QuickBooks Online VS Desktop Pro: In-Depth Comparison

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Fretty Francis

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: May 21, 2021

A common dilemma for anyone in the market for good accounting software is which one to choose from the multitude of options that are available in the market.  There is no easy answer. We all want to use the best invoicing software there is, and invariably, as you do your research, Intuit’s QuickBooks will crop up as a worthy contender.

But, how does one choose between the QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop Pro?

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Both the products, offered by the same company, are highly competent and will get the job done. However, in this article, we will attempt to understand the key differences between them so that you can choose the best invoicing software.

QuickBooks Online VS Desktop: The Basic Difference

We will do a more detailed comparison during the course of this article, however, let’s acknowledge the differences that are immediately apparent between both the products. The QuickBooks Pro was launched way back in 1992. However, there is nothing outdated about it even today. It can keep up with any top accounting software in the market if not perform exceedingly better. It remains a popular choice in accounting software for accountants all over the world. Ever since the QuickBooks Online was launched in 2004, Intuit has been trying to get its users to ditch the QuickBooks Pro in favor of the new product.

While the QuickBooks Pro has awesome accounting tools and features to its credit, including but not limited to expense tracking and management, budgeting and forecasting and job costing. It also offers good integrations and of course, long-standing positive reviews.

The QuickBooks Online on the other hand also comes packed with features, promises superior accounting and payroll management, in addition to attractive invoices, a whopping 500+ integrations, and a distinctive lending feature. You simply need an internet connection to use it. It is said to be much easier to learn and use than its older counterpart. 

Product Comparison

Which one is the better choice? In truth, they both are great and work just fine. It all comes down to the finer details. After subjecting both the product to careful research, we have outlined some basic parameters such as features, pricing, the customer experience, reputation and more. We have then gone on to compare both the products closely against each of these parameters, to make the choice easier for you. Let’s take a look:

  • Accounting and Reporting

Both the products, be it QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Pro are fully capable of fulfilling all the accounting needs of your organization. They both are based on the standard double-entry accounting principles. They can manage both accrual and cash-based accounting. You can obtain detailed charts of accounts, journal entries, bank reconciliation statements, and reports that are usually required in any company. However, in this category, the QuickBooks Pro marginally outperforms the QuickBooks Online, with better reporting capabilities.

  • Feature Set:

QuickBooks Desktop ProQuickBooks Online
LendingNoYes
Reports13080
Sales OrdersYesNo
Letter TemplatesYesNo
Calendar & To-Do ListYesNo
Lead ManagementYesNo

On the surface, both the products seem to have the same features. There are a few differences. The QuickBooks Desktop Pro offers features such as lead management, sales orders, letter templates and also a calendar and to-do lists. These features are not offered by QuickBooks Online. As we have already discussed, the QuickBooks Pro also offers more reports. While the QuickBooks Pro offers 130 of them. The online version offers 80. However, a feature unique to the QuickBooks Online is ‘lending’ or capital financing.

Again, both products have almost the same features. It is the finer details related to the quality or the depth of the features that eventually set them apart. The QuickBooks Pro is known for its path-breaking and exhaustive features such as customizable letter templates, to-do lists, calendars and a spell-check option that has been built into the system. Managing time, job costs, budgets, and contracts are better in the QuickBooks Pro as the features are more developed and comprehensive than the online version.

This does not mean that the QuickBooks Online is the lesser system of the two. Not only does it offer much more attractive and highly customizable invoices and also tracking categories, but it also comes with a unique ‘lending’ management or capital financing management option. However, it must be acknowledged that the QuickBooks Desktop Pro has more features when you compare the two.

  • Pricing Structures

While both the products have distinct pricing structures, they do not really have a competitive edge over the other when it comes down to just pricing. QuickBooks Online has four pricing plans. These plans range from $20 to $150 per month. For an additional $35 and $4 for each employee per month, you can also opt to include payroll capabilities. 

As the name suggests, the QuickBooks Desktop Pro is locally installed. It costs $299.95 for each user for three years. Every additional user will set you back by another $299 each. Again, you have the option to include payroll management by paying $23 each month and $2 per employee for each month. It also includes phone support at a rate of $89 for 3 months. Bank feeds are charged $10-$15 per month, based on the banking institution that you work with. 

As you can see, both the pricing structures are quite different and each of them depends on various factors. The QuickBooks Pro may be a cheaper option if you are definitely going to use it for three years without any additional users. In this case, it is definitely a more cost-effective option. However, three years is a long time to be stuck with a single-user enabled software. It is likely that you will want to add additional users, in which case the incremental cost of the same, completely changes things and we find the desktop version may, in fact, end up being costlier.

If you have more than one user in your organization and are bound to add more in due course, if you use live bank feeds and will require phone support, QuickBooks Online may be the way to go. It finally boils down to the nature of your business and its needs. 

  • Hardware and Software Limitations

QuickBooks Pro is installed locally on your desktop. It has specific requirements in terms of hardware. It can be used only with Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 and Windows Vista of the SP2 or later versions and Windows Server 2008, either SP1 Or SP2, or the 2012 (R2) or the 2016 version.

Cloud-based software is the trend du jour. More and more organizations are embracing cloud-based solutions as they can be used across many devices, including Mac devices if you use the most recent internet browser. All one needs is a decent internet connection. They have little to no hardware or software requirements as such.

