QuickBooks 2013 Changes to Transaction Forms

Written by Charlie Russell

Along with the changes to the user interface in QuickBooks 2013 there are a number of changes in the appearance, and function, of forms based transactions. You’ll see these changes (with some variations) in 13 transaction types in QuickBooks: Invoices, sales orders, estimates, sales receipts, credit memos, purchase orders, bills, item receipts, receive payments, credit card charges, checks, general journal entries and receive items.

I’m going to use an invoice transaction as my example, but each of the forms based transactions generally have the same changes.

Here’s a sample invoice from Quickbooks 2012 as a reference point.

QuickBooks 2012 Invoice

Now let’s take a look at the invoice window from QuickBooks 2013. I’ve already discussed a number of issues relating to the changed user interface in my earlier article.

QuickBooks 2013 Invoice

All the elements seem to be here that we had before, but there are two big changes:

  • Changing the top icon bar in the window to a ribbon, which organizes features in a different way and provides (hopefully) easier access to many features.
  • An updated layout, which includes font changes, spacing changes, and more height in the detail lines.

The Transaction Form Ribbon

I think that a lot of people are going to not like this at first, mainly because it is different than what you are used to. If you have been using QuickBooks for awhile you know where to find things, and now it’s all changed around.

However, after using this for awhile, I’m getting used to it and I like it. It makes sense to find an operation here rather than having to fumble around for it. One good example would be Save as PDF – in QuickBooks 2012 I would look for that in the File menu, not associated directly with the invoice transaction window. Now it is an option under the Save icon in the transaction’s ribbon. The ribbon gathers all of the features that have been scattered about in different menus, gathers up features that used to be check boxes somewhere in the bottom of the form cluttering things up (they’ve been proliferating lately), and arranging them in an organized fashion so you can easily find them.

A lot of discussion has gone into what icons to add to the main tab, and I’m sure that there won’t be an agreement on what makes sense. Let’s take a look at the four tabs in the ribbon for the invoice form.

The main tab has what should be the most common operations on a daily basis. Saving, memorizing, printing, attaching documents and so forth.

QuickBooks 2013 Main Tab

Formatting includes features related to the template for the form, although there are a few other features thrown in here. One of my favorite changes here is that if you click the Customize Data Layout button (formerly Customize) you no longer get that really annoying screen about creating a design with the online form designer (which I rarely ever use). Thanks, Intuit!

QuickBooks 2013 Formatting Tab

Most of the features in Send/Ship were found in the File menu, a couple of menu levels deep. Some icons found here are duplicates of what you’ll see in the Main tab, but I like that. Here’s a good example of how this new arrangement improves things – feature discovery. One person commented that she didn’t even know that QuickBooks supported USPS as a shipping option until she saw it in this tab.

QuickBooks 2013 Send/Ship Tab

Reports has, oddly enough, the reports.

QuickBooks 2013 Reports Tab

The content of the ribbon will change from form to form, but the general layout is the same, and from a quick look I’d say that they have been very consistent about what icon goes on which tab in different forms. You won’t see all of the same tabs on each form, as some forms don’t have the same options (such as formatting or shipping). Here’s the Enter Bills form for another example.

Enter Bills form

One of the common complaints about some forms, such as invoices, has been that it is difficult to see all of the information on the form. With the user interface changes in QuickBooks 2013 this is getting to be even more critical. Not only do we have the transaction pane on the right, now we have the icon bar on the left, and the larger ribbon on the top. It is getting harder to see the invoice itself! However, Intuit has added some simple ways to collapse these extra “panes”.

The simplest way is to use Full Screen Mode. In each of these transaction form windows you will see a new icon in the upper right corner: Full Screen Mode. Click this, and it will minimize the ribbon, minimize the transaction pane, minimize the left icon bar, and expand the form to fill the entire window, all with one click.

Windows Desktop with Form Maximized

You can also control the individual panes/features if you want to hide just a subset of the navigation elements. The transaction pane, left icon bar and even the ribbon can be individually collapsed.

Collapsing arrows

Layout Changes

There are a lot of changes to the layout that go beyond the ribbon. I’m not entirely happy with all of the changes.

