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QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Key Features and Differences

By: Alex Nikotina

Published On: May 17, 2016

QuickBooks is accounting software that manages a company’s accounting and bookkeeping tasks. The software has several versions available depending on an organization’s size, needs, and required operations.

Traditionally, QuickBooks was available as a desktop version, but with the emergence and development of an online version, many bookkeepers are faced with a choice: stay with the desktop version or switch to the online one? This article will briefly compare the Desktop and Online versions of QuickBooks software and explore their features to enable the user to make an educated decision.


About QuickBooks

Both QuickBooks Online and Desktop can be effectively used for accounting and bookkeeping tasks, although the interface and the operational processes may be different. The variations also depend on the versions of the software: there are several versions of both Online and Desktop software to choose from, making it easier for accountants, bookkeepers, and companies to accommodate their interests and needs.

Despite their differences, both the Online and Desktop versions have various features in common. Some of the common features include:

  • Online banking and access to credit card payment from customers
  • Class tracking
  • Memorizing transactions and reposts features
  • Access to the tax forms (1099, 1096)
  • Reports, budgets and company snapshots
  • Billing and invoicing

Some features, such as job costing and document management, are available in both versions, but may be less functional in the Online version. Other, such as multi-user access, is available in both versions, but the details can depend on the specific software.

QuickBooks Online

The Online version of QuickBooks has a lower monthly subscription cost ($10–$40, depending on the software version). The set-up process is considerably easier than with the Desktop version, and information input into the digital ledger books is accessible to anyone online. This frees up the need to be bound to an office computer, making the Online version of QuickBooks an attractive option for accountants and bookkeepers who prefer to work from home.

Some of the benefits of the Online version include:

  • Lower overhead cost and free unlimited customer support
  • Simplicity and ease of use
  • Remote access
  • Automatic upgrade of the software
  • Scheduling and sending invoices and reports automatically

However, QuickBooks Online does not have many of the advanced features found on the Desktop version.

QuickBooks Desktop

The Desktop version of QuickBooks has been around for many years and over time, developers have created software with a very comprehensive user interface and multiple ledger options. On the one hand, this gives the user more functionality and increases the number of possible accounting operations they can take advantage of. But on the other hand, it can also make the software harder to utilize without special training.

The Desktop version for QuickBooks has a rather high initial cost (from $300 to $500 and higher, depending on the version and the number of users), but no subsequent costs are necessary – unless deciding to upgrade the software, increase the number of users, or use add-on features.

Some of the benefits of the Desktop version include:

  • Increased functionality through the use of planning and forecasting, batch invoicing and timesheet entry, integrated calendar view, inventory, sales orders and multiple currency, among other features that are less accessible, if not unavailable on the Online version
  • Guaranteed access in a set location
  • In general, a higher number of reporting options are available for the user

Final Decision

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop have their own advantages. The key for making the right decision would be to choose the tools that best suit the company’s needs. Ask yourself:

  • Is the organization focused on the services or on the inventory?
  • Do you prefer flexibility and mobility of access from any location, or the comfort of access in a stable workplace, such as a main office?
  • Do you require extra accounting features, or are the basic bookkeeping operations sufficient?
  • Would you prefer user-friendly software with simpler operations, or a bit more complex, but more functional software?

After answering these questions, you should have a better idea of which software would work best for you and your company.


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