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QuickBooks 2011 – QuickBooks Attached Documents (Document Management)

| September 23, 2010 | 39 Comments

Intuit introduced the QuickBooks Document Management service in the 2010 release. When I reviewed this originally, I had a number of concerns about what you could and couldn’t do. With QuickBooks 2011, Intuit is renaming this service to be QuickBooks Attached Documents and has made some significant changes. Is it enough?

QuickBooks Attached Documents is still a “connected service”, and it will only be available to users of QuickBooks 2011 and later. It won’t be online until September 27. It is my understanding at this time that QuickBooks Document Management should continue to be available for users of QuickBooks 2010, under the same pricing plans, until support is discontinued for QuickBooks 2010 in the future. PLEASE NOTE that the screen shots shown here are based on information from an early release of QuickBooks 2011 – it is possible that some features may vary from what is described here in the final release later in September.

Update 9/20/2011: Intuit is making MAJOR CHANGES to this feature starting in September 2011. See this article on the changes: http://www.sleeter.com/blog/2011/09/quickbooks-2012-document-management/

Local Document Storage

This has been a major issue with QuickBooks since the day that the QuickBooks Document Management product was released. The original intent was to store all of your attachments in their online database. There are many good reasons to do this but many people decided that they did NOT want their documents “in the cloud” for a variety of reasons. You could, instead, chose products like PaperSave Plus that store your attachments locally.

Now, with QuickBooks 2011, you have an option to save an attachment as a local file!

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The lack of this in the prior release has been one of the big drawbacks, in some minds, and there will be a lot of excitement over this new option.

I do have a few comments, however:

  • Interestingly, you cannot make both a local and online copy of the same document (unless you add it twice and save it once in each place). If you feel that this is an important option, send in feedback to Intuit. Based on discussions with Intuit representatives It was an option that they felt would be too confusing.
  • Retrieving local files is much faster as the file doesn’t have to be sent over your Internet connection.
  • Documents that are saved in your “online document inbox” cannot be directly saved “locally”. That is unfortunate, as that means you cannot easily save something locally that you uploaded while on the road, etc. HOWEVER, you can get around that. Save the document from the online document inbox to your online backup. Save the file as a local document on your desktop. Then attach it as a local file. If you think that it is important to be able to do this easily, let them know. They are very receptive to feedback on this feature.
  • Intuit still has not included an option to download ALL of your online documents, which I still consider to be a key issue. I want to be able to back up my entire store of documents for safety and archival purposes.

Local Document Storage: Good or Bad?

Locally stored attachments are stored in a folder that is derived from the location where your QuickBooks company file is located. Each file is stored separately, not in a local database. This has both good and bad points:

  • You can easily retrieve all of your locally saved files, even if you stop your subscription to the service. BIG ADVANTAGE here!
  • You can find these files without having to dig through some proprietary database. Some people prefer this – so you can get those local documents even if you don’t have access to a program that works with some odd or protected database structure.
  • Your Company file (QBW) is not bloated by adding these files (very important).
  • The locally stored files are not protected, so that anyone who has access to the folder can see the documents. Even if someone does not have access to the customer list (for example), they can see (and alter, and delete) the attachment to the customer record. So this is NOT a secure option. For some people, this is a major problem.

That last point is going to negate the value of this option for quite a few people, I believe. Let me know what YOU think of this!

Local vs Online Documents

If you look for documents by clicking the “attach” button in QuickBooks, you see both local and online documents. If you access via the Doc Center icon, or through your web browser, you only see the online documents.

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Pricing Plan

Up to now we have had pricing plans based on storage volume. In the 2010 release QuickBooks Document Management had the following:

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QuickBooks Attached Documents will take a totally different approach.

Rather than basing prices on the volume of storage, QuickBooks Attached Documents is going to be based on the number of attachments. This pricing structure is more in align with the way the industry is going with storage – storage volume pricing is on the way out.

So you will pay:

  • $9.95 per month for one attachment per transaction.
  • $14.95 per month for up to five attachments per transaction.
  • $19.95 per month for unlimited attachments per transaction.

Note that there isn’t a free option like we had before, where you could store a small volume of documents for no charge.

Members of the ProAdvisor program will get the five-attachment plan for one company for free as a part of your membership.