  • Some things are squeezed into too small a space, such as the addresses. I wish I could see all of the address (compare this to QuickBooks 2012). There is more white space, which is a good thing in general, but they could have done this a bit better.
  • Some people (like me) may have problems with the light gray font that is used for many labels. The contrast is too poor if you have old tired eyes like mine. Also, isn’t a light gray color supposed to indicate a field that isn’t enabled, that you cannot select?
  • The detail lines are less cramped, more space is given vertically, which helps readability. Unfortunately, that also means fewer detail lines are visible at one time, which can be a problem on smaller monitors.

Much of this has been discussed in the general user interface discussion in my earlier article.

Form window layout changes

Oops, Something Missing?

You’ve heard me say this several times already, and I’ll repeat it often: You shouldn’t use the R1 release of QuickBooks in a “production environment”. It is OK for testing and training, but there will always be bugs in the R1 release.

Here’s an example. One of the good features of the Ribbon design is that features that are scattered about in different places are now gathered together in one place. This is good! But, that means that Intuit has to FIND all these scattered features and put them in the Ribbon. In R1, they missed one thing (that I know of).

QuickBooks Billing Solution is an optional feature that lets you get paid via credit card in conjunction with a QuickBooks Merchant Service account (this is NOT the Intuit PaymentNetwork feature), or to have Intuit mail a physical copy of an invoice for you (for a fee). If you use this, the check boxes that you need to use to allow online payments or to mail the invoice don’t appear in the Ribbon where they should.

Not a big problem unless you rely on that feature. I’m sure that this will be fixed in the next release.

In-Product Advertising

Intuit always finds a way to sneak in a little in-product advertising. In the past it was a case of hitting you over the head – popup windows and things like that. They got a lot of negative feedback. As time went on they started making it a bit less intrusive, but it is still there.

The Ribbon interface for forms seems to be a new venue for this kind of thing (note, this could change as the product rolls out). For example, see this icon in the Estimate ribbon?

Estimate Ribbon

Click that and you are taken to the Intuit App Center page for an app by Mavenlink.

Mavenlink App

I noticed an Intuit Payment Network icon in the Invoice window, similar to the Mavenlink icon in Estimates.

One Confusing Thing

In the Customer Center Intuit has added some new fields: Other 1, Other 2 and Other 3. These are new fields you can use in the Customer record. I hate the names.

Other fields in Customer record

These are NOT the same “Other” fields that you will see if you edit a form template. Confusing!

Not the same Other in form customization

My Conclusion

All in all, I like the improvements, other than the choice of font colors (and some small fonts). It may take some getting used to, but after using it for awhile I find that the new ribbon format is very easy to use. It is better to have all of the operational features right there in the same place, rather than scattered about. I hope that the font/color issues will be addressed in a future release.

However, if you must stick with a smaller monitor, you may find that this doesn’t work for you.

Want to see QuickBooks 2013 in action? Join us for a FREE Webinar on September 28th, What’s New in QuickBooks 2013, presented by Doug Sleeter and Charlie Russell

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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been the managing editor and primary writer for the Sleeter Report since 2011. Charlie can be reached at charlie@ccrsoftware.com

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • Thanks for pointing out all the ways to collapse the panels, I hadn’t noticed some of them.

    On the Ribbon, at least Microsoft makes a point of providing a way to use keyboard shortcuts on the Ribbon. So far I can’t see any of that in QuickBooks.

  • No matter how large my monitor, the content of the form itself ( such as invoices)shows less and less lines. I wish they would sacrifice some of the “pretty” white space instead of hiding the navigational tools. Almost a third of the screen is below the form where a relatively few fields are displayed.

  • Thank you Charlie for your reviews and insights! Much appreciated!

    First, I agree with your comments re: the small, gray field titles. Bigger and brighter is better than smaller and faded…

    While I like a lot of the changes, they have actually SUBTRACTED space in critical fields (Customer:Job name, Class, Template, etc.) You can’t begin to see the content in those fields unless you hover and view the ‘tooltip’ (especially in the Customer:Job field). Nearly all of my clients use Jobs under Customers and it’s pretty impossible to tell what job we’re looking at!

    With all of the extra ‘gray bar’ space at the top of the form, I would have liked to have had them EXPAND the visibility rather than subtracting from it. I.e., I’l like to be able to quickly see the content of those those critical fields as I’m reviewing transactions without having to hold my mouse over each field…

    Thanks for listening!

