Cloud Accounting QuickBooks

QuickBooks Online Document Management with SmartVault

Written by Charlie Russell

For many businesses Document management is a key function. You need to store important documents securely, and in a way that lets you retrieve them easily. You need to be able to access them while you are in your office as well as when you are traveling. You need to easily share documents with clients, accountants, or fellow workers. There are good options for document management with QuickBooks for Windows, but what about for QuickBooks Online? I’m happy to say that my favorite document management system, SmartVault, is now available for QuickBooks Online.

Up until now there haven’t been any real document management systems for QuickBooks Online – just the new document attachment feature from Intuit (which isn’t a full document management system). SmartVault is my favorite document management system for QuickBooks for Windows (see my review article) so I’m very excited to see that they have expanded their product to include QuickBooks Online compatibility. So, how does it work with QuickBooks Online? Integration with QuickBooks Online is a more complicated process than with QuickBooks for Windows – so let’s take a look.

Connecting SmartVault with QuickBooks Online

Getting your SmartVault account to work with QuickBooks Online takes a few steps, but they aren’t that complicated. There are actually two kinds of authorization that you’ll need to go through to get access to all of the features – authorization for your web browser to access your SmartVault account, and authorization for SmartVault to access your QuickBooks Online account. Here’s an overview  of what you’ll need to do (I’m not showing every window that you’ll see in the process).

To start, log in to SmartVault and look for the link to Get SmartVault for QuickBooks Online.

SmartVault for QuickBooks Online

You’ll need an extension for whichever browser that you are going to use. SmartVault supports Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Safari isn’t supported at this time.

Browser Extensions for SmartVault

Once you have installed this, log in to your QuickBooks Online account. You’ll see an icon in the top of the browser, but it will be a dull gray color. You still need to connect to your SmartVault account.

SmartVault Icon in QuickBooks Online

Click on this icon to get the SmartVault configuration window. Enter the email address affiliated with your SmartVault account and you’ll get a PIN number to enter here. Without this PIN your browser cannot access SmartVault. This is an important security feature – you can easily revoke this PIN from within your SmartVault account if needed (such as, if your laptop with this feature enabled gets stolen). You are NOT entering your SmartVault login and password information, which makes this more secure.

SmartVault authorization

After you enter the PIN you will be asked for the SmartVault company to work with as well as the folder (“vault”) to connect with.

This actually would be all that you need to do if you want to use SmartVault with QuickBooks Online. SmartVault has the ability to identify the transactions that you are working with in QuickBooks even without having a direct connection to your QuickBooks account “behind the scenes”. However, to get the full benefits of the product, you want to authorize SmartVault to connect to QuickBooks. This again is a very secure process, using the features that Intuit requires for all App Center (IPP) products. SmartVault will lead you through the necessary steps.

SmartVault authorization for QuickBooks Online

Intuit will open a secure authorization window that asks you to authorize access. This is the standard window that you’ll see for all App Center apps using the Intuit Anywhere (IPP) access method.

Intuit authorization window

Now that you have completed all of the authorizations you will see the SmartVault icon in the browser (and it is green, to show that it is enabled), you’ll have the Intuit icon showing that this application is connected to QuickBooks Online, and you will see the SmartVault Toolbar show up when you are in a place where you can attach documents. You are all set to go!

QuickBooks Online with all SmartVault authorizations

Working with SmartVault and QuickBooks Online

When you access a location in QuickBooks Online where SmartVault can attach documents the SmartVault toolbar will appear.

SmartVault Toolbar

SmartVault currently supports attachments in the following locations:

  • Sales Receipts  *
  • Invoices  *
  • Bill Payments  *
  • Credits
  • Employees
  • Vendors
  • Purchase Orders
  • Bills  *
  • Checks
  • Credit Card Expenses
  • Cash Withdrawals
  • Deposits  *
  • Registers  *
  • Transfers  *
  • Journal Entries  *
  • Reconcile  *
  • Company Snapshot (screen)

Those marked with an asterisk support the “auto naming” feature where the program looks at the QuickBooks transaction and pulls in additional information – this is why you want to authorize SmartVault through the Intuit connection, to get this additional feature.

Attaching a local document is very simple – click on the paper clip icon in the SmartVault toolbar, and a window opens that lets you attach by simply dragging the document and dropping it on the window. You can also browse to the document location.

SmartVault drag/drop

Once you do this you’ll see that the folder icon in the toolbar shows the number of documents that are attached.

SmartVault Toolbar

You can see a list of the documents that are attached simply by clicking on that folder icon. This opens a window showing all of your attachments. You can manage the attachments using the icons to the right of each document.

View your attachments

The “I” icon will show you the information details about this attachment. Note that the description was created by SmartVault automatically, based on information that it obtained from QuickBooks Online. In this case I was a bit confused at first, because the date for the invoice shown in the description was the due date, not the invoice date. This is the first iteration of SmartVault for QuickBooks, so its not surprising to find a few small glitches like this. I’ve found very few issues like this. I am guessing that they’ll change this soon.

SmartVault attachment information

If you click on the pencil icon you can edit the information.

