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How to Use Quickbooks: Learn the Basics

written by: Patricia Tokar, CPA•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 1/22/2011

Want to learn how to use Quickbooks or Quickbooks Pro? Using Quickbooks doesn't have to be a stressful experience; here is some basic information to get you started.

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    Why Should I Learn How to Use Quickbooks?

    QuickBooks is one of the most trusted and popular accounting software programs. QuickBooks-Blog, in a Sept 2008 blog post, estimates that QuickBooks sales account for 78 percent to 94.2 percent of all small business accounting software program sales. These numbers remain true in 2011.

    Learning how to use QuickBooks is a valuable skill for both the accountant and the small business owner. Using QuickBooks properly can make routine bookkeeping tasks less time consuming and more accurate. Less time spent on bookkeeping frees up more time to spend on managing your business and increasing your sales. QuickBooks also gives you the tools for getting better and more accurate information for financial reports, management decisions, and tax returns.

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    Where Should You Get Started When Using QuickBooks?

    Before you begin to learn how to use QuickBooks, take some time to review the volume and type of data that you have in your business. The main areas of bookkeeping for a typical small business tend to be invoicing, writing checks, managing sales orders, and payroll.

    Once you have determined the basic needs and volume of your business bookkeeping, then choose your QuickBooks program. The two main choices for a typical small business are QuickBooks Online (free trial and then $12.95 per month as of Jan 2011) and QuickBooks Pro (less than $200.00 as of Jan 2011). For a beginner, these are good packages to start with, and you likely will never have a need to upgrade from either of these.

    QuickBooks Premier offers specialized packages, such as contractor, nonprofit, or manufacturing packages. These packages can be very beneficial. However, I generally recommend to clients that they start with QuickBooks Pro, become familiar with the programs, and then determine if they want to upgrade to Premier. The data will transfer when you upgrade.

    QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions is not really a beginner program and is best installed with the assistance of a skilled accountant or QuickBooks professional. Among other features, it has the capacity to maintain inventory in detail and also has the capacity for much more volume than Pro or Premier. Again, for a beginner or for a small business intending to maintain their own books, it is probably best to start with QuickBooks Pro and then migrate up to Enterprise once you have learned QuickBooks basics and have a very good sense of exactly what functions you want QuickBooks to do for your business.

    If you want to have QuickBooks calculate your payroll and print your payroll forms, then you will need to purchase a separate Payroll module, such as QuickBooks Payroll Enhanced to use with your QuickBooks package. This usually costs less than $200.00 per year. This package is not required if you are willing to manually calculate your payroll and fill out your own payroll forms, or if you use an outside payroll service.

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    Where to Start With Learning How to Use QuickBooks

    It is important that your QuickBooks be set up and installed properly before you begin using it. QuickBooks has an excellent "interview" process for setting up a new company when you first start your software. You should carefully use each of the steps, including choosing a standard chart of accounts. Most skilled bookkeepers will easily use these interview steps. If you are uncomfortable with the set up process, then have a QuickBooks professional help you with the set up of your program.

    Now you are ready to learn QuickBooks. It is advisable to start with one section of your bookkeeping, such as writing checks, and learn this function for a week or two and then add other functions, such as invoicing, becoming comfortable with each function before adding another.

    Another option would be to set up a mock company with your QuickBooks program, using a name such as My Training Company, and use this to key in your data and practice while you are learning how to use QuickBooks. You can then set up your "real" company file when you are comfortable with QuickBooks.

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    If you want to know how to use QuickBooks, you will find all the basic information in this informative article. As a plus, you'll also have easy access to links for tools to help your maximize your QuickBooks effectiveness.
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    Using QuickBooks Resources to Learn How to Use QuickBooks

    Use QuickBooks Help feature.

    If you already have QuickBooks, then click on the Help button on your toolbar. From the pop up window that appears, you will be able to search through answers to almost every QuickBooks question. Be as specific as you can and you will usually get a very good step-by-step answer from the QuickBooks help section. For example, type in "how do I charge sales tax on an item" and you will be given choices ranging from a general overview of how sales tax is charged in Quickbooks as well as very specific topics involving sales tax.

    If you are not able to find your answer with the internal help section, then the help pop up window also has a Live Community tab where you can present your questions and enter forums for discussion, questions, and also resources of FAQs.

    If you leave the QuickBooks Help window open, the Help contents will change depending on the accounting transaction you are recording. As you begin using QuickBooks, this feature will suggest learning topics and very specific topics that will guide you in how to use QuickBooks to enter and use your data. It would be useful to leave the help section open the first several times that you use a new feature or function of QuickBooks.

    Use the Online Intuit Community for QuickBooks

    QuickBooks has extensive support materials online. It has sections for QuickBooks Tasks, such as invoicing, generating reports, printing checks, and managing customers. You can also type in a specific question and post it to the forum and will likely get an answer from a QuickBooks professional or skilled user.

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    Take a Local or Online QuickBooks Class

    Check with your local tech school, adult education, or university. Most of these will have a class on how to use QuickBooks for the beginner.

    Intuit also offers online courses for Windows or Mac 2011., in association with Intuit, offers certified training programs. These are more indepth classes for the serious QuickBooks user. RealWorldTraining is endorsed by QuickBooks and their site can be searched for local classes as well as offering online and self-paced classes.

    There are many other QuickBooks training programs from independent vendors available. Try searching or simply doing a google search to find a training program that fits your style.

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    Get Individual Help from a QuickBooks Expert on Using QuickBooks

    QuickBooks offers classes and certification to professional QuickBooks accountants and professional users. A searchable list of these QuickBooks experts is available on the Intuit site: You enter your zipcode to see a list of experts near you. You can use the experts to set up your program, answer questions about using the programs, train your employees, and even have them handle your bookkeeping.

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    Use the QuickBooks Accountant's Copy Feature

    Accountant’s Copy File Transfer Feature. This is a QuickBooks feature which allows you to send accounting files to your accountant. This allows you to turn your data over to your accountant for corrections, updates, year end entries or for use in preparing your tax return.

    If using QuickBooks online, the accountant receives a message from QuickBooks on data updates. The accountant then downloads your data file from a secure server if you give him the password. For security purposes, it is better to give the accountant the password by phone or in person rather than by e-mail.

    While the accountant is working with your data file, you can continue using QuickBooks for current data entry. You will be locked out of the historical data until the accountant returns your Accountant's Copy for merging the changes.

    This helps with your learning process because it allows the accountant to see your data, advise, and make corrections in advance of a pressing deadline, such as in advance of tax season.

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    Use a Trial Program or Demo

    A good way to learn how to use QuickBooks in your business is to experience QuickBooks first-hand by downloading the software for a free 30 day trial. After 30 days Intuit will require you to pay for the use of the online solution.

    To download the free 30-day trial go to The QuickBooks Online, and QuickBooks 2011 for Mac are available for the free trial.

    QuickBooks also offers a QuickBooks Pro Demo program, which you can use for learning how to use QuickBooks and to see what features are available in QuickBooks Pro.