QuickBooks 2011: QuickBooks Search

| September 14, 2010 | 18 Comments

We’ve had various “search” features in QuickBooks over the years, but they have either been inadequate, unreliable, difficult to set up or had too much of an impact on system performance. With QuickBooks 2011 we now have a useable and flexible “search” feature that works.

PLEASE NOTE that much of this is based on information from an early release of QuickBooks 2011 – it is possible that some features may vary from what is described here.

Click the Search Icon in the icon bar to open the search window. The first time that you open this window you will have to run an update function that will create indexes of your data – this may take awhile.


Once the index is ready, enter your search value and you will get a VERY fast response. In my example, I searched for the word “Byte” (a part of a customer name, in this case), and the Search feature found 9 records in a fraction of a second:

imageThis isn’t just a simple listing of matching records. Note, for example, that there is one invoice that has the due date in red. This search was done in mid July, and that invoice is past due.

Hold the cursor over any of the entries and you will get a small menu of functions that you can perform. For example, here is a customer record:

image And here is an invoice:

imageIf you click on the advanced search link, you get a window that shows what options you have for modifying or filtering the search so that you get the results you need. Please note that this screen shot only shows a portion of the options available:


This works VERY fast, but there are some issues that you have to be aware of. The program is keeping an index of your data, and it only updates this index periodically. If it was being updated as you work with QuickBooks it could slow down the program. This index is only as accurate as the last “update”, so if you do a search there is a possibility that you won’t find everything you expect.

You can control how often the index operates in the search preferences. It can happen automatically at a specified interval, or it can be set to only happen when you ask for an update.


Note that the search feature is sensitive to user permissions, so that it won’t find data that a user doesn’t have permission to view.

The index information is stored in your company file. That is good – this places your sensitive information in a secure storage. I do have a concern about this, though, as this will increase the size of your company file (QBW). We’ll see how much of an impact that has.

Based on feedback during the field test of this, Intuit has included the older “Find” search feature that many people have gotten used to – it is still mapped to the Ctrl-F hot key.

I like this feature, although some people may be confused about the delay in updating the index. I also didn’t try this in a multi user environment, so it isn’t clear if there are any issues in that situation.

Updates on 9/15/2010: I often think that the majority of my subscribers are Intuit employees, since as soon as I post an article I often get feedback from them. Here are a few additions/corrections to the article:

  • The “F3” key has been mapped to the new search feature – in the early tests it was ctrl-F, but some people wanted the older search method to be available, so that is now mapped to ctrl-F and the new search is F3
  • Intuit believes that my concern about the size of the QBW file being increased by the search index is unwarranted – size does increase but they have paid particular attention to this issue and it shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll have to see.
  • In a multi user environment the database server itself is managing the index updates, so the clients are not burdened. They believe that you will not notice any performance problems with this.
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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 Accountex Report blog, as well as his California Wildflower Hikes blog.

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Comments (18)

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  1. John says:

    Charley, This is too much to take in on one weekend!!! This is fantastic news and will now secure me as a QuickBooks user!!!! FANTASTIC!!!! John

  2. Greg C says:

    Hi Charlie

    Thanks for the overview. I (and many of my clients) have concerns about using google desktop to index financial information in a QB file.

    Very happy to see this built into QB now. I would be surprised if indexes build up more than a few megs even in Enterprise. I’ll have to get my 2011 in-hand and do some digging on the internals of the search.

    -Greg C
    Charland Tech

  3. Harry Grace says:

    Does the Quick Search work in Item List ? We use this a lot , it is sooo slow now, but I don’t see it as an option in the ‘Advanced ‘ window snapshot

  4. Charlie says:

    Yes, it works in the item list. The screen shot doesn’t show ALL of the lists/transactions that are searched, as it is more than one screen’s worth of information.

  5. Diane Alfrey says:


    We upgraded to 2011 so that we could utilize the highly praised new Search feature. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be finding items in the body of the invoice.

    We bill items with weigh bill numbers to the customer. The weigh bill or HAWB numbers are in the body of the invoice.

    If a weigh bill number is entered twice for whatever reason we are not paid for that item. There are many instances that a weigh bill number is entered twice because it is picked up one day and delivered the next day or even the next week or two.

    How can we search for something in the body of the invoice? This is very frustrating because we have to go to each day’s billing to search for these numbers — the search feature does not find anything for us except for Invoice Numbers, Dates, etc.

    By the way, our first version of Quickbooks (2007 I believe) worked just fine with Google Desktop. I believe it stopped working when we purchased the 2009 version.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Charlie says:

      Diane: When you say “in the body of the invoice” – do you mean entered just as comment lines in the detail section, or are you storing that info in custom fields?

  6. Roman says:


    Same question as a Diane. How can we search something that is stored in custom fields or in the body? We used to use keysearch but it does not work in 2011 version. Built in search also does not find that info?

    Thanks in advance,


  7. Charlie says:

    Roman, if it is a value in the “body” of the invoice, like in the description column of a detail section, both the new find and the old find can be used to find it. If it is in a custom field, at this time the new find won’t find it, but the old find can.

    The old find is still there – press ctrl-F. Use the “advanced” version. Custom fields are listed as searchable fields. For info in the description column of an invoice, select the “memo” and search that (odd, but that is what works).

  8. Diane says:


    Thank you for your response. I recently found your answer and tried again to run a search with the old method you suggested. I ran a search by pressing “Ctrl-F” in the advanced version. I selected the “memo” search and entered the customer’s billing number which is in the “Description” area of the invoice. Nothing was found.

    Thank you.

  9. Charlie says:

    Diane, the older search function does have issues sometimes in that it isn’t always reliable. All I can say is that in my copy of Premier 2011, with my sample database, that kind of search works for me. You may have a different version, your database could have some corruption problems (common issue), there could be other issues that I’m not aware of. Sorry it didn’t work for you!

  10. You can make QuickBooks Navigation and Search much faster by using the AGKSoft QuickBooks Interface

    We created the AGKSoft QuickBooks Interface for $195 and it works with QuickBooks, but makes navigation 100 times faster and searching 1000 times faster. You can even search the notes and quickly add new one.
    Here ‘s the link where you can purchase it.

    • Charlie says:

      Antoine, your web site doesn’t list a price, the page you link to has a listing for your QuickBooks product but no link that talks about it (just that one very brief paragraph), it doesn’t talk about how the software works or how you access data, it doesn’t specify what kinds of QB data that you access. There really isn’t anything on your web site that either compels someone to want to purchase the product, or makes me feel comfortable about even trying it. Certainly I wouldn’t recommend that anyone buy this based on the minimal information that is there (at the price you mention above).

  11. Bob says:

    I also cannot search in QB pro 2011. We have many customers we drop ship for so I find that I cannot search for a name in the “ship to” box. Can anyone help with that, we were able to search for ship to names in 2009. Why would they have gotten rid of that feature? CRAZY! Anyone help.

    • Charlie says:

      Using the new “Search” feature (press F3) I’m able to find text that is in the ship to address. Make sure that you don’t have that search disabled, and that the index is updated periodically.

  12. Alyce says:

    Seriously….this is a invaluable web page.

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