There is a limit to the size of any particular document that is attached online – it looks like this limit will be 100 MB.

I believe that for many users this will be an excellent change. In many businesses it is rare to have more than five documents that you want to attach to a transaction or list item. Certain kinds of businesses, such as an engineering or architectural firm, may have a large number of documents related to an estimate or project.

When you have a limit to the volume that you can work for you find yourself paying too much attention to what is being stored, and you might decide to not store some documents that really should be saved. Also, there isn’t an easy way to delete older attachments in bulk, so the longer you use the program the more storage you are going to need. It is unlikely that you will spend the time it takes to delete old attachments one by one. This plan makes a lot of sense if you are willing to pay a monthly fee for this kind of service.

I’m expecting that there will be a lot of complaints that there is any fee at all for this service, particularly if you are storing all of your documents locally. There is no distinction between storing locally or storing online – you have the same limits and pay the same fee.

With this approach if you try to save too many documents for a given item or transaction, you get this warning:

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As I understand it, if you were already using the QuickBooks Document Management program with your QuickBooks 2010 product, your old pricing structure will continue to be available (at least for awhile, I’ll guess that it will “sunset” in a couple of years).

What Is Still Missing?

Intuit is advancing the service, and they have made some good advances based on feedback they have received. There are a number of advances in this release that are welcome, and make a lot of sense. This won’t work for everyone, and you may still want to consider other products (see my reviews of Papersave Plus and SmartVault as examples).

I still believe that you need a way to make your own backups of the entire online document database. If you are storing the data online, and decide that you want to discontinue the service, how can you retrieve your documents? Only one-by-one, and that just isn’t practical. I also want to have the ability to make my own backups rather than rely on Intuit being entirely responsible for my data security.

The discussions on this new feature should prove to be very interesting…

Tags: ,

Category: Program Updates, QuickBooks 2011

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 QuickBooks and Beyond blog, as well as his California Wildflower Hikes blog.

Connect with Charlie at Google

Comments (39)

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  1. Thanks for the review Charlie. Regarding the local vs. online, it seems to me that a company either needs the online storage (they want to share the documents with remote users), or they don’t (all users are local, and can access QB). The feedback I’ll submit to Intuit is to offer the online storage/sharing site as an extra layer of service, so that the docs would be stored in BOTH locations for those who want online. That makes a matrix of pricing for the service – one price level for 1, 5 and unlimited for local only, and another for those who want those docs to also be in an online center. Your thoughts?

  2. Charlie says:

    I don’t like the way they set up the local storage, with the documents being free and in the clear. Very unsecure.

    You will hear a lot of people complain about having to pay ANYTHING for local storage only. They’ll point to Quicken which hasn’t charged for that (I haven’t looked at that this year). In fact, we’ve been hearing that complaint for a year already.

    I don’t think that having tiers of pricing for local-only storage makes sense, actually. And monthly fees for local-only storage isn’t a good idea – that will require an Internet connection for authorization (just like you do with the Advanced Inventory feature), which isn’t good.

  3. William "Bill" Murphy says:

    Charlie –

    I had the ‘original’ Intuit Document Management System (IDMS) which was a ‘software package’ Intuit sold, and in fact almost gave away to QB ProAdvisors about 8 years ago. It has always been an excellent product to permit you to organize documents and to associate them to your various QB files, but you could not associate the documents with specific transactions in QB. Until last year all prior QB versions had always recognized the IDMS as an Integrated application and created a Menu Item to access it from within QB (it did the same with Intuit’s Professional Tax Software ProSeries). Since last year QB no longer identifies IDMS as an integrated app and and no longer creates the ‘menu’ link. IDMS is not supported any longer by Intuit, I pose all of this because I am concerned that both last years’ and this years’ QB Document Management may also become QB options that just don’t work out and are abandoned by Intuit when they do not ‘generate enough’ income to warrant the cost of continuation and support. One can only wonder what ‘tools’ will be available for users who have stored their data either on-line or in the proprietary file structure (on their own machines) and paid Intuit the right to access?

    William “Bill” Murphy

  4. Charlie says:

    And there was another DMS system from Intuit that showed up about two years ago, that was on the market for just a few months before they killed it.

