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QuickBooks Online VS QuickBooks Desktop Pro

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quickbooks online vs quickbooks pro

QuickBooks OnlineVSQuickBooks Pro
Accounting
Features ✓
TiePricingTie
Hardware or Software Requirements
Users and Permissions
Ease of Use
Mobile Apps
Customer Service and Support
Negative Reviews and Complaints
TiePositive Reviews and Testimonials Tie
Integrations
Security
?Final Verdict?
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When the same company offers two amazing accounting software products, how can you possibly choose between them? That’s the question when it comes to QuickBooks Desktop Pro (see our review) and QuickBooks Online (see our review).

QuickBooks Pro is the prehistoric dinosaur of accounting software, launched way back in 1992. But this dinosaur is far from extinct (despite Intuit’s efforts to force users to switch to QuickBooks Online). The desktop version of QuickBooks offers incredible accounting tools, the most extensive feature selection I’ve seen in an accounting program, including expense tracking, budgeting, and job costing, good integrations, and positive customer reviews. It is also one of the primary software choices of accountants worldwide.

Thanks to the proliferation of the internet and cloud-based software apps, QuickBooks Pro’s younger counterpart, QuickBooks Online (QBO), was launched in 2004. The software offers a robust feature set, strong accounting, the ability to record bank transactions, online payroll, attractive invoices, 250+ integrations, and a brand new lending feature. It is also significantly easier to learn and use than QuickBooks Pro, and works anywhere you have an internet connection.

Both seem great on the surface, so which software actually wins in this comparison? Well, that’s what we’re here to tell you.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll put QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro (Desktop) head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to. Read on to learn which software comes out on top.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: QuickBooks Pro

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro operate on true double-entry accounting principles and support both accrual and cash-basis accounting. Each offers a detailed chart of accounts, a bank reconciliation feature, and the basic reports needed to run a company. However, QuickBooks Pro beats QuickBooks Online in this category without question.

QuickBooks Pro has some of the most advanced accounting features on the market. With the features listed above, plus strong journal entries, more reports, and better importing/exporting capabilities than QuickBooks Online, it is no wonder the desktop version of QuickBooks is one of the top choices of accountants across the globe.

Features

Winner: QuickBooks Pro

FeaturesQuickBooks OnlineQuickBooks Pro
Invoicing
Estimates
Expense Tracking
Bank Reconciliation
Chart of Accounts
Contact Management
Accounts Payable
Time Tracking
Project Management
Inventory
Reports
Tracking Categories
Budgeting
Print Checks
To-Do Lists
Calendar
Multi-currency
Sales Tax
Tax Support
Importing & Exporting
Lending

As you can see from the chart above, QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro are similar in a lot of the features they offer. But what that chart won’t show you is the quality and depth of the features available.

QuickBooks Pro has one of the most in-depth feature selections on the market. The developers literally thought of everything when they created this product. The time management, job-costing, budgeting, contact management, and bank reconciliation features are all more developed in QuickBooks Pro than in QuickBooks Online.

QuickBooks Online does offer more appealing and customizable invoices and tracking categories, as well as a new QuickBooks Capital financing option (see our review) But these advantages aren’t enough to give it the win when it comes to features.

Pricing

Winner: Tie

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro have two very different pricing structures.

QBO offers three pricing plans ranging from $15-$50/mo (with an additional $39/mo+ for payroll).

QuickBooks Pro is a locally-installed software that costs $299.95 for a single user. Additional users cost $250/each. Payroll is an additional $39/mo, phone support is $89/3 mo, and live bank feeds are $10-$15/mo.

However, the kicker is that once you buy QuickBooks Pro you should be able to get three years out of your license.

It’s hard to say which software is cheaper because there are so many variables. If you are going to use QuickBooks Pro for three years and don’t have any additional users, this option will save you some serious money. However, the extra costs of QuickBooks Pro add up quickly.

If you have multiple users, use live bank feeds with multiple transactions, run payroll, and want phone support, QuickBooks Online will probably be a much better bet. This is why we’ve left this section as a tie. We recommend crunching the numbers to decide whether the online version or the desktop version of QuickBooks wins this category for your specific business.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: QuickBooks Online

As cloud-based software, QBO works with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection, including Mac devices (the most recent internet browser is recommended). Linux is not supported.

QuickBooks Pro is a little more particular about their hardware requirements. QuickBooks Pro is compatible with only Windows 7, 8.1, and 10, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2003 (SP2), 2008, 2008 (R2), 2011, and 2012.

QuickBooks Online is the obvious winner in this case as it isn’t limited to Windows computers alone.

