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QuickBooks Online Document Attachments

January 3, 2013 | By | 24 Replies More

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.

QuickBooks Online document attachment

Looking at the widget in detail, you see two options to add an attachment to this transaction:

Attachments widget

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:

Attached Documents

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!

QuickBooks Online invoice with attachments

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…

Click X to Delete Attachment

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).

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Category: Cloud Accounting, QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Tips/Tricks

About the Author ()

Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He's 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 a one-floppy disk drive system, loading the program from one floppy and then replacing that with the other floppy to hold the data. 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. He also is a Xero Certified Partner. Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. Charlie can be reached at charlie.russell@sleeter.com He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog Connect with Charlie at Google

Comments (24)

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  1. Julienne Pakbaz says:

    Hello, I was so excited when I first started attaching documents to the bills. However, I soon found out for one of my clients, who is not very computer literate, this will not work. I have to send him a backup of work I have done so he can go over the financials. When I found out that the backup copy will not have the documents attached to the bills in the file unless you also send the associated separate file, which contains the actual attached documents, I gave up…he would never be able to figure that one out. Using it in the cloud would be fine, as the document file is already there, but some of my clients just do not want to update to the computerized world.

    • Julienne, I think you are referring to the Doc Center feature in QuickBooks for Windows, not the one in QuickBooks Online as discussed in this article. With QuickBooks Online you don’t “send him a backup or work”, you would be working with the same file. If you attach a document here, your client can see it as well, since you are all working with the same file.

      What you are describing is a shortcoming of the Windows version, where the attached documents are stored only locally, and are not included in the backup file. You have to manually back up that folder and send it, and there are a lot of issues with doing that. I talk about that feature at http://www.sleeter.com/blog/2011/09/quickbooks-2012-document-management/ – and I also talk about a much better solution for QuickBooks for Windows at http://www.sleeter.com/blog/2012/05/smartvault-for-quickbooks-document-management-and-beyond/ using SmartVault – which is a product that has a lot of advantages for an accounting professional working with client document management.

  2. Darren says:

    It’s a nice feature, but doesn’t work – takes forever to upload (1.5mb) and then when finished it says there was an error and must try again. It doesn’t work.

    • Darren, I just ran a test on my system, and I was able to attach (and retrieve) a 10 MB file very easily. It took just a few seconds. I have a fairly high speed Internet connection. It sounds like there is an issue with your particular installation, you may want to talk to the support staff about this.

  3. Greg Lam says:

    Hey Charlie,

    I had a few minutes to play around with the SmartVault App for QuickBooks Online. It’s really nice, kind of what you wish QuickBooks would have built internally. My only gripe is that it doesn’t seem possible to download all your files in one go, without having to set up SmartVault for Desktop, which also requires you have Windows OS. Well, my second gripe is that I’d love it if it could rename files based on the transaction I’m attaching the document to (so that the document would make sense when not viewed in the context of being attached to a transaction), but that’s more of a wish than a gripe.

  4. Gary says:

    I am attaching photos to customers and probably later to estimates. If I have ten photos saved to my computer, is there a way to attach all ten at the same time or do i have to attach them one at a time?

    • Using QuickBooks 2013 it is easy. If you are using the drag/drop method, you can select multiple documents and drag them all onto the drop pad at once. If you use the “Computer” button, which opens a file dialog, you can again select multiple documents and add them in one click.

  5. Gary says:

    fyi. in previous comment I am not using Smart Vault or anything else. Just using the attachment feature in Quickbooks.

  6. Jeff L. says:

    Nice article, thanks Charlie. So just to clarify this statement:

    “I wish we could do that with QuickBooks for Windows!”

    … this is not a feature of QB for Windows, but it is a feature of QuickBooks Online? Disappointing!

    • I’m specifically referring to the ability to send your “attachments” along with the emailed transaction. At this time, QuickBooks Desktop has an attachment feature, but you can’t include the attachments when you generate an email from the system. I hope that they are considering working on that for a future release.

  7. Matthew Clark says:

    Hello,
    I’m using 2013 pro and trying to attach pictures to both invoices and estimates. I can get to the drop pad and attach pictures, but they don’t show when I email them. Am I missing something? How should they appear when my customer opens the email? Thanks!!

    • Matthew, QuickBooks attached documents doesn’t work that way. They are attached just for your own reference and retrieval. They do not get attached when you send the invoice or estimate out via email.

  8. Glenn Stearns says:

    QuickBooks is Soooo close to making something useful here. Matthew asked the right question.
    I am a contractor and when I invoice clients – they may want to see the receipts I generate during their job (Especially in a time and “material” bases) – this would be a perfect way to send with the invoice.
    Its nice that quickbooks can email invoices – it has come a long way since I started using it years ago – but that’s it limitation.
    Its back to Mailing or scanning and emailing from my email account outside of documents in quickbooks.
    There are a lot of features I pay for and will never use (this being one of them)

  9. Steve says:

    I was researching the same thing as Matthew and Glenn. I have saved a PDF that I would like to include in my emailed invoice to my customer. QB appears to be able to do this, but it seems like they just quit and never provide a way to finish.
    The whole point of having the attachment is to be able to send it to the customer. When you scroll over the “Attach file” icon, the description even says “attaches a file or any scanned document to this invoice”.

  10. Natasha says:

    Shoeboxed.com also integrates with quickbooks online and is a cloud based scanning and document filing service.

    Thanks for this information, though…it was really helpful.

  11. Nick says:

    I am starting to use this feature a lot, then…

    … I can not find a report to show me which transactions (primarily expenses) have or do not have attachments!

  12. stacey says:

    is there a way to keep files in the attachment area? and just check them to send as needed instead of attaching every time. we send credit card authorization forms for customers to sign and it and it would be nice to just have to check the box and not attach everytime

  13. Colt Little says:

    Hi Charlie,

    any reasons the attachment feature is not available for purchase orders?

    Thanks,

    Colt-TSM

    • In general, they are rolling the feature out slowly. Over time they are expanding it to work with more transactions. Essentially they are testing things out on people on a small scale, to see what kind of feedback they get and what issues they run into.

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