QuickBooks Desktop Pro Review
- True accounting
- Robust feature set
- Hundreds of reports
- Strong reputation
In many ways, Intuit QuickBooks Pro is like the girl/boy of your dreams; the one who is always playing hard to get. Preceded by larger-than-life reputations, they both may seem way out of your league.
If the thought of using complex software like QuickBooks makes your palms sweat, especially when compared to some of its simpler cloud-based competitors, it might help to think of those other programs as mere high school flings or college crushes. Sure, they’re good for a time, but they don’t cut it forever. Eventually, you’re going to want to commit to a program that will make you happy for life. QuickBooks may be complex, but trust me, it has the potential to be your accounting software soul mate.
Intuit was founded in 1984, and after launching the first desktop version of QuickBooks in 1992, the company has only grown. Intuit now has over 1.5 million users and is a giant presence in the accounting and personal finance world.
Like anything worth pursuing, QuickBooks Desktop Pro requires some TLC. The learning curve is steep and customer support is spotty at best. Locally-installed software can be a bit constricting (not to mention that the price of renewing a locally-installed program can be a bit hard on the wallet), but the sheer amount of features on offer here are almost impossible to beat. QuickBooks Pro does everything from invoicing to time tracking, budgeting, inventory, and spellcheck—it even comes with 200 extensive reports. That said, features of this capacity might be overwhelming and unnecessary for some small businesses.
To see if QuickBooks Pro is a good fit for your company, take advantage of the free trial and continue reading.
Table of Contents
QuickBooks Desktop Pro is locally-installed software. You can make a “one-time” purchase of QuickBooks Pro, or you can purchase a yearly QuickBooks Pro Plus subscription which includes tech support, automatic updates, and automatic backups.
If you go with the “one-time” purchase of QuickBooks Pro, support will end for the product three years after it is released. This means you’ll be forced to constantly update and repurchase the software. Fortunately, the product is often discounted on the Intuit site and can be bought directly from Intuit or from most local office supply stores (Staples or Office Max, for example).
Intuit offers a 60-day guarantee. You can return the program at any time within this period and receive a full refund. Representatives tend to promote this guarantee rather than advertising the fact that you can try the software before purchase, but if you look hard enough, you can find a free, 30-day trial version of Pro/Premier hidden in the depths of Intuit Community answers.
Warning: Use of free trials may inhibit users from being eligible for software discounts upon purchase.
- Track income and expenses
- Manage Contacts
- Send invoices and estimates
- Manage and pay bills
- Create Budgets
- 200+ reports
- Integrate with 400 apps
- Track inventory
- Sales tax and tax form capabilities
QuickBooks Pro Plus
- Track income and expenses
- Manage Contacts
- Send invoices and estimates
- Manage and pay bills
- Create Budgets
- 200+ reports
- Integrate with 400 apps
- Track inventory
- Sales tax and tax form capabilities
- Built-in tech support
- Automatic data backups
There are quite a few extra costs to be aware of before purchasing QuickBooks Pro.
- Payroll – QuickBooks Pro offers three payroll plans starting at $250/year + $2/mo per employee. Contact QuickBooks Pro for more details.
- Tech Support – Tech support is $249.95/yr or $89.95/90-days. Phone support is included with QuickBooks Pro Plus subscriptions.
- Additional Users – Additional users cost $250 and there is a maximum of three users total for QuickBooks Pro.
- Hosting Service – QuickBooks partners with Right Networks to provide online servers for companies in need of mobility. This service costs an additional $450/yr per user.
- Live Feeds – Some banks charge a fee for working with QuickBooks. This fee can range from $10 to $15/mo.
- Upgrades – An annual upgrade costs $299.95. Annual upgrades are included with QuickBooks Pro Plus.
- Automatic Data Encryption Back-Ups – Backing up a single PC costs $99.95/yr or $9.95/mo; backing up a company file costs $49.95/yr or $4.95/mo. Automatic data backups are included with QuickBooks Pro Plus subscriptions.
For larger businesses, there are also QuickBooks Premier and QuickBooks Enterprise—both locally-installed programs that are incredibly similar to the desktop versions above. The only difference is that these plans support larger industry-specific enterprises with more users at a higher cost.
Web-Hosted or Locally-Installed
QuickBooks Pro is a locally-installed program, although internet access is required for certain functions (like payroll). You can purchase QuickBooks cloud-hosting at an additional cost.