  • Hi Charlie,

    I asked this question when you started talking about QB 2012 at this time last year…..and the answer then was no. Hoping for a yes for 2013:

    Did Intuit change the Enter Bills screen to allow the class for the entire bill to be entered at the top of the bill, instead of line item by line item? (Currently you can enter the class like this for Sales Receipts and for Invoices, but not Bills.) (Assuming you have classes turned on.)

    With the new interface and new look….I’m crossing my fingers….

  • I don’t like the invoice changes and wish that I had the option to default to the 2012 invoice view. Is there such a way?

  • Purchased QuickBooks Pro 2012 in early 2012. Really haven’t used it much yet because my business has had so few transactions. Prepared a PO today for the first time and tried to modify the company info and logo. It worked well until I got the message that I passed the 30 day period and I must pay another $4.99 to make any changes! Wow – and the payment is only good for changes in the next 60 days. So now I know that there is NOT and inherent form editor in QuickBooks. Editing must use the internet based editing software and you have to pay every 60 days that you want to use it. Don’t think I’ll upgrade to the 2013 product.

    • Tony, I think that is because you used that “online design” feature, which lets you create a fancy design and apply it to all of your forms. You should be able to just edit your form directly – go to “lists” then “templates” and double click on your form there. That is the local feature. I never use the “online design” feature myself. Your logo can be changed on any form using the method I describe – and your company name is stored in your Company Info usually (select “company” in the main menu, then “company information”), unless it was hard-coded into the form.

  • Hi Charlie,

    I work in a small company and we have a long standing disagreement going on here on how best to accomplish something seemingly simply\e. Perhaps you could help me out?

    We would like to use estimates to get quotes to our customers, however, the entity that we provide with the quote is different from the entity that ultimately transacts with us on the sales order and invoice. When we go back and look at a quote and want to convert it to a sales order, we have issues in that the customer name has to be changed on the sales order which proves to be problematic for our accounting department. Can you help?


    • Are you trying to use progress invoicing, where the invoices are derived from the estimate? If so, if the invoice is to a different customer than the estimate, they won’t be linked for progress invoicing.

      How is the estimate entity related to the customer entity?

  • I have been using QB for years; in fact I still have an old floppy disc set of one of the first programs Quicken, as it was once called. I have recently upgraded from 2010 to QB 2013 and never been as frustrated in my life with what should be an easy to us software program. This upgrade concentrates more on whistles and bells rather than what the purpose of Quick Books is support to be about. Small business no wanting to spend vast amounts of time trying to input the basic of information and figures. The on screen fields on the new invoice, estimating and others are that small you can barely get two lines in the description boxes you have to scroll up and down to see what’s on the document. the customer job box on my invoice only shows part of the customer job, not the beginning of the name or the end but the middle, the bill to box does the same, it misses vital first glance information off, you end up having to scroll everything which in my opinion makes it slow books not quick. I think if it’s not broken why fix it unless you’re running out of ideas and changing what you’ve got is better than stagnating. QB please, unless you are coming up with genuine new features and not just trying to reinvent the wheel leaves it alone. PS does anyone know how to revert back to 2010.

  • Steven,

    I am having a problem with my classes in quick books. We use our classes to track income and expenses by salesmen and I noticed that running the P&L by class report that there was an invoice classed incorrectly I opened the invoice and changed the class but when I save the invoice and refreshed the report the income did not change to the corrected class. Instead it stayed with the old class. When I reopened the invoice, it was showing the corrected class in the class field but the changes do not carry over to the refreshed report. This seems to be a new issue as I have had QB 2013 since January and ran many reports and made class changes in the fashion before and they always carried over to the reports. I have searching forums for someone with a similar problem and have yet to have any luck. Have you ever encountered this issue before and if so do you know any fixes?


  • I have QuickBooks pro 2013. We recently switched credit cards and put the new one in the system but when I go to the credit card charges the old credit card is still the default that automatically pops up and I have to click on the arrow and select the correct one. How do I change it so that the new one is automatically chosen?

  • Is there anyway to get the PO field on a bill to be activated instead of grayed out? And does the PO not show up on reports because it is grayed out?

    • With which version of the software? If you are referring to the “PO No” column in the Items tab of a bill, you have to use the “Select PO” button at the top of the window first. It will fill in the PO No column for you.

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