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QuickBooks Online VS QuickBooks Desktop Pro

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Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause

Managing Editor - Accounting
Chelsea Krause is a writer who has specialized in accounting for two years and is a QuickBooks Certified User. 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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42 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.

    Carly Rae

    Chelsea Krause , thank you for spending the time to put this together.

      Jim W

      Small 1120S business, bill quarterly, no paper invoices, one employee, track expenses, file 941s, w2, and need K1 end of year. Which is best? Online or desktop pro?

        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

        Chelsea Krause

        Hi Jim,

        We’re happy to help you find the right accounting software for your business! Based on the information you provided, I’d recommended QuickBooks Desktop Pro. There is no accounting software I know of that support K-1s, but QuickBooks Desktop Pro will support 941s and W2s as well as the other features you need (whereas QuickBooks Online only support W-2s).

        Hope this helps and best of luck!

        -Chelsea Krause

          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

          Glen Shep

          I would appreciate some advice from you experts please.
          I have Quickbooks v7.4. (Australian version)
          Ive always used it (started in the year 2000). Still works even today even though its very limited.
          I actually wanted to upgrade to a later software version of Quickbooks but Ive been told its nearly impossible to do.
          I was told that the format has changed dramatically & you had to upgrade via 3-4 newer versions before you could get the 2018/19 with your info within the software.
          I thought if I could upgrade to about “QB 2017-19” (even to version 2016-17 would do) that it would probably do me for the next 10+ years. I need to start thinking about having a piece of software that can download my online bank account info.

          Can one of you experts give me some insight on what the process is to upgrade Quickbooks to a more modern version.
          Thanks heaps.
          Glen

          p.s. I will never trust any company with having my accounts online …. period.

            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

            Chelsea Krause

            Hi Glen,

            I’ve never heard of needing to upgrade to an older version before upgrading to the newest version of QuickBooks. You should be able to upgrade to 2019 no matter which version you are currently using. Make sure your company file is saved and backed up securely before then in case of any complications, but you should be able to follow these steps to upgrade your QuickBooks software.

            Best wishes,

            -Chelsea Krause

              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

              Edd

              I have been running Quick books for 15 years and I am currently still using the 2009 version for my small business, but I just bought a new computer and want to install an updated version of QB. Will my knowledge of the old versions allow me to operate the new version without climbing a steep learning curve? Can my old accounts be transferred? I prefer to load the system rather than on-line.

                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                Chelsea Krause

                Hi Edd,

                Great question! You should be able to transfer your accounts and data to the new version of QuickBooks without a problem. You’ll need to save your existing company file, which you can then upload to the new edition. You will find quite a few new features with the 2019 version, but the organization and UI remain similar so there shouldn’t be too steep of a learning curve for you.

                Hope this helps and that you enjoy the new version of QuickBooks!

                -Chelsea Krause

                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                  P Michon

                  In your updated review you should include comparisions of sales tax features. Include sales tax as one of the items that doesn’t transfer well in QBO – QBD conversions. Multi-jurisdictional sales tax reporting requirements are better met by QBD, despite the new sales tax feature upgrade in QBO. Additionally, if you migrate from QBO to QBD, Intuit has to prepare your data file for saving. Realize you will never again be able to access that historical data without a QBO platform. A real issue if you get selected for a tax audit. I have no idea if an old QBO data file will be readable from an upgraded QBO platform.

                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                    CaslWilson

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

                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                      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

                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                        Felipe r valera

                        Great article, very informative and deep. THANKS

                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                          Chelsea Krause

                          Hi Felipe,

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

                          -Chelsea Krause

                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                            James Armstrong

                            Thanks for writing such informative blog..

                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                              Chelsea Krause

                              Hi James,

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

                              Best wishes,

                              -Chelsea Krause

                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                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.

                                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                  HorseDancer

                                  Sad to say it’s a hard lesson to learn. It gives credence to “Try before you Buy.” The lack of features, unfriendly interface and navigability, and ability to configure preferences and templates is a huge issue. My biggest issue is the inability to make backups and “restore back to yesterday” if you really mess up royally. Next biggest issue is inability to delete accounts with no activity. As an accounting consultant, cleaning up data and editing a botched up chart of accounts is not an easy task in QBO. Good Luck!

                                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                    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?

                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                      C Weidman

                                      Please don’t ever stop looking at your financials daily! I’ve been a Bookkeeper for 20+ years and one thing I’ve always WISHED the business owners would do was to know how to do their own books or at least check up on me and my work! I do believe that your prospective bookkeeper probably hasn’t worked in QBO and just feels more comfortable with QBD. Last year I switched to QBO and I must agree, it was frustrating! However a year in and it has gotten super easy to navigate. You’re the boss, you get to say what system is used! If I were you, I’d NEVER stop looking at the finances and I’d definitely keep that QBO!
                                      Good luck to you!

                                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                        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.

                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                          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.

                                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                            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

                                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                              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.

                                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                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.

                                                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                  ada

                                                  how do you print cheques with QBO?

                                                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                    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

                                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                      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

                                                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                        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!

                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                          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.

                                                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                            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…

                                                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                              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

                                                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                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?

                                                                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                  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

                                                                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                    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

                                                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                      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.

                                                                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                        Shannon Schilling

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

                                                                        Thank you
                                                                        Shannon

                                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                          Chloe Bahal

                                                                          Hi Shannon,

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

                                                                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                            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.

                                                                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                              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!

                                                                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                Michelle Head

                                                                                Hi Chloe,

                                                                                Could you also please send me the email? Thanks

                                                                                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                  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!

                                                                                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                    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.

                                                                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                      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

                                                                                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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