Edit SmartVault Information

The trash can icon lets you delete the attachment – I would like to see the ability to un-attach it without deleting it, to return it to my SmartVault inbox. What if I had attached it to the wrong document? You can move or copy attachments if you log in to your SmartVault portal, but I would like to have at least the option to un-attach the document and return it to my inbox from this window (but there is a simple workaround for this, described below).

You can also view your attachment from within SmartVault without having to download it to your computer first. While in the folder view simply click on the document name, and your SmartVault portal is opened in “viewer” mode. A wide variety of document types can be displayed here. There isn’t an icon for this feature in the folder view, so at first you might not realize that it is there. Once you figure it out, it is very simple to use.

Viewing the attachment

Note that this is the workaround for the “unattach” feature I was asking for in the QBO folder view – if you “view” the attachment you have a list of file tasks on the right, and one of them is the ability to move the attachment to a different folder. You can use this to “unattach” the document from this transaction and move it to your inbox, where it is then available to attach to another transaction. You also can use this to create a duplicate that you can attach to a second transaction if you wish, or even send a copy to a customer. This is a very powerful and easy to access feature that I like very much.

SmartVault has an “inbox” where you can save documents that you haven’t yet attached to anything. Clicking on the inbox icon in the SmartVault toolbar opens a window that lists the available documents – click on the + symbol to attach it to the current transaction. Documents in your inbox can come from a scanner on your desktop, documents sent to you by customers, documents transferred from other users in your company, and so forth.

Attach from Inbox

That’s it – the integration is very simple to use, and it is integrated with the entire SmartVault ecosystem.

Closing Comments

I haven’t gone into the details of the entire SmartVault ecosystem in this article – I’m just focusing on the new features in the QuickBooks Online integration. To see more about SmartVault see my article on SmartVault for QuickBooks Document Management. That article talks about the integration with QuickBooks for Windows, but many of the features apply here as well.

Here’s a few of the features that you can use to access your documents from SmartVault:

  • SmartVault web portal (access from anywhere using a browser)
  • SmartVault Desktop (easy access from your Windows desktop)
  • SmartVault Drive (access your documents just like a disk drive from your desktop)
  • Microsoft Outlook plugin (integration with Outlook on your desktop for sending files)
  • Integration with a growing list of other applications (SpringAhead, XpandedReports, Results CRM, Method CRM, Fujitsu scanners and more)
  • Mobile access from iPads and iPhones as well as Android devices

Note that one thing you do NOT have with the QuickBooks Online integration – direct connection to a scanner. You can’t scan a document directly into the QBO user interface. There are good reasons for this – integration between a web based application and the hardware attached to your computer is VERY complicated to implement. However, you do have options. If you are working with a Windows desktop computer you can use the SmartVault desktop to connect your scanner to your SmartVault inbox – and then you can attach to QBO transactions from there. Or you can scan to your desktop and simply drag/drop the document into QBO.

If you are using QuickBooks Online I suggest that you take a look – SmartVault offers a free 30 day trial account so that you can play with this without any obligation.

All in all, I really like this integration with QuickBooks Online. There are a few very minor quibbles that I’ve mentioned, but I’ll also note that this is the first release of the product so I expect that these issues will be addressed. Certainly, for a first release, the product is rock solid (I wish Intuit would be this careful in their initial releases!). The security that they’ve built in to the product, and in particularly into this integration, is top notch. Security in document management is a critical issue, and SmartVault pays close attention to this.

If you work with QuickBooks Online and you need document management, this is the product for you!

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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 switched my mom’s accounting from Quicken to my free QBO account just to get more familiar with both QBO and Smart Vault. I just started really using Smart Vault too (New Year’s resolutions!)
    It took me a while to figure out that I couldn’t scan directly into QBO. But, I’m slowly getting my process down – scanning to Inbox and then adding in QBO.
    I agree with you Charlie – it’s just nice to have the Smart Vault integration.

  • Web-based document management systems are useful for all types of businesses in various sectors. Financial considerations are often the popular reason companies will choose to put their documents into online document storage systems. With the advent of online storage, it’s user friendly for a business to accumulate thousands or even millions of hard-copy documents that must be preserved. This obviously requires a lot of space in the workplace which could be best utilized for other purposes.

  • This integration is a smart move for SmartVault.

    It makes perfect sense for companies who make and sell document management software to implement ways to integrate well with the top-used programs in an industry (in this case QuickBooks for accountants) where their potential clients spend most of their time. If an accountant has to leave QuickBooks to access a feature (especially something as critical and common as document storage and management) that logically should be integrated with QuickBooks, he’s likely going to start shopping for a different solution.

  • I am relatively new to this field. I have been online researching for specific qualifications to best suit my clients at this time. My current dilemma is as follows: i would love to find a document imaging software system quite similar to Smartvault. Although, Smartvault is not compatible with Mac os. I have clients primarily using Mac which creates the issue, as well as the continued use of our Neat scanner. This app I am currently searching for needs to be integrated as well to Quickbooks online. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    • With QuickBooks Online you are running the program, usually, through a browser. Supposedly any of the document management products that work with QuickBooks Online should work on the Mac system. However, I can’t really answer your question, since I never work with Mac computers.

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