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Desktop QuickBooks vs. Online QuickBooks What’s Better


What’s Better for My Business: Desktop QuickBooks vs. Online QuickBooks


Are you a small business owner looking for a way to manage your finances online? Or maybe you already use it, but you’re not sure which version to choose. Are you ready to start using QuickBooks? In either case, there are some essential things to consider before deciding.

Quickbooks image of logoThere are pros and cons to both versions.

QuickBooks is a powerful business accounting software tool that small businesses and freelancers use. However, choosing between Desktop and web versions can be confusing.

This blog will look at what makes each option unique and help you decide which is correct.

When writing this article, QuickBooks accounting solutions are the standard for small business accounting software – serving small to medium-sized businesses across construction, IT, healthcare, retail, real estate, non-profit, and financial services.

QuickBooks accounting boasts a market share of more than 70% — easily outdoing the likes of Sage, Xero, Zoho Books, FreshBooks, etc. It’s the number one choice among business owners, from independent contractors to those who have complex accounting and need robust features and detailed reports. There’s a reason why more accounting firms and bookkeeping business owners recommend it.

Diverse offerings from Intuit, including QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online, contribute to its high growth. It offers multiple business solutions, whether you are a single user or larger businesses that need advanced inventory features.

You have several options for plans, reporting features, and pricing tiers, ranging from the bare bones to a more robust, advanced version with industry-specific reports and third-party app connectors.

A Quick Summary Between QuickBooks Desktop vs. Online


There are two main options for accounting software: qb desktop and qb online. Within each, you have a basic plan and the ability to scale an advanced plan. Both have advantages and disadvantages, making choosing between them a difficult decision. In the remainder of this article, we’ll take a high-level look at each offer and why you should consider using either.


Desktop Accounting Software


Accounting software desktop

The first thing to note about desktop accounting software is that it is on your computer. You’ll need to download and install the program before using it. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to go. After that, you may begin entering transactions and setting up your accounts.

You have a guided setup process where you start building your company data files and chart of accounts. Both the Desktop and the online counterpart offer support if you get stuck.


Advantages of Desktop Accounting Software


One advantage of desktop accounting software is that you don’t need any special equipment; you only need a computer and internet access.

Another advantage is that you can use it anywhere. If you have a connection to the internet, you can log in and begin working.


Disadvantages of Desktop Accounting Software


Another disadvantage of desktop accounting software is that it takes up space on your hard drive. While this isn’t usually a problem, it can become one if you run out of room. Also, if you decide to upgrade your computer, you’ll need to reinstall the software.


Online Accounting Software


The most significant difference between Desktop and online accounting software is that you are accessing online programs through a website. Don’t worry about taking up valuable hard drive space because there’s no installation required. Instead, you visit the website and log in.


Advantages Of Online Accounting Software


Online softwareOne advantage of online accounting software for small business is that it doesn’t take up any space on your computer, making it perfect for those with limited storage space. Another advantage is that it’s accessible from anywhere, and you can log in from work, school, or even your phone.


Disadvantages Of Online Accounting Software


Like desktop software, online software requires a high-speed internet connection. If you live without good internet service, you may be unable to use it. Also, some online programs are very complex. If you’re not familiar with computers, they can be intimidating.


Which Is Best?


What you wish to achieve is a determining factor. Desktop software is probably the better choice if you need basic bookkeeping functionality. However, online software could be better if you need something more sophisticated.

If you visit Quickbooks, you’ll see they promote the Online product over the Desktop. They state that 75% of their customers wished they switched from Desktop to online sooner.

Why the apparent push to the online version? Several announcements are addressing the phasing out of desktop products. Part of the reason is the updates. Business owners are not diligent in maintaining their desktop software and are not updating in a timely fashion, whereas with cloud access, it’s done for you automatically. However, they have not come straight out and said no more desktop.

With a vast user base, it’s only natural to wonder which offering is better. We’ll compare QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online on distinct parameters to answer this question.