    You can say this about ANY document system. If you use SmartVault they could go out of business and their product be no longer available, for example. This isn’t just an issue with Intuit.

    However, you hit the nail on the head, which is why I’ve been complaining about this from the start – if you don’t have a way to easily retrieve ALL of your documents, you have a potential problem. Intuit can drop support for the product. You could decide that you don’t want to pay the fee. Either way, your documents are locked up. You can retrieve them one at a time, but that isn’t very practical.

  5. Mindy says:

    Now I am very glad my clients have dragged their feet getting the attachments into the system. At least paper receipts don’t disappear because they don’t make enough for someone else’s company.

    Of course, if the IRS needs to see these receipts, they’ll need to see more than one at a time, maybe hundreds.

    This feature no longer looks feasible to most of my clients.

  6. Jeff Schulz says:

    Maintaining document backups is always a good practice. Bill.com handles this by offering a document DVD/CD service for all the documents you store along with transactions. You can request a disk with all (or some) of your documents at any time or on a regular schedule. You’ll get a complete download of all of your documents for a given time range indexed by transaction along with the transaction information. You can use it as a backup or give it to your auditor. Paper records simply have to go. There is no reason for them any more. The IRS and your auditor will accept digital images of documents and you will save your business and your client’s business a ton of time making it easy to look everything up with a few simple clicks.

  7. Rustler says:

    One other aspect of this, is QB’s local document file structure. If I want to save a pdf of a bill (as an example) I am going to name it office max or something similar and maybe put it in a folder called office max. When you look at the file structure for the QB local storage the customer/vendor name is a string of numbers as a file folder name. The named documents are in that folder. But when you try to look for your office max receipt, tax receipt, whatever, using windows explorer, you have to click on each folder to see what is in it, cause a folder name like this 80000170-1278164036 means nothing to me.

    Think this though one more step, you have the document on your computer, say a pdf. You tell QB to upload it and to save it locally. QB copies the file already on your computer to the vendor directory 80000170-1278164036 (or maybe in folder 80000171-1278169888) and then uploads it. Now on your computer you have two copies of the document.

    The only nice part of this whole concept is the linking of the document to the QB transaction. And while that is nice I have to question just how critical it is, how often do you really need to pull up the document?

    For years I have created a document directory (and sub directories) on my web site server and ftp’d docs there. Any internet connected computer can access the folder if they know the directory name. I don’t have the link between QB transaction and document, but I have everything else. And since I save all docs as pdf’s, any internet computer can read the doc that is stored online.

  8. Charlie says:

    Thank you, Rustler. I really do like the idea of attaching the documents to the transactions myself. I often have documents that relate to an estimate that I create, and if I’m looking at the estimate it is very convenient for me to just click on the icon in QB. And in larger offices where you have multiple people accessing documents, a shared repository is a nice feature. So there is value in this concept for many people.

    I just don’t like some of the details of how Intuit has implemented this. The naming issue isn’t a problem for me, as I’ll use QB to find the document, so the local name doesn’t matter that much. But in a shared environment, storing the documents in the clear is a potential problem, and the lack of backup for the online store is a big issue to me.

    Thanks for your comment, it is always great to have a different view!

  9. If Intuit insists on charging for local storage, it should at least be handled similar to the payroll service key (which works unobtrusively) as opposed to the QB email service (for instance) which opens a verification window prior to every occurrence.

    Something similar to what Carrie wrote about would be appreciated — they charge $29.95/year (for instance) for a local-storage-only key (unlimited attachments), plus a monthly fee based on attachment quantity if you want online storage.

    Regarding the security of locally stored documents, I appreciate them being stored in the clear. That way they are accessible by other programs. In terms of accessing the files through Windows Explorer, if the documents are in a master folder you can require a password to access the folder. Intuit could also built an option into the user security settings to allow/disallow user access to view stored documents through the QB interface.

  10. Regarding the ability to store locally AND online, versus only one or the other, I don’t understand Intuit’s position that it would be more confusing.

    In your first screen shot where it asks where to store attachments, how confusing could a 3rd option labeled “Both locally and online” be to people? They could then have a “help me choose” link with detailed benefits of each of the options.”

    I do like that it seems that we can decide where to save each individual attachment, although I wish there was a “Both” option.

