it possible for QB Enterprise to create custom invoices that show the sales tax rate and amount for each item invoiced, both on screen and on the printed copy? We currently have QB Pro which does not allow this, so we want to upgrade to a QB Solution that can achieve this.

    Appreciate your help with this, and all other articles!

    Comment by CAAMIL624 — August 28, 2012 @ 5:18 am

  4. Hi CAAMIL624,

    Where I live in California, we generally only need to worry about one tax rate per invoice. So, the sales tax feature as it is in QuickBooks works pretty well. It sounds like you are facing a situation where you charge different rates for different items on one invoice. What a pain!

    It can be done. The process produces sales tax reports that are more difficult to read, but it is possible. The trick is to give the invoice as a whole, a zero percent sales tax item. Then, use the sales tax items with the correct rates in the body of the invoice. The calculation will occur for the line immendiately preceding the sales tax item.

    So, you can list several items on the invoice, enter a subtotal item, then a sales tax item that will compute tax on the subtotal. You can then subtotal again, list more items, another subtotal, and another sales tax item.

    From reading your comment, it sounds as though this would accomplish what you need. You don’t need a custom invoice template for this and you can accomplish this in Pro.


    Comment by Lance Wilkins — August 31, 2012 @ 10:22 am

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