In today’s day and age, you cannot just be limited to Windows devices. Therefore, QuickBooks Online may be a better way to go. 

  • Users and Access Permissions

We have already talked about how the QuickBooks Online version offers various multi-user packages. With the online version, you do not need to stress about adding new users over time. The QuickBooks Desktop version allows only a single user. Additional user licenses would cost a whopping $299 each. Also, at any given point, you cannot add more than three users to the system. Given the dynamic nature of the business environment, it would be wiser to opt for QuickBooks Online in this case.

  • User-Friendliness

QuickBooks Online, like most cloud-based solutions nowadays, is considerably easy to use. QuickBooks Online can also be operated by a person who does not have any accounting or bookkeeping knowledge. It is much quicker to implement and use the online version. The QuickBooks Pro involves a learning curve. One does need accounting experience to use the desktop version effectively. This is also one of the most prominent criticisms of the QuickBooks Desktop Pro.

  • Mobile Applications

It is the age of the smartphone. Nobody prefers to be tied to their desktop anymore. Work is not always limited to the office. Mobile apps make it possible to work on the go, at any time and from anywhere. In a competitive business environment, nobody wants to wait for a person to get back to their desktop to complete an action. QuickBooks Online offers mobile apps for both iOS and Android mobile devices. It is, therefore, is a better choice for new-age businesses.

  • Customer Service

Customer support is an important aspect of any software package. The QuickBooks Desktop Pro requires you to pay an incremental amount in order to receive customer service and support. The QuickBooks Online, on the other hand, does not require you to pay more for the same. This is the only key difference between them when it comes to Intuit’s customer service and support. Support is only offered over the phone. Both the versions do not come with any email support. Both the versions have been widely criticized for the long wait times on the phone helplines. Except for the cost, there is not much of a difference here between both the versions.

  • Negative Reviews, Ratings, and Complaints

Users of QuickBooks Online have often complained about the limited nature of their mobile apps, the slow run time of their system and also bugs. Many also point out that the QuickBooks Pro is richer in terms of quality and features. However, QuickBooks Pro is not immune to negative feedback either. The steep learning curve, the forced upgrades, and mediocre customer service have often been criticized in the QuickBooks Desktop Pro. Still, it continues to remain an old favorite and one of the most popular software solutions in its space.

  • Positive Reviews, Feedback, and Testimonials

There is no denying that both the products are highly rated and generally receive great reviews. There are ample users that will vouch for both the products. Both of them are widely used and continue to find many takers.

The QuickBooks Desktop Pro is generally appreciated for its almost fail-safe accounting, comprehensive and robust features, a sense of reliability that has been established over the years, and its exhaustive reporting capabilities. Many also claim that it is very easy to use. 

The QuickBooks Online, on the other hand, receives recognition because it is user-friendly, packed with automation and integrations that save much time. They also offer more mobility. Both the versions have their fans.

  • Integrations

QuickBooks Desktop Pro offers just 130 integrations, which pales in comparison to the 500+ integrations offered by QuickBooks Online. The QuickBooks Online version is, therefore, a clear winner in this case.

  • Security

Locally installed software like QuickBooks Pro require skilled IT infrastructure and processes in place to ensure that the data remains secure. They do not back-up automatically and do not come with any built-in security features. When an organization has a capable team of IT professionals, only then can the data remain absolutely secure.

Like most new-age systems, the cloud-based QuickBooks Online version comes with built-in security features. There is no need for users to worry about the security of the data. No elaborate data security measures are required in this case. 

QuickBooks Desktop Pro VS QuickBooks Online, Winner Revealed

Now that we have concluded the comparison, choosing a winner is still not very straightforward. The QuickBooks Online emerged as a winner across many parameters, however, the QuickBooks Pro outperformed its counterpart where it needed the most. It clearly has better accounting capabilities and comes with more features. QuickBooks Desktop Pro continues to live up to its reputation as the undisputed market leader.

It has also been found that many users who have switched to the QuickBooks Online solution have also eventually switched back to QuickBooks Pro. Once you learn how to operate the system, it is very easy to use. It also has an excellent user interface. It comes packed with an impressive number of well-developed features that are equipped to handle all accounting activities. Over time, it has consistently proven itself as the most advanced software in terms of accounting tools.

Many small and medium-sized businesses prefer QuickBooks Online. It is packed with more features than they typically need. They can not only customize and create beautiful invoices but also effectively manage complex accounting tasks and also matters related to lending, class tracking, payroll and inventory and other such things with ease. Like the desktop version, this system also boasts of strong accounting capabilities and well-developed features. The mobility and the staggering number of integrations only add to its attractiveness for the small or medium business owner.

Conclusion

Both are viable options that come highly recommended. Before you decide between QuickBooks Desktop Pro and QuickBooks Online, you must take stock of the size and the nature of your business and outline its specific needs.

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Fretty Francis is a digital marketing and content strategist at SoftwareSuggest, a software recommendation platform. She's passionate about analytics, conversion rate optimization and ice-cream.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great comparison between QuickBooks online Vs QuickBooks desktop. It is very helpful for an accountant, CPAs, Bookkeepers for choosing the best accounting software between QBO(QuickBooks Online) Vs QBD(QuickBooks Desktop). After reading this article you will able to choose accounting software for your small business.

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