Updated: Oct 6
QuickBooks was designed to be flexible enough to meet the needs of a broad range of business types. Custom fields can help you tailor the software to meet your specific needs.
One reason for QuickBooks Desktop's popularity is its ability to support a wide variety of business types via custom configurations, from pet stores to landscaping companies to family practices. Many companies are satisfied with the software as-is and don’t require any modifications to manage their accounting effectively, but if you find your transaction forms need an extra field or two, or your customer records need more information, you might benefit from custom fields.
QuickBooks supports custom fields that you can define for yourself. They're not difficult to create, and they can make it easier to:
Generate more focused reports.
Make customer and vendor records more detailed.
Create records for similar-but-different inventory items.
Below, we'll detail how you can create custom fields that might better support your business needs.
Changing QuickBooks Forms
To see what’s possible in terms of changing the structure and content of QuickBooks forms, open the Lists menu and select Templates. Right-click on the screen and select New. Choose the form you want to create and click OK. In the window that opens, you can make changes. For further modifications, click Additional Customization.
You have tremendous control over the content and structure of your forms in QuickBooks.
Creating Custom Fields for Records
QuickBooks does not include custom field creation in the Basic Customization and Additional Customization windows, although your new fields will appear in the Additional Customization window. Instead, navigate to the Customer Center, Vendor Center, or Employee Center, depending on what kind of records you want to change. You can add up to 15 custom fields for those three types of records (no more than seven per type). If you find you need more functionality than 15 custom fields, Enterprise may be the best QuickBooks version for you, as it allows up to 30 custom fields.
There are other custom field features unique to Enterprise, too, that could benefit your business. For example, to create greater consistency in your records and better results in your reporting, Enterprise allows you to limit the available options for a given data field. You can hard-code the options that will populate to be text-only, "yes/no" options, color choices, product names, and more. These options are then available from a drop-down menu for the designated data field. The benefit of this functionality is that it limits variance and paints a more precise picture of your data, without requiring manual manipulations (it would be annoying to have to export your report from QuickBooks into Excel every time, just so you could combine the data for "grey" and "gray" items). Enterprise offers a much more powerful and expanded use of custom fields. Some companies even leave QuickBooks because they don't realize the "custom field" feature exists, so if you think it could benefit your business, please reach out to us.
Now, let's explore the topic of creating custom fields for your customers. Start by opening the Customers menu and selecting Customer Center. Make sure the Customers & Jobs tab is highlighted. Double-click on any record to open its Edit Customer window and then click on Additional Info. In the lower right corner, click Define Fields. The window that opens displays four columns. In the first, Label, you’ll enter the names of your new custom fields. Click in any or all of the next three columns to indicate which records should contain them: customer, vendor, or employee.
You can create up to 15 custom fields in QuickBooks Pro and Premier, but you’re limited to seven per record type.
Think carefully about what custom fields you want to create before you start. Once you’ve defined them and started using them in records and transactions, you won’t want to change them.
Adding Custom Fields to Items
You can also add up to five custom fields to your item records. Open the Lists menu and select Item List. Select an item and double-click it to open its Edit Item window, then click Custom Fields over to the right. In the window that opens, click Define Fields. This feature works like the one we just explained for adding custom fields to contact records. You enter the Label name and click in the Use column to create a checkmark.
Using Custom Fields
It’s easy to enter information in the custom fields you’ve created in your customer, vendor, and employee records. You go through the same process you did to create them. Open a record and click Additional Info. You’ll see your new fields in the column to the right. Just enter the information in each record and click OK.
It’s easy to find the custom fields you’ve created and enter the appropriate information in each record.
As we said earlier, the custom fields you’ve created will be available to add to the appropriate form templates when you customize them. You’ll also be able to choose them as filters when you generate reports.
Dealing with Limitations
QuickBooks’ custom fields do have some shortcomings. You can probably work within the limits placed on contact records, but you may want to track more targeted information than the software’s limits allow when you’re dealing with items. If you sell t-shirts and you have a large inventory in different sizes and colors, for example, you’ll have to create an item record for each configuration rather than using custom fields.
You chose—or may be planning to choose—QuickBooks because it can work for so many types of businesses. Custom fields are one way the software provides for personalizing its features. But there may come a time when you outgrow its capabilities. If that happens, we can help you install an add-on application to deepen specific functional areas (like inventory). We can also discuss upgrading to QuickBooks Enterprise. Please contact us if you need help with the program’s custom fields, or if it’s time for you to expand your current accounting system.
We encourage you to start using custom fields to enhance your reporting! If you need to upgrade to QuickBooks Enterprise to unlock greater functionality, remember that Account Ability Consulting always offers competitive software pricing. Be sure to consult with us before upgrading yourself or considering a conversion to a different platform -- our combined knowledge of your business's accounting processes and QuickBooks means we can often provide you with more tailored insight than a Google query.