Your First Hour with Xero

Once you’ve gone through the setup process, you’ll be ready to explore Xero’s features – and start entering your company’s records and transactions.

If you’ve never used accounting software before – or if you have, and you had a less-than-optimal experience – you’re probably eager to jump in and see how Xero works. The site does offer a different experience from its competitors, and it functions best when you’ve gone through the setup process thoroughly and conscientiously.

For this reason, Xero offers a step-by-step setup guide, one we’d like to help you complete. You’ll have to make decisions about the structure of your company and enter some of your company’s existing data. This information will have a great impact on how Xero functions once you get started creating transactions.

After we’ve worked through those issues, you’ll probably want to explore a bit and perhaps do some more setup. Here are some suggestions for your first hour using Xero.

Check Out Your “Dashboard.”

Just like your vehicle’s dashboard both gives you information and accepts input from you, so does Xero’s. Click the Dashboard tab in the upper left to see yours. At first, you won’t see a lot of data here, but you’ll soon add accounts and populate Xero with records and transactions. You can visit this page of charts to get a quick overview of your finances, such as account balances, invoices due, bills to be paid, and expense claims.

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Figure 1: Xero’s Dashboard can alert you to situations that need immediate attention.

This screen is interactive. Hover your mouse over any chart to see its detail. Click on one to see its background data. Links on the page take you to input screens where you can enter invoices and bills, for example.

Explore Your Company’s Settings.

Click the Settings tab in the upper right. A menu drops down, listing your options there:

  • General Settings: You’ll recognize some of these from having gone through the setup process with us. They include account balances and tax rates, currencies and user permissions, invoice customization, and add-ons (integrated apps that extend Xero’s functionality).

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Figure 2: There are some settings you’ll need to establish before you start using Xero, but you can always revisit this list.

  • Chart of Accounts: We explored this with, you, too; it’s the master list of accounts that you’ll assign to records and transactions. Accuracy is crucial here, as accounts are used for reporting and other management functions.

Warning: You’ll notice that you can edit or delete individual accounts here. We strongly advise you against doing so without our supervision.

  • Inventory Items: Clicking on this menu option opens a screen containing a list of the products you sell to customers. Click the New Item button in the upper left to see the kind of information you’ll need to supply.
  • Payroll Settings: Xero offers tremendous tools for setting up payroll (earnings, deductions, time off, etc.) and performing its related tasks, like creating paychecks.

See How Xero Stores Information about Your Contacts.

Click on the Contacts tab, then Customers, then Add Contact. You’ll be able to enter contact and financial details here for customers, as well as view your history and notes associated with those companies and individuals. There are links here to create transactions and send statements, “attach” files by uploading them, and view sales history. Supplier records have similar options; you can create assorted transactions and view bill history.

Note: Xero has powerful import capabilities, so if you have existing lists of contacts, you may be able to save time by bringing them into the site all at once. Let us assist you in doing this.

Explore Some Transactions.

If you’ve used pre-printed transaction forms (invoices, purchase orders, etc.) in the past, Xero’s pre-built templates will look familiar to you. They contain similar fields and columns, but they’re far easier to complete. Open an invoice, for example, and instead of manually filling in every field, you’ll be able to simply select from the lists you’ve created of customers, suppliers, inventory items, etc. Once you’ve filled out a transaction form, you’ll never have to enter that information again. Xero uses it in reports and other areas of the site.

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Figure 3: Xero’s transaction forms probably resemble your paper forms, but there’s a lot more automation built in.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand absolutely everything you see on these screens, or that some of the terminology looks foreign. In many cases, Xero offers multiple ways to perform the same tasks. Also, it’s designed so small businesspeople with no accounting experience can develop an efficient work flow. We’ll get you started with Xero, and we’re always available to consult along the way.

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