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Introducing Side-by-Side Files

Posted 3 years ago in Advisors by Craig Walker
Posted by Craig Walker

With this week’s release of Side-by-Side Files we’re making the process of entering data into Xero even easier.

We delivered Files 18 months ago. This was the evolution of our single-ledger strategy. It allows you to collect all the source documents you need, and store them inside Xero next to the transactions they relate to. This changed how our many of our customers managed the documents associated with their business. In fact, we recently reported that more than 26 million files have been stored in Xero, adding more than 900,000 files each week.

By storing your documents inside Xero, and alongside your financial transactions, it makes them much easier to find. It also ensures your records are in one place, making it easier to collaborate with your advisor.

Soon after we released Files, we released the ability to email in Files into an inbox. You can do this from your mobile phone, via auto-forwarding in Gmail or even from a scanner. Once the documents are in the inbox, you can create new financial transactions on the fly, auto-attaching the document as you go. This saves you time by allowing you to forward all your relevant documents into your Xero inbox, and then process those documents when you’re ready.

Extending Files further

With this week’s release we’re making the last bit of that process even easier. Once a file is in your Files inbox, you can create a transaction from the file, and view it side by side as you’re entering the details. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve emailed it in there, or dragged and dropped it into the inbox.

This gives you the opportunity to be even more efficient in the way that you work. You can select a file in your inbox, then create a new bill, purchase order, expense receipt, or a spend/receive money transaction.

When you create the transaction, the file will be displayed alongside the transaction you’re creating. This means you can easily key in the details as the information is right in front of you. The contents of your file appears on the left-hand side of the screen, while your form appears on the right. Hence Side-by-Side Files. We think this is pretty cool – have a look at how it works here:

If you’re an advisor, this opens up yet another way to add value. You can ask your customers to email their documents to the email address in Xero, pick up the documents, and enter the transactions on your customers’ behalf.

It’s like bank reconciliation for your documents.


Ben Bowles
March 24, 2015 at 9.51 am

Any chance we’ll get a mass download function of files – useful for printing all files within a specific time period.

Craig Walker Xero
March 24, 2015 at 9.56 am

@Ben That’s on the roadmap. It’s one of those requests that sounds simple – and for a lot of our users it is. But there is also a significant percentage of our user base with LOTS of files. So we need to do something smart around that (downloading a multi-gigabyte zip file seems clunky). Was actually going to talk about it this week with my team to figure out what we can do. So it’s coming.

Mark Lawton
March 24, 2015 at 11.03 am

Ben you can acheive this using the quickwin development Excel plugin

Mark Lawton
March 24, 2015 at 11.08 am

This is Awesome – I love improvements that save time and create more efficient processes. This takes the pain away from accounting! What would be really useful, from an accountants point of view, would be the same functionality for manual journals.

Alan H Boal
March 24, 2015 at 12.42 pm

I agree with Mark, this would be great if it was extended to manual journals. Perhaps we can look to a later update for this?

Di Crawford-Errington
March 24, 2015 at 1.24 pm

Yay, thanks Craig!

Carol-Anne Brooke
March 24, 2015 at 1.46 pm

Side by side files. What a great enhancement. Will be a time saver

paul volpe
March 24, 2015 at 2.00 pm

This is really good stuff.
Will you develop OCR tech so that a draft can be created picking up amounts, GST, invoice, supplier name?
That would be game changing.

March 24, 2015 at 2.19 pm

This is fab – good work and thank you!

I’m using Chrome on a Mac, and I prefer to use Preview to view PDF’s rather than the built in Chrome PDF viewer. I just get a download link in the pane – and also in the floating window version of displaying files.

I could switch to Safari where this works, but there is an irritating Xero bug in Safari whereby the link to show only recently approved invoices or bills does not work, and your support team advised me to change to Chrome! This was well before Christmas, and the bug was still there last week!

There are two other tweaks that would be good:

In the real world it’s hard to pick the right invoice out of the files list as suppliers call them unhelpful things like invoice.pdf. Please could you look at whether the previous email sender or the subject line from the email could be shown somehow to make it possible to pick the one I need. Or perhaps show them as thumbnails? That would be cool.

Secondly the screen jumps around too much – like on the video at 1:12 which shows what I mean! If the Xero main data was aligned left, and the files pane was to the right that wouldn’t happen.

Thanks for all the good work coming to fruition this week.

March 24, 2015 at 2.22 pm

Love the new features!

As for downloading files, Craig is right; file size and file count are huge technical hurdles. I wouldn’t advise using my Excel addon for this as it’s not been updated to support the new Files API; that will come soon (but certainly use it if you want awesome reporting!).

Instead I’d recommend my cloud backup service It supports backing up both your data and files. Rather than downloading all files each time you do a backup, it only syncs new/updated files to your OneDrive thus keeping data transfer to a minimum.

What you get is a folder in your OneDrive which is a duplicate of your Files in Xero. And because it’s OneDrive, you can sync to any device and use it like a regular folder. If you accidentally delete something, don’t worry, it will re-download it next time you sync.

If you have any questions, just send me an email.

March 24, 2015 at 4.50 pm

@Xero Dev Team. Thanks and great work.

