February 2006

Customizing the QuickBooks Desktop

You can personalize QuickBooks in several ways, to help you work the way you want to work. You can choose to use (or not use) the Icon Bar, the Open Windows List, the Home page, and you can set personal preferences for several different areas in QuickBooks. In this article, we’re going to show you how to hide or view various tools, how to customize the Home page, and how to set several of the available personal preferences. We’re not going to show you absolutely everything you can do with each tool, but we will cover the major actions you can take.

The Icon Bar

After you work in Windows programs for awhile, you get used to buttons up at the top of the screen just below the menus—buttons that act as shortcuts to commands you use regularly. In QuickBooks, these buttons appear on the Icon Bar.

You can display or hide the Icon Bar by opening the View menu and clicking Icon Bar. If you saw a check to the left of the command when you clicked it, then clicking the command hid the Icon Bar. If you didn’t see a check to the left of the command, then clicking the command displayed the Icon Bar.

You can add buttons to the Icon Bar, remove buttons you don’t use from the Icon Bar, change the picture or text for a button, move a button to a new position on the Icon Bar, and group buttons by adding separator lines between buttons. Open the View menu and click Customize Icon Bar to display the Customize Icon Bar dialog box shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Customize the buttons that appear on the Icon Bar from this box.

When you click the Add button, QuickBooks displays the Add Icon Bar Item dialog box you see in Figure 2. Select the item you want to add, and, if you want, change either the label or the description.

Figure 2. Add a button to the Icon Bar.

You also can add a button to the Icon Bar to open any window in QuickBooks. Suppose, for example, that you have more than one checking account and want different buttons to open the registers of each of your checking accounts. While viewing the register for the appropriate account, open the View menu and click Add to Icon Bar. In the Add Window to Icon Bar dialog box that appears, you can again, change the label or description of the button.

The Open Windows List

OK, suppose you’re not a “button bar” type of person. Suppose, instead, that you often work with lots of open windows and need to navigate between them—and you find opening the Window menu and clicking the appropriate window really cumbersome. The Open Window List is for you. Open the View menu and click Open Window List. QuickBooks displays the bar you see on the left side of Figure 3, which displays a list of all open QuickBooks windows. In Figure 3, all of the listed windows are minimized at the bottom of the screen.

Figure 3. The Open Windows List.

From this window, you have “one-click” access to all open QuickBooks windows; you can click any listed open window to switch immediately to that window.

Setting Personal Preferences

QuickBooks contains a large number of personal preferences that you can set in the Preferences dialog box. Open the Edit menu and click Preferences. For each category listed on the left, you’ll find two tabs: My Preferences and Company Preferences. You may not find options on each tab for each category, but, if you poke around, you’ll find a large variety of settings that you can change.

For example, when you click Checking on the left, you’ll find that you can use the My Preferences tab to define the bank account you want to use by default whenever you open the Write Checks, Pay Bills, Pay Sales Tax, or Make Deposits windows (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Select the bank account you want to use whenever you open specified windows.

On the Company Preferences tab, you can, for example, choose to print account names on vouchers and change the check date when you print checks to the date you print the checks rather than the date you entered the transaction in QuickBooks.

You can set so many options to control the behavior of QuickBooks that we can’t properly cover them here. We urge you to click each category and review the choices on each tab. If you are unsure about the function of an option, click the Help button in the Preferences dialog box. QuickBooks help provides specific information on almost every option.

Working with the Home Page

QuickBooks 2006 contains the new Home page, shown in Figure 5, which tries to help you see how your business tasks fit together by organizing tasks for customers, vendors, employees, banking, and overall company activities. Within each group of tasks on the Home page, you’ll see arrows pointing between tasks; the arrows intend to indicate the order in which you may perform tasks. To display a task’s window, you can click its button on the Home page. As you point at any button on the Home page, QuickBooks displays a ToolTip describing the function.

Figure 5. The new Home page in QuickBooks 2006.

You can open the Vendor Center, Customer Center, or Employee Center by clicking a button at the left edge of the Home page for the appropriate task group or by clicking the appropriate button on the Navigation Bar.

Tip: You can hide and display the new Navigation Bar that appears to the left of the Icon Bar like you hide or display the Icon Bar. Open the View menu and click Navigation Bar. The Navigation Bar also contains buttons to display the Customer Center, the Vendor Center, the Employee Center, and the Report Center. And, you can drag the Navigation Bar below the Icon Bar to make more room for the icons on the Icon Bar.

From the Account Balances list displayed on the Home page, you can see balances for bank and credit card accounts; QuickBooks updates these balances automatically as you work. To open the register for any listed account, double-click anywhere in the row of the account you want to view. And if you want to hide these balances for privacy, you can click the minus button beside Account Balances. You also can set user security so that the Account Balances list does not appear on a user’s Home page.

You can customize the tasks that appear on the Home page. Click the Customize Home page and set preferences link below the Account Balances list. QuickBooks opens the Preferences dialog box, displaying the Company Preferences tab of the Desktop View category (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. You can add or review features from the Home page.

Remove the check beside any listed feature to remove it from the Home page. You can remove the grayed out features from the Home page if you first disable their related features. For example, to remove the Enter and Pay Bills feature, you must first disable Inventory; click the Inventory link at the bottom of the page to switch to the Company Preferences tab of the Purchases & Vendors category. Then, remove the check from the Inventory and purchase orders are active box. When you click the Desktop View category to switch back, QuickBooks will prompt you to save the change to your settings. After you save the change, the Company Preferences tab of the Desktop View category will reappear and you will be able to remove the check from the Enter and Pay Bills feature.

If you like to have something like the Home page available but don’t want to look at it all the time, you can change your preferences so that QuickBooks does not display the Home page each time you open your company.

From the My Preferences tab of the Desktop View category, remove the check from the Show Home page when opening a company file checkbox and click OK. The next time you open your company, the Home page will not appear.

Tip: When you want to see the Home page, click the Home button on the Navigation Bar.


QuickBooks is flexible enough to provide you with a variety of options, to customize the way you work to suit your work style.