QuickBooks 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 a complex program like QuickBooks makes your palms sweat, especially in comparison to some of its simpler cloud-based competitors, it might help to think of those competitors 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. The company recently launched QuickBooks Pro 2017; this update includes more automated reports, smart search, and addresses issues of software speed.
Like anything worth pursuing, QuickBooks 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, to budgeting, to inventory, to spellcheck, to running nearly 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, check out this free trial and continue reading.
QuickBooks Pro requires a “one-time” software purchase; it is not a subscription-based SaaS accounting solution. The problem with on-premise software, of course, is that it is subject to change Support ends for QuickBooks three years after it is released, so users are 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 your local office supply stores, like Staples.
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 hidden in the depths of Intuit Community answers. Warning: Use of free trials may inhibit users from being eligible for software discounts upon purchase.
- $299.95 (discounted price is currently $219.95)
- 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
- Payroll – With QuickBooks payroll you can create unlimited checks, use free deposits, and payroll tax options. The monthly plan costs $39.00/mo, while the annual plan saves you even more, costing $32.50/mo. Both plans are being currently offered at a 30% discount (there is no end date to this discount, so check if it’s still available before you buy).
- Phone Support – $89/three months or $59.95 for a single call.
- Additional Users – Additional users cost $250 and there is a maximum of three users total for QuickBooks Pro.
- Hosting Service – QuickBooks partners with Right Network and provides online servers for companies in need of mobility. This service, however, costs and additional $749.95/year, and for that price you may as well switch to QuickBooks Online.
- 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.
- Automatic Data Encryption Back-Ups – $9.99/mo.
If you don’t want to bother with buying all the extras, you can opt to purchase QuickBooks Pro Plus, which gives you the advantage of 24/7 phone support, automated data backup, and an annual upgrade. QuickBooks Pro Plus is $299.95/year, but there is currently a 33% discount on the first year of service (making the software $199.95). (Again there is no end date to this discount, so check before you buy.)
For larger businesses, there is also QuickBooks Premium and QuickBooks Premium Plus—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 is required for certain functions (like payroll). A QuickBooks license lets you install the software on three computers (so long as there is still only one user) and a hosting option is available at an additional cost.
Hardware or Software Requirements:
QuickBooks Pro is only compatible with Windows, with versions including Windows 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 toward small to mid-sized businesses and its vast amount of features makes it incredibly scalable for the growing business. However, these features may be overkill for some small businesses who don’t need such in-depth accounting tools. For freelancers, independent, contractors, simpler accounting software solutions may do the job; but if you’re looking for true accounting, QuickBooks Pro has everything you need. For nonprofit organizations, 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. But it’s not as confusing as everyone makes it out to be.
You may be thinking well of course an accounting software reviewer would say that, but it wasn’t until QuickBooks Pro that I found a program I was genuinely excited to master. There is something exhilarating about learning a software that does absolutely everything you could possible need.
Despite popular belief, QuickBooks Pro actually does its best to keep the interface intuitive. Yes, it can be a bit confusing at first, but once you invest time in it, everything falls into place and becomes easy and rewarding.
- Set Up – Before you begin, make sure you have a good chunk of time on your hands. Simply downloading the software itself took me around 20 minutes. Once you download the software, you are asked to agree to Terms and Conditions (basically agreeing to a software license rather than permanent purchase, Intuit’s right to terminate your account if you don’t pay, personal responsibility to lost or unrecoverable material, Intuit’s right to changes, etc.) Then you can move on to learning the actual software. A “wizard” guides you through the first few steps and asks you to choose between “express start” (recommended for new users) and “detailed start.” (I chose the express start and have no regrets about it.)
When you first see this home screen, you may feel completely overwhelmed, cursed rather than aided by the ‘wizard.’ If you find yourself asking where to begin, I’m afraid to tell you there is no magic answer. However, I suggest you start by importing your contacts, items, and chart of accounts. When importing or adding items for the first time, you will be asked to choose “service” items or “no-inventory parts.” In case your reaction is anything like mine, don’t freak out. You can change this preference later under edit>preferences>items and inventory.
I recommend spending a lot of time in the preferences section. If you ever can’t find anything, this is most likely where it will be. Under this tab, you can set up your email (a must-do before sending invoices), sales tax preferences, integrations, and more.
- Organization – The organization of QuickBooks Pro might seem overwhelming at first – have another look at the image above if you don’t believe me. Take a deep breath. Soon those little squiggles and doodles will make a lot of sense.
Believe it or not, the program is fairly intuitive; there are just a lot of features to wade through.
The home screen is divided into three rows: one for vendors, one for customers, and one for employees. Each row holds icons for functions that are often associated with those contacts. On the right of the page, there are Company and Banking sections. On the far left of the page there are tabs for Accountant, Client Review, Statement Writer, Home, My Company, Income Tracker, Bill Tracker, Calendar, Snapshots, Customers, Vendors, Employees, Bank Feeds, Docs, Reports, Order Checks, Add Payroll, Credit Cards, Services, User Licenses, and Feedback. There is also a search bar that comes in very handy, and an option to create custom shortcuts. (Most functions like Invoicing or Chart of Accounts have keyboard shortcuts as well.)
