QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: 9 Critical Differentiators

Shubhnoor Gill • Last Modified: December 29th, 2022

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QuickBooks is a tried-and-true Accounting application with several features. Many key features contribute to its appeal among small businesses. QuickBooks gives you a 360-degree picture of your Sales, broken down by customer, product, project, and location. QuickBooks allows you to quickly generate and deliver customized, professional invoices, Sales receipts, and estimates.

The QuickBooks product line contains a variety of solutions that may be used by anybody, from a freelancer to a small business. QuickBooks is an all-in-one software and offers 2 core products – QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. These both have their benefits and use cases. In terms of budget and other factors, deciding which product is better for your organization is crucial. Hence, in this article you will learn some of the critical differentiators between QuickBooks Online vs Desktop, to help you make the right decision.

Table of Contents

Introduction to QuickBooks

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QuickBooks is an Accounting Management software that helps businesses with Bookkeeping, Accounting, Payroll, Inventory Management, and other financial tasks. It also allows you to prepare financial statements and reports. QuickBooks was developed by Intuit, a California-based company, to automate typical tasks and save time on bookkeeping and paperwork. Hundreds of thousands of small companies across the world rely on QuickBooks to keep track of their finances. It can be further customized to fit one’s own needs and tastes, making it applicable to a wide range of businesses.

QuickBooks has ready-to-use templates for generating graphs, business plans, invoices, and spreadsheets. It can also help company owners save time and effort by automating signatures on checks. In terms of connectivity with other tools, QuickBooks provides a lot of advantages. It comes with an intuitive User Interface that guides users through all of the capabilities.

QuickBooks offers 2 core products, QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. In this article, you will learn about some critical factors that drive QuickBooks Online vs Desktop decisions. 

Key Features of QuickBooks

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Quickbooks is a great Accounting software with a variety of features. Its attractiveness among small firms is aided by a number of significant characteristics, including:

  • Online Banking: When you link your bank account to QuickBooks Online, your bank transactions are instantly uploaded and categorized. Because it takes care of everything, you won’t have to worry about manual data input problems.
  • Accounting Reports: Keeping track of your business’s progress has never been easier due to QuickBooks Custom Reports. It gathers all of your information in one place and makes it accessible whenever you need it. The Accountant will review and verify all transactional information and bank statements, making the tax filing process straightforward and accurate.
  • Multiple Users Access: You can grant several degrees of access to QuickBooks to your employees. This makes it easier for your company’s various teams to work together. 
  • Payments and Cash Flow Management: You may be paid faster by delivering an invoice or statement to your customer and allowing them to pay you with a credit card or a bank transfer using the QuickBooks Payment System. You can pay your bills online with Quickbooks. You can also download your monthly statement from a participating bank for increased convenience.
  • Support: QuickBooks Professionals will answer all of your queries and provide you with unlimited free assistance. To help you become a QuickBooks expert, QuickBooks offers seminars, videos, an online community, and other resources.

To explore more about QuickBooks, visit the homepage here.

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Key Differentiators that Drive QuickBooks Online vs Desktop Decision

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In this section, you will look at some of the critical differentiators that will help you take the QuickBooks Online vs Desktop decision. 

1) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Cloud or On-Premise

QuickBooks Online (abbreviated as QBO) is Intuit’s Cloud-based accounting software. The most significant distinction between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop is that QuickBooks Online does not require computer installation. It’s accounting software that runs over the internet. All product and feature upgrades are available through QBO, as well as automatic data backups and the option to restore firm data from backups.

On the other hand, QuickBooks Desktop is a popular choice among business owners and Accountants since it is locally installed software. It’s important to note that QuickBooks Desktop is only accessible for Windows computers. For a locally installed Mac-based QuickBooks solution, Mac users might check into QuickBooks for Mac.

2) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Pricing

For the first three months, QuickBooks Online has a selection of price levels ranging starting from $10/month. Since the features vary per plan, double-check that the ones you want are included in the one you choose. There are several plan alternatives available for QBO, including:

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  • EasyStart/ Simple Start: For sole entrepreneurs and independent contractors, the EasyStart plan is a smart choice. Easy Start is a single-user application that monitors income and spending, sales tax, and receipt capture and categorization.
  • Essentials: The Essentials subscription offers bill management as well as support for up to 3 system users.
  • Plus: The Plus plan supports up to 5 users and contains all of the features included in the EasyStart and Essentials plans, as well as inventory monitoring and project management.
  • Advanced: The Advanced version, which can accommodate up to 25 users and contains all of the tools listed above as well as invoice batching, business and analytic reports, and a dedicated account manager. It s the most powerful version of QuickBooks Online.

