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QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop (Updated)

January 30, 2017 by Ed Becker

What works best for QuickBooks may not work best for You! With an ever-expanding collection of features and options, businesses are left with a difficult choice between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. It is important to analyze your business strategy and choose a platform that will be most beneficial to your unique business.

QuickBooks wants users to use the Online version and seem to be pushing more and more users to their online platform. Everyone wants cloud based solutions, but the functionality in Desktop is much better than Online.  Desktop is more powerful and certain industries should avoid the Online version no matter what.

My view is: if you have never used Desktop and start with Online, then you don’t know what you’re missing. If you use Desktop and go to Online than expect disappointment.

Several Key Differences


QuickBooks Online lives in the cloud. It functions as software-as-a-service (SaaS), which means you must have an Internet connection to access the program. However, you do not need to install the program on your business computer and can access your data from any device, including most smartphones and tablets. This differs from the desktop version, which must be manually installed, but does not require an Internet connection.


In terms of functionality, these two platforms are surprisingly different. Although the QuickBooks brand name implies otherwise, the core software of each program was developed with independent objectives. The Online version is designed to run efficiently in the cloud, but lacks many of the complex forecasting and budgeting features found on the desktop version, although they are making progress on this and other features.

5 Exclusive Features to QuickBooks Online not on Desktop

  • Automatically schedule and send invoices
  • Work from PC, Mac, Smartphone or tablets ant time
  • Banking rules can be split by $ or % and you can assign location/class
  • More connectivity to on-line apps
  • Track by location in addition to (or instead of) by Class

5 Exclusive Features of QuickBooks Desktop

  • Prepare 1099s thru Wizard, not available on-line
  • Business Planner, Forecasting, Balance Sheet by Class
  • Inventory and job costing functions are far superior
  •  Client Data review tools for Accountants (sales tax, fix unapplied payments and credits)
  • Back up Restore, condensing files and period copy are all available

Choosing the Right Platform

The primary advantage of QuickBooks Online is the ability to operate within the cloud. In addition, it can perform automated email reporting and delayed customer billing, allowing you put your bookkeeping duties on autopilot. If you’re the type of business owner who is rarely in the office, the online version will offer the flexibility needed to manage bookkeeping on the run. The initial costs are also much lower, which can be an important benefit for a bootstrapping start-up company.

QuickBooks Desktop offers several key advantages over its online counterpart. First, the functionality of the desktop software is superior and includes powerful features like inventory tracking, time tracking, and budgeting.

The decision rests with  – the user, if there is a function that is critical for your business, make sure that the product you select performs it otherwise this could be a make or break for you.

Note: QuickBooks/Intuit is investing more in their online version than Desktop and Online will only get better over time. If you want the best product now, Desktop is the answer. If you want a software that will be better 5-10 years from now, than Online may be a better option.

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