Hardware or Software Requirements
QuickBooks Pro is only compatible with Windows (versions 7, 8.1, and 10), Windows Vista (SP2 or later), and Windows Server 2003 (SP2), 2008, 2008 (R2), 2011, and 2012. Certain features require Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel.
Other hardware requirements include:
- 4 GHz processor (minimum)
- 4 GB RAM (minimum), 8 GB RAM (recommended
- CD-ROM drive (for CD installations)
- 1024×768 screen resolution
- 96 DPI
For a full list of system requirements, go here.
Specific Size of Business
QuickBooks Pro is marketed to small to mid-sized operations and its vast amount of features makes it incredibly scalable for the growing business. However, these features may be overkill for some small businesses which don’t need such in-depth accounting tools. For freelancers and independent, contractors, simpler accounting software solutions may do the job better, but if you’re looking for true accounting, QuickBooks Pro has everything you need. QuickBooks also has some tools and reports specifically geared toward non-profits.
Both accrual and cash-basis accounting.
Ease of Use
QuickBooks Pro has a notoriously steep learning curve, and I will admit that it takes much more time to master than many of its cloud-based competitors. The software can be a bit confusing at first and the setup process is quite involved, but once you invest time in it, everything falls into place and using the software becomes easy and rewarding.
It’s impossible to cover everything in QuickBooks Pro, but here’s a list of some of the most notable features:
- Dashboard – In QuickBooks Enterprise, there’s a Home page, but you won’t find a Dashboard—at least not by that name. If you’re looking for the typical graphs and charts you expect from a Dashboard, don’t worry. You aren’t out of luck. Both the Insights screen (right) and the Snapshot screen (left) give you an overview of your financial information.
- Invoicing – There are four invoicing templates to choose from, as well as a custom invoice template option. The templates themselves aren’t anything special, but you can customize the font, color theme, and all of the information shown. You can also use the Layout Designer for advanced customization (I recommend doing this, as it is basically the only way to make attractive invoice templates in QuickBooks Pro). There is no option to autoschedule invoices like there is in QuickBooks Online. However, you can set recurring invoices and attach discounts, notes, and files to invoices. You can create packing slips and send batch invoices as well.
- Estimates –There are four template choices. You can send batch estimates and easily convert estimates into invoices. You used to be able to add a sales rep’s name to an estimate, but this options no longer exists. QuickBooks Pro also supports sales order, statement charges, sales receipts, and credit memos under this section.
- Contact Management– You can keep track of customers, vendors, and employees. You can save general contact information—name, company name, email, phone, fax—but you can also include maps and directions as well. You can create customer-specific to-do lists, easily view contact history, and quickly run reports directly from the contact screen.
- Expense Tracking – You can either enable live bank feeds or download and import bank statement to QuickBooks Pro via .qbo file. You can reconcile your bank accounts and set up rules and categorize transactions. You cannot categorize multiple transactions at once (this is one feature QuickBooks Pro lacks compared with QuickBooks Online).
- Mileage Deductions – You can easily track your mileage deductions using QuickBooks Pro. You can also track deductions for multiple vehicles.
- Accounts Payable – You can create bills and recurring bills in QuickBooks Pro. There is also an appealing Bill Tracker that allows you to easily view unbilled purchase orders, unpaid bills, and paid bills.
- Chart of Accounts – QuickBooks Pro provides a default chart of accounts that is completely customizable, or you can create a brand new chart of accounts as well.
- Inventory – You can add items and track your inventory by setting warnings when an item’s quantity gets low. You can run various inventory reports and set specific inventory preferences.
- Project Management – Weirdly enough, you’ll find this feature located under Customers. Each job must be tied to a specific customer, which is a bit annoying, but the feature is easy enough to use. You can add the job type, description, and start/end dates. There is basic job costing, but you cannot add tasks (which even the most basic accounting programs usually offer).
- Time Tracking – You can easily track time by entering it manually or by setting an in-software timer. Time shows up as total hours. You can add billable hours to customers’ invoices.
- Reports – QuickBooks Pro features nearly 200 reports. You can also mark reports as favorites for easy access.
- Budgeting – QuickBooks Pro allows you to create in-depth yearly budgets from scratch or using the previous year’s data.
- To-Do Lists – This feature allows you to create a to-do list for each customer. To-do list tasks include call, fax, email, meeting, and appointment. You can also set a level of priority for each task ranging from low to high.