Users & Permissions

Winner: QuickBooks Online

While both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro have detailed user permissions, QuickBooks Online offers more users. Additional user licenses for QuickBooks Pro cost $250 each, which is far too expensive for most small business owners.

Ease Of Use

Winner: QuickBooks Online

This is a simple one. The online version of QuickBooks is much easier to use than QuickBooks Pro. One of the most common complaints about QuickBooks Pro is its steep learning curve. Accountants often find QuickBooks Pro easier to use, but you don’t have to be an accountant or professional bookkeeper to learn QuickBooks Online.

Mobile Apps

Winner: QuickBooks Online

As QuickBooks Pro doesn’t offer mobile apps (being a locally-installed software and all), QBO takes the cake here with its iOS and Android apps.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Okay, let’s be honest. Customer service has never been Intuit’s strong suit. Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro have had notoriously poor customer service in the past. However, QuickBooks Online is working hard to remedy their customer service reputation. With significantly shorter wait times and a more developed Help Center, QBO edges ahead of QuickBooks Pro. In addition, QuickBooks Online’s support is free, while QuickBooks Pro users have to pay extra for support.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: QuickBooks Online

This is one category I’m sure QuickBooks Online did not want to win. QuickBooks Online has received numerous complaints. Some of the most common are about limited mobile apps, slow run time, and bugs. Many users also complain that QuickBooks Online doesn’t compare to QuickBooks Pro in terms of features and quality.

QuickBooks Pro also has its share of complaints about its steep learning curve, forced upgrades, and poor customer service. However, the software is generally well-liked.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro receive high rating across common customer reviews sites and have many happy users.

QuickBooks Online is praised for its mobility, ease of use, feature selection, time-saving automations, and integrations. QuickBooks Pro is praised for its strong accounting, ample features, reliability, and reporting; several users even find the software easy to use.

Integrations

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro offer a good number of helpful integrations and add-on products; however, QuickBooks Online offers 250 integrations to QuickBooks Pro’s 150 integrations.

Security

Winner: QuickBooks Online

This category is a little unfair. When you sign up for a locally-installed software like QuickBooks Pro, you are in charge of keeping your data secure. This means that there is no built-in security. However, if you are tech savvy, locally-installed software can actually be more secure than cloud-based software.

As web-based software, QBO offers built-in security from the beginning. For most people, we figure that the convenience of security that is taken care of for you outweighs the extra security steps locally-installed software requires.

And the Overall Winner Is…

quickbooks online vs quickbooks pro

Despite the fact that QuickBooks Online has seven category wins (we left out the negative reviews “win”) compared to QuickBooks Pro’s two, QuickBooks Pro won the categories that matter—accounting and features. When it comes to accounting software, business owners just can’t beat the desktop version of QuickBooks.

QuickBooks Pro has some of the most developed accounting tools on the market. It offers an unbelievable number of features and each feature is highly developed. Although there is a steep learning curve, the organization of the software is incredibly easy to navigate and the UI is attractive. Another key factor to this win is the fact that many users who switched from QuickBooks Pro to QuickBooks Online have ended up switching back.

While QuickBooks Pro is the overall winner of this mash-up, I predict that QuickBooks Online will be the winner for most small and many medium-sized businesses. Not only does QBO offer ample features — including beautiful invoices, lending, class tracking, inventory, payroll, and more — but each of these features is incredibly thorough. The mobility of this online version of QuickBooks, along with strong accounting and unbeatable integrations, has also earned it the title of “Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses” here at Merchant Maverick. It may even be a good choice for self-employed individuals, depending on their expenses and accounting requirements.

In the end, both QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Online are winners because you can’t go wrong with either option. Ultimately, the real deciding factor is going to be your specific business size, type, and needs. Whichever you choose, our comprehensive reviews can help you make an informed decision during your hunt for the perfect accounting software.

Read our full QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Pro reviews for more information. After doing your research, be sure to take each software for a test run, and feel free to reach out with any questions you have along the way.

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Get Started With QuickBooks Pro

Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause

Head Accounting and Invoicing Writer
Chelsea Krause is a writer who has specialized in accounting for two years. She has a BA in English & Creative Writing from George Fox University and studied at the University of Oxford as well. She has been quoted in Forbes and her work appears in Startup Nation, Small Business Bonfire, and Women on Business.
Chelsea Krause
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32 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    CaslWilson

    This is a great article and very helpful. I would love to see an analysis now that Quickbooks Online has raised its pricing.

      Chelsea Krause

      I’m glad you like the article! I’m working on an update of this post as we speak, so stay tuned for the latest comparison.

