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Getting Started

Welcome to Fishbowl! This article will guide you through the process of installing, starting, and setting up Fishbowl.

Click a number below to jump to a section, or scroll down to read through the article.

Getting Started

1. Install Fishbowl

The Fishbowl software has three components. The Fishbowl Client is the visible program that users interact with. The Fishbowl Server runs behind the scenes, processing and storing all of the data. Fishbowl Nexus is a separate application on the server computer that automatically runs when needed and allows communication with QuickBooks.

All the pieces of software can be run on a single computer, or the Fishbowl Client can be installed on workstations that communicate with the Fishbowl Server over a network.


The hardware requirements for the Fishbowl Server are higher than for the Fishbowl Client. See System Hardware Recommendations for more information.

If you are a new Fishbowl user, you will need to run the installer on each computer that will use Fishbowl. After the initial install, all of the clients will automatically update whenever the Fishbowl Server is updated to a new version.

Follow the steps below to install Fishbowl.

  1. Download the latest version of the Fishbowl installer. Physical copies of the installer can be shipped by request. Once the download is complete, open the Fishbowl installer.
  2. Select the Country, Business Type, and Industry. This will allow the creation of the most applicable demo database.
  3. Click Next to advance to the Installation Mode step and select one of the installation options.
    • TRIAL INSTALL - If you would like to try Fishbowl for 14 days, select the Trial option and click Next to automatically install the server and client on the same computer, using the default settings. A Fishbowl Trial icon will be placed on the desktop that will launch both the server and the client.
    • CLIENT INSTALL - If you are installing the Fishbowl Client on a workstation, select Current Fishbowl User and then choose Client Only.
    • SERVER INSTALL - The Fishbowl Server only needs to be installed on one computer (the same computer as QuickBooks if you plan on integrating). To install the Fishbowl Server, select Current Fishbowl User and then choose Server with Client. Click Next to advance to the License Key step. Select a trial license key or enter the permanent license key you received when you purchased Fishbowl.
  4. Click Next to proceed through the wizard. On the final step, select Run Fishbowl.

The following links contain more information about installing Fishbowl.

2. Start Fishbowl

Once the Fishbowl install has been completed, it's time to start Fishbowl. Because a Fishbowl Client only works when there is a Fishbowl Server to connect to, it is important to make sure the server is running first.

If you chose the TRIAL INSTALL during installation above, the Fishbowl Trial icon on the desktop will automatically start the server and the client. Otherwise, follow the steps below.

Follow the steps below to start Fishbowl.

  1. If a desktop icon was created during the install, this can be used to start the Fishbowl Server. Otherwise, click the Windows Start Menu | All apps | Fishbowl | Fishbowl Server.
  2. The orange Fishbowl logo should appear in the taskbar by the clock. It may be necessary to click the arrow to see all icons. A red or yellow circle on top of the Fishbowl logo indicates that the server is in the process of starting up.
  3. Once the Fishbowl Server is running, start the Fishbowl Client using the desktop icon or the Windows Program menu. The Fishbowl Client can be run on the same computer as the Fishbowl Server, or on any workstations that the Fishbowl Client was installed on.

If you are a new customer, the Fishbowl Server will be running an example database. It is recommended that you login to this database to experiment and learn before creating your own database. If the server is running the example database, the client will automatically log in. Otherwise, follow the steps below.

Follow the steps below to log into Fishbowl.

  1. When the Fishbowl Client starts, you will be presented with a login window.
  2. Click the Details button, and then click the   Search button next to the Server Address field to search for your Fishbowl Server.
  3. Select your Fishbowl Server in the Server Address field. If the server is not found, enter the IP address or the name of the computer server.
  4. If you are connecting to the example database, enter admin as the username and admin for the password, and then click Login.

Once you are logged in you may want to take a moment to become familiar with the layout and organization of the Fishbowl Client.


Fishbowl is organized into modules. To open a module, select a Module Group on the left, and then click a Module. For example, to open the Sales Order module, click the Sales group on the left, and then choose Sales Order. Each module can also be opened from the module group menu at the top.

