Home » All Posts » How to Set (& Keep!) Your Hierarchical View in QuickBooks Lists

How to Set (& Keep!) Your Hierarchical View in QuickBooks Lists

Do you have QuickBooks lists structured to show a Hierarchical View? (Think “outline” with headers and sub-elements.) For instance:

  • In your Customer:Job list, do you have a “header” as a Customer, and sub-elements as Jobs? (If not, you may want to do so…)
  • Open your Item List. Do you have multiple “layers” of Items arranged in an outline (hierarchical) order? (If so, good! You’ll get better reports.)
  • Within your Chart of Accounts Lists, do you have “parent/header” accounts with sub-accounts arranged below? (This structure will provide more understandable and useful management reports.)

Assuming you’ve used the very useful Hierarchical Lists in QuickBooks, you’ve likely experienced the same pain-in-the-fanny problem that my clients and I have encountered.

Flat View vs. Hierarchical View in Your Customer:Job List

You open one of these Lists, and it displays in “Flat View.” In other words, you see the sub-elements listed with their “parents” preceding the job name(s) separated by colons. For instance, you see something like this:

Flat view of Customer:Jobs in QuickBooks


Smithfield, Glenna & Joe
Smithfield, Glenna & Joe:Remodel
Smithfield, Glenna & Joe:Remodel:Family Room
Smithfield, Glenna & Joe:Remodel:Kitchen
Smithfield, Glenna & Joe:Repairs
Smithfield, Glenna & Joe:Repairs:Bath
Smithfield, Glenna & Joe:Repairs:Kitchen

Hierarchical View to the Visual Rescue!

You would prefer to see it in more of an outline format. So if you right-click on a Customer or Job, from the drop-down menu, you can select Hierarchical View. Now it looks like this. (Much easier to read, right?)

Hierarchical view of Customer:Jobs in QuickBooks


Smithfield, Glenna & Joe
……Family Room

So far, life is good! BUT THEN you experience…

The Disappearing Hierarchical View…

You need to change something in one of these Customer or Job records – such as add a phone number – so you Edit, and Save the edited record.

BOOM! Your entire list shifts back into the Flat View!

Arrrgh! Now you have to manually switch it back into the Hierarchical View.

THEN you do a “Search” for a name, and results show up in Flat View. (QuickBooks warns you this time: “All search results will appear in flat view.” OK, we understand and could live with that on a temporary basis while we’re searching, right?)

BUT NOW – you CLOSE the Search – and BOOM! The entire list STAYS in the Flat View. So, once again, you need to manually select the menu option to change back into the Hierarchical View. (Yuck!)

Creating a Default “Hierarchy” Setting

I want to give my Diamond-Level Intuit Support Team some credit here – they provided a one-time-fix and tried to explain it several months ago. But the “fix” didn’t seem to hold and I continued to have the problems outlined above.

Then, I decided to take some time to EXPERIMENT to see if I could cage this nasty little gremlin.

Yaaay – I believe I’ve got it! Here are the steps I currently follow to get the Hierarchical View to “stick” as a default…

  1. Close all QuickBooks windows
  2. Go to Edit/Preferences/My Preferences/Desktop View
  3. If you do NOT see “Keep previously saved desktop” (shown in the red box below) select “Save current desktop,” then OK, and return to the same Preference screen.
  4. Select Keep Previously Saved Desktop – then OK.Step to establish Hierarchical View in QuickBooks
  5. Open the following primary Lists and set each of them to display “Hierarchical View”:
  6. Go back to Edit/Preferences/My Preferences/Desktop View
  7. Choose Save Current Desktop – then OKStep to establish Hierarchical View in QuickBooks
  8. Return to Edit/Preferences/My Preferences/Desktop View
  9. Select “Keep Previously Saved Desktop” again – then OK.
    Save Previous Desktop to achieve Hierarchical View as Default

Testing the “Fix”:

  • After closing the company file, then closing and re-opening QuickBooks, these three frequently-used Lists automatically appeared – as I had requested.
  • Each still displayed in hierarchical order.
  • I closed and re-opened individual lists, and each of them stayed in the Hierarchical View.
  • I then edited information within various header and sub-elements residing in the lists, and the Hierarchical View stayed in place.
  • Even after searching for a specific Customer, Job, Item, or Account (for which results ALWAYS display in a temporary Flat View), when I closed the search, the List popped back into Hierarchical View.

Now I’m doing “the happy dance” because this workaround removes those extra keystrokes and the accompanying moments of “Do-I-REALLY-have-to-re-set-the-Hierarchical-View-AGAIN!!?? frustration.

So, I’m excited to share this with my clients – and with YOU! 😊


Unfortunately, I’m not able to promise that this workaround will “hold” forever.

On several occasions, I’ve had to repeat these steps within my company file. However, after learning the steps to the process, it doesn’t take long to re-do. And it DOES seem to hold (at least for a while).

If we get to sidestep an annoying set of keystrokes MOST of the time, it’s likely worth that small additional amount of time to repeat the background settings!


P.S. If you liked this tip, we have a boatload more in our CAMP Class called Tips, Insights, & Techniques for QuickBooks