QuickBooks Desktop pricing is determined by the plan you select. All prices are based on an annual cost, making it less expensive than QuickBooks Online. The following plans are available in QuickBooks Desktop:

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  • Pro: QuickBooks Pro is a wonderful choice for small companies and people searching for a basic accounting solution. Pro can handle income and expenditure, manage inventory, and invoice clients for up to 3 users.
  • Premier: QuickBooks Premier supports up to 5 users and includes industry-specific functionality for firms including general contractors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and nonprofits. Premier is your best pick if you’re attempting to decide between Pro and Premier and need industry-specific accounting and reporting tools.
  • Enterprise: Enterprise is best for developing businesses since it supports up to 30 system users and contains all of the capabilities found in Pro and Premier, as well as mobile barcode scanning and expanded pick, pack, and ship options that are ideal for retail.

3) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Ease of Use

As QuickBooks Online is cloud-based and does not require installation, it easily wins when it comes to simplicity of use. QuickBooks Desktop, on the other hand, can be downloaded and installed on a single computer in a matter of minutes. Installing QuickBooks Desktop on multiple computers is a little more complicated since each computer will require access to the company data file.

Moreover, QuickBooks Online is simple to use and has a short learning curve. The dashboard is extremely user-friendly, with clear, easy-to-understand graphics, and the mobile app is just as simple. QuickBooks Desktop, on the other hand, was designed with Accountants in mind. Unlike the QuickBooks Online dashboard, which displays clear pictures of your cash balance, pending invoices, and upcoming bills, the Desktop version’s dashboard is a continuous stream of related folders and files. The QuickBooks Desktop interface appears clumsy and antiquated in an increasingly image-heavy, mobile-based environment. The learning curve is steep unless you’re an Accountant.

4) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Scalability

As your business expands, you can easily upgrade to any of the QuickBooks Online options. You can also enhance your functionality by using other Intuit products like QuickBooks Time or QuickBooks Point of Sale.

In contrast, as your needs evolve, you may upgrade to any of the QuickBooks Desktop editions. However, upgrading will need you to convert your data from one software solution to another, which may be a time-consuming and complex procedure.

5) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Key Features

While both QuickBooks Online and Desktop include the majority of the functionality you’d expect, there are some notable distinctions.

The following features are not offered in QuickBooks Desktop but are available in QuickBooks Online:

  • Automatic Sales Tax Calculation: QuickBooks Online calculates the Sales tax rate for transactions depending on any client address in the United States automatically.
  • Multiple Users: Except for EasyStart, all variants of QuickBooks Online come with numerous users who may view the company file at the same time. All QBO enterprises can invite at least one external Accountant to share their books in addition to the indicated number of users. However, for QuickBooks Desktop, each concurrent user requires a separate license.
  • Mobile App: QuickBooks Online has a mobile app that lets users conduct practically any accounting task while on the road. Unless you purchase the QuickBooks Desktop Plus membership, QuickBooks Desktop does not have a mobile app, which is limited to taking and uploading receipts.
  • Multiple Platforms: Any PC, Mac, or mobile device with an internet connection can access QBO data at any time.
  • Automatic Backup: QuickBooks Online data is backed up and secured automatically. Since your data is not saved on your computer, you don’t have to be concerned about system failures.

The following features are provided in QuickBooks Desktop that are not offered in QuickBooks Online:

  • Additional Inventory Features: Inventory monitoring and costing are more robust with QuickBooks Desktop. For example, you may use an inventory assembly to factor in the price of materials, existing inventory, and labor when calculating the cost of freshly created inventory.
  • Additional Features for Exporting Reports: QuickBooks Desktop can make changes to an Excel spreadsheet that already exists.  You can directly update your spreadsheet from QuickBooks Desktop.
  • Industry-Specific Editions: Construction, manufacturing and wholesale, professional services, retail, and nonprofit all have industry-specific Premier versions available through QuickBooks Desktop.

6) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Integrations

The ability to link with other applications can be helpful for many businesses, while it may be a need for others. This is one area where the two products are substantially different.

QuickBooks Online offers integration such as Payments, CRM, Project Management, Payments, Payroll, Invoicing, Inventory, and many more.  It has 500+ connectors and a much simpler integration procedure, allowing you to use third-party apps straight from QuickBooks Online without having to sync or import data.

QuickBooks Desktop has a lot of integration possibilities, with 200+ third-party apps, making it one of the more interconnected desktop software solutions. However, it pales in comparison to QuickBooks Online’s more than 500 connectors.

7) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Customer Service and Support

Another significant distinction between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online is customer service. It is not included with QuickBooks Desktop Pro. You may either pay $299.99 for a yearly customer care package or upgrade to Pro Plus or Premier Plus if you want technical support. In contrast, QuickBooks Online users can contact customer service by phone or online easily.

8) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Use Cases

In a few circumstances, QuickBooks Desktop may be a better fit for your home-service business than QuickBooks Online. One instance is if your firm sells a wide range of products and services and your finances aren’t as clear as those of a smaller company. In this instance, QBD’s extensive set of features may be beneficial to your company.

Following are some use cases that can make QuickBooks Online a better match for your company than QuickBooks Desktop:

  • Access is required for many members of the team. QBO allows people to utilize unique logins if they share accounting tasks with other members of your company.
  • You’ll need real-time data. Rather than making you wait for transactions to reconcile at the end of the day, QBO gives you real-time financial information.
  • You’d want to be able to add and update transactions from any location. QBO provides customers with the ability to establish and access their accounts from any location.

Here are some additional reasons why using the QuickBooks Desktop may be more beneficial to your company:

  • You’re a retailer of tangible stuff. There are several inventory management options in QuickBooks Desktop, but just one in QuickBooks Online.
  • You’d want to make use of sophisticated, industry-specific functionality. QuickBooks Desktop has grown significantly over time and now offers solutions for a variety of industries.

9) QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Challenges

Even though QuickBooks Online is user-friendly, there are a few challenges that customers may encounter:

  • Limited Reports: Customers have reported that the desktop version of the software is far superior to the online version in terms of reporting. The report builder is restricted, and the charts are not customizable in QBO. Cleaning up obsolete data takes effort, and exporting reports to Excel or PDF format isn’t always accurate.
  • Limited Inventory Management: When it comes to inventory management, QuickBooks Online is notoriously difficult to use. You can use third-party software to address this problem.
  • Data Discrepancy: Some customers are concerned that the online accounting software inaccurately inserts due dates for their next invoice. When they modify a category or department on an invoice, it sometimes clears away all of the data on that invoice, requiring the user to start over.
  • Syncing Problems: Users of QBO have reported synchronization difficulties with credit card transactions in the past. It may take a day or two for the sync to complete. Some users also expressed dissatisfaction with the platform’s tendency to go down more frequently than it should.

QuickBooks Desktop was created to allow you to wait until the end of the month to create reports to see how your business fared. However, when your company grows and expands, the old methods of keeping a finger on the pulse of your organization become obsolete. Other places where QuickBooks Desktop falls short include:

  • Manual Re-Entry: QuickBooks Desktop was created to automate a small number of basic accounting tasks. Your staff probably end up manually re-entering data from one system to another because of the expansion of workflows and silos to serve numerous departmental activities. However, this could easily be automated if these disparate systems were all in the cloud and integrated.
  • Lack of Real-Time Information: Customers expect real-time access to their purchase orders as a business over the net becomes more common. Furthermore, your customer support and sales representatives must have quick access to transaction, issues, and order status information to respond to consumer queries. This is possible with QuickBooks Online, which offers access to data in real-time.
  • Additional Cost and Management: QuickBooks Desktop, being an on-premise accounting software package, includes all of the additional fees that come with on-premise software.  It all takes time, money, and IT resources that may be better spent expanding your core business. 

Ultimately, the size, use case, budget, and requirements of your company will be the decisive factors. Regardless of the option you pick, this comprehensive article will assist you in making an informed decision throughout your search for the ideal accounting software.


This article provided a brief introduction to QuickBooks. More specifically it discussed the key differences between QuickBooks Online vs Desktop. Many critical differentiators were explored to help you with QuickBooks Online vs Desktop decision. 

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