      Best wishes,

      -Chelsea Krause

        Felipe r valera

        Great article, very informative and deep. THANKS

          Chelsea Krause

          Hi Felipe,

          I’m glad you found it helpful! Best wishes in all your business endeavors.

          -Chelsea Krause

            James Armstrong

            Thanks for writing such informative blog..

              Chelsea Krause

              Hi James,

              You’re welcome! I’m glad you found this post helpful.

              Best wishes,

              -Chelsea Krause

                Doug McWhorter

                Let’s start this by saying I am NOT an accountant. I just run a small business.
                I’ve been a QBD user since 1994 and just switched to Online. I am sad to say I’m very disappointed. I like to think I’m used to “upgraded” interfaces, but the change is dramatic. I could go into gory detail about how invoice templates are not “real” templates, but rather loose guides, the struggle of moving between invoices and a number of other little annoyances. Maybe if I had only seen QBO, I would think it was okay.
                In my opinion the user interface and flexibility of QBD is far superior. I suspect there must have been valid programming reasons for not just adapting the desktop version for online use.
                The ONLY real advantage to the On-line version I can see is the ability to review and work while traveling, and the ability to grant permission to an off-site accountant to have access to the information. I like the accountant part, but not interested in working on the books while I’m in the field or at home.
                To new users have at it, QBO should be fine and you will make the program your friend. I have been reading switching back to the desktop version isn’t automatic, which puts me in a quandary. I need to figure out how and when I can find the time and travel back to the desktop version.

                  Cory

                  Chelsea,

                  Perhaps you can broaden the horizon for me aswell. I have recently started a business. I do about 600k a year in sales and started and finished my first year with QB online. I am hiring a new bookeeper to minimize my workload.

                  She is adamant on switching me to QB desktop. I am disappointed as I like to review my p&ls and constantly view my financials.

                  After reading this article and all the comments I see that QBD is the choice for accountants clearly. But how does one function without seeing their reports often?

                  I also use my QBO for accounts receivable to process and send my invoices. With the Desktop version how would I do this if only my accountant has access.

                  Can you clarify or can other viewers mention how exactly they go about doing business without the ability to know their financials on the fly.

                  What would be a suggestion? Do most people allow their bookkeepers to do the work on Desktop and just find out at the end of the quarter/month/year? Am I being to anal always wanting to see my financials. Am i the minority here? Why would an owner see a benefit in QBD if they werent using it themselves with constant access?

                    David

                    Looked at moving to QBO from an older desktop version and got as far as looking at the invoice templates. Are they joking? They all look terrible, I wouldn’t want to send one to a customer – and very limited customisation to help put things right. A real step backwards from the desktop version.

                      mike

                      Im opening a new business and closing down an existing. Can the QBO import the customer list and contacts only from QBD to start fresh as far as invoicing and checking accounts go ? Thank you.

                        Chelsea Krause

                        Hi Mike,
                        You can import your customer and contact list only into QuickBooks Online from QuickBooks Pro Desktop. Instead of importing your full QuickBooks Desktop Pro into QuickBooks Pro backup company file, you’ll just import your contacts. To do this, go to your Customer Center and click the Excel button on the top of the screen. Export your customer list to an excel file.
                        Once you’ve exported and saved this your customer list, you can import it into QuickBooks Online (without adding any of the old company information that you don’t want). Follow these instructions for importing contacts into QuickBooks Online. Repeat the same process for vendors and employees.
                        I hope that answers your question! Let us know if you need any other help.
                        Best wishes,
                        -Chelsea Krause

                          Margaux

                          QuickBooks online is horrific. We have 450 clients and I have a contest every year to see who can take the most clients off of QBO and put them on desktop with a large bonus. I will do the conversion for free. We only have one client left on that awful thing and we will move them off in December to start fresh in January. It is VERY EASY TO CONVERT BACK TO DESKTOP. Super easy and worth it. My clients cant stand that “half -version”. Yuk.

                            Steve

                            I think this review is vary biased towards QBO and misses a lot of issues with the software. If your starting fresh with a new business it may work well for you, If your an existing QBD user the data is not imported completely, so be very careful and verify your data by running reports in each and comparing them.

                              ada

                              how do you print cheques with QBO?

                                Chelsea Krause

                                Hi Ada,

                                Thanks for reaching out! Here is a quick video that explains how to print checks using QuickBooks Online.

                                I hope it helps! If not, feel free to reach out with any further questions you may have.

                                Best wishes,
                                -Chelsea Krause

                                  Brenda Turner

                                  I have the same question as Vicky and others regarding upgrading from QBD to QBO. Can you send me the same information you sent to them?

