Creating QuickBooks Invoices with Adobe Acrobat Pro

| October 7, 2008

One of the intriguing “new features” that Intuit lists for QuickBooks 2009 is the ability to work with “Adobe Acrobat Forms”. This is a way to use Adobe Acrobat Pro 9to create PDF forms that can be used to import invoices, estimates and purchase orders into your QuickBooks company file. Today I’ll give you a quick overview as to how this works.

Update: Current versions of Adobe Acrobat apparently no longer support this feature. It didn’t work well, Adobe found that working with Intuit on this was more trouble than it was worth.

Some businesses want to allow salespeople (or, perhaps, customers) to easily create invoices without having direct access to QuickBooks. If a salesperson is on the road, with a laptop computer but not a reliable Internet connection, it would be helpful if they could create invoices that could then be uploaded into your QuickBooks company file when they get back into the office. With Adobe acrobat Pro 9 you now have the ability to create “forms” that let people enter variable data that can in turn be posted to your QuickBooks company file.

We’ve had the ability to create “forms” in Adobe Acrobat for several years now, but there are two big changes with this release: The dropdown boxes in the forms can be populated with information from your QB file (item list, customer list, terms list, etc.), and you can import the information into QuickBooks as an invoice, estimate or PO.

Here is a quick look at this feature, using Adobe Acrobat Pro 9 and QuickBooks Premier 2009. I haven’t explored all of the variations of what you need, but based on the information available from Adobe and some testing on my part:

  • This should work with the US editions of QB Pro and Premier 2007, 2008 and 2009. I would expect that it would work with QuickBooks Enterprise, but I haven’t tried that and Adobe doesn’t specify that (I don’t see a technical reason why it shouldn’t).
  • The person filling form can use the free Adobe Reader product, version 7.05 or later.
  • To create the forms you must have the English version of Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.

Let’s see how this works

Preparing a Form

For my example we’ll use an existing invoice form provided by Adobe to capture information. First we have to prepare the form.

Run Adobe Acrobat Pro on a computer that has QuickBooks installed, with your company file open. Select Prepare QuickBooks Template for Distribution:

A Wizard will open that will lead you through all of the steps necessary to prepare the form. I’ll show just some highlights.

Select the form from the list available. This is the list of forms that comes already prepared. You have the ability to create and/or edit your own forms if you wish.

Acrobat will add your customer and item list (as well as other lists, such as terms, etc.) to the form.

You have three ways that you can distribute the form to people and collect the information:

  • Sending it as an attachment via email,
  • Placing it in a shared network folder,
  • Using the Acrobat.com web site (which is free, at this time) to organize things.

In my test I used the Acrobat.com web site. This is fairly technical to set up – you need to know a lot about your email server settings so that you can get Acrobat.com to send email notices for you. After I send (“distribute”) the form, you can use the Adobe Tracker to view the form and the results you get back.

The Adobe web site sends an email message to each person you identify when you “distribute” the form.

Filling in the Form

The recipient can click on the link in the message to go to the Adobe web site, where they can open the form. Note that the user needs to have Flash 9 installed, and an appropriate version of Adobe Reader or Acrobat.

This is a shrunk-down view of the form that they will see. Again, this is the unmodified template that they supply. You can edit this to fit your needs.

Now we start to see the QuickBooks integration. The form has dropdown boxes that contain information from your QuickBooks company file. I’ve zoomed in on the customer box – I have two customers in my QB customer list:

As you continue to fill out the form, you see that many of the dropdown lists have info from QB, including the item list.

The user clicks the Submit Form button in the upper right, and they get a submission form. When complete, the form is saved to the Adobe web site.

Uploading to QuickBooks

Back in the Adobe Tracker, you can see that forms have been submitted:

Click the Sync to QuickBooks button and the form is submitted to QuickBooks. Here is the same order, in my copy of Premier 2009:

Is it for Everybody?

Does everyone need to get this? No, it only provides a limited capability. It is not a complete order entry system. I have a number of questions about its flexibility. Can you add new customers? Can you work with multiple units of measure and price lists? These are more complicated procedures and I don’t know if the program will handle them or not.

