Zoho Books Review

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Date Established
1996
Location
Pleasanton, CA

Highlights

  • Competitive pricing
  • Easy to use
  • Unbeatable invoicing
  • Beautiful UI
  • Great client portal

Overview

I’ve never been one to buy name brand clothes. Not only do I save money with the knock-off brands, I honestly can’t tell the difference between them and the real deal. (I promise there’s a reason for me telling you about my shopping habits). It’s the same case with Zoho Books. In the accounting world, the big names like QuickBooks and Xero often overshadow worthy competitors like Zoho Books.

Zoho Books is a complete accounting package with beautiful invoicing and ample features. In the past few years, Zoho Books has made leaps and bounds, adding almost all of the features you’d expect to see in QuickBooks Online or Xero, including job-costing, a customizable chart of accounts, and the ability to autoschedule invoices. And given the fact that other companies—like QuickBooks and FreshBooks—have been significantly increasing their prices recently, I am happy to report that Zoho Books is as affordable as ever.

What’s more, the software has resolved almost all of the issues I’ve noted in previous reviews. In the past, this software had strong features but poor customer service and hardly any third-party integrations. This is no longer a problem; Zoho Books has added a Zapier integration and made dramatic steps to improve customer support. Zoho Books has also added bank reconciliation automations and job-costing, two of the main features that were missing during our last review.The only thing users are left wanting are payroll and budgeting features.

Continue reading to see if Zoho Books is a good fit for you, and check out this video to see how a business can benefit from the Zoho Books software.

Pricing

Zoho Books offer three affordable pricing plans. You can sign up for a free 14-day trial of any plan. No credit card or banking information is required and you can cancel at any time. Subscription payments are made monthly; however, you can receive a discount–two months free service–if you commit to a year-long plan. It’s possible to cancel the service at any time (year-long users will receive a pro-rated refund.)

There is a referral program, but you won’t receive any rewards from it. You can still refer friends if you’re feeling like a good Samaritan, or if you love the software that much.

Basic

  • $9/mo
  • Unlimited invoicing
  • Unlimited estimates
  • 50 contacts
  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • Reports
  • Multi-currency support
  • Invoice languages
  • Tax support
  • 5 automated workflows
  • 1 user, 1 accountant

Standard

  • $19/mo
  • Unlimited invoicing
  • Unlimited estimates
  • 500 contacts
  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • Reports
  • Multi-currency support
  • Invoice languages
  • Tax support
  • Accounts payable
  • 10 automated workflows
  • 2 users, 1 accountant

Professional

  • $29/mo
  • Unlimited invoicing
  • Unlimited estimates
  • Unlimited contacts
  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • Reports
  • Multi-currency support
  • Invoice languages
  • Tax support
  • Accounts payable
  • Inventory
  • Custom domain
  • 10 automated workflows
  • 9 users, 1 accountant

Extra Costs

  • Snail Mail Credits – You can send invoices and estimates by mail directly through Zoho Books if you purchase snail mail credits. The cost is $1.50/credit. 1 credit is needed for US mail; 2 credits are needed for international mail.
  • Auto Scans – This addition allows you to scan receipts and documents in order to upload and store them in Zoho Books. You can purchase 50 scans for $5/mo, or you can save pay $50/yr and save $10.

Web-Hosted or Locally-Installed

Web-hosted. No downloads or installation required.

Hardware or Software Requirements

Since Zoho Books is a cloud-based software, all you need is one of the following web browsers (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, or Opera) and an Internet connection. Zoho Books also has an app for iPhones and iPads (iOS 7+), for Androids (4.1+), for Windows phones and tablets (8, 8.1, or 10), and for the Apple Watch. They even have an app for Kindle Fire as well.