  11. Charlie says:

    Chris, in an earlier round of the beta test they had options for storing in both locations, but they changed that along the way. I asked about that and got the answer about it being confusing – which I didn’t agree with. But if people ask for that feature, I’m sure that they will consider it. They have been pretty receptive to feedback on this service all along, althought that doesn’t mean that they will act upon every comment submitted.

  12. Rustler says:

    Charlie, I can see the advantage of linking documents to estimates to make them readily available, I do that by putting them in an estimate/proposal folder, another way around the issue.

    As long as the net is up, sure you can use QB’s interface to get to them, but when it is not? Or when intuit is once again down for problems and you have the client on the line, that is when you need to be able to find them locally. And with folders having a string of numbers as names that makes it hard.

    Of course since the document is stored on your computer where you saved it originally (in order to upload it) I guess you could bypass the intuit attach structure on the hard drive and just look it up as if you never uploaded it anyway. Kind of defeats the whole purpose though.

    Interesting discussion – thanks

  13. Charlie says:

    Rustler, I value your input. You have a tendency, though, to think in terms of how you use the software. There are times when your approach won’t work, as in a larger office. If I attach a document to a particular record, and that is the only way you can access the record, then I can control WHO can see the attachment by controlling who has access to that transaction or list. So my Payroll attached documents would only be visible to people with permission to see Payroll.

    Unless I use Intuit’s method to store locally in a folder that I don’t have as much control over. You have to control access by Windows user permissions, and that gets much more tricky to set up.

    Using your approach won’t work in some offices, in my estimation.

    I totally agree with our concerns about “availability” of documents stored only online. Being able to store online and locally both helps with that. But the local storage needs better control.

    For small offices or one-person companies, the document management software isn’t as necessary. Convenient, but not required perhaps. You have to decide if the features provide enough benefits to justify the cost. BUT, if you have a larger office, you may find that you NEED a good document management product. The Intuit product might not be the best fit – and there are several alternatives that are available that work with QuickBooks. There are several that also store your documents locally, not on the web, and don’t keep them in a publicly available folder.

  14. Brian says:

    I was ready to upgrade to Enterprise 11.0 until I discovered I would need to pay $240/yr to store attached documents on my own server. I’m doing that with PaperSave for FREE. Sorry, Intuit.

  15. Charlie says:

    Well, Brian, not for “free”, you did have to buy the product. But there isn’t a monthly or annual fee. I would consider paying a one time fee to Intuit to have just the local storage option, but it doesn’t make sense to me to pay for it on an ongoing basis if I’m not using their servers…

  16. Great article, thanks for the info. I have actually been using Paper Save plus for over a year now for several clients. I love the flexibility, and the option to save a pdf or tiff, and to also be able to make annotations on the images, and then even print with out with out the notes.. easy access incon to click a button to email the attachment etc.. and the ability to be able to search for a document with quickbooks open or with out quickbooks open.

    i have my database, automatically backing up in real time to carbonite.com and that solves my back up issues in case my local computer/server crashes.

    I would hope in the future this type of a local document management software would become part of the quickbooks software with out having to pay for a subscription.

  17. Charlie Tappa says:

    I have a big problem with paying a separate charge to store items in my own server. Intuit has a long history of offering options to Quickbooks and then at a later date discontinuing those same options. For what QBES costs me to maintain every year I should get additional features that are not discontinued at Intuits “whim”. One of the key selling features of any current release of the software is new features, those features should be permanent and the cost of them should be included in the upgrade cost. Adding useful features only to have them deleted in a later release is counterproductive. There should be a easy to use comprehensive “attachment” handling provision in QB that is included in the basic cost and will not “vaporize” ain the future.

  18. Before Online Document Management was available, I would just scan and save all my vendor and customer support into a folder directory Vendor/Year/Document. This would allow for easy searches of documents to support QB transactions. I would then backup the folder with all the support to Dropbox or Carbonite. I like the local storage for the speed and the online storage for the security.

    I signed up for the QB Document Managment in 2010 because of the link feature. That was an even quicker way to access the supporting document for a transaction, but I did not really need the online storage feature as I already had that covered. I was excited about hearing the 2011 version would have the local storage option. It was a letdown to learn however that they would charge to store your own documents locally and to learn about it’s file structure. I was hoping to have the option to select what folder I wanted my documents stored in so I can put it in my dropbox backed up folder.

