In the past, customizing invoice templates in QuickBooks Online was sort of hard to find – and then sort of hard to actually customize.
In the latest release, things have changed, and while it’s not exactly what many users have been asking for, I believe the new interface makes things a little easier to manage. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I did check with the QuickBooks Online (QBO) development team, and many of the options that used be available but were not included in the recent redesign are on the road map to bring back in future releases. Yay!
I’ve heard from many accounting professionals that are long-time desktop users that one of the reasons they still can’t put ALL of their clients on QBO is because they have some that require specialized customization for their form templates. Some need invoices formatted because of client requirements, others need different templates for separate types of invoices/sales receipts. These changes to QBO still won’t solve for that, but I think with new QBO being much more agile than the “Classic” version of QBO, hopefully we’ll see this in the future.
The easiest way to get the customization (and at the time of this writing, this is only available for Invoices and Sales Receipts, and I think, only for new subscriptions set up after the release) is to open the screen to create a new Invoice/Sales Receipt – down at the bottom you’ll see the Customize button (Figure 1). You also have access to customization in Company Settings.
Figure 1: Customize button
Once you click that Customize button a window will open that allows you to “add personality” to the form. You can edit the color of the template and the style and font with the Style tab (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Customization Style tab
On the Header tab users are still able to choose what content will be displayed, regarding their company contact information as well as renaming the forms. I’ve seen many clients changing labels, such as “Estimate” to “Quotation” or “Sales Quote.” The new customization allows you to enter any text into the title; previously you had choices to choose from in a drop-down menu (i.e., Invoice or Pledge, Credit Memo, or Return Receipt). Choosing to use Custom Transaction Numbers can also be selected from here as well (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Customization Header tab
What’s missing here, that used to be available, is the ability to add a background image. I found this very useful for companies that had logos that didn’t fit the 1″ x 1″ recommended size, or that had more than one logo image that needed to be included. One way around this would be to use preprinted invoice forms – but support for this was omitted with this redesign also. However, this only really works if companies are printing hard copies of invoices. Fewer and fewer companies are doing THAT these days. The lack of this could mean that things can get a little sticky for some users. According to the QBO team, adding background images is one of the features that’s on the road map to return in a future release, but they were unable to give me an idea of when.
One work-around would be to save as a PDF and use a program like Adobe Acrobat Pro to add a stamp, but what if the company wants to send directly from QBO to make it easy to get paid with Intuit Payment Network? I didn’t realize this would be an issue until my cohost on Radio Free QuickBooks, Dawn Brolin, asked me how to add a second logo. For now, the only thing I can suggest would be to combine the two logos into one image file and upload that to add to the template.
Another option that I don’t see, that I know a few of my clients really like, is the “Account Summary” option (Figure 4). In the old template customization screen this was an option. It is a sort of a mini-statement that would print above the body of the invoice. Again, this is on track to return soon, according to the QBO team.
Figure 4: Account Summary from QuickBooks Online Classic
Customizing columns is still available. You’re able to choose what columns will show when you print/email (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Customization Columns tab
Another old option that’s missing is being able to choose the column order. Again, we’ll see this return in future releases. Figure 6 shows what it looks like in the old customization screen (found in Company Settings/Preferences). They did keep the ability to edit the column titles with the redesign.
Figure 6: Column ordering from QuickBooks Online Classic
Also gone are settings that affect how users bill for time activities. For ongoing projects that are billed hourly (like a data cleanup or entering historical data for a client), users have historically been able to track time, and when adding to an invoice have been able to group the time charges. This means that the client may be billed at the end of the project or every other week. The QBO setup would allow them to review the time activities grouped by day, week, etc.
That type of grouping seems to be missing in this early release; as well as the choice to add subtotals to those groups, collapse them, and to choose if the user wants to show whose time it was, the time and rate, or how the time activities are described. Figure 7 shows the options in the old template customization screen.
Figure 7: Group and time tracking options in QuickBooks Classic
The QBO team has indicated that, at the time I’m writing this article, the time options you see are scheduled to make a comeback, but not the options for grouping that we’ve had in the past. I find that a bit of a bummer, since I think it’s easier for a client/customer to review the data when it’s grouped, rather than just an invoice with a bunch of line items. I’d like to see the ability to group by day/week or type, collapse similar activity, and edit the line item descriptions if needed. Of course, that’s just my opinion, and maybe most users don’t care, so what do I know, right? I’m sure my kids will tell you: NOT MUCH. Ha!
When it comes to editing the footer, I liked being able to choose some default text related to company information (rather than have it only show on the header), and that’s been omitted with the redesign as well. I don’t find that too much of an issue, since it can still be added using some custom text in the Footer box (Figure 8). Plus, we still have the option to include a message to customers, such as “Thanks for your business” or “Hey dude, pay me soon!”
Figure 8: Customization Footer tab
At the end of the day, I love the interface; I find it easier to access. With the release of the redesigned settings page there will be two places to find the customizing: on the Invoice and/or Sales Receipt form screen as previously shown, or the Company tab in the Company Settings page as shown in Figure 9. I also find the finished products look more clean and modern than before.
Figure 9: Customization in Settings
However, it makes me sad to find that right now some of the features from the Classic version were omitted for the initial release: background images/watermarks, the account summary is gone, and editing how billable time shows up on transactions.
I’m not too worried about these omissions. I understand that this is the first release of the redesign and know that they’ll be making an appearance again soon. I just am horrible at waiting, especially if it’s for something I’m used to having! I also take comfort in knowing that future releases will only continue to get better. If working with QBO for 10 years has taught me anything, it’s that they will for sure!