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What’s The Difference Between QuickBooks Online & Desktop?

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop both have a lot going for them, but there are some key differences. Learn which QuickBooks accounting software fits the size, type, and needs (and budget) of your business.

    Erica Seppala
  • 104 comments
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Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.
Erica Seppala

Erica Seppala

Expert Analyst & Reviewer at Merchant Maverick
An expert in accounting, finance, and point of sale, Erica has been researching and writing about all things small-business since 2018. Erica's insights into personal and business finance have been cited in numerous publications, including MSN, Real Simple, and Reader's Digest. She is a graduate of Limestone College.
Erica Seppala
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104 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.

    Melinda Cathcart

    Looking into the Desktop versions how does multi user work? How can one user see what the other users are doing? Can you send invoices and receive online payments through QBDT? We have desk top computers and laptop will they all be able to be used with the correct product with that many users?

      Jessica Dinsmore

      Hi Melinda,

      According to QuickBooks, all users will be able to see the most up-to-date data when working in Multi-user mode, so it’s updating pretty much in real-time. Users would likely have to collaborate in whatever way they see fit to determine who is working on what, etc.

      QuickBooks Desktop does support invoicing and online payments. It is also locally installed, allowing you to use one license for your own PC and laptop. If other users are going to be added, they will need their own licenses as well. Hope that helps!

        Mike Mikwamba

        I need quick books desktop offline package. May you Please advise

          Jessica Dinsmore

          Hi Mike,

          Our understanding is that QuickBooks Desktop is still locally installed (so technically offline), but if you’re looking for the one-time purchase, those are no longer available, unfortunately.

            Raman V

            QB Desktop does have access to the QB Capital lending – so I would update the article accordingly.

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

              Jessica Dinsmore

              Hi Raman,

              Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention! We’ve just confirmed that yes, QuickBooks Capital can now be accessed through QuickBooks Desktop, and our editors are updating the content to reflect this. We appreciate the heads up!

                Terry

                Hi, I am starting a new business ( a one member LLC) and need a way to keep records, send invoices, and accept payments online. I’m not an accountant so am a little nervous about selecting the desktop pro but I also am reading many reviews that advise to stay away from QBO. If I’m a real small business but want a good record system which one makes more sense?

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

                  Jessica Dinsmore

                  Hi Terry,

                  There are a number of factors to consider. If you don’t have previous accounting experience, QBO is going to be the better choice due to the steep learning curve of QuickBooks Desktop. QBO does check your boxes though, in that it offers payment processing integrations for online invoice payments, and even offers international invoicing, as well as over 80 reports depending on the plan you choose. If you still aren’t sure, you can always test out both with a free trial to see which you prefer, too. Hope that’s helpful!

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

                    Ashley Scheib

                    About to start a commercial refrigeration company with an LLC. I will have many customers and suppliers which will require many transactions, and possibly 6 employees. Not sure which would be a better fit, QBO or QBD?

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

                      Jessica Dinsmore

                      Hi Ashley,

                      There are a number of factors to consider. If you are going to have multiple users, QBO is definitely more cost-efficient. If you don’t have previous accounting experience, QBO is also going to be the better choice due to the steep learning curve of QuickBooks Desktop. QuickBooks Desktop does have a few advantages, though, like more advanced inventory and reporting and the ability to rebill job costs or calculate discounts by customer. If those features will be useful to you and you really want more advanced reporting, Desktop may be the better choice. But honestly, QuickBooks Online probably has everything you need. You can always test out both with a free trial to see which you prefer, too. Good luck!

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

                        Andrew McClure

                        STAY AWAY FROM QBO.
                        We’ve been trying to use QBO for a month now, “Graduating from QB DT”. It has been an unmittigated DISASTER. If you do not follow the predetermined workflows as QBO thinks you need to do, you will end up with HUGE pain. We have tried using invoices and revising said invoices — this cannot be done. We then tried project orientations and the product changed pricing such that we ended up with losses for every invoice (the costs for goods was greater than the retail price).

                        THEN we started losing invoices. So we asked for restores. Guess what? NO BACKUP INFORMATION AVAILABLE! On Friday we lost a whole MONTH of data.

                        We lived by the design of estimates -> invoices and guess what — you cannot get a report.

                        Tread carefully and print everything that you do

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

                          Ann-Marie

                          Hello,
                          I am trying to decide between QBO and QBPro, I own a few rental properties that are each under their own LLC and have separate bank accounts.
                          I would like to manage these as separate businesses. I don’t really need property management software, only the accounting piece.
                          Thanks for any input!
                          Ann-Marie

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

                            Jessica Dinsmore

                            Hi Ann-Marie,
                            Based on the info you’ve shared, QuickBooks Desktop Pro would be the better option for you. QBO requires a separate subscription for each company, so these costs could add up quickly. Multiple companies are supported using QB Desktop Pro without having to have multiple licenses/subscriptions. So QB Pro is definitely the more cost-efficient option here. But QB Pro does have a steeper learning curve, so that’s also something to keep in mind.

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

                              Nick

                              Ann-Marie,

                              I have used both QBO and QB Desktop Pro. I have a bookkeeping business and a few of my clients use QB Online. The bottom line preference for me is definitely QB Desktop Pro. I don’t believe the writer of this article really made a good comparison on price, first of all. Remember this, in order for QB Online to come close to what QB Desktop pro can do, you have to subscribe to higher cost in QB Online. The $25/mo in QB Online is bare minimum and in your line of business, this is where it’s important. You can use what is called “Classes” in QB Desktop Pro, where you create a “class” for each of your properties. Name each class whatever you want. Then, just make sure that when you receive income or pay expenses, in addition to selecting an expense category, you select a class. Then you can create your P&L Reports by class and see each of your properties P&L’s on separate columns. You CAN’T do this in QB Online at the $25/mo. subscription. You have to upgrade to the next level, costing you at least $40/mo or more. QB Desktop Pro is NOT as difficult to learn as the writer leads you to believe. The program sets your company up by asking you simple series of questions . Then it creates your chart of accounts, etc.

                              What do I NOT like most about QB Online? Oh My! I don’t like the cumbersomeness of it, it’s not as user friendly as you might think. Integrations can wreak havoc on your books if you’re not careful, it has the occasional double entry of transactions when integrating with your online bank accounts, it automatically assumes that if you bought an office supply at Office Depot last month that future expenses will be in the same category, so it is important to watch for it, or you’ll find a number of your expenses mis-categorized.

                              Finally, if you want QB Online to offer the same or close to the same features as QB Desktop, you’ll have to upgrade to the next level or higher in QB Online, thus costing $40/mo or more. That’s $480.00 per year for QB Online vs. QB Desktop Pro at $399.00 license good for 3 years. Total costs after 3 years: QB Online = $1,440.00 QB Desktop Pro = $399.00 .

                              Nick

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

                                Angela G Veal

                                Thank you for such a thorough, honest answer.

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

                                  Richard

                                  You are spot on – it’s worse if you have more than one small business too – you have to have three separate QBO accounts – with the desktop, you can have as many as you want

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

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