    Also, the numbered folders instead of customer and vendor name folders makes it unusable from windows explorer unless you alway employe the windows search feature to search for your documents and you name your documents with the vendor or customer name plus a description.

  19. John S says:

    this is the most backwards implementation of a document mangement system i have ever seen. After all the gripes from 2010 in this department, it’s hard to believe that charging a monthly fee to store documents on MY OWN server (that i already pay to upkeep myself) is the best idea they had. Include the extra cost as a one time fee when i buy the software. Make it a special edition if need be. But this is a slap in the face to everyone that’s been waiting for a year for local storage. Looks like it’s gonna be 3rd Party software for yet another year.

  20. DJ says:

    I agree with John S. I have been waiting for years for a local document attachment/link and note system. I have been using sourcelink for over a year now and I hate it, it works, but installation is horrible, support is ok, but it’s buggy and not very flexible. That being said, it’s still a ton better than this attempt by intuit, to relieve me of my money. I would gladly pay a one time reasonable fee for a quality product, with file names/folders I can read and search and backup easily, and a large notes field.

    A monthly fee to store MY documents on MY server! What will they offer us next? Maybe a fee to use my keyboard, surely no extra charge to use my mouse, that would just be silly.

  21. Charlie says:

    DJ: Interesting to hear your comments on Sourcelink. I’ve used Papersave Plus, which also is a local storage product. In my article on that some people were commenting that they liked SourceLink over Papersave Plus. But the problems people had with Papersave Plus were with an older version.

    http://qbblog.ccrsoftware.info/2009/08/review-papersave-plus-documentation-management-for-quickbooks/

  22. David says:

    Question. We are currently paying a monthly fee to use Treeno as our document management system. They have a QuickBooks integrator that is fairly simple. What I really like is that I can scan 100 different bills from 100 different vendors at one time. As I enter the bills in QB, I can link individual pages from the scanned file to an individual transaction. Last I heard in the 2010 QB document management system, you had to download each bill separately since you could only link an entire file rather than individual pages from a file. How does the 2011 version work in regards to this?

    thanks

  23. Charlie says:

    David, I’m not familiar with Treeno. I’m curious about what their fees are.

    The 2011 version of Attached Documents is no different than the 2010 version in this regard – individual files linked to transactions or list items.

  24. David says:

    I have never seen a doc mgmt system app running on the client server that charged incrementally, other than number of users. We maintain over 100 companies on QB, some large some not, monthly fees for each company would be ridiculous. They should just sell it as a module instead of trying to squeeze every nickel out thier customers.
    SourceLink works pretty well.

  25. Cayman says:

    Can anyone comment on a practical usage either using QB 2010 or 2011 involving Dropbox (local sync activated of course) as a source location for supporting files? I use it now NOT linking to transactions, but would love to hear an experts opinion on any possible ways to link to the document in QB.

    Recommending Dropbox in combination with another 3rd Party Apps isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for a response either.

    Thanks guys, this is such a great site.

    • Charlie says:

      Cayman, if there isn’t a specific link in Dropbox to work with QuickBooks, you are out of luck. I don’t use the product so I’m not sure. There are many integrated products that handle attached documents that ARE integrated with QB, in addition to the ones I have reviewed in my several blog articles.

  26. Cayman says:

    Thanks for the reply Charlie. I think reviewing Dropbox use within Quickbooks would draw a significant amount of traffic your way from search engines. Even if it doesn’t work, you could preform a review of why it doesn’t work and address its limitations. Dropbox is growing exponentially around the world and I’m sure there are curious users out there (like me).

    Again, thanks for your work on this blog. Very helpful.

  27. Houlihan says:

    I responded to surveys years ago and suggested Intuit implement this feature. It’s been in Quicken for years where images are stored locally, without limits on number or size of image (to my knowledge) and without monthly fees!

    As stated earlier, the feature exists in QB as of 2010 and the cost to add it to the program is/should be covered by upgrade and outright purchase fees. Why should I be charged for the privilege of actually using it?