- Calendar – QuickBooks Pro offers a simple in-program calendar–almost too simple. The calendar only shows an event and not the time.
- Letter Templates – This is one of the coolest features of QuickBooks Pro. So long as you have Microsoft Word, you can prepare letters directly from QuickBooks Pro. With over 45 options, there is a letter template for anything and everything you can think of. Each template is also completely customizable and can be printed or sent as an email attachment.
- Print Checks – You can print checks in QuickBooks Pro.
- Journal Entries – If you have accountant access, you can create general journal entries.
- Spell Check – In case you didn’t believe QuickBooks Pro thought of everything before…
- Tax Support – QuickBooks Pro has an impressive number of tax form options including W-2’s, W-3’s, 1099’s, and 1096’s.
- Sales Tax – You can set an innumerable number of sales taxes and combined taxes in QuickBooks Pro. You can also assign a tax to a customer or item, which saves a lot of time.
- Multi-currency Support – QuickBooks Pro does provide multi-currency support, but enabling multi-currency support means you can no longer use the Insight, Income Tracker, or Bill Tracker features.
- Importing/Exporting – You can import files via .xls and .iff., but the feature is really a glorified copy and pasting tool. You can export data easily enough.
Customer Service and Support
As mentioned earlier, the customer service is surprisingly lacking for such a big company. It is one of the only major drawbacks I found with QuickBooks Pro, but the company is making efforts to improve in this area. Currently, a lot of Intuit’s support seems to be directed toward QuickBooks Online, leaving QuickBooks Pro with an inadequate number of options. There is no email support at all.
QuickBooks Pro has had a history of multiple holds and long wait times, but these wait times have decreased significantly since our last review. When you reach a customer service rep, they are generally kind and helpful, but there is often an inconsistent level of QuickBooks knowledge from person to person.
However, there are a few places where you can look to find some help:
- Phone – You can call Intuit Sales for free at (877) 683-3280. To be fair to Intuit, there are certain QuickBooks Pro issues and questions that don’t require paid phone support. The general rule of thumb is that “How do I do this…” questions are free while technical questions about error messages require paid tech support.
- Live Chat – If you go the QuickBooks site, there is a live chat feature, which I found generally helpful. When so much Googling and digging is required to find simple answers, it’s nice to receive a more immediate answer to your question. Again, level of knowledge varies among representatives.
- Community Forum – The main form of supported offered is a community forum. Both Intuit employees and fellow customers can answer any questions posted, and new questions are answered relatively quickly. Personally, I found that the search bar functioned poorly. What’s more, filtering through all QuickBooks products to find QuickBooks Pro specific articles is a bit annoying. However, the “Learn & Support” tab of the QuickBooks Community is incredibly helpful and houses how-to articles that you would usually find in a help center.
- FAQs – QuickBooks Pro has a short FAQ section.
- YouTube – You can find videos on the QuickBooks YouTube channel, but the QuickBooks Pro specific videos are few and far between. You’d have better luck looking at videos from fellow YouTube users. There are many CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) and other tech gurus who post viable demos and tutorials on YouTube.
- QuickBooks Blog – QuickBooks has a blog, but again there is no separating QuickBooks Online from other QuickBooks products. Articles revolve around recent updates and ongoing giveaways more than anything else.
- Advisor – If you want personal instruction, Intuit can connect you with QuickBooks Pro Advisors who will walk you through the program. This service comes at an additional cost.
- Social Media – Intuit has a combined Facebook page for all its QuickBooks products. This page features updates and helpful advice articles, and a few customer comments (generally answered within 24 hours). Responses are usually helpful and always kind (despite a few incredibly angry customers). QuickBooks also has a general Twitter account and a customer service Twitter account.
Negative Reviews and Complaints
First, let’s talk about my own impressions of the product. Given QuickBooks Pro’s reputation, I had expected the program to be a lot more problematic and difficult to learn than it actually was. While I was generally impressed by QuickBooks Pro (and while this is the first software I’ve ever found myself geeking out over), I definitely have a few problems with QuickBooks Pro:
- Steep Learning Curve – QuickBooks Pro has an incredibly steep learning curve. The sheer amount of time it takes to learn the software may be unrealistic for some business owners.
- Lack of Customer Support and Resources – For such a big company, I was honestly surprised and disappointed by the lack of resources available to customers. The extra charge for phone support seems absurd when there is no email support and no true Help Center.