                                  Thank you,
                                  Brenda

                                    Chloe Bahal

                                    Hi Brenda,

                                    I am going to copy and paste the reply here:

                                    Everything should transfer over easily. There are no complaints that I can find on the web about the transfer itself. Most people say this process is smooth.

                                    QuickBooks Online also provides you a specialist who will help make sure the transfer goes smoothly.
                                    In terms of features, here are the things you will be losing by switching to QuickBooks Online:

                                    • Some reports (You’ll go from 191 reports to 44-106 depending on the plan you choose.
                                    • Letter templates
                                    • Printing checks
                                    • Built in calendar
                                    • To-Do list
                                    • Notes (With QuickBooks Online, notes are saved with each contact, you can also save attachments of important documents to contacts. All of your notes information should still transfer though, it’ll just be organized a bit differently.)
                                    • Some invoice templates (You’ll go from 9 templates. But personally, I like the look of the QuickBooks Online templates much more.
                                    • multiple business support (You’d have to pay for a subscription for each individual business.)

                                    The Accounts Payable feature will only be available with the Essentials Plan and Plus Plan. The time-tracking feature and inventory feature are both limited to the Plus plan of QuickBooks online. The time-tracking feature and project feature are also fairly limited with QuickBooks Online, which is something worth considering.
                                    Here are the things you will gain with QuickBooks Online:
                                    • Mobility (Both through the cloud and the various mobile apps available.)
                                    • Schedule invoices
                                    • Recurring invoices
                                    • More users
                                    • Live bank feeds
                                    • Basic client portal
                                    • 400+ integrations (Which could make up for some of the lost features.)
                                    • No fee for phone support
                                    • Multiple budgets (with Plus plan)

                                    There are a few complaints about people who switched over to QuickBooks Online and then when back to QuickBooks Pro because there are more features. So you will really want to way these features and your company’s needs before switching. I also recommend using the QuickBooks Online free trial, just to see if you like the feel and organization of QuickBooks Online.

                                    I hope this helps!

                                      Steve

                                      Personally I dont think any one that has used both would give QBO the win. We tried it for one of our businesses as we collect money in the field. Wethought it would make life easier, but it did not.
                                      QB online is not very compatible with QBD as Intuit says. Run some simple reports like profit and lose after you import your data to QBO in both and you will get completely different numbers! That is unacceptable! QBO support told me that I had just imported the data wrong and they did it and the results were the same. Then after quite a while going back and forth they finally admitted that they are not completely compatible. The cost of QBO is higher in just one year in most cases and much higher in the long run. Especially after the promotional discount runs out. QBO is an incomplete package, which Intuit want to force everyone to switch to as it is much more profitable for them. They are doing things to force you to upgrade it more often by locking features for no reason, like importing bank data. I used to be a huge fan of QBD and intuit. I will be looking at other options when I am forced to upgrade again. QBO is a rip off in my opinion.

                                        Michael Hemmelgarn

                                        Rigjht on Steve. having been a QB user for more than 20 years, I can definitely agree with all your points. QBO is geared to those who either have NOT used QB Desktop, or whose accounting needs are really simple. QBO is slow, clunky, has lacking features sets, costs more in the long run (geared to “regularize” Intuit’s cash flow, mainly), the list goes on & on. In working as a professional accountant, I appreciate feature sets. QBO has far fewer for any true power user. There really is no comparison. It’s also interesting that the author, Chelsea, doesn’t reply to comments like ours. Hmmm…

                                          Chelsea Krause

                                          Hi Michael,

                                          I understand your frustration with QuickBooks Online. Thank you for sharing your experience. If Steve had asked a question about the software, I would have been happy to answer it. In cases like this, I believe that letting our readers see the opinions and experiences of past users is enough.

                                          Best wishes,

                                          -Chelsea Krause

                                            Heather Haynes

                                            We currently have QBD. I personally don’t have access to our books until our bookkeeper finalizes everything 3 days prior to our board meeting. I have no clue on the financials until it’s too late. We are also moving payroll to QBD. But again – no access. Our CRM now has intergration availability with OBO – so most reports come from that system. Will we be losing too much with QBO if I do payroll and my financials?

                                              Chelsea Krause

                                              Hi Heather,

                                              Thanks for reaching out! So it sounds like you’re currently frustrated with QuickBooks desktop and the inability to see your information right away. QuickBooks Online would definitely solve this problem for you. You’d still be able to run payroll and manage your financials in QuickBooks Online, plus you’d get the mobile, real-time access you’re looking for. Transferring files over to QuickBooks Online is a fairly simple process and you shouldn’t lose any of your existing data.