Specific Size of Business

Zoho Books is ideal for most small businesses. Scalable pricing plans make the product fitting for a wide market, from freelancers and micro businesses to small and potentially mid-sized businesses. However, if you run a larger business you may suffer from a lack of payroll, and while Zoho Books has great accounting, these features may not be developed enough for your needs (in comparison to software companies like Xero and QuickBooks Pro). Nonetheless, Zoho Books has the potential to be a great option for smaller businesses. And you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Accounting Method

Both accrual and cash-basis accounting.

Ease of Use

Many software companies claim that their software is so easy a non-accountant can use it, but in Zoho’s case, this claim is actually true. The set up is simple, the layout is generally intuitive, and there’s ample support to help you along the way. However, there are a couple of areas that could use a bit of streamlining.

  • Set Up – Zoho Books is easy to use across the board, and especially easy to set up. You simply add your company’s details, set a tax default, enable the features you’d like, and determine a few quick preferences. (You can always alter these preferences at a later time.) After this, you verify your email address and are basically good to go. You’ll be directed first to a few how-to videos and demonstrations, though I recommend skipping these for the time being (they’ll still be there when you return, don’t worry) and go to settings instead. You’ll want to make your way through settings in order to add payment gateways, enable live bank feeds, customize your invoice templates and more. After that, you’ll need to add or import contacts and items and customize your chart of accounts before gettings started.
  • Organization – I love the organization of Zoho Invoice; every feature has its own little dashboard (see projects and contacts below for more information) and things are generally easy to find. Tabs on the left side of the screen are marked Dashboard, Contacts, Items, Banking, Sales, Purchases, Accountant, Timesheet, and Reports. If you click on these tabs, a drop-down menu will pop up (see picture below). On the top right-hand side of the screen, there are icons for Notifications, Documents, Setting, and Support.

Zoho Books Review

  • Instructions and Guidance – After you set up your account, you get a video walkthrough of the software’s features, and every time you open a new feature for the first time, Zoho Books will explain it to you. These walkthrough explanations can be helpful, as can the articles in the Zoho Books Help Center. However, the best support resource I found is the live chat feed on the Dashboard. It’s quick, easy, and effective. There is also a phone number and email address if you’d like to speak to a representative in more depth. In addition, you can check out this hour-long webinar demonstration on YouTube that teaches you the entire software.
  • Problems – For the most part, I encountered very few problems with Zoho Books. However, there were a few minor annoyances.
    • Not Always Intuitive – Though I could generally navigate the software easily, it was sometimes hard to find what I was looking for. For example, in Settings, there appears to be only a single invoice template (until you somehow intuit that pressing “+ New” gives you access to fourteen more). Features like mileage tracking are also hiding a bit under other features.
    • No Payroll – One of the only things Zoho Books is missing is Payroll. For larger businesses, this could be a deal-breaker.
    • No Budgeting – If Zoho Books truly wants to be on par with QuickBooks Online and Xero, the company needs to add a budgeting feature.
    • Improved Invoice Customization – While Zoho Books has incredibly invoice customization options, I wish the customizations screen in Settings was a bit more user-friendly. For example, the color gradient box makes it difficult to choose the exact shade you’d like. Additionally, although there is a “logo orientation” setting with options to move your logo to the left, right, and center, you can’t actually move your logo’s position on your invoices. No matter which position setting you click, the logo stays put.

Features

Zoho Books offers a robust set of features and quite a few unique touches that make the software a joy to use. Click here to take a full feature tour.

  • Dashboard – The Zoho Books dashboard is appealing and makes it easy to view your financial state. The Dashboard features graphs for Total Receivables, Total Payables, Cashflow, Income and Expense, Your Top Expenses, Projects, and Bank and Credit Cards. You can also change the color theme of your whole dashboard and main menu, which is a really cool touch. There are 20 different color themes to choose from (I left the original color theme for the photos in this review).

