Struggling with NetSuite navigation? Customize your forms

Written by
Sonny Spencer, BFP, ACA
Director of Finance Operations
May 8, 2023
min read

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NetSuite form customizations often require relatively little effort and are valued by system end users. Despite this, I still see many NetSuite environments with “clunky” forms full of unnecessary fields, hidden fields that should be displayed, and important fields buried in the “Custom” tab of a record.

Form customization never seems to be a priority and yet it can deliver significant ROI for a business, especially when processing large volumes of data. If you can save a user 20-30 seconds navigating a single record and that same user processes 500 records a month, that equates to ~3-4 hours of time savings monthly for that 1 user. Extrapolate and you should quickly see the business case for customized forms  in your NetSuite environment.

In addition, have you ever found yourself struggling to navigate the NetSuite menu paths? What about searching for key NetSuite reports that everyone in your business relies upon? Well, instead of asking all of your users to create custom shortcuts to each report, you should consider customizing the NetSuite menu navigation yourself by leveraging custom centers, center tabs, center categories, and center links.

We are going to explore how you can customize the look and feel of your NetSuite environment and give your end users reason to praise how easy NetSuite is to navigate.

Customize your forms

Overview and Navigation

NetSuite form customizations will look different based upon the type of record form you are looking to modify. Entry forms will differ from transaction forms. Some transaction forms will differ from others. We will look at the most common form customization options to set you up for success regardless of the form you need to modify to meet your business needs.

As with many customization options in NetSuite, there are multiple ways to customize forms.

  1. Navigate: Customization -> Forms -> [select form type e.g. Transaction Forms]

From here you can modify an existing form (“Edit”) or “Customize” one of the standard forms to create a new form.

  1. From an open record, e.g. Entity record or Transaction record, hover over “Customize” in the top right hand corner and click on “Customize Form”.

Let’s explore the various sections of a NetSuite custom form.


On an “Entry Form” you have several options in the header section. Some of the key ones include:

  • Store form with record - This is important if you want your users to use the same custom form for the same record. This is generally recommended to ensure users are looking at the same data for a given record in the UI.
  • Form is preferred - As the name suggests, when this box is checked this custom form becomes the default for this record type. 

Custom entry form “Header” section

On a “Transaction Form”, the header section has additional fields. These primarily relate to the sharing of the transaction, either by printing to PDF or via email. If you have different Advanced PDF/HTML templates for transaction records in your system, you will need to set the appropriate value in the “Print Template” field, so that when a transaction uses this form it will be printed in the correct format. 

Custom transaction form “Header” section


We generally refer to these as the “Tabs” on a given record. In the custom form, you can control which tabs the end user sees by checking or unchecking “Show” next to the tab description. This is a great way to reduce the number of tabs a user needs to click through to access key data in the UI.

You can also modify the tab “label” so that it is more meaningful for your end users. 

Custom transaction form “Tabs” section

Salto Suite Tip: Modify the order of the tabs so that the most used tab is at the top of the list. This will be the tab that displays when loading a record of this type that uses this custom form. Also keep system performance in mind—if you move a tab to the top of the list that includes a sublist with a large volume of data (think Financial -> Transactions on a vendor record), it will take NetSuite longer to load compared with a tab with only 1 or 2 custom fields.

Field Groups

Field groups are simply a section within a given tab. They allow you to group fields into smaller sections that are more easily digestible for an end user. You should also consider using field groups to separate fields to be populated by different user groups, e.g. Sales enters information into a field group entitled “Sales Information”, whereas Finance enters information into a field group entitled “Finance Information”. 

From the custom form display you are able to rename existing field groups or add your own field groups, as well as hide them by unchecking the check mark under the “Show” column.

Custom transaction form “Field Groups” section

Fields/Screen Fields

This section is where you really have the opportunity to modify the look and feel of your custom form. Within each tab, you are able to variety of field display settings:

  1. Label - You can rename a field label. Generally not recommended, as this can confuse end users, especially when looking for field names in a saved search or report.
  2. Show - You can show or hide most fields. Some fields have this check box disabled (cannot modify), so these must be displayed on all records, e.g. you must display the “Customer” field on a custom sales order transaction form.

So how do you know which fields you can hide on a custom form? A good place to start is by running a saved search on that record type to see how many records have a given field populated. If a field has never been populated or values have been sporadic/inconsistent, the field can likely be removed from all custom forms associated with that record type (and should arguably be made inactive). You should also consult with your end users. It is quite possible they are populating fields that add little/no value to your NetSuite processes or downstream reporting.