If you are used to the appearance of cloud-based accounting software dashboards, the Snapshots section will look a lot more familiar. Snapshots are basically QuickBooks Pro’s equivalent of a cloud-based software dashboard or home screen. This tab primarily highlights the financial health of your company. This section is completely customizable and comes with 12 graph options, including income and expense trends, account balances, customers who owe money, reminders, and more.
Like most UIs you may be accustom to, QuickBooks Pro also has a toolbar across the top of the screen featuring the tabs: File, Edit (the most used in my opinion), View, Lists, Favorites, Accountant, Company, Customers, Vendors, Employees, Banking, Reports Window, and Help.
It sounds like a lot, but so long as you give yourself a little grace, a little Google, and a lot of time, you’ll be set.
- Instructions and Guidance – Apart from the initial set-up wizard, the most helpful resource is the in-app search bar. It functions very well and is incredibly useful for finding specific features. There was nothing I couldn’t search out with that little magic trick at my fingertips. When you open most features, like the sales tax page, there is also a question mark icon that will answer common questions or walk you through the feature when you click on it.
While the in-app help features pass the support test with flying colors, the outside customer support options still require some serious work. There is an Intuit community, or Help Center, but this has its limitations (mentioned in further detail below). There is no email support and phone support is offered at an additional cost.
- Problems – 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, there are definitely a few problems with QuickBooks Pro:
- Steep Learning Curve – No matter how many features there are, or how closely the software resembles true accounting, QuickBooks Pro still 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.
- Glitches – There were multiple times when the software glitched on me. I would be working on something like creating an invoice, and the screen would randomly close out. Sometimes my work would be saved, other times I had to start all over.
- Slow – Most of the time, the program functioned just fine, but the were a few times I noticed it running very slowly. Keeping open windows to a minimum proved to be a good way to fix this most of the time.
- Could Be Streamlined – There were a few times when I wished the software were simplified (I am sure I am not alone in this sentiment). One example of this is the To-Do list feature. Instead of providing a check box next to each task on your to-do list, QuickBooks provides you with the dubious pleasure of clicking a bunch of times before you are able to record a task as complete.
It is impossible to highlight all of the features available with QuickBooks Pro, so for a full feature tour, go here. Here are the highlights of a few of the most used and most unique features:
- Contacts – The CRM aspect of QuickBooks Pro allows you to 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.
- Invoicing – There are nine invoicing templates to choose from, as well as a custom invoice template option. On each invoice, you can add a logo (though it looks silly and small on the actual invoice). You can customize the font and font size (which was a happy surprise) as well as the colors. However, the colors customization only affects the text color and the thin frames around boxes. Honestly, I am pretty disappointed in the invoices aesthetics. Templates are boring, and seem unprofessional in comparison to what you can do with competitors like Zoho Books and FreshBooks —even QuickBooks Online has a better selection (which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you ask me.) There also 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. While the template could stand some serious aesthetic improvement, this feature does get the job done.
- Quotes –There are four template choices, each fitted toward a different purpose. One nice thing about this feature is that you can add a rep’s name to a quote if a specific employee was working with that client. QuickBooks Pro also supports sales order, statement charges, sales receipts, and credit memos under this section. Note: When sending estimates and invoices, you have to manually send by using the email button at the top of the page in the toolbar. Un-clicking the “email later” option does not mean your invoice or estimate will send automatically.
- Accounts Payable – In order to enable the pay bills feature, you have to connect QuickBooks Pro directly to your bank account. Once this is done, paying bills becomes a breeze.
- Bank Reconciliation – You can either enable live feeds or download and import .qbo files to QuickBooks Pro. You can then set up rules and categorize transactions, although you cannot categorize multiple transactions at once—one feature QuickBooks Pro lacks compared with QuickBooks Online.
- Projects – You can create jobs under customers by specifying the job type, description, and start/end dates. Like invoicing, this feature could stand some improvement as it is fairly basic and non-user friendly for a project feature. And to my disappointment, there is not task feature within the projects.
- Time Tracking – You can easily track time by entering time manually or by setting an in-software timer. Time shows up as total hours rather than specific time frames. You can add billable hours to customers’ invoices.
- Budgeting – QuickBooks Pro allows you to create in-depth budgets from scratch or using the previous year’s data.
- 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.
- Reports – This is my favorite feature; QuickBooks Pro features nearly 200 reports, and unlike most accounting software company’s offerings, each of these reports actual matters. Not only does QuickBooks Pro cover basic accounting reports, like Profit & Loss, Chart of Accounts, Balance Sheet, and a Net Worth Graph, it also offers more interesting reports like CashFlow Forecasting, Job Profitability Statements, and multiple reports specifically geared toward nonprofits. Running reports is quick and simple. The favorite reports section is also a god-send. Almost every report also has a second, more detailed version. For example, there is a standard Profit & Loss report and a Profit & Loss Detail report.