Zoho Books Review

  • Invoicing – This is where Zoho Books shines brighter than all the rest. Zoho Books has added five new templates for a grand total of 15 invoice templates–all of which are professional and business-worthy. Zoho Books even tells you what each template is ideal for (i.e. long lists of items, snail mail, etc.). There are many customization options as well. You can add discounts and charge shipping. You can opt to add a salesperson field to each invoice, as well as custom fields. You can even attach up to five files to each invoice, and each plan allows for recurring invoices and invoice reminders. Another incredibly unique feature Zoho Books gives is the option to encrypt the invoices you send as pdfs so they cannot be edited or altered. Furthermore, Zoho Books supports retainer invoices, sales orders, refunds, and customer credit. Invoices can be sent via email or traditional mail.

Zoho Books Review

  • Estimates – There are 15 estimate templates as well. The process for creating estimates is virtually the same as that for creating invoices. You can convert invoices to estimates with the click of a button and can choose to have estimates automatically converted when there are accepted by a client. You can also add attachments to estimates and clone them for easy estimate creation. Zoho Books makes it easy to turn estimates into projects.
  • Client Portal – To this day, this is still one of my favorite client portals out there; it is easy to use and has a very appealing UI. Clients have the option to view their home dashboard, estimates, invoices, and project details and can make partial or full invoice payments directly through the portal. They can comment on estimates as well. The best part is, you get real-time notifications about when your invoices and estimates have been viewed and paid. Make sure you enable this feature for each contact on the contact page (after you click on your contact’s name, you’ll see the option to “enable” the portal under Other Details on the left of the screen).

Zoho Books Review

  • Contact Management – Zoho Books’ contact management feature is refreshingly advanced. You can display contacts by customer or company name, assign default sales taxes and currencies to contacts, and even send invoices and estimates in a default foreign language. In addition to these little touches, the contacts dashboard is beautiful. Once you click on a contact name, you are taken to a dashboard overview with charts and graphs that show that specific contact’s activity, unused customer credits, outstanding receivables, payment due dates, and a timeline of their history. Even better, you can request reviews and testimonials directly from your clients.

Zoho Books Review

  • Expense Tracking – Zoho Books offers basic expense tracking features, including receipt uploads. You can enter expenses by hand (individually or in bulk), manually import bank statements via .csv and t.sv, or connect to your bank account directly. You can categorize your expenses as well. Zoho Books also supports bank reconciliation. The software will automatically match transactions and suggest expense categories. It used to be that transactions still had to be individually approved, but luckily this is the case no more. Note: Like almost software using bank live feeds, Zoho Books partners with Yodlee, which may violate some banks’ Terms and Conditions. Consult with your bank to see whether live bank feeds are a good choice for you.
  • Accounts Payable – Through Zoho Books, you can create bills and recurring bills. You can set payment reminders and save vendor information easily. Zoho Books allows you to add attachments and internal notes to bills. You can create purchase orders as well.
  • Chart of Accounts – Zoho Books provides a default chart of accounts that can be customized to fit your business’s needs. You can also import an existing chart of accounts via .csv.

Zoho Books Review

  • Inventory (Professional Plan Only) – The Professional Plan offers inventory stock level tracking (smaller plans provide an item list only). This feature is surprisingly advanced for the price; you’d have to pay $20/mo with QuickBooks to do what Zoho Books does. You can set reorder levels and alerts for when stock reaches a certain minimum value. A detailed item list includes item name, unit, rate, sales cost, a link to a specific account, and whether or not the item is taxable. You can add both flat rate discounts and percentage discounts to any item (but not to an invoice total). A recent addition allows you to add images to your items and SKUs as well.
  • Price List – According to Zoho Books, this unique feature “allows you to customize the standard rate and offer your products or services at a higher or lower rate for any specific customer whenever needed.” You can learn more about price lists in Zoho Books’ detailed Help Center.
  • Projects – The projects feature is one of the most beautifully designed I have seen. The UI makes it easy to create projects, tasks, and budgets.You can budget by total project cost, total project hours, hours per task, or hours per staff. You can assign projects or specific tasks to staff members and set detailed user permissions for each member. When you click on each new project, you are taken to a project dashboard. This dashboard includes charts and graphs showing the real-time progress of your project. You can easily comment on projects and attach time, bills, and expenses to them as well. Zoho Books makes it easy to turn projects into invoices. You can opt for clients to be able to see the progress of projects through their client portal. You can also request a weekly projects summary report.