                                              In terms of features, There are a few capabilities you will be losing by switching to QuickBooks Online which are worth considering:
                                              • Some reports (You’ll go from 191 reports to 44-106 depending on the plan you choose. Here is a list of the QuickBooks online reports.)
                                              • Letter templates
                                              • Printing checks
                                              • Built in calendar
                                              • To-Do list
                                              • Notes (With QuickBooks Online, notes are saved with each contact, you can also save attachments of important documents to contacts. All of your notes information should still transfer though, it’ll just be organized a bit differently.)
                                              • Multiple business support (You’d have to pay for a subscription for each individual business.

                                              I hope that gives you a clearer idea of what to expect if you do decide to switch to QuickBooks Online. If you need any more help or have any more questions about the transfer process, please let us know!

                                              Best wishes,
                                              -Chelsea Krause

                                                vicky

                                                If we choose to go with online QuickBooks, what items am I loosing from my desk top QuickBooks? I have lots of important information on notes and all payables are under the Memorize Transaction too. Please reply back soon this morning as we are working on making a decision soon

                                                  Chloe Bahal

                                                  Hi Vicky,

                                                  My reply to this question is a little bit on the longer side, so I went ahead and sent you an email. Please keep an eye out for it.

                                                    Shannon Schilling

                                                    I was wondering the same question. Would you please email me as well?

                                                    Thank you
                                                    Shannon

                                                      Chloe Bahal

                                                      Hi Shannon,

                                                      Sending you an email right now, please keep an eye out for it!

                                                        Lynne

                                                        Can you please send the same information to me. I am looking to upgrade, and having a hard time deciding between staying with desktop, or moving to online. Only advantage to online for me, would be allowing people in the field to submit invoices as soon as they complete work. ** please let me know if this is possible with both versions.

                                                          Chloe Bahal

                                                          Hi Lynne,

                                                          The information I had sent to Vicky basically sums up this article, but I will be happy to send it over, so please keep an eye out for it!

                                                            Michelle Head

                                                            Hi Chloe,

                                                            Could you also please send me the email? Thanks

                                                              Chloe Bahal

                                                              Hi Michelle,

                                                              Here is what I sent them:

                                                              Everything should transfer over easily. There are no complaints that I can find on the web about the transfer itself. Most people say this process is smooth.

                                                              QuickBooks Online also provides you a specialist who will help make sure the transfer goes smoothly.
                                                              In terms of features, here are the things you will be losing by switching to QuickBooks Online:

                                                              • Some reports (You’ll go from 191 reports to 44-106 depending on the plan you choose.
                                                              • Letter templates
                                                              • Printing checks
                                                              • Built in calendar
                                                              • To-Do list
                                                              • Notes (With QuickBooks Online, notes are saved with each contact, you can also save attachments of important documents to contacts. All of your notes information should still transfer though, it’ll just be organized a bit differently.)
                                                              • Some invoice templates (You’ll go from 9 templates. But personally, I like the look of the QuickBooks Online templates much more.
                                                              • multiple business support (You’d have to pay for a subscription for each individual business.)

                                                              The Accounts Payable feature will only be available with the Essentials Plan and Plus Plan. The time-tracking feature and inventory feature are both limited to the Plus plan of QuickBooks online. The time-tracking feature and project feature are also fairly limited with QuickBooks Online, which is something worth considering.
                                                              Here are the things you will gain with QuickBooks Online:
                                                              • Mobility (Both through the cloud and the various mobile apps available.)
                                                              • Schedule invoices
                                                              • Recurring invoices
                                                              • More users
                                                              • Live bank feeds
                                                              • Basic client portal
                                                              • 400+ integrations (Which could make up for some of the lost features.)
                                                              • No fee for phone support
                                                              • Multiple budgets (with Plus plan)

                                                              There are a few complaints about people who switched over to QuickBooks Online and then when back to QuickBooks Pro because there are more features. So you will really want to way these features and your company’s needs before switching. I also recommend using the QuickBooks Online free trial, just to see if you like the feel and organization of QuickBooks Online.

                                                              I hope this helps!

                                                                Steve

                                                                Be very careful if your switching. to QBO. The transfer process is smooth, however it is incomplete. Not all information will transfer. Critical reports like Profit and loss will give different results in the two. How can that be???????????? Totally unacceptable!!!
                                                                The support is useless if the data imported is not complete!

                                                                I personally know of several business that tried QBO and switched back to QBD or other software.

                                                                  Fay Uraynar

                                                                  Thank you.
                                                                  QB Online does not have some basic functions. For instance it does not have the ability to add Finance Charges to overdue customer statements.

                                                                  Fay

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