Salto Suite Tip: Uncheck the “Show” box for “Custom Form” to remove the ability for your end users to select which form to use. This can be helpful if you need your users to use a specific form for a specific record and have a different method for setting the correct custom form value, whether by default or perhaps leveraging SuiteScript.

  1. Mandatory - If a given field is not mandatory and you require your users to populate this field on a specific custom form, you can check the mandatory check box to enforce that behavior by not allowing your end users to save the record without first populating this field.
  2. Display Type - You have a few options for the display type. “Normal” allows a field value to be entered and edited. Both “Inline Text” and “Disabled” restrict a user from modifying the field value. There are some nuances to both, but “Inline Text” fields tell a user that this field value is not to be populated, whereas a “Disabled” field tells a user that this field value cannot be populated yet. Consider using “Disabled” fields that can be switched to “Normal” via a NetSuite workflow under certain conditions.
  3. Checkbox Default - As you would expect, allows you to set/override the checkbox default value to true or false.
  4. Description - Cannot be modified. This is the NetSuite reference for this field. This can be a useful reference, especially if you heavily modify the field labels. Again, it’s recommended that this be done sparingly.
  5. Field Group - This allows you to move the fields to a separate field group within a particular tab. Don’t forget that you control the order of the fields within each field group by dragging the domino icon on the left hand side of each field to modify the field order.
  6. Other Fields - Column Break/Space Before/Same Row As Previous all determine the display for each field. Should it appear in a new column or perhaps be on the same row as another field? Try these settings until you are comfortable with the form layout—you can have more of a horizontal or vertical layout depending upon how you use these particular field settings.

Custom transaction form “Screen Fields” section

  1. Move Elements Between Subtabs - This is a separate function, executed by clicking on a button of the same name at the top of the screen. After clicking the button, you are able to move fields from one subtab to another by selecting a field and then populating the destination “Subtab” value. This will be important, especially when creating custom fields in your NetSuite environment, and you want them to appear on specific subtabs vs defaulting to the “Custom” subtab.

Example of the “Move Transaction Form Elements” screen


Actions are very helpful for end users to process certain steps when accessing a given record. Some steps require the user to hover over the “Actions” menu and click on the required option, whereas others have a dedicated button to perform the necessary step (such as approving a sales order).

You should review the list of actions for each custom form and remove (uncheck the “Show” checkbox) any actions that are not necessary. Also consider moving more common actions to a button if currently displayed as a menu option. Users generally prefer buttons vs navigating the “Actions” menu.

Custom transaction form “Actions” section


Sublists are associated records of the record type you are working with. You can modify the display settings and display order, but cannot add or remove sublists from a given custom form as the linkage between the record types remains whether displayed or not.

Custom transaction form “Sublists” section

Sublist Fields

Available on transaction forms, this section includes a list of fields at the line level of a transaction. In addition, you are able to restrict the item dropdown on a given transaction by populating the “Item Filter”. This will limit the list of items available to a user working with this particular transaction type/custom form, based upon the corresponding saved search results.

There are often many fields at the line level with the “Show” checkbox checked, when many of them can be hidden (unchecked). Review the list and uncheck field values that are not used or populated by end users. You should also modify the order of the fields to ensure the critical fields are moved to the top of the list, as those will appear on the left hand side of the screen when viewing this record/custom form. It is ideal if users are able to populate all required fields at the line level without the need to scroll across, especially on records processed in higher volume within the NetSuite UI.

Custom transaction form “Sublist Fields” section


When you hover over certain fields, such as the “Customer” on a sales order transaction, NetSuite displays a “QuickView” of the data associated with that record. You can control which fields display a QuickView on your custom form. For performance, you may want to forgo these and remove them all by clicking on the “x” symbol to the right hand side. Alternatively, you may want to give your end users access to even more information from a single record type—in this case you can add additional fields to the list of QuickViews available.

Custom transaction form “QuickView” section

Custom Code

You are able to select a SuiteScript from your NetSuite file cabinet that will execute on records using this particular custom form.

Custom transaction form “Custom Code” section


You can establish this custom form as the default form for this record type for specific user roles. You can either manage these settings from the custom form itself or from the user role record - “Forms” subtab. The effect is the same.

Custom transaction form “Roles” section

Linked Forms

Linked Forms can be very helpful for custom transaction forms. They allow you to default the transaction form on a downstream record that is associated with a particular custom transaction form. For example, let’s say you have two custom sales order forms, one for subscriptions and another for services. In addition, you have two custom invoice forms, one for subscriptions and another for services. For the subscriptions custom sales order form, you would want to set the corresponding invoice custom form to subscriptions and vice versa for services. 

This is typically done to account for different fields that flow from upstream transactions to downstream transactions, which could differ depending upon the type of data you are working with, as per the example above of subscriptions vs services.

