Intuit recently introduced a document attachment feature for QuickBooks Online. Let’s take a look at what you can, and can’t, do with this feature.
Note that we are saying “document attachment” and not “document management”. There is a world of difference. Attaching a document to a transaction or record in an accounting system can be a simple thing. Perhaps you are just trying to keep associated shipping documents close at hand so that you can find them easily when looking at an invoice. Maybe you want to send an attachment to a customer along with the emailed invoice. On the other hand, document management is quite a bit more involved. Now we are talking about archiving important documents, “paperless office” concepts, sharing documents with multiple users, conforming with industry document requirements, and much more.
From my perspective, QuickBooks Online is offering a fairly simple document attachment feature, and NOT a document management system.
Working with Document Attachments
Let’s start by explaining what the current scope, and status, of this feature is at this time.
You’ll see that it is marked as a “beta” feature currently. This means that Intuit is providing the feature for people to test, and to provide feedback. So, give it a try, let them know what you think it needs to be useful for you.
According to Jessica Snow, a Product Manager for QuickBooks Online:
“We see customers using this in a variety of ways on Sales transactions. Small business owners are attaching contracts, timesheets, billable expense receipts, pictures of completed jobs and more. In most cases these are being sent to the customer.”
That defines what I see this system as, currently. This isn’t going to be your final repository for important documents. You aren’t going to use this to store, retrieve and manage all of your paperwork and files. The main purpose of this is to be able to attach a document to a sales form and send that all to your customer.
So, where do you find this new feature? If you open or create a sales receipt, estimate or invoice, you will see an attachments widget in the lower right corner.
Looking at the widget in detail, you see two options to add an attachment to this transaction:
You can drag a document from your Windows desktop (I don’t know if this will work on a Mac) and just drop it on that landing pad, or you can click the add file button to open a file dialog to locate the file.
Once the documents are attached you will see them listed in the window:
Note the following:
- Each document is limited to a maximum size of 25 MB.
- As far as I can tell there is no limit to the total number, or volume, of documents you can attach.
- You can attach multiple documents (I don’t know if there is a limit to the number).
- There is NOT a “scanner” feature that is integrated. You would use your scanner to save the document to your local system, then add it manually.
- You can click on the document name to open (or possibly save) the attachment.
- This feature is FREE. There are no plans to charge for it at this time, although we can’t be sure that this will continue to be the policy in the future.
The Best Feature
There is one really cool feature here that you don’t find in most QuickBooks for Windows document management (or document attachment) products – attach to email. This is the main reason why anyone would want to use the Attachment feature as it stands now. If you check that attach to email box by a document, then click Send to send the order to the customer, your selected attachments are ALSO sent along as attachments to the email (along with the invoice itself). THIS IS GREAT, and it works very simply. I wish we could do that with QuickBooks for Windows!
The Worst Feature
See that little “x” next to each attachment, at the right? Click on that, the attachment is gone. No way of getting it back that I can find. Be REALLY CAREFUL – make sure that this attachment is NOT your ONLY copy of the document. It’s so easy to click that little x…
This is NOT Document Management
So you can attach documents to some transactions, you can look at the transaction and click on the document to retrieve/view it, and you can send the attachments to your clients, why isn’t this “document management”?
- There is no security here. Anyone who can see the transaction can see the attachment.
- There is no other way to retrieve your attachments. No “portal” or way to see all attachments, no way to make a backup of the files (and that is critical).
- The only way to share documents with anyone is as an attachment to the order form. You can’t just send a document to someone outside the company other than sending them the invoice (or, opening each attachment and saving it locally, then sending it). Other users in your company can only get them by going to the order form.
- As I mentioned above you can easily delete attachment simply by clicking that little x – and once you do it is gone…
I could go on, but that should be enough. There is no way that you should use this system, as it stands now, to store important documents. It’s not document management, it is just a way to send attachments to your customers.
Comparing with Other Systems
If we are thinking of document management for QuickBooks Online, there really is only one other integrated product that I know of. SmartVault has just announced that they can integrate with QuickBooks Online. This is fantastic! SmartVault is one of my favorite products. See my review of SmartVault for QuickBooks for details.
Beyond that, there isn’t much else for QuickBooks Online. The Intuit App Center doesn’t list any document management systems for QuickBooks Online at this time (SmartVault will be listed there soon, they are going through the final stages of getting their listing approved at this time).