- Mileage Deductions – You can easily track your mileage deductions using QuickBooks Pro. You can also track deductions for multiple vehicles. However, this is the only type of deduction that QuickBooks Pro records, which may be problematic for freelancers, independent contractors, or nonprofits.
- To-Do Lists – I take it back. Move over reports, the To-Do list is my favorite QuickBooks Pro features. This feature allows you to create a to-do list under 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-high.
- Calendar – QuickBooks Pro offers an in-program calendar. I was expecting more from this feature, as the calendar only shows an event and not the time. The events also just say “to-do” rather than “call April at 12:00,” making the feature almost too simple.
- 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 45 letter templates 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.
- Spell Check – In case you didn’t believe QuickBooks Pro thought of everything before…
- Sales Tax – You can set an innumerable amount 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.
- Tax Forms – QuickBooks Pro has an impressive number of tax form options. For more information and specific pricing details, go here.
- Exports and Imports – You can export basically anything in QuickBooks in a myriad of formats. Imports, however, while supported, are a little more stringent. If you want to import a bank statement, you have to use a special .qbo file, specific to QuickBooks. If your bank does not support .qbo files, you have to buy access to a .csv to .qbo convertor or enable live bank feeds. Most users will choose to enable live bank feeds already, so this won’t be a problem.
As mentioned earlier, the customer service is surprisingly lacking for such a big company. This is one of the only major drawbacks I found with QuickBooks Pro. A lot of Intuit’s support seems to be directed toward QuickBooks Online, leaving QuickBooks Pro with an inadequate amount of support options. Phone support often involves multiple holds and long wait time. When you do 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 also a few places where you can expect to find some level of help:
- Phone – If you have a phone support plan call 1 (877) 797-5809. 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 fall under that free phone support category, which are worth looking into.
- 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. Considering how helpful the search bar in QuickBooks Pro is, I was expecting more from the community search function. It is incredibly difficult (and annoying) to filter through the surplus of QuickBooks questions and answers, and it is even more difficult to find questions pertaining specifically to QuickBooks Pro. I usually gave up the search, bit the bullet, and waited until my own questions were answered by Intuit employees and fellow community members. Typically, I received quick responses (1-4 hours). The answers themselves didn’t always resolve my question, though they were helpful more often than not.
- Video Tutorials – Intuit does offer QuickBooks Video Tutorials, which can sometimes be helpful, but the majority of these videos are for QuickBooks Online.
- YouTube – More videos can be found on the QuickBooks YouTube channel, but again 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.
- 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 Pro also has a general Twitter account and a customer service specific Twitter account.
- 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.
Negative Reviews and Complaints:
QuickBooks receives 1/5 stars on Consumer Affairs, with 604 registered complaints (over 500 more since the last time we reviewed this software). 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 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. Users reported long wait on phone calls, unhelpful scripted answers from representatives, and extra charges not only for phone support but also an additional charge to fix the problem they were experiencing.
- Forced Upgrades – There were several irate customers who were mad that their purchased software loses support every three years. While QuickBooks Pro is relatively upfront with this reality, many users find it to be against the principle of locally installed software. Users also complain that they were unaware of the forced upgrades and claim such action as 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 7.8/10 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 amount of features offered by QuickBooks Pro. Multiple users said that QuickBooks Pro had everything they could ever need, and appreciate that it is 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 have been arguing over which software is better—desktop or cloud? Many 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 around 400 integrations available for users. These integrations are listed here; however this list does not differentiate between apps that are restricted to QuickBooks Online, so double check that your add-on is supported before you get too excited. Most payment gateways are add-ons that are restricted to QuickBooks Online.
Some of our favorite integrations include:
- Zapier – Connects QuickBooks Pro to over 500 other apps and add-ons.
- Full Slate – Full-fledged online scheduling software with key customer relationship management.
- Magento – One of the top internet retailer platforms out there. Read our full review here.
- Gusto – A payroll software that also manages health benefits, worker’s comp, and even 401(k) plans.
- Sumac – Website integration designed for nonprofits. Tracks donations, volunteer sign-ups and more.
- Maestro – Powerful data analytics tool.
- Temponia – Time Tracking solution that utilizes calendar based scheduling to track projects and billable hours.
- Insightly CRM – Free project and contact management software.
- Zendesk – A customer service platform with help center, phone, and support ticket services.
- Avalara – Automated sales tax solution that automatically calculates sales tax from a customer’s address.
As a locally installed software, data security is primarily up to you. QuickBooks does provide automated back-ups at an additional cost. To learn how you can make your data secure, check out this QuickBooks article.
There is a reason QuickBooks is one of the biggest names in the accounting and finance business. With an incredibly robust and advanced set of features, it is no 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 still plays hard to get with its steep learning curve and limited customer support, the software makes for reliable, in-depth accounting that is suitable for most small businesses.
Before making your QuickBooks relationship official, I highly suggest that you check out the free trial. You want to know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit. But QuickBooks can be worth it if you put in the time to get to know it.
P.S. If you have nothing else to do after hours of learning QuickBooks Pro, or need a mind break during that time, check out this video to see what QuickBooks and pirates have in common.