Also, it is somewhat technical to set up the first time. You have to go through the documentation carefully, and understand how Adobe works with forms. The Acrobat.com interface took some work to set up the first time, it required some technical knowledge of how my email system was set up (your POP3 and SMTP server names, for example). I didn’t try other interface methods.

HOWEVER, if you need to be able to easily and quickly capture this kind of information on a large scale, this could be a very useful product. Importing invoice information into QuickBooks isn’t something that is easy to do without a third party product, and working with PDF files is something that most people are used to these days.

I would love to hear feedback from anyone who has used this in their business. Also, if you would like a more advanced tutorial let me know, and I can come back to it at a future date.

Bug Update (10/13/2008)

As with any new product there are a few kinks to work out. Here is one issue from Adobe:

  • If you are filling in a QB form with Adobe Reader 7 there are a number of problems that can occur. Using the plus/minus sign to add/remove rows can create a performance problem. Using a minus sign to delete an item may not update the subtotal and total fields. The best solution is to upgrade to Adobe Reader 8 or higher, which resolves the problems.

Tags: , ,

Category: Import/Export, Invoicing, Product Reviews

About the Author (Author Profile)

Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He’s been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70’s, focusing on inventory and accounting software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor. Look for Charlie’s articles in the Accountex Report blog, as well as his California Wildflower Hikes blog.

Comments (44)

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  1. Laura says:

    I have Adobe Acrobat 9.0 Pro and QuickBooks Premier 2009, why would my Forms menu in Adobe not have an option for QuickBooks?

  2. Charlie says:

    Hi, Laura, I’m glad you found my blog! For everyone else, Laura is the author of “QuickBooks 2008 Solutions Guide for Business Owners and Accountants”, one of the books I recommend in the Amazon widget in the left column of this blog, up near the top.

    Unfortunately I don’t have an answer. I installed Acrobat Pro on my test system after Premier 2009, but they don’t say that you have to do it in that order. I do note that you must have installed the English version of Acrobat Pro – but I assume that you’ve done that. My version is listed as 9.0 – it doesn’t say there is an updated release. This was on a system that did NOT have the beta test version of QuickBooks, but again that shouldn’t make a difference.

    Have you tried contacting Adobe?

  3. Richard Betts says:

    We would like to use the Adobe Template feature to have our small restaurant clients enter their daily z tape totals into an Adobe Acrobat template that each day we could import into their Quickbooks file. They could access the template via our website. Is this a possibility?

    Thanks for any help.

  4. Charlie says:

    Richard, I believe so, at least in general. It would depend on how you want things to work – you might have to play with this for awhile. Fortunately, you can get a demo copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro to try out to see if you can make it work before you spend any money. I can’t give you a specific answer without knowing a lot more about how you want to enter things. If you could set up an invoice in QB yourself and enter the info the way you want, you should be able to do it with Acrobat…

    If you try it, let us know how it goes!

  5. Charlie says:

    In an earlier comment Laura asked why she couldn’t find the QuickBooks menu in Adobe Acrobat Pro 9. Problem solved!

    She was clicking the “forms” button/icon in the toolbar. It is not listed there.

    Instead click on the “forms” menu in the top menu bar, that is where the QuickBooks features are listed.

  6. Charlie says:

    Earlier Laura mentioned she couldn’t find the QuickBooks options in her copy of Acrobat Pro 9. Problem solved!

    She was clicking on the “forms” icon in the toolbar. The QB option doesn’t exist there.

    Instead click on the “forms” menu option in the menu bar. THAT is where the QB options exist.

  7. Ben Manning says:

    Why only Acrobat Pro +?
    Since Forms Creation is a feature of Acrobat Standard (at least according to the comparison chart), is there a way to create a QuickBooks Template with Standard? Or with an Adobe Online service?

  8. Charlie says:

    Ben, the QuickBooks integration feature is only available in Pro 9, not older or lower editions. You can create forms with other versions, but the integration with QuickBooks won’t be there. They (Adobe) made the choice to make that a feature in Pro 9.

  9. Jason says:

    Do you think this might be a solution to enter employee payroll information and then import it back into Quickbooks. We are looking for a solution whereby a payroll clerk can enter timesheet information into QB, but we do not want them to have access to all salary information. We are running QB Enterprise 9.0. Thanks in advance for your help!

