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.
PLEASE NOTE that much of this is based on information from an early release candidate of QuickBooks 2013 – it is possible that some features may vary from what is described here. Also, this applies strictly to the U.S. editions of QuickBooks in the Windows environment. The UK and Canadian versions may include some of these features.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Reports has, oddly enough, the reports.
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.
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: . 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Click that and you are taken to the Intuit App Center page for an app by Mavenlink.
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.
These are NOT the same “Other” fields that you will see if you edit a form template. Confusing!
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.