- Poor Invoicing – The invoice template designs are incredibly disappointing and the software is missing automations like auto scheduling. I know the QuickBooks brand is capable of beautiful invoices design and automation–QuickBooks Online is proof of that; I just wish Intuit put the same kind of effort into Quickbooks Pro’s invoicing.
- Could Be Streamlined – There were several few times when I wished the software were simplified (I am sure I am not alone in this sentiment).
- No Fixed Asset Management – This is one area where QuickBooks Pro falls far behind competitors like Xero.
QuickBooks receives 1/5 stars on Consumer Affairs, with nearly 700 registered complaints. Something to keep in mind with QuickBooks Pro reviews is 1) QuickBooks Pro reviews are hardly ever separated from other QuickBooks products and 2) Reviews are often tainted by negativity bias (read our full explanation of negativity bias here). However, with so many recent complaints, one begins to wonder what can be attributed to negativity bias and what is a true issue with the company. I’ll let you decide that for yourselves. Here are a few common user complaints about QuickBooks.
- Steep Learning Curve – This is one of the most common issues users have with QuickBooks Pro.
- Poor Customer Service – Across the board, users were disappointed with the customer service quantity and quality and reported long wait on phone calls, unhelpful scripted answers from representatives, and extra charges (not only for phone support, but to fix the problems they were experiencing).
- Forced Upgrades – Several irate customers were mad about the fact that their purchased software loses support every three years. While QuickBooks Pro is relatively upfront with this reality, it is kind of against the spirit of locally-installed software. Users also complain that they were unaware of the forced upgrades, claiming extortion and fraud.
- Corrupt Company File – When importing data, a few users received a “corrupt company file” message that took hours of troubleshooting and an extra payment of $499.99 in one case to fix.
- Buggy – Quite a few users report bugs in the 2016 software, saying that it crashes randomly and their information becomes lost.
- Merchant Account Too Expensive – QuickBooks Pro only has one electronic payment system—QuickBooks Payments. Some people think this system is overpriced and limited in comparison to other software companies that support multiple payment gateways.
Positive Reviews and Testimonials
Despite the complaints, QuickBooks Pro still supports thousands of satisfied users. Intuit gets an A+ rating on BBB, 4.1/5 starts on g2crowd, and 7.6/10 stars on TrustRadius. Some of the most common praises on these sites and others are as follows:
- East to Use – Believe it or not, many users find QuickBooks Pro easy to use. They like the intuitive organization and find the interface appealing.
- True Accounting – QuickBooks Pro holds true accounting principles and needs in high regard, which is seen throughout their features. Accountants particularly love this aspect of QuickBooks Pro.
- A World of Features – Users are constantly amazed by the number of features offered by QuickBooks Pro. Multiple users said that QuickBooks Pro had everything they could ever need all in one place.
- Reliable – A few users mentioned that they trust Quickbooks Pro as reliable because of its ubiquitous presence in the accounting world.
- Great Reports – Multiple users boasted about the reports available to them and found these reports helpful for their business.
- Better Than QuickBooks Online – Since the 2013 QuickBooks Online interface rehaul, many QuickBooks users have been arguing over which software is better—desktop or cloud?QuickBooks Pro users are adamant supporters of the desktop version. A few users even switched to QBO for the mobility, but then immediately switched back to QuickBooks Pro for the functionality.
Integrations and Add-Ons
QuickBooks Pro has over 160 integrations available for users; however, most payment gateways are restricted to QuickBooks Online.
As locally-installed software, data security is primarily up to you (unless you are using QuickBooks hosting). Read our How to Keep Your Locally Installed Accounting Software Secure post to learn about protecting your data. QuickBooks also offers wonderful online resources for learning how to protect your computer.
There’s a reason QuickBooks is one of the biggest names in the accounting and finance business. Given its incredibly robust and advanced set of features, is it really any wonder so many users have been loyal to this product over the years? Strong accounting reports, customizable letter templates, and a large number of integrations are just icing on the cake.
While QuickBooks Pro is dragged down somewhat by a steep learning curve and limited customer support, the software is a reliable, in-depth accounting tool that is suitable for most small businesses.
Before making your QuickBooks relationship official, I highly suggest that you check out the free trial. You’ll want to know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit, but I think you’ll be happy if you do. QuickBooks Pro is excellent if you put in the time to get to know it. If you still aren’t convinced that QuickBooks Pro is the right choice for your business, check out The Best Alternatives to QuickBooks Pro for more options.