Custom transaction form “Linked Forms” section

Custom Subtabs and Sublists

Custom Subtabs

Custom subtabs work in the same way as out of the box subtabs. They can be associated with the various record types: Transaction, Entity, Item and CRM. In addition, you can establish a hierarchy to them for organizing fields/sublists to meet your business needs.

Navigate: Customization -> Forms -> Subtabs

Once you have created a new subtab and confirmed the related parent subtab (if required), you can now add fields to your new subtab within your custom form configuration,  just as you would for any other out of the box subtab.

Custom subtabs page, transaction examples

You will now see the “Parent” subtab available in custom transaction forms going forward. The “Child” subtabs are available once fields have been associated with those subtabs.

Custom transaction form “Tabs” section displaying new subtab created

Custom Sublists

Custom sublists allow you to display saved search results within your custom form. A common use case would be to link a transaction saved search (sublist) to a customer record that displays all transactions for that customer. 

Salto Suite Tip: The transaction saved search must have the “Available as sublist view” checkbox checked and at least one filter applied.

Navigate: Customization -> Forms -> Sublists

Custom sublists page, transaction example

Centers and Tabs


NetSuite Centers govern the look and feel of the entire NetSuite environment for an end user. NetSuite provides a number of out of the box Centers that you will be familiar with, e.g. Classic Center, Accounting Center and Sales Center to name a few. You do, however, have the ability to create your own Center from scratch. This will give you flexibility over how your end users navigate NetSuite and can simplify the menu paths they use.

That being said, there is a fair amount of effort upfront when creating new Centers because not only do you need to create the Center, you need to create the related Center Tabs, Center Categories and Center Links. In addition, you will need to create brand new user roles under this new Center, as you cannot modify the Center on an existing user role, nor can you copy an existing role and update the Center. You will need to start from scratch.

The ongoing maintenance is more burdensome as well. Newly enabled features are not automatically added to any custom Centers created. These will need to be added manually through Center Tabs, Center Categories and Center Links.

If the level of effort required does not deter you from creating your own custom Center, then navigate: Customization -> Centers and Tabs -> Centers -> New

Center Tabs

Center Tabs are the menu options at the top of your NetSuite screen.

Example Center Tabs

You can create your own Center Tab by navigating to: Customization -> Centers and Tabs -> Center Tabs -> New

You might want to do this to capture a subset of key financial reports that can get lost under the out of the box “Reports” Tab, or perhaps you have NetSuite user manuals you want users to be able to access from directly within NetSuite. The possibilities are endless, so take the time to consider what content would be most valuable in a custom Center Tab, as you have limited space in the menu bar before users need to click on the “...” to access additional Tabs.

Center Categories

Center Categories are the next hierarchy step down from Center Tabs. They allow you to break down the Center Tab into multiple sections (categories) for ease of navigation for your end users. Consider keeping the list of custom Center Categories to a minimum, so users do not spend time looking for the correct one. For the same reason, naming convention is critical.

Center Links

The whole reason you create a Custom Center/Tab/Category is to allow your end users to quickly navigate to the NetSuite links they need. We discussed some examples above. The links themselves are tied to a specific URL—they do not have to be NetSuite URLs.

Think about the different processes within your business and how you could leverage this simple NetSuite customization to allow end users to “live” within the NetSuite ecosystem. Focused reporting links (e.g. top 5 sales team reports) is a great place to start, especially if your end users are struggling with overall navigation and leveraging shortcuts.

Example Center Tab, Center Category and Center Link

Final thoughts

In summary, one of the key advantages of using a powerful ERP like NetSuite is your ability to customize the system to your business needs. This can, however, also be one of the drawbacks—endless customization means that no two NetSuite Production environments will look the same and this can be a challenge to administer for NetSuite Admins and to further customize for NetSuite Developers.

Given some of these complexities with managing system customizations, in this case around custom forms and custom centers, consider using a tool, such as Salto, that will manage the migration process for your NetSuite customizations seamlessly. Doing so will reduce the risks associated with other methods of deployment

And remember, if a field exists on a form and no one is populating the field, it can almost certainly be removed from the form. Keep your forms as simple to navigate as possible. Your end users will thank you for it!

Written by
Sonny Spencer, BFP, ACA

Sonny is a seasoned NetSuite veteran, with more than 7 years experience implementing NetSuite and architecting NetSuite solutions for a wide variety of public and private companies, on a global scale. He leverages his background both as a Chartered Accountant and Certified NetSuite Administrator to design and build NetSuite solutions that solve real world problems. Sonny is an active member of the NetSuite community, participating in local NetSuite meetups, NetSuite forums and groups focused on financial system optimization.

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