  10. Charlie says:

    Jason, I’m fairly sure you can’t use Adobe Acrobat for that purpose. They are supporting only a few transactions, and aren’t working with Payroll. Take a look at the Intuit Marketplace, there could be products there that will work for you.

  11. Jason says:

    Thanks so much for your help! I searched the marketplace awhile back and couldn’t find anything, but it is worth checking again.

  12. Janet says:

    Is there a way to import monthly trailer park invoice data that the park manager puts into an Excel ppreadsheet each month (one row for each tennant and vsrious column of things rent, utilities, trash, etc.) into QuickBooks invoices?

    Thanks,
    Janet

  13. Charlie says:

    Janet, I can’t say for sure without knowing more details, but you have several options, most which cost. You can use the IIF import (look in the help file in QB) method at no cost, but it is fairly complicated. I would recommend a low cost import utility from Big Red Consulting (www.bigredconsulting.com) which can take Excel information and translate it into IIF. My company also has created a number of special invoice import utilities, but that would most likely be more expensive. If you wish to look into that contact me at custom@ccrsoftware.com

  14. Tim says:

    So who needs to have Adobe 9.0??? The accountant creating the PDF form, the sales people creating the forms, or both???
    Can the sales people enter the invoice information with just the “reader” version of Adobe???

    • Charlie says:

      Tim: You create the form, and manage the results and posting, with Adobe Acrobat Pro 9.0.

      The person entering the data just needs Adobe Reader, 7.05 or later (see the first bullet list early in the article).

  15. Nancy says:

    I have a question…My boss wants me to download his business logo (which is on a PDF file) to his invoices on Quick Books. He is using the 2008 version now. He does have the 2009 version, but he has not installed it yet. Can you help me with this?
    Thanks.

    • Charlie says:

      Nancy, you need to have the logo in a graphic file of some sort – a jpg, bmp or other file type. Then you can add it to your QuickBooks form. You can do a screen shot of a PDF file logo, but the quality will generally be really poor. Can you find the original artwork as a computer graphic file?

  16. Anatoly says:

    Everything works great except one serious limitation: when I click on an drop-down item list in the PDF file, I get a list displaying about 10 items. I can only type one letter in that box that displays all items beginning with that letter. If I type a second letter, it still displays all items that begin with that second letter. This means that I have to scroll down the item list to select an item. We have 4000 items. It is practically impossible to select anything.

    Question: do you know how to modify this field that would allow typing in the same manner as you do in the Item field in QuickBooks invoice?

    Thanks.

    • Charlie says:

      Anatoly, I don’t believe that there is anything you can do about that – it is the way that Adobe has written the code. You can try suggesting a change to them, but from what I hear they haven’t been too responsive about making changes…

  17. Tasha says:

    Hi Charlie, I hope you can help me. I am trying to create a PDF for a purchase order. However, QB times out and shuts down. Do you know if QB is looking for the QuickBooks PDF Converter I deleted when I followed the steps in your tutorial “Solving Quickbooks Problems on 64 bit Vista”? Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

    • Charlie says:

      Tasha: The 64 bit Vista tutorial doesn’t delete the PDF driver – it just changes the configuration so it will work correctly. If you don’t have the driver in your printers driver section you need to “repair” your installation of QuickBooks. If you are trying to email a PO, it will be using that driver. If you are trying to print it directly to the driver instead of emailing, you can’t use the QB PDF driver as a printer that way, normally.

  18. Tasha says:

    Hi Charlie, I went back thru your tutorial “Solving Quickbooks Problems on 64 bit Vista”. I TOTALLY forgot that you mentioned the QB PDF driver/configuration will reset itself. Once I redid the tutoral steps, I’m up and running. Now, I can send email from either QB’s or Outlook and I can create a PDF with NO PROBLEMS! Gotta love it! Thank you!

  19. Mike Marrin says:

    Good stuff, Charlie. Thanks you. We are runing Quickbooks Premier 2009 for non-profits and just upgraded to acrobat pro 2009. We are a nature reserve with a wide range of educational programs and we are looking to add fillable forms to our website. Our classes, camp and other catelogues are PDF files, readable and printable now on our website. I’ve seen many discussions about distributable PDF forms. Am I correct in assuming that we will be able to accomplish the same tracking, reporting, and data import into Quickbooks, Excel etc. objectives through web visitor initiated forms completion and submission / e-mails?

