So I decided that it was about time I moved beyond my hokey “spreadsheet-based” accounting and did something more professional. First stop: Intuit. I’ve been a Quicken user for 12 or 13 years now, I guess, and it does the job – but it certainly does have its quirks. In particular, pretty much every time I upgrade I’d say it breaks something that takes quite a while to figure out. So I was a bit nervous about buying QuickBooks on the off chance that I couldn’t get it to work. I wonder why they don’t have trial copies the way every one else seems to?
As it turns out, the mighty Microsoft has released their own QuickBooks killer called Microsoft Office Accounting. And they have a crippleware “Express” version that allows you to try out some of the features for free. Great!
I thought I’d try importing my PayPal data. An interesting challenge!
You download your transactions from PayPal as a CSV, then you create an Excel spreadsheet from the CSV (in a specified format so that you don’t have to go through a “mapping” step). You then tell MSOA to import the data. This image shows the import dialog (click to see full size). But when you hit the Next button, you get this lovely error dialog telling you that you must create a customer record for every one of the people who PayPal’ed you money.
Well, obviously this isn’t something you want to do by hand (especially if you have a large number of customers), but you can automate it. Take the same PayPal spreadsheet you just downloaded, and copy it into the Customers template that Office Accounting provides for uploading customer data. The mapping is pretty obvious, but there’s an undocumented trick that you MUST use (and it won’t work unless you do it). Here’s the trick: copy the Customer Name data (column B) to the Contact Name field (column L). So column B and column L now have identical data. Then your import will work. As an extra added bonus, copy the email field from PayPal to the Customer Email field (column Q) not the Contact Email (column O) – this way the email will show up in your customer list. You also must be careful to check your data to remove duplicate customers or the import will complain.
Having done all this, I took a step back and wondered whether it was really worthwhile using Office Accounting for this critical data, since it’s not clear that Microsoft has a serious commitment to this program (they’ve dumped other programs in the past and left people in the lurch).
I chatted with Steuart over at Big Red Consulting, and he thought pretty much the same way. He reminded me that QuickBooks has most of the market, and “there’s probably a reason for that.” He also thought that because QuickBooks is a completely different application, my fears about prior Quicken problems cross-contaminating other Intuit products were unfounded.
To ease data import from PayPal to QuickBooks, Big Red Consulting sells a piece of software called PayPal to QuickBooks Link. I bought a copy, because the majority of That Software Guy‘s payments come in through PayPal. It works like a dream! The annoying manual copy and paste based process of creating customers and then accepting their payments that I described above for MS OA is completely automated by Big Red’s software for QuickBooks. And they offer a “trial version” good for 100 transactions so you can try before you buy. Great job, guys!
I would definitely recommend this piece of software (which is very reasonably priced) for anyone who’s dealing with importing PayPal data.