Square Register for iPad (review)

It looks like Square addressed most of the issues I brought up in my first review!

  • Item management
  • Multiple Price Points
  • CSV support for importing & exporting with Excel

If you are selling stuff (and you don’t need Quickbooks integration and therefore don’t already use Intuit’s GoPayment app), there’s no reason not to use Square!


The original release of the app was a little too simple:

  • a keypad for entering the price
  • a “charge” button for when you want to process the card
  • an optional “title” for the transaction,

Now after about three years, it’s on its way to becoming a full point of sale system! (..pretty close, but still “on its way.”)

For the three of you not yet familiar with Square

In 2010, it was started by Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter. He was — heck, it’s about as ubiquitous as the iPad itself. If you want to know the history, read Wikipedia! :)

Here are the basics. It’s an app that allows you to process credit cards when you sell stuff. Instead of hand-typing the card numbers, you use a little square card reader (you knew the name would be relevant eventually) which plugs into the headphone jack.

The pricing scheme is turbo simple: swiped transactions are 2.75%, and hand-keyed transactions are 3.5% + 15 cents. (So don’t forget your dongle!)

That’s it! The app is simple to use, and the fees are simple to decipher. It’s free to sign up, there are no monthly fees, no PCI compliance fees, no inactivity fees, no cancellation fees, no “nickel question tax“, none of that! You pay just a little bit when you sell stuff.

The fine art of selling stuff

The scenario — someone walks up, points at a thing you’re selling and says, “I wanna buy this!” and you say, “excuse me while I whip this out!” — and out comes Square.

Who wants some pictures!

Click on the thing they want, select the options (size, type, color, model).


Big ones cost more

Swipe the card, pack up the item, shake hands and smile, wait a day or two, and boom! You got money!

Pull up to the loading dock

Out of the box, the app starts empty. No items, no nothing. So just how did I get all that data entered so neatly into the app?

Steve Jobs once referred to PCs as being like trucks. They do the heavy lifting, while mobile devices (the “cars” in this analogy), do the everyday stuff. When it comes to the “point of sale” process, the tablet is the front-end, and the PC is the back-end.

Long long ago in the before time, we used to add items to Square directly from the app — go into “Edit” mode, press the plus sign, press “Add New Item”, hand-type the description, set a price, then if it had another price, click that option, click and type and click some more, and then repeat all that for the next item.

Now you can you use Excel to do all that. Then again, why shouldn’t you be able to use Excel? It’s been doing for that 28 years. Tablets aren’t built for this kind of stuff  (yet).

  1. Log into squareup.com
  2. Go to the “Items” tab
  3. Download the template file
  4. Open it in Excel (see below)
  5. Add details
  6. Save it
  7. Import it back into Square, done!

Specific Details:

export an excel file with the import button

export an excel file with the import button

Once you open the file, you’ll see something like this:


Much bigger screen than my iPad.

  • Column A: Item ID.
    • Don’t fiddle with this. That’s Square’s index for each entry.
    • You can add new items (rows) — items which don’t have an ID in column 1, but when you upload it back to Square, be sure to re-download the file and overwrite the copy on your computer. When you upload, Square automatically generates those IDs.
  • Column B: Name.
    • The title of what you’re selling, in my case it’s the name of the photo.
    • (BUG!) Square does not like commas or apostrophes in the name field. The Square website interprets those as field delimiters, and all the data will get shifted over by one column.
  • Column C: Category. (optional)
    • If you want to group up your items. Say, if some of your photos are of similar subject matter, or if you’re a coffee shop, and you sell different types of things (category “coffee” will include cappuccino, espresso, macchiato; category “sandwiches” will include ham and cheese, po’boy, bologna and mustard on rye.. that sort of thing).
  • Column D-F, G-I, J-L, M-O, etc. The columns for each “Variant”: Name, Price, SKU.
    • Name — text field. For my purposes, this is the size of the print.
    • Price — currency field. This is the price of each size. Do not use dollar signs. (I use whole numbers, but I guess you can use cents and things.)
    • SKU — optional. Say, if you need to narrow down to a specific type of item. (I don’t use such a thing, but you might!)
    • You can have as many variants as you want.
  • Final column: Tax.
    • Yes/No field.


  • If you have a list of items in another spreadsheet, just copy and paste.
  • Do not edit the field titles, unless you are adding more variants.
  • Do not add or change anything in Column A.

The instructions on their website have more details than are relevant for this blog post.

Specifically, here’s how I got my titles (and thumbnails) of all 60 of my new Italy photos:

(My prices listed below are my prices. Yours are probably different based on manufacturing and economic factors which are beyond the scope of this blog post.)

  • Title your photos in Lightroom. (Type the titles into the “title” field.) If you’re not using Lightroom, well, you should.
  • Export the photos
    • jpeg, medium compression, small = 1024px
    • filename = “title” field only
  • Open a command prompt in that folder (yes, shell out to DOS for a second)
    • Export the filenames to a text file with the command “dir > filelist.txt”
    • Edit the filelist.txt file by hand (use notepad++ to use the alt key for column editing) and trim out everything that isn’t the title of a photo — remove header text and file extensions.
    • Once you have a list of titles, copy and paste that list at the end of column B (Name). Sort by name if it helps.
  • Add the same category to all of the new ones.
  • Create Variants (groupings of three columns) — My variants are based on size, and I have two sets of sizes depending on whether the photo is 3:2 (standard) or 2:1 (panorama). It’s pretty easy to paste a bunch of these once you find a way to group the items by their respective sizes. Put all the standard’s together and all the pano’s together, enter the data for the first one, then fill down!
    • 4 variants for 3:2 standard (Name column, Price column. SKU column is empty. Do not include dollar signs.)
      • 18×24 print, $75
      • 12×18 canvas, $150
      • 16×24 canvas, $195
      • 20×30 canvas, $295
    • 4 variants for 2:1 panorama
      • 18×24 print, $75
      • 12×24 canvas, $175
      • 18×36 canvas, $350
      • 24×48 canvas, $550
  • Taxes: Either add “Y” to every item in the list, or remember to set the “tax everything” option in the app.
  • Thumbnails. I generated those JPEG files above, but there’s still not a quick way to set them to all 60 photos. I still have to manually add them.
    • It’s faster on a PC — log into the Square website, edit each item, and drag each photo one-by-one.
    • You can do it on the tablet, but you have to import the photos into the photo library (Sync them with iTunes, or maybe there’s a way to copy them from Dropbox, not sure.)

Still to do

Since there’s a “Still to do” section in this post, I’ll add a few things I think Square should add.

  • I would like to keep customer data (with permission from the customer, of course). I would like the Square app to send contact info to my Mailchimp list so I can put all my customers together and tell them how awesome they are. (Or heck, even let me record the customer data back in the Ring It Up app.)
  • Batch import/update thumbnails for all items. This by-hand stuff is tedious. We don’t have turn the tablet into a truck, but maybe an SUV.
  • Inventory of my items. I want to know when I’m running low on stuff. (And somehow support ‘editions’ of my prints. I know my current prints aren’t in limited editions, but with the ability to manage this with the same app that allows me to sell them, you never know!)
  • Quickbooks integration. (yeah, just to poke at your competitors. :)

That’s all the nitpicking I have for now — let’s get back to thanking Square for taking us so far from the days of having to use an old-fashioned, knuckle-busting receipt imprinter!

This entry was posted in Reviews.