    Thank You!

    • Charlie says:

      Mike: I can’t fully answer that, as I don’t know enough about what you are looking to do or how you are set up. The best I can say is that with Adobe Acrobat Pro you can set up PDF forms that can then be used to import information into QuickBooks. The off-the-shelf samples include sales orders and PO’s. You can create other kinds of forms, but it can be VERY complicated to set up something different than what they provide. It is not a simple task. How does that fit you? I don’t know what kind of info you want to import into QuickBooks. And, note that when you do this, you are putting a copy of your database (at least a portion of it) in the form, so you have to be careful about web distribution.

  20. Roger says:

    Hello Charlie;

    I’ve consulted with my QB advisor, visited many sites, including yours & Adobe’s. I’m trying to determine if it’s for real that I can send an invoice in PDF format (using Pro 9) into QB & it will populate the fields that I would normally enter by keystroke. Namely, will it fill out the date, customer name, order number, description, total invoice amount into a QB invoice? Thx in advance.

    • Charlie says:

      Roger, it seems to me that you just described what I’m showing you in this article – and what I’m showing here is something that I actually did myself. Or am I not understanding your question?

  21. Sheila says:

    Hi Charlie,
    I have the trial version of Adobe Pro 9 and Quickbook 2009. I followed your instructions and created a form that i then distributed to one of my personal emaill addresses. i sent a mock reply from that email address and am lokoing to Sync it up with QB and I do not have that option on my screen as i saw on yours. Any ideas?

  22. Charlie says:

    Sheila, I found the Adobe system to be very picky about how you set it up. Unfortunately, without being able to work with your system, I don’t have a good idea as to what might be the problem. I’ll also admit that I don’t use this system very much, as it isn’t something that I use in my own business.

  23. Chris says:

    Hi Charlie,
    What do I do in QB 2009 if I have a PDF placed (our printed Invoice) for email,
    but how do I turn off the placed PDF for in house office printing on our pre existing Invoice template Paper?
    So we don’t get DOUBLE Printed LOGO/HEADER?

    • Charlie says:

      Chris, this is off topic for this article. However, if I understand what you are asking – you have a logo in your QB template and it shows in the PDF form you email (which you would want) but also shows when your print to paper, which you don’t want. The only answer there is to have two templates, one with and one without the logo – email using one template, switch to the other then print to paper.

  24. Tim says:

    Charlie – My experience is similar to yours. I think this has the potential to be a great feature in QB’s, but it does not appear to be ready for primetime yet.
    When I tried to modify an invoice in Adobe Pro 9 to match our modified invoices in QB’s, it would lose drop-down menus for the Ship To and Bill To fields. It seems with a little work by Adobe Pro 9 to allow for easy invoice modification this has the potential be a great feature. Do you know if they are working on this to make it more user friendly to move/shift fields around in the Adobe Pro 9???

    • Charlie says:

      Tim, you can’t just shift things around, you have to use the features they have built into Adobe to manage the QB database. It is very complicated, because they are just using the standard QB SDK programming interface and that is itself very complicated to understand. I doubt that Adobe is going to do much to improve this, although I can’t say that for sure.

  25. John Beem says:

    Do you know of any consultants (possibly yourself) who can design new Adobe Forms to integrate with QuickBooks. We are trying to automate check requests and Petty Cash reconciliations. As you say it is quite complicated, and while I could, theoretically learn how to do it myself, I am not going to do it often enough to get good at it.

    • Charlie says:

      John, you can contact me directly at the email address in the “about” link at the top of this page. I do work with Adobe forms, but I’m finding that more often than not we end up writing a custom QB program rather than using the Adobe forms. Adobe integration is expensive and complicated, and it only makes sense if you are distributing forms out to people who don’t have ready access to the QB company file.

  26. CJ says:

    Charlie –

    Great article and web site. Thanks for all the help. Would it be possible to use the adobe forms as a timesheet for employees to track time against different clients/customers?

