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Set up and use barcode scanning in QuickBooks Desktop

by Intuit Updated 2 months ago

Learn how to set up your barcode scanner and barcodes.

With Advanced Inventory, you can use barcodes to make data entry faster and easier in QuickBooks Desktop. After you assign barcodes to items, you can scan barcodes whenever you buy or sell those items. You can also scan barcodes to adjust the quantity of items on hand.

In this article, you'll learn how to:

Check if your scanner is compatible

Here's how to make sure that your scanner will work with QuickBooks. Make sure:

  • Your scanner supports EAN-13 (International Article Number, formerly European Article Number) and Code-128 barcodes
  • Your scanner produces a single carriage return at the end of the barcode.


  • Serial port scanners are NOT compatible with the ES Barcode feature.
  • The Warehouse Manager App and sales order fulfillment worksheet require a different type of scanner.

Set up your USB barcode scanner

Once you have your scanner plugged in you can start setting it up.

  1. In QuickBooks Desktop, go to the Edit menu and select Preferences.
  2. Select Items and Inventory, then select the Company Preferences tab.
  3. Select Advanced Inventory Settings, then select the Barcodes tab.
  4. Select Enable Barcode, then select Open Barcode Wizard.
  5. In the Barcode Scanning Setup wizard, select which item field you want to use for barcode tracking. If you’re not sure what to use, choose a field that will be unique for each item, such as the Item Name or Part Number. Then select Next.
  6. Select the types of items you want to generate barcodes for. Select Next, then Finish.

Start using your scanner

Now that you've tested your scanner, you're ready to use it:

  1. Open a transaction in QuickBooks Desktop.
  2. Scan an item with your barcode scanner connected to your computer. The item will appear on the transaction as a new line item.

You can scan barcodes to fill out any of these transactions:

  • Estimates
  • Sales Orders
  • Invoices
  • Sales Receipts
  • Refunds & Credits
  • Purchase Orders
  • Item Receipts
  • Bills
  • Write Checks
  • Inventory transfers

Import barcodes

In some cases, you might already have a list of barcodes you've used. Here's how you can import them into QuickBooks.

Note: You need admin access to do this. And It's always a good idea to back up your company file before you import.

Step 1: Create a custom field

Create a custom field if you want to track additional items.

  1. Importing into QuickBooks requires you to be in single-user mode. You can switch modes by selecting File, then Switch to Single-user Mode.
  2. Go to Lists then select Item List and double-click any item then select Custom Fields.
  3. Select Define Fields. On a new line enter a label name. For these steps, we’ll use “Barcode 2”  as an example.
  4. In the label field, select Use, then Select OK.

Note: you can have up to 12 custom fields. If you are already using all 12, you will have to replace one of the existing fields with Barcode2.

Step 2: Export your item list to Excel

  1. Select Lists then Item List at the bottom of the Item list, select the Excel menu. Then, select Export all items.
  2. Select the Create new worksheet option and in new workbook.
  3. Select Export. A full item list report will open in Excel.

Step 3: Edit the Excel sheet

Use these steps to edit items.

  1. Enter the barcodes you want to use for each item in the “Barcode2” field in step 3 above the column.
  2. Save the file and close it.

Step 4: Import the list with barcodes from Excel

  1. In QuickBooks, go to the File menu and select Utilities.
  2. Select Import Excel Files. Select No at the prompt for Add/Edit Multiple List Entries.
  3. Choose Advanced Import.
  4. Browse to the Excel file you saved and select Sheet 1 where you will see your data.
  5. In the Choose a mapping drop-down menu, select Add new. A mappings window will open.
  6. In the Import type drop-down menu, select Item.
  7. In the QuickBooks column, find the Type line. On the same line in the Import Data column, select Type to make sure they match.
  8. Move down one line to the Name field. In the Import Data column, select Item.
  9. Scroll down to find the Barcode2 line. Set its Import Data field to Barcode2 as well. You can leave the other fields empty.
  10. Select the option to Replace existing data with import data, ignoring blank fields.

Your existing items will be updated with the new values in the Barcode2 field.

Step 5: Set QuickBooks to track your imported barcodes

  1. Go to Edit and select Preferences. 
  2. Select Items & Inventory.
  3. On the Company Preferences tab, click the Advanced Inventory Settings button.
  4. On the Barcodes tab, open the Barcode Wizard.
  5. In the drop-down arrow, choose Copy barcodes from Custom field 'Barcode2'.
  6. Continue through the wizard to select Finish.
  7. Select OK twice.

You may see a window that tells you how many barcodes were created. Return to the item list and double-click one of your items to see that the Barcode Number field has been filled with the barcode you imported.

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