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Printing Serial Numbers in Invoices with QuickBooks Advanced Inventory

Intuit added the ability to manage serial numbers in QuickBooks Enterprise V12 with the Advanced Inventory option, and I’ve had a couple of clients point out a “bug” that was frustrating them relating to editing of sales forms and this feature. Turns out it isn’t a bug, just an odd way to implement this feature. Let me show you how this works so that you can explain it to someone who complains that this isn’t working.

If you are managing items with the Serial Number feature, you most likely will want to include the serial numbers in the invoice.  This lets you identify which serialized items you are selling. It is simple to add, just edit the order template to add the Serial Number column to the screen.

Enable Serial Number in QuickBooks order form

This adds the serial number to the screen so that you can select the serial numbers to sell. In this example I allowed QuickBooks to Autofill from Existing Inventory, and then I opened the Quick View to see which serial numbers were chosen.

Selecting serial numbers in the invoice

However, this doesn’t show the serial numbers in the printed invoice that the customer would receive. That should be simple to add as a column on the printed form, right? I can just edit the form the same way and add that column to the printed form. But wait – I do that, just like I would with any OTHER column, but the serial number column doesn’t appear?

Order form with serial number

Dang it, a bug in QuickBooks! Why can’t I get that column to show on the printed form?

Well, actually, it is working the way that Intuit intended. If you enable the field on the printed form it doesn’t actually add the column. Instead, you are telling QuickBooks that you want to include the serial number information, and QuickBooks will add the serial numbers to the description column.


Intuit thought that trying to crowd all of this information into a separate column would make things too difficult to read. Normally the description column is one of the widest, and it always “word wraps” to allow you to enter as long a description as you would like (up to 4096 characters). This seems to “fit” better. The checkbox in the form editor is the way that you tell QuickBooks to include this information.

This works for me. I agree that in many cases a separate serial number column just won’t work well (although if you are selling single items in a line an option for a column would be nice). Intuit used this approach to allow the serial number information to be selected for the print form because the mechanism for including/excluding was already built in, so they didn’t have to come up with a totally new option mechanism for individual form templates. I just wish that there had been some way to tell us that this particular box for this particular feature works differently than all other boxes for features in the form. Another factor in my confusion was that the column does show on the screen version of the form.

So I was confused. They used an existing mechanism to fit in this feature, they used it in a different way than it is used anywhere else, and they didn’t provide any sort of help to explain it. But, it does accomplish what you want, as long as you understand what is going on.

Keep in mind that you must include a description column for the serial numbers to show. No description on the printed form, no serial numbers.

My thanks to Catherine Fisse of Intuit for explaining this to me.

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