For decades, maybe longer, accounting systems numbered everything. Customers had numbers. Vendors had numbers. Employees had numbers.
Even accounts on the chart of accounts had numbers.
With the increasing popularity, over a couple of decades now, of user-driven accounting software development, this has changed.
In QuickBooks, desktop or online, we seldom see companies using numbers for customers, vendors, or employees. We just use names.
Even with the chart of accounts, numbers are optional and turned off by default. Account numbers are available in both products however.
Many users still like the use of account numbers. With some, they’ve been around long enough that it is habit. With others, account numbers speed data entry and/or make account selection in transactions easier.
For instance, if you access an account named Interest, is that interest income or interest expense? If an accountant or bookkeeper is well-acquainted with the numbering system used, they know immediately from the first digit of the account number whether the account is income or expense.
To use account numbers in QuickBooks Online (QBO), access company settings from the settings (gear) icon.
Access the Advanced section of company settings and edit the Chart of Accounts section. Check the boxes to use and to show account numbers.
The reason this saves time for data entry people familiar with the account numbering system is that the number, often three or four digits, is much faster to enter than a name, or picking the account from the pick list.
Regular users will remember the account numbers used most often, just from the repeated use of them.
No other manual entry method will be as quick as entering 872 when the expense being entered is Supplies expense.
There is a drawback to using numbers. This is true for either QuickBooks desktop or QBO. That is, that QuickBooks will display the number with the account on reports.
This will be a small sacrifice for some users. It will be more significant for others. If creating reports with a professional or pleasing appearance is important to you, you have two options.
The obvious option is to not use the account number setting in QBO. The other, an admittedly clumsy solution, is to set and reset the option to show numbers each time a significant report is being created.