QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop

When choosing your QuickBooks software, one of the first things you should do is to determine if the Desktop or Online version is the best fit for your (and your business’) needs. Both versions have their own distinct advantages, so it is a good idea to understand these differences from the outset.

The Advantages of Online and Desktop QuickBooks Versions

Online Desktop
  • Online Access to All Files and Features
  • Free Trial Period of 30 Days
  • Easier to Set Up and Navigate
  • Mobile Access Included
  • Unlimited Customer Service 
    Included for Free
  • Free Software Upgrades
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  • Does Not Require an Internet Connection to Access Your Books
  • 60-Day Money Back Guarantee
  • Bookkeeping Data is Available Forever 
  • No Monthly Fees
  • More Bookkeeping Features
  • More Reporting Tools
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For a company that needs multiple people in different locations to access their books, QuickBooks Online is your best bet. This software can be especially useful if you're going to outsource an accountant or bookkeeper since it lets the users get access to the entire software online. In addition to this, getting started with this software is easier since QuickBooks Online is very intuitive and a breeze to navigate. 

The Desktop software, while not as simple as the Online software, includes additional features such as planning, budgeting, and forecasting that are not available in the Online versions. Although it has a slightly more complicated interface, the software is extremely comprehensive. If you have some bookkeeping experience or an accountant to help set up your books, the QuickBooks Desktop software is the best choice.

There are a few advantages to a Desktop "Plus" account over both the Online and Desktop versions. Besides getting the features of the Desktop versions along with online access with QuickBooks Connect, you can choose to only pay month-to-month fees and can cancel at any time. With the release of the QuickBooks 2012 versions, you can also pay for these versions annually, which would save you between $110 and $130 a year. The one downside to the Desktop Pluses is that if you do cancel, you will be unable to edit your old bookkeeping data until you buy another version or subscription to QuickBooks.

QuickBooks Online

Unlike QuickBooks Desktop, QuickBooks Online does not have any upfront costs. The Online software also comes with a free trial so you can test out their service before making any purchases. Getting started is very easy: all you have to do is fill out a short form with your contact information. There is nothing you need to install or download in order to start using QuickBooks Online.

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You can access all of your data from any computer with an Internet connection, as well as from your cell phone through their mobile-optimized website. All of the Online versions include the basic bookkeeping tasks, such as invoice creation and check printing from within the interface. Another advantage of using the Online software is that it automatically upgrades when there are new updates.

However, one disadvantage of the Online versions is that not all of the features will transfer over if you decide to upgrade to a Desktop version. This is because the Online version was developed separately from the Desktop version. Also, even the most comprehensive Online version does not have as many features as the least expensive Desktop version. Because the features offered with the Online versions are more basic, they are easier to set up.

Learn more about QuickBooks Online products.

QuickBooks Desktop

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Every year QuickBooks updates their Desktop software with new features, but they suggest using the software for three years before buying a new version in order to take advantage of the new features that come with each year’s QuickBooks release. To make sure you upgrade your desktop software, online banking through the software is only free for three years.

With the Desktop version, users are able to access their information faster and can streamline their everyday tasks by organizing all their finances in one place, as well as their customer, vendor, and employee data. There is also a New User Setup to help users get started and learn how the software works. In addition, the Desktop version comes with one hour of customer support to help users set up their accounts and customer information. However, we recommend having an accountant set up the software for you because the initial setup can be a little confusing.

Learn more about QuickBooks Desktop products.

QuickBooks Desktop Pluses

If you want to use the Pro or Premier Desktop versions but also want online and mobile access, then signing up for either a Pro Plus or Premier Plus account is a great option. These accounts come with the exact same software and features as the Desktop versions along with the QuickBooks Connect Bundle. This "bundle" incorporates QuickBooks Connect, which gives you the ability to remotely invoice customers and receive payments for sales online or through their mobile app, along with online data backup, and 24/7 customer support.

Like the Online versions, there are no large upfront costs to using the Desktop Pluses, since you can pay for them month-to-month. On top of that, having a Plus account gives you access to software updates as they become available, which is not included when you buy the Desktop software by itself. However, unlike the Desktop versions, you never really own the software, and as soon as you stop paying the monthly fee you lose the ability to edit your books. Also, if you don't save a copy of your books to your desktop within the first year, you could lose all of your data as QuickBooks erases old accounts after a year of non-payment.

Although these accounts are more expensive than the Desktop versions over time, the month-to-month payment option, annual discounts, and the additional capabilities make the Plus accounts a great choice for many businesses.

Learn more about QuickBooks Desktop Plus products.


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