    The example about charging for use of the keyboard or mouse can go a step further. If Intuit wants to charge for scanning privileges on a quantity/month basis, why not the same approach to: the number of checks I write, the number of journal entries I create, the number of payments I record, the number of transactions on each bank statement I reconcile, etc.?

    Give me the software and all future upgrades for free and then present me with tiered pricing for the number of transactions I process through features of the software I actually use. I’d save a bundle by not paying for “Company/Prepare Letters with Envelopes,” “Banking/Loan Manager” and so on–just as those who never use attachments don’t have to pay for the feature as Intuit seems to be suggesting with this unwise pricing scheme.

  28. BobInVermont says:

    We just purchased Quickbooks 2011 Premier Non-Profit, to replace Quicken Home & Business. In the midst of going through the tutorials I discover that attachments are supported but you have to pay … even if you want to save the data locally! What kind of sick joke is this? Free, local attachments have been available in Quicken and Quicken Home & Business for the past 2 or 3 versions. I’ve used them extensively. I’m going to try to return this software to Staples, and stick with Quicken until I can find a non-Intuit replacement.

  29. Charlie says:

    Interesting, isn’t it Bob? But, in the future, I’ll bet that either Quicken will start charging for attachments, or the Quicken desktop product will go away after being replaced with something more like mint.com. Intuit will get their fees one way or another.

  30. Tim says:

    I have been using Peachtree for years because when I first started looking into an accounting program (I used to used Quicken) Quickbooks did not have this feature at all unless you paid a third party. I decided to check and see if I wanted to change to Quickbooks the start of this year and am sad to see that Intuit continues its tradion of milking money from its base. Peachtree’s digital attachment is completely free with local storage and always has been. Admittedly, they do not have a “cloud” storage but I will take local free storage over that any day. Quickbooks needs to get their act together on this. They have been way behind on digital attachments.

  31. David Lucero says:

    What about the crazy condition that they want to charge per month per COMPANY! We maintain about 80 companies and they have no ‘volume’ allowance. Instead we use SourceLInk, not great but it gets the job done for a very good price.

  32. Pam Scott says:

    I just got one of my clients on Enterprise linked up to Attached Documents. I was told because they are a Enterprise and not Pro/Premier it’s part of the annual service plan. However the sales rep told me that the local storage was free, but the online there would be a charge. The file got linked wrong at initial setup so I got switched to a tech support person who got it corrected. He tells me that both local and online are free as an Enterprise, but that I can’t do both. So now I’m really confused! I know my client won’t want to be paying for this, and from your review it’s not as secure as what they have been doing so I’m thinking – Why bother?

    • Charlie says:

      Pam, it can be confusing. Intuit sales reps via phone or “chat” windows are often not quite accurate when you get away from the very core product. I always recommend that someone work with an ISP or an experienced consultant (see the “Need a Consultant?” links at the top of this page) as they have access to a higher level of sales support.

      My understanding (and, I could be mistaken on this, as the information changes from time to time) is:
      1) ANY plan for QuickBooks Attached Documents and QuickBooks 2011 will let you store documents either locally, or on the Intuit server. One particular document can only be stored in one or the other place, not both, but you CAN store one document locally and another document remotely.

      2) There is no charge for QuickBooks Attached Documents if you have a current Full Service Plan with Enterprise.

      3) There are multiple plans for QuickBooks Attached Documents and the Enterprise/FSP clients get the “unlimited storage” plan. This is the part I’m not 100% sure of at this point.

      So, if you get Enterprise 11 and an FSP, your client can store documents locally as well as remotely for no additional charge. You can’t store ONE document in BOTH locations.

  33. Diane Van Camp says:

    I’m looking to purchase QB attach documents but have two questions. Would the saved document be available to view when I look at the originating entry ie. a JE or a payable invoice?
    Also, if a company has several sets of books/different entities, do I need a subscription for each set of books??? Or would one subscription serve one QB program and it’s various books?
    Thanks for the help,
    Diane

    • Charlie says:

      Diane, you attach the document to a specific transaction or list item. When you look at that transaction or item, you will see a paper-clip symbol, and you can open the attachment by clicking on it. Is that what you are asking?

      As far as subscriptions, my understanding is that you pay for one subscription per company file. So if you have two company files, you would need two subscriptions.

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