Let’s dig in.


Quickbooks Desktop Versions – A Primer


QuickBooks Desktop is cloud-based accounting software that allows small businesses to manage their finances. It has been around since 1990 and is one of the best options available today.


QuickBooks Desktop for Mac


Although QuickBooks Desktop’s software does have its limitations, it’s still considered one of the most popular accounting tools in the market.

Quickbooks Desktop has all the basic features you’ll need to run a business. If you want to add advanced features like inventory management, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.

  • Features – Invoicing, inventory, system navigation, automated payment reminders, advanced bank feeds, receipt management, alternate vendor reports, etc.


Who is it for?

  • Businesses that prefer desktop software due to subpar poor internet speed and connection or ease of use
  • Businesses that employ a dedicated in-house accountant
  • Businesses that don’t have multiple-location inventory management needs


Who is it not for?

  • Businesses with multiple users – entails purchasing multiple licenses (Quickbooks online works better)
  • Businesses highly reliant on mobile-first accounting


Quickbooks Online Versions – A Primer


QuickBooks Online is an excellent choice if you need a solution to keep track of your money in the cloud. Access is easy to set up through any web browser, making it very convenient for small businesses who want to keep their books in order without hiring a bookkeeper or accountant.

The trial version of QuickBooks Online has all the features you would expect from a modern accounting software package. There is a monthly subscription fee for additional functionality.


Cloud accounting, invoicing, online banking, cash flow management, multiple users, time tracking, accounting reports, etc.


Who is it for?


  • Businesses looking for shared access abilities amongst in-house teams
  • Businesses with advanced inventory-tracking needs
  • Businesses that have mobile-first accounting inclinations


Who is not for?


Businesses that want their industry-specific features (Quickbooks desktop excels at it thanks to vendor report feature and wholesale, retail, manufacturing, etc., related customizable functionalities)


Desktop vs. Online Quickbooks – How Do They Compare?


 compare softwareThe main differences between Desktop and Online accounting software include the following:

The desktop software requires installation on your computer. The program will run as an application on your computer and is for only one user at a time. You need to purchase each new user a license for the software.

Online software does not require installation on your computer. Instead, it runs directly within your web browser.

The online software allows multiple users to log into the same account simultaneously, and it also allows you to track multiple accounts simultaneously. Using this software, you do not need to purchase a separate license for every person.



What Are Some of The Differences Between Desktop and Online Software?


Inventory Tracking Desktop software is better suited for large organizations with many employees. In these cases, several people may be using the software at once.

Online software does not allow multiple users to log into a single account simultaneously. However, if you run more than one business from a single location, you can create different users for each company.


Desktop software is better suited to small businesses with fewer employees. Any number of users can access the program at once.

Desktop software is easier to set up because no additional setup is required.

Desktop software is easier to manage because it is installed locally on your computer.

Desktop software has many features that aren’t available in online software, like inventory tracking.


Online software does allow you to track multiple accounts concurrently.

Online software doesn’t require installation. Instead, it’s accessed directly from a web browser.

Online software offers additional security measures that protect your personal information.




Four different QuickBooks Online pricing plans are available, each with its monthly subscription fee.

You are not tied down to QuickBooks Online and can cancel anytime.

The cost of a plan increases in proportion to the number of its required capabilities. Therefore, it’s essential to consider your needs carefully.

Receipt capturing using the QuickBooks mobile app, third-party tool integration via the QuickBooks app marketplace, and phone and chat-based customer assistance are all included in all pricing tiers.

If you’re interested in using QuickBooks Online, you can sign up in a flash and get started right now.


Pricing Comparison between QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop Editions

online vs desktop

QuickBooks Online offers a three-month trial with various pricing plans starting at $10 per month. Features may differ for every plan, so you must ensure the one you purchase has the needed ones.

Several different plan options are available for QBO, such as:

Easy Start/Simple Start is an excellent option for solo proprietors and independent contractors. Easy Start is a program designed for use by a single person, and it tracks things like sales tax, expense tracking, and the gathering and organization of receipts.

