Every business has some sort of unique information that is important to its operation. While QuickBooks Desktop provides the places to store the basic information that every business needs, you will often find that you need to store additional data such as a customer’s vehicle registration number or the weight of an inventory item – information that QuickBooks doesn’t already accommodate. To address this QuickBooks provides us with custom fields, a way that you can define your own places to store information in the QuickBooks database. Today we’ll talk a bit about custom fields in QuickBooks and how to use them.
Custom Field Basics
Let’s take a look at some basic concepts in “custom fields” in the Windows desktop version of QuickBooks. This information applies to Pro, Premier and Enterprise.
A custom field is a user-definable field that you can create in several different lists in QuickBooks. These can be used to store information, up to 30 characters per field. There is a limited number of custom fields available.
Once you define the custom fields in a list you can then add them to certain transactions in QuickBooks, and include them in various reports. This can be confusing at first – you can’t have a custom field in a transaction (like an invoice) without FIRST defining them in a list (like the customer list). Once you add the custom field to a transaction the transaction has its own copy of the field. If you change a value that field in the list, it doesn’t change the value you see in the transaction.
You can create custom fields in several lists:
- Item List
- Customer List
- Vendor List
- Employee List
The item list has a limit of 5 custom fields in Pro and Premier. In Enterprise (starting with V10) you can add up to 15 custom fields in the item list.
For the customer, vendor and employee lists you have a maximum of 7 custom fields for each of these lists in Pro and Premier – and an aggregate limit of 15 for all three lists together. In Enterprise (starting with V10) you can have a maximum of 12 custom fields for each of these lists, with an aggregate limit of 30 custom fields for all three lists together.
Once you create the custom fields in the lists, you can add them to:
- Sales orders
- Sales receipts
- Purchase orders
- Credit memos
- Build Assembly (only in Enterprise)
- Various reports (more on that later)
We often see people asking for the ability to add custom fields to other transaction forms, such as Statements. Unfortunately this is not possible.
In QuickBooks 2014 you can also add custom fields to the detail section of Checks, Bills and Credit Card Charges, although with some restrictions when compared to the list above (see this article for details).
In addition, custom fields can be used in several functions, such as Add/Edit Multiple List Entries, the Advanced Excel imports, and a few others.
It is interesting to note that you can change the name of a custom field without any problems. This isn’t surprising, you can do the same with the names of items, customers and so forth. If you change the name of an existing custom field all of the data in that field remains the same, just using the new field name.
An Example to Illustrate
Let’s look at an example of some typical uses of custom fields to illustrate what you can accomplish. I’ll use an invoice transaction in QuickBooks Premier 2013. I am going to assume that you understand how to edit an invoice template.
Here’s what I want my invoice to look like. I have two fields in the invoice header, and two columns in the invoice detail. These are fields that do not normally exist in QuickBooks.
- Pref Day is the preferred day of the week that this customer wants deliveries. This is information that should be the same for each invoice for this customer.
- Driver is the name of the driver who is making the delivery. This can change with each invoice.
- Case Pack represents the number of bottles in a case (I’m not using the “unit of measure” feature, I’m selling by the case). This should be the same for this item each time that I use it.
- Total Case is a number for each line that tells me how many cases there will be, a number that varies with each invoice.
How can I add these fields and columns? If we go to the layout designer we see that we can add a text box or a data field:
Those won’t help, though. A text box is merely a box of text that I enter when designing the form – it doesn’t let me change the value when I am creating an invoice. A data field comes closer, but I can only add a limited number of fields that QuickBooks provides to me. I still can’t change the values of these fields when I am creating an invoice. So what can we do? This is where custom fields come into play.
Creating Fields for the Header
Let’s start with adding the fields for the header. Select any customer on the customer list and open the Edit Customer window. Select the Additional Info tab and then click the Define Fields button in the lower right. The Set up Custom Fields for Names window will open.
Add the custom fields that you want and check the Cust column for each.
Note that you only have to define the fields one time in one customer record – the fields will be added to all customer records.
Click on OK and you will see that the custom field is added to the customer record. If you want there to be a default value for just this customer when you create a transaction, enter the value in this customer record. In my example I always want the same value in the “Pref Day” when I create an invoice for this customer, but the “Driver” value will be chosen when the invoice is created.
Now let’s add this to the invoice template. Edit the template and click on the additional selections button (not the layout designer), then scroll to the bottom of the list of fields in the header tab. You will see that your custom fields have been added to the bottom of the list. Place a check mark in the screen and print columns to add the field in both places. You may need to use the layout designer to place the field in the desired location on the printed form.
If we create an invoice using this template you will see that the custom fields show up. If you use the customer we worked with earlier, the default value for the “Pref Day” custom field will fill in. We can edit the value in that field, and we can enter a value in the blank field.
Please note the following:
- You can only enter 30 characters of information in a custom field.
- You cannot change the size or position of the field on the screen, but you can change that for the printed form using the layout designer.
- If there is a value in the custom field in the customer record it will fill in the field in the form (as you see with “Pref Day” in the screen shot above).
- Changing a value in this transaction will not affect other existing transactions, these values are stored in the transaction itself.
- If you change a value in one of these custom fields you will be asked if you want this information to update the custom field in the customer record, to make it the new default. Note that you cannot change this behavior in QuickBooks (it can be annoying).