Improved List Selection When Creating Invoices in QuickBooks

Written by Charlie Russell

When you are creating an invoice in QuickBooks (or any order type, such as a purchase order, estimate, etc.) you will be selecting information from a dropdown list. This could be something like the customer list or item list. A common complaint is that this dropdown list has very limited information. Did you know that there was a hidden feature that makes this easier to use?

Let me use an invoice as an example. You want to select a customer, and the dropdown list shows you only the customer name. This might not be enough to locate the proper customer!

QuickBooks dropdown list

Here’s the trick – press ctrl-L when the cursor is in the customer:job field. This will open the associated list, which in this case is the customer center. From here you have access to a lot more information about your customers.

Select from QuickBooks list

You can even edit the customer information if you want to change some information, such as adding a phone number, etc. Keep in mind that you can customize this list to add columns and to sort by different columns.

QuickBooks customer list

That’s fine, but don’t you want to get the customer into the invoice? Here is the second part of this trick – once you have selected the customer you want to work with, press ctrl-U to “use” this record in the transaction you just came from.

Use list in QuickBooks transaction

QuickBooks will take the selected customer from the list and insert it into the invoice. The ctrl-U key only works if you have reached the customer list from the invoice by using the ctrl-L key.

Note that in the customer list you can also right-click on the customer and pick Use from the menu.

QuickBooks context menu

 This also works when looking up an item in the item list. Put the cursor in the item code field, press ctrl-L to open the item list, locate the item, press ctrl-U to “use” the item.

Select QuickBooks Item

 One difference here is that if you right click on the item you won’t see “Use” in the menu – you have to use the shortcut key.

This feature seems to be used throughout QuickBooks. I haven’t tested it in all locations, but I’ve not found a place where it doesn’t work, yet. In the invoice this even works with lists/fields like terms, sales rep, customer message and so forth.

I consider this to be a hidden gem – I’ve found that most QuickBooks users aren’t aware of this. Many people know about using ctrl-L to open a list, but using ctrl-U to “use” the list item is not as widely known. It resolves a fairly common complaint about QuickBooks and the limited information in the dropdown boxes.

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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been writing for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011.

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • I upgraded to QuickBooks 2013 from QuickBooks 10. When I do an invoice now, the time entry and other items are randomly listed by date. The prior version would list all time in chronological order. This results in chaos, but QuickBooks has no solution. Any ideas other than to ditch QuickBooks 2013 and go to another program?

  • I Have a question that is not exactly related, but am finding it hard to find related issues.
    In QuickBooks, we can assigned a customer terms and it seems as if the days start counting from the date the invoice is created. Because of the nature of our business we sometimes need to wait almost a week before actually sending the invoice to the customer, the system has already assigned 7 days to the terms, but if I am sending the invoice a week later, how can I add an invoice date to my template so that I can still keep the date the invoice was created, but also have a date of when I invoiced and when the terms days should start to count? I would appreciate any help you can provide.

    • I would need to know more about your workflow, as well as what version of QuickBooks you are using. If you have Premier or Enterprise, I would consider using a sales order initially, then converting to an invoice at the time you want to send it out. That may or may not be suitable for your situation (and QB Pro doesn’t have sales orders). Generally, an invoice becomes a receivable on the day that it is dated for, so the terms should start from there. That is why I generally consider using a sales order in the general situation you describe. But, again, I don’t know the details of your situation.

      • Thank you Charlie. I am using Enterprise.
        I am new to QuickBooks and it has been done this way for as long as the business has been using QuickBooks (10 years or so).

        I was brought on to do Accounts Receivable. We have a parts department that handles the initial entering of info from a customer’s PO, once the item ships, I follow by sending the invoice. Sometimes orders are on back order for a few weeks and I find it difficult to keep track of the actual term days when it starts counting from the date of creating the invoice instead of when I actually e-mail the invoice to the customer.

        I am not sure why there is some resistance to use Sales orders, I am thinking is because we do not know exactly how to utilize them. For example I don’t understand the option of “Marked as closed”; is this something we do after all items on a sales order has shipped/invoiced? Once marked closed I think you cannot make any changes to it? Also, If I have 3 items on a sales order and I want to invoice or ship 2 and 1 stays on back order for 2-3 weeks. When I go to invoice the back order, is it going to assigned the same invoice number as the other two items?

        I think that is another thing we are doing which is complicating things as we are not using the automatic Invoice numbering, but actually assigning an invoice number on the date that the order ships in sequence; 07111701, 07111702, 07111703, etc.

        Thanks for all the help. 🙂


        • Mimi, changing existing practices can be hard to do. “We’ve always done it that way” is a really, really common answer when you ask why things are done a certain way, and it is hard to get around that.

          I can’t give you specific information in detail through blog comments. I recommend that your company work with a ProAdvisor who can sit down with you and review how you are using QuickBooks and what works best for your business.

          I’m a fan of Sales Orders in QuickBooks, but there are different ways to use them and there can be times when they aren’t the right thing. There are several good books that can help you. My favorites are by Laura Madeira, such as the QuickBooks in Depth series (http://amzn.to/2tjyK2h). The last one she did is for QB 2014, but all of the info still applies to more current versions. Unfortunately, it is getting harder to find good books on the desktop product, it is harder to find publishers who want to pay for that kind of writing.

          You won’t worry about “marked as closed” – you only do that to manually close out an order that hasn’t been fully invoiced, that you won’t be shipping all items. If you fully invoice a sales order, it will be closed automatically. As far as backorders, that is one of the great features about sales orders, using them will manage backorders more efficiently. Invoice numbers will be different for each invoice you make off of a particular sales order.

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