Quickbooks Online Essentials plan includes invoicing and help for up to three users.

Plus: The Plus plan has everything in the EasyStart and Essentials plans and more, including inventory tracking and project management for up to five people.

  • Quickbooks Online Plus – $40/month – up to 5 users

The most advanced plan, with support for up to 25 individuals, includes:

  • Everything in the Plus plan plus invoice.
  • Batching business and analytical reports.
  • A personal account manager.
  • The potential of QuickBooks Online maxes in this edition.
  • Quickbooks Online Advanced (additional cost) – $90/month – up to 25 users (comes with a host of other features that outdo Desktop QuickBooks)


How much you pay for QuickBooks Desktop depends on the type of subscription you sign. Since the pricing is yearly, it’s more affordable than QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Desktop offers the following subscription levels:

QuickBooks Desktop Pro is an excellent option for small businesses and individuals looking for a simple accounting program and managing income and expenditures, stock levels (inventory), and client billing efficiently for up to three people using Quickbooks Pro.

QuickBooks Premier. Premier allows up to 5 users and has features tailored to businesses in the construction, manufacturing, wholesale, retail, and nonprofit sectors. If you’re trying to select between Pro and Premier and need features like advanced reporting and accounting that fit your sector, go with Premier.

  • Quickbooks Desktop Premier Plus – $549.99/year – an additional $300/year/seat for an extra seat with an annual subscription to this Quickbooks desktop version. Quickbooks Premier, Enterprise, and QuickBooks Online all provide “add-ons.”


Enterprise: Enterprise is perfect for expanding businesses because it includes all the features of Pro and Premier, plus mobile barcode scanning and enhanced pick, pack, and ship options that are well-suited to the retail industry.

  • Quickbooks Desktop Enterprise (storing company files on your computer) – QuickBooks Enterprise has three levels: Gold/$1566/yr., Platinum/$1926/yr., and Diamond/$3780/yr.

Customer Service


Unlimited customer support for both.

QuickBooks Online Live Bookkeeping works better than QuickBooks Desktop ProAdvisor (again, it’s a matter of choice)


Ease of use / User interface


QuickBooks Online draws a lot of inspiration from QuickBooks Desktop in terms of visualizations – not a matter of what’s better – more of what suits someone more (Here’s a great reference to expand on this, especially the YouTube video)

For ease of use – QuickBooks Online has an edge


Multiple third-party integrations are available for both; however, QuickBooks online fairs better due to a gamut of services enabling automation.




This decision is a tough call. Technically speaking, Quickbooks Online is better for a lot of reasons. But for some core industries or where network connectivity is a problem, Quickbooks Desktop wins hands down.

If you have a one-person small business, desktop QuickBooks may be the right choice. But if you have aspirations of growing or having a larger company, online QuickBooks might be better suited to your needs. If you’re working with bookkeepers or accountants (or both), I can almost guarantee they will want you to use the online version.

Either way, both programs will give you access to all the features you need to manage your books, track expenses, and generate reports.

NOTE: Full Disclosure. I was an early adaptor of Quicken and migrated my business to Desktop Pro. I started using a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and she insisted on moving to the cloud-hosted version I currently use. I am not getting paid for any of this article’s Intuit Quickbooks product recommendations. If you need a business loan, speak to a Sunwise Capital specialist at 888.456.9223

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Mark J. Kane, Founder & CEO of Sunwise Capital, is a distinguished entrepreneur with over 16 years in business financing. Beginning as a psychologist, he quickly became a trailblazing Hospital Administrator. Mark has built multiple ventures, notably accelerating a startup to $18M within months. His transition to Sunwise Capital stems from a deep-seated desire to empower business owners with strategic financial solutions. Recognized for his expertise, Mark's leadership at Sunwise Capital reflects his commitment to fostering business growth and success. about the author.

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