10 Xero Tips and Tricks Every Small-Business Owner Needs to Know

Here's how to do everything from rewinding a reconciliation mistake to setting up invoice reminders.
Billie Anne Grigg
By Billie Anne Grigg 
Edited by Rick VanderKnyff

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As a small-business owner with a lot on your plate, using an accounting software platform like Xero can make it easier to manage your complex financial responsibilities.

To help you get the most from your Xero software, we’ve compiled some of our favorite Xero tips — including shortcuts, customizations and unique features, that will give you a better understanding of your software while saving you valuable time and energy. These tips are applicable to all general Xero users and do not include features that are only available to users under the Advisor (accountant) role.

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1. Create customized roles

The first of our Xero tips is the ability to create highly customized roles for each Xero user. This ability lets you fully collaborate with everyone who impacts your business without giving everyone access to sensitive information. With this feature, you can assign roles in Xero based on the individual’s role in your business (Xero even has a chart to help you compare user roles) and in doing so, that person will only have access to the capabilities associated with that role.

Here’s how to set a user’s role when you add them to your Xero organization:

  1. Click on the Settings tab, then select General Settings.

  2. Click the Users link and then click Add a User.

  3. On the next screen, you will see options ranging from Advisor (which is the role you want to assign to your business accountant so they can fully advise you on your finances) to None for six different categories. You can also add permissions to users to give them supplemental functionality. These permissions can allow users access to payroll administration, give the ability to edit bank account information for customers and suppliers and grant the ability to manage users and change permissions.

At the very bottom of this screen, you will see a link to “Understand user role details.” This link takes you to a page that fully explains what each role can access, so you never have to wonder if you are choosing the correct options for a new user.

2. Make the most of the “plus” icon

For our second Xero tip, let's dive into the plus, or add, icon. When you log in to Xero, you will see a little plus icon (+) at the top right of the screen. Although it may seem like such a small detail, this one icon can actually be extremely helpful.

Clicking this icon lets you quickly access a number of different functions such as creating a new invoice, contact, bill or purchase order. As you continue to use Xero, this shortcut will save you time and help you develop a flow within your accounting process.

3. Publish reports for a snapshot in time

You can publish your annual and interim financial statements, as well as other reports and save them directly within Xero. Though your accounting information changes daily, it’s sometimes helpful to have a frozen snapshot of a certain period of time available at your fingertips. Publishing these reports inside Xero lets you securely save this information right within your accounting software.

To publish a report:

  1. Simply click the green Publish button at the bottom of the screen.

  2. On the next screen, you can either publish the report (as a PDF or spreadsheet) or save it as a draft.

  3. To access the report again, click the Reports tab at the top of any screen in Xero, select All Reports and then click the Published link at the top of the page.

Once a report is published, it will be available in this tab for others to see when they log in to Xero. This is a great way to share information from a specific time with other members of your business. Additionally, you can save reports in either format to your computer as well to share or use at a future date.

4. Rewind a reconciliation mistake

It happens to everyone: You’re in a groove, zooming through your bank feed and before you know it, you’ve incorrectly matched a transaction. Xero’s “Unreconcile” feature lets you fix this mistake quickly. Since unreconcile keeps the account transaction and the bank statement line but removes the connection between them, this Xero tip will save you a ton of time and hassle.

To unreconcile an account transaction:

  • Click on the three little dots to the right of the account name on the Dashboard.

  • Go to Account Transactions under the Find header.

  • Click the transaction you want to change to open it.

  • On the next screen, click Options and then select Unreconcile.

  • Click OK on the pop-up window to unreconcile the transaction.

After you’ve completed this process, you can now re-reconcile the bank statement line.

5. Save time with the inbuilt calculator

This one of our Xero tips deals with a practical tool that many users miss when learning how to use Xero accounting software. Xero has an inbuilt calculator that allows you to perform basic math functions directly in certain fields. Using this calculator decreases the chance of an entry error, not to mention it saves you time looking for another calculator to use for simple arithmetic operations. It’s also useful if you need to do some quick calculations in the service of a more complicated accounting formula.

The inbuilt calculator has addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and group functionality. To use it, just type in an equation — like 15 * 1.12 — right into a field. Press enter or tab and Xero calculates the result. You can use this calculator for transactions as well as manual journals, however, you should know that not all fields accept math functions.

