Re-sorting QuickBooks Lists to Fix Problems

Re-sorting QuickBooks Lists to Fix Problems

Re-sorting QuickBooks lists is a simple but often effective way to fix a number of problems you may run into with QuickBooks for Windows and QuickBooks for Mac. It’s a trick that many ProAdvisors have known about for many years, but I felt it was a good time to talk about this because the issue has been coming up in several discussion forums lately.

Home Remedies – Self-Repairing of QuickBooks Files

As you work with a QuickBooks desktop database over time, you’ll find that problems tend to accumulate. The more you use it, the more likely you’ll be to run into one or another “odd problem” that doesn’t seem to make sense. Whenever someone talks about odd things, one of the first things we think about is how to “reset” some of the features in the database. There are several things that can be recommended: simply making a QuickBooks backup with “full verification,” creating and restoring a “portable company file,” performing a “rebuild data” function (perhaps three times in a row and verifying the qbwin.log file), and re-sorting lists. All of these techniques can be used to repair different issues that can come up with a QuickBooks file, and these are all using functions that are available in QuickBooks itself.

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Re-sorting QuickBooks Lists

Here are a few of the problems you may see that can be fixed by re-sorting QuickBooks lists:

A list appears out of order.
New entries always show up at the top of your list.
Reports show items out of order.
You can’t turn on account numbers in the Chart of Accounts.
Highlighting a customer, vendor, or employee displays no transactions in the appropriate “Center.”
With Advanced Find, the name filter drop-down auto-fill doesn’t work properly.
The “quick-type” feature, where you start typing a name while in a list, doesn’t seem to work in finding a list record.

If any of these kinds of problems show up, the first thing to try is re-sorting the list. This will rebuild the index behind the scenes; it won’t actually change any information that’s in the list itself.

Please note the following:

Any QuickBooks User can re-sort a list if the user has access to that list. It doesn’t have to be the QuickBooks Admin user.
After you re-sort a list, you should close QuickBooks and then reopen it to see if the problem has been resolved.
QuickBooks allows you to manually rearrange some lists, which people do for convenience. If you re-sort a list, the manual changes you made will be lost.
I’ll be describing how to re-sort lists in QuickBooks 2006 and later. In older versions, you may have to look in different places for some of these features (if you run into that being an issue, leave a comment and I’ll try to find the location for you).

Customers, Vendors, Employees, and Other Names

QuickBooks maintains a master name list that contains names for customers, vendors, and employees as well as the Other Names List that you sometimes run across. Although you can generally re-sort the customer, vendor, or employee lists separately, I generally recommend sorting the master name list to catch them all. This can be a bit tricky because you won’t find the master name list in any of the menus!

The simplest way to find this list is to open the Write Checks window. Place the cursor in the Pay to the order of field, and press Ctrl-L to open the list (as we describe in the article on improved list selection). This opens the master name list. Check the Include Inactive checkbox (this is important!), click the Name button, and select Re-sort List. Re-sorting should only take a few minutes at the most.

If your user account doesn’t include banking permissions, you can also do this in the Make General Journal Entries window (click the Name column), the Advanced Find window (again in the Name field), or the Time/Enter Single Activity window (Name field).

This takes care of all four of the name lists. You can re-sort an individual customer, vendor, or employee list from the Center for that list, but I prefer using the master name list.

QuickBooks® automatically records the following transactions to the Opening Balance Equity account:

The ending bank statement balance transaction when a new bank account is created in the EasyStep Interview.
Opening balances for other Balance Sheet accounts created in the Add New Account dialog box.
Opening balances entered when New Customers or Vendors are set up.
Inventory total value balances entered in the New Item dialog.
Bank reconciliation adjustments for QuickBooks versions 2005 or earlier.
Other common transactions that a user might assign to this account include:

Accrual basis opening accounts payable transactions as of the start date.
Accrual basis opening accounts receivable transactions as of the start date.
Uncleared bank checks or deposits (accrual or cash basis) as of the start date.

Common Errors

Users do not know what to do with the Open Balance Equity account.
Users enter an opening balance when setting up a new account, vendor, customer or inventory item.
Users create transactions that post to the Open Balance Equity account.


Balance remains in Open Balance Equity account long after initial start up of the data file.
Open Balance Equity account has a balance.

Reviewing Balances in Open Balance Equity Account

To review the transactions in Opening Balance Equity account a report of the transactions is first created.

To create a report of the transactions in the Opening Balance Equity account:

Click Reports > Company & Financial and select the Balance Sheet Standard report.
Without adjusting the date, view the Equity section of the report to see whether a balance exists in the account.
The Opening Balance Equity account value might be equal to the prior year Retained Earnings. So, if a balance in the Opening Balance Equity account exists and if the balance is equal to the prior year’s Retained Earnings, the Opening Balance Equity can be closed into Retained Earnings – as discussed in the next section.

If, however, a balance remains on the Balance Sheet for Opening Balance Equity, you can review the individual transactions by creating the following report:

Click Reports > Custom Transaction Detail Report. The Modify Report dialog appears, with the Display tab selected.
Select the Report > Date Range to be reviewed. Choose All from the Dates drop-down menu.
In the Columns section of the Display tab, click to place a check mark next to those data fields to be included on the report, or click to remove the check mark from those not to be included on the report. Be sure to include Type near the top of the list.
Click the Filters tab.
In the Choose Filter pane, select Account; from the Account drop-down menu select the Opening Balance Equity account, as shown in the image below.
Optionally, for the Sort By drop-down list, select Type. This option groups the report by type of transaction, which might make reviewing the source of the transactions easier.

With the report sorted by type of transaction, determine whether errors in entries were made is the next step.

One of the most important things to know about the Opening Balance Equity account is that when a file is completely and successfully set up, no balances should remain in the Opening Balance Equity account.

Closing Opening Balance Equity to Retained Earnings

The Opening Balance Equity account should have a zero balance once a file is set up correctly. A correctly set up QuickBooks file assumes the following:

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You are not converting the data from Quicken, Peachtree, Microsoft Small Business Accounting or Office Accounting. Each of these products has an automated conversion tool available free from Intuit that eliminates the need to make startup transactions if the data is converted and not just lists.
The company had transactions prior to the QuickBooks start date (i.e., it is not a new business). If it is a new business with no prior transactions, then simply begin entering typical QuickBooks transactions with no need for unusual start up entries.
If there were transactions prior to the QuickBooks start date, and each of the unpaid customer invoices, unpaid vendor bills, and uncleared bank transactions have been entered and dated prior to the QuickBooks start date.
The trial balance has been entered one day before the QuickBooks start date. (i.e., if the fiscal year starts 1/1 then the trial balance is dated 12/31 of the previous year).
If the above stipulations are true, then the Opening Balance Equity is expected to equal the Retained Earnings balance from the accountant’s financials or from the prior software.