The following links contain more information about running Fishbowl.

3. Integrate an accounting system

In addition to functioning as a standalone application, Fishbowl has the ability to integrate with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, or Xero. Data can be imported into Fishbowl from the accounting system, and when actions are performed in Fishbowl, the corresponding entries can be exported to the accounting system.

The following steps outline the basic process for integrating with QuickBooks.

  1. Before integrating with QuickBooks, you may want to create a copy of your QuickBooks file while you experiment and learn about the QuickBooks integration.
  2. On the server computer, open your QuickBooks file and then open the Fishbowl Client.
  3. In Fishbowl, open the Accounting module group, select the Accounting module, click on the Configure tab, and then click the large QuickBooks Connection button.
  4. Read the information on the first step of the wizard and click Next.
  5. Follow the instructions on the second step of the wizard to create a user in QuickBooks called Fishbowl and click Next.
  6. Proceed to the QuickBooks File step, select Use file currently opened in QuickBooks, and click Next.
  7. Integrating with QuickBooks requires .NET 4.0 or later, which is included on most computers or can be installed by running Windows Update.
  8. Go to the QuickBooks application and choose Yes, always; allow access even if QuickBooks is not running and select the Fishbowl user that was previously created in QuickBooks. If QuickBooks is not open on the server computer at the time that Fishbowl exports data, this user will be used to automatically login to QuickBooks. Click Continue.
  9. Return to the Fishbowl application and select if you will be using Fishbowl created accounts or choosing from existing QuickBooks accounts and click Next.
  10. Choose which items you would like to import from QuickBooks into Fishbowl and click Next. After the import is complete, click Finish.

Now that you are integrated with QuickBooks, you can export data from Fishbowl into QuickBooks by clicking the   Export button located in the module toolbar of the Accounting module. You may notice an additional icon in the system tray for Fishbowl Nexus. Fishbowl Nexus is a separate application that will run automatically when exporting to QuickBooks.

The following links contain more information about integrating with an accounting system.

4. Add data to Fishbowl

There are several ways to get your company data into Fishbowl.

  • You can import data from QuickBooks.
  • Data can be entered individually into Fishbowl. For example, open a module (Part, Customer, Vendor, etc.) and click the New button to add the appropriate data to Fishbowl.
  • Fishbowl can import data from CSV, TXT, XLS, and XLSX files. These files can be viewed and edited in spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel, or in any text editor.

The following steps outline the basic process of exporting a template and then importing the CSV.

  1. Click the File menu at the top-left of the Fishbowl Client and choose Import.
  2. Select an import and click Next to read the instructions.
  3. Click the Export Template button and save the template file.
  4. Open the exported file in your spreadsheet application or text editor. Following the format of the file, enter your data into the fields and save the file.
  5. Click Next and choose the file you previously exported.
  6. Click Finish to complete the import.

The following links contain more information about adding data to Fishbowl.

5. Learn how to use Fishbowl

Congratulations! Now that Fishbowl is installed and running, it's time to learn about the specific features of Fishbowl. Each module in Fishbowl has a corresponding article on the documentation site that describes specific functions. Below are a few of the ways you can find articles.

  • Click the   How To button, located at the top of each module in the Fishbowl Client, to jump directly to the article about that module.
  • Click one of the article lists (category or alphabetical), located at the top left of every page on the documentation site, and select the desired article.
  • Type the first few letters of a module name in the search bar, located at the top right of every page on the documentation site, and select the desired article.
  • Type search terms in the search box to search the entire documentation site.

The following links may also be helpful in learning more about Fishbowl.

The image below will give you an overview of the major modules in Fishbowl and how they interact. Click any area of the image to jump to the corresponding article.

VendorPurchase OrderReceivingPartBill of MaterialsManufacture OrderInventoryAccounting IntegrationCustomerSales OrderPickingShippingReportsDashboardCalendarTransfer OrderRMASales groupManufacturing groupPurchasing group