6. Create repeating invoices and bills

If you have regular invoices to send or bills to pay, save yourself the trouble of having to repeat the same process again and again with this Xero trick. Utilize the repeating invoice function by developing a template and Xero will automatically create an invoice or bill for you based on the frequency you specify. Xero will put it in the Draft tab if you need to vary the amount (or another field), and if everything is the same each time, it will go in the Awaiting Payment tab.

Again, this feature can be set up for both invoices and bills and is done by accessing the Repeating tab in each respective category. From there, click “New Repeating Invoice/Bill” and you’ll be able to create a new template or use an existing one, and set up the specifications you require. This Xero capability, found in many invoice software, will ultimately facilitate your bill pay and invoicing process.

7. Test out the demo company feature

Have you ever wondered how a transaction would affect your books, but you didn’t want to risk messing up your financials? Xero’s demo company lets you experiment with usable test data. The demo company allows you to test out transactions and features completely separate from your business’ data. Utilizing the demo company, therefore, won’t affect anything you already have set up, nor will anyone else be able to see data you enter or import into the demo company. If, therefore, you want to see how your retail store’s accounting would be affected by a large transaction, for example, the Demo Company feature allows you to do so.

Have you ever wondered how a transaction would affect your books, but you didn’t want to risk messing up your financials? Xero’s demo company lets you experiment with usable test data.

To access the demo company feature, click the list icon to the left of your company’s name on any page and select My Xero. At the very bottom of the next screen, you will see a link to Try the Demo Company. You can reset the demo company at any time, but you should be aware that any data you enter or import will automatically expire after 28 days.

8. Open multiple organizations

It’s not uncommon for small-business owners to have more than one business, or for their spouse or partner to also own a business. If the businesses have different tax ID numbers, it’s important to have separate bookkeeping files for each one.

However, if money flows between the two (or more) businesses, you need to make sure the transactions are properly recorded in each business’s accounting. Viewing both virtual bookkeeping files at once can make sure this happens correctly, but logging in to multiple Xero organizations at the same time might be problematic. If you’re trying to juggle multiple different logins, you might forget to save your work or save it in the wrong organization.

Unless that is, you utilize this item on our list of Xero tips. All you need to do is use a different browser for each organization. For example, you can log in to Company A’s file in Firefox and Company B’s file in Safari. You can also set up multiple identities in Google Chrome and open a Xero file in each one.

Although this Xero trick can definitely save you time and simplify your process, you should still be very cautious about working in multiple organizations at once. Even with different browsers, it’s so easy to record a transaction in the wrong set of books, and you might not catch it until the end of the year.

9. Set up invoice reminders

Another one of our Xero tips to help you optimize your accounting process is setting up invoice reminders. Instead of worrying about following up on your accounts receivable, let Xero take care of it for you. You can set up invoice reminders, configuring Xero to automatically send customers reminders based on how far an invoice is past due.

Under Settings > General Settings > Invoice Settings, you will see the Invoice Reminders button. Here, you can turn on invoice reminders. You can choose from the predetermined days past due parameters or create your own reminder. You can even customize what each reminder email says by clicking on the Edit link. Additionally, Xero has an option to include a link to the invoice in the reminder email as well as an option to not send reminders for outstanding invoices under a certain amount. If you need to get even more specific, you can turn off reminders for a particular customer or invoice.

10. Sync with Google Sheets

With all of the different software and tools you use as a business owner, it’s all the better when the platforms can work together — and that’s where the final point in our list of Xero tips comes in. You can sync your Xero account to your Gmail and thereby export Xero reports or budgets to Google Sheets. To implement this, all you have to do is go to a report or budget that you’d like to export. Then, click the menu icon (the three little dots) to the right of that document. You’ll be prompted to choose your export method — choose Google Sheets. If you’re not already logged into your Gmail account, you’ll be asked to do so, and then you’ll need to confirm that Xero is a trusted site each time you initiate a Google Sheets session.

Once you’ve exported your document into Google Sheets, you can edit, save or share it. You can also invite other people to view these documents in Google, as read-only files, even if they don’t have a Gmail account. This function is perfect if you need to complete accounting tasks or other work outside of Xero. It also can assist with your business’ collaboration — especially with anyone who doesn’t have access to your Xero account.

A version of this article was first published on Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.