    Thanks

    • Charlie says:

      CJ: I think so, although I’m not sure. The problem is that it would be a fairly complicated thing to set up. You don’t have a good example to start with, so you would have to do a lot of “programming” work in Adobe to get that to work.

      • Kevin says:

        Charlie,
        Are there Adobe/quickbooks consultants that can help implement this kind of solution?

        • Charlie says:

          Kevin, I don’t know of anyone who is using this. I’m not even sure if it still works. The person who was in charge of this at Adobe is either not working for them or has been moved to another project. I tried doing some projects with it but it ended up being too cumbersome to work.

  27. Jonathan W says:

    Charlie-

    This was very helpful. Although i have run into a bit of a snag you might be able to help with. I have customized the invoice and proposals we use in quickbooks. I have them saved as PDF’s. When i open them up in adobe, they cant be edited. Im guessing then that only the templates that are in the adobe program files can actually be edited and sent out. If its possible to use our own form in adobe, i would love to know how to do it. Thank you.

    • Charlie says:

      Jonathan: I believe that you have to edit the template, but I haven’t played with that aspect of things. The resulting form has database information in it, and you have to be careful when editing that. They may lock it down to prevent fraud. But I haven’t played with it.

  28. Genaro says:

    Just in case any Canadians are reading this, it doesn’t work for the Canadian Edition of Quickbooks :*( spent hours trying to make it work without success. QB doesn’t recognize the connection.(QB Pro 2011 and Adobe Pro 9)

    If this ever changes in the future please post a reply to this comment. Thanks!

    • Charlie says:

      I doubt that Adobe is going to update this feature, although I can’t say for sure. It uses the SDK, and Intuit is trying to push developers a different direction. And Adobe hasn’t seen a lot of interest in this. I’ve not heard anything from Adobe about this for a long time.

      The issue with the Canadian version would have to do with the Adobe side of things, SDK applications can be set to treat the Canadian version differently, and it sounds like Adobe didn’t make their program flexible enough to accomodate that.

  29. Harley Davis says:

    I work as a freelance technical service and support tech. I do some basic software training, and I’ve found a few problems like this popping up with different software. It’s not just a problem with adobe. Yeah, they could make it easier to utilize the typing methods, but that’s not the real problem. If you have thousands of items, there’s almost no way to keep track of them in adobe and allow them to be entered easily. You can try the following… Check to see that your list in QB is in alphabetical order. If not, it creates a problem for any import export operation. If the list isn’t alphabetical, exporting the programming to adobe Might not magically sort it for you. If the number of items is constantly changing, you’re stuck again. You’ll have to update everybody’s listings over and over. Which is more difficult? Starting over with a new datafile and trying to import your old data wo you can use an alphabetical list that won’t stay alphabetical, or using a number system instead, which you have to give some kind of listing for so whoever uses the form knows what they are entering? Better way: Hide the item box behind another box… …A text box. Type items in Quickbooks with all one case… …either all caps or all lowercase. Use javascript on the textbox to convert what’s typed to all that case, then check it against a text based item list embedded as a page javasript string array or structure that has already been sorted (use excel to alphabetize, but give a number with it that coresponds to the item list placement and place a copy of both of those fields in their own structure. Run a binary search tree on the text structure, and make sure to keep track of the index of the array. When you find a match, use the index to call the index of the number structure, use the number at the given index to seed the item list box with an index, hide the text box and show the item list box. Put quotes around your text in excel, and you’ll be able to copy, paste, and make a csv, open in a simple text editor, select all, copy paste over the text in the embedded data structure, and easily update your form as your item lists change. Just some copy and paste work (1 hour maximum). I’d give out the javascript here if I was really good with it, unfortunately the JScript and I have only a hi and Bye passing familiarity. I know some people who say it can be done, if you know how to work within java and javascript. I don’t have much knowledge of Java. Procedural C, C++ and some basic Java. I can work with algorithmic design pretty well though. I’m great with basic logic, just not the connection to code (not a great memory for linguistics; and code is language). I am doing some work with it though. Hopefully, in the near future I can provide you with all of it (YES FREE!!! I work on a mac, fix some WINPC and sometimes help guys with logic for coding or wrapping programs from WINPC for UNIX; I don’t make a lot of $$ as a freelancer, so I’m a big fan of FREE or OPEN solutions).