Is it too early to suggest another feature for the Side by Side Files? It would be great if this view could be used when adding a File from Library to an existing transaction. Many businesses now use the time saving repeating transactions feature, if we could view the file side by side with the existing transaction before Approving that would be awesome.

Mary-Clare Switz
March 24, 2015 at 5.25 pm

@Xero … love this new feature!! Saves me opening up 2 windows 🙂

March 24, 2015 at 11.20 pm

Sound great but like @Nigel the preview is not working in Chrome or IE, just getting a download link in the pane, is it something we need to do at our end or is it a Xero thing ?

March 25, 2015 at 1.52 am

Also, @Craig, now that I am using it in anger the file viewer window is not full height of the screen.

I’m using a Macbook Pro 15″ and there is a huge bottom margin, and also a wide right margin. Vertically the viewer window gets about half the height of the screen as it is obstructed by OS menus, Xero menus etc.

It would work better if it didn’t fall below the four lines of the Xero UI being Company name / Dashboard / Purchases / New Bill, and it would be cleaner if they stayed in constant alignment with the bill’s data entry form which would enable this.

Craig Walker Xero
March 25, 2015 at 2.58 pm

@Mark @Alan I didn’t think of manual journals actually – I never expected that to be a big use case. But yeah – we should (and will) do that.

@Paul OCR that works well is a bit of a unicorn. Unless it’s mixed with templating then it doesn’t actually improve productivity (because the mistakes can take longer to correct – or even worse are completely missed). Having said that there is a lot we can do without OCR – and we’re working on that. So yes – no data input is the best kind of data input.

@Nigel I need to look at that Safari bug – sounds familiar – probably just got lost in the mix. On your other points:
1. Yes – we’re doing some work on this screen – bringing more information from the email into the list view is part of that work.
2. It’s responsive – so by design will move around depending on your screen size (and whether you resize the browser). I tried docking right and I didn’t like it. So I might wait for consensus on that before I change it back 🙂 Sorry about that.

@Colleen It kinda is… The “side by side” view is available in edit mode – not view mode. If you edited the transaction and then added the file you would be able to dock the preview window (there is a new icon in the window that allows you to dock it or undock it). We will add docking to view screens at some point – we wanted to ship it as soon as possible so we went for the most prevalent use case first.

@Chris What type of file are you trying to view? PDF?

@Nigel I actually built it on a Macbook Pro 15″ – so it should work perfectly by design. I need to see a screenshot unfortunately – can you email some screenshots to and be sure to ask them to send the ticket to me? Thanks.

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

March 26, 2015 at 5.39 pm

Like @Chris, I don’t get a preview of pdf’s either in Chrome or IE, it just shows a download option. I get the same problem when looking at any pdf document which has been uploaded to Xero (either in files or attached to an entry), which is a major pain as I have to download it in order to be able to look at it.

March 26, 2015 at 5.46 pm

I get the same problem as @Craig, in that I only see a ‘download’ button and no preview. This happens in Chrome and IE, I’m on a PC with Win8. I also can’t get a preview of any document that’s uploaded to Xero in files or attached to an entry, which is a major pain as I have to download it in order to have a look.

March 27, 2015 at 1.19 pm

Thank you Craig – will do.

March 28, 2015 at 9.56 am

Loving this feature!

April 1, 2015 at 10.29 am

I like this new feature. I’ve now got my manager emailing through the invoices she receives to the xero email. Would it be possible to have a flag come up to show you have new files, like the one that comes up to show there are new notifications.

Eldose Babu
April 16, 2015 at 12.13 am

Is there any way to view side by side files for a bill already completed? That is we prepare the bill in Xero and then upload the scanned paperwork side by side

September 26, 2015 at 3.27 pm

The side by side looks great, however would be better if we could see this feature by just drag and dropping into a new bill without having to go via Xero files.

Craig Walker Xero
September 30, 2015 at 2.05 am

@Tim You can! That’s always been supported:$Upload

You can either use the upload button or just drag it in. Once in there you can open the attachment and “dock it” to go side-by-side. Easy!

Deb D
October 8, 2015 at 8.07 pm

I am using Chrome and just get the ‘download’ link in the pane , how can I fix this?

Scott T
November 28, 2015 at 5.45 pm

It would be great if a time sheet could be saved with the payroll transactions. We keep paper copies of the time sheets and waste a lot of time flicking through paper when we get pay questions, or requests from dept of human services, etc

November 28, 2015 at 6.48 pm

This sounds great,as I currently upload the PDF bill from my hard drive, so a bit longer. Just tried the side by side and dragged and dropped a PDF into supplier folder, to then add as a bill. It all looked fine but the PDF at the side was blank. When I clicked on it to open, it was also blank. Can you advise why the drag and drop isn’t working for me?

November 28, 2015 at 6.51 pm

Can I add I am working from a Macbook Air and using Safari.

Pablo U
November 29, 2015 at 9.03 am

What would happen with all the documents stored in Xero if a user were to cancel their subscription? all lost?

Again Xero should be thinking of partnering up with an online backup service to have the documents backed-up independently. At the moment feels like Xero is holding users to ransom with their documents if they ever end the Xero subscription.

David A
January 13, 2016 at 11.07 pm

This feature has stopped working in Apple’s Safari. Please advise. I miss it!

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