Zoho Books Review

  • Time Tracking – You can easily attach billable hours to projects and bill this time to customers. To log hours, you may use a built-in timer or enter time manually (either with a start and end time or a total of hours worked). Once you activate the timer, it pops up in the bottom left corner of the screen. Simply click it to turn it off and the time will automatically be calculated and added to the preset project or task.
  • Reports – Zoho Books offers an impressive number of reports—53 to be exact (seven more than there were in our last review). Most basic accounting reports are covered as well. In addition, you can opt to have a weekly summary report sent directly to your email.
  • Fixed Asset Management – I was surprised to see that Zoho Books offers fixed asset management and depreciation–an advanced, but necessary, accounting feature.
  • Journal Entries – Zoho Books supports journal entries. This feature is much improved since our last review.
  • Track Mileage Deductions – You can now track mileage deductions (go to Expenses > + New > Record Mileage).
  • Report Tags – Much like QuickBooks Online’s class tracking, Zoho Books has recently added reporting tags. These tags are completely customizable and serve as a way to further organize your transactions and information. You can run customized reports based on these tabs. Learn more about report tags in the Help Center.
  • Default Email Messages – You can set default email messages for 14 preset templates or any number of customizable templates.

Zoho Books Review

  • Print Checks – You can order and print checks directly from Zoho Books.
  • Sales Tax – You can create as many sales tax settings (and sales exemptions) for your business as needed. An added bonus, Zoho Books lets you assign each customer a separate sales tax default. Zoho Books also integrates with an automated tax service called Avalara which uses your customer’s location to get the most up-to-date sale tax rate.(for an additional cost).
  • Tax Support – Zoho Books allows you to run a 1099 report and Sales Tax Liability report to make life a little easier come tax season.
  • Multi-Currency – Zoho Books supports around 200 different currencies and each contact can be assigned a specific currency. For information about how Zoho Books automatically imports exchange rates, go here.
  • Importing/Exporting – You can import and export basically anything you can think of in Zoho Books, including customers, vendors, items, sales price list, purchase price list, Quantity adjustments, value adjustments, bank statements, estimates, retainer invoices, sales orders, invoices, customer payments, recurring invoices, credit notes, refunds, expenses, recurring expenses, purchase orders, bills, your payments, recurring bills, vendor credits, your refunds, journals, and a chart of accounts all via .csv (and some by .tsv as well). You can also create a backup company file in settings which exports all of your data in a single document.
  • APIAPI is available for developers.

Customer Service

Zoho products tend to have great features but poor customer service. So I was incredibly surprised not only by the number of customer service options available for Zoho Books but by the quality of service. I was always responded to in a timely manner, and customer service representatives were invariably kind, informative, and authoritative.

Each time I called in, my phone call was answered without ever being put on hold. My emails were also answered promptly (usually in 1-2 hours, with the longest wait time being 19 hours). And as I mentioned above, the live chat option is beautiful.

Customer Service is available 24/5, Monday through Friday. Here are all of the customer service options Zoho Books offers:

  • Phone – US users can contact Zoho at (844) 316-5544. Zoho Books also has several international numbers: 0800856099 (UK), 1800911076 (AUS), 18001237711 (India), and 80004440824 (United Arab Emirates).
  • Email – You can email a customer service representative at support@zohobooks.com or a sales representative at sales@zohocorp.com.
  • Contact Form – Zoho Books does have a contact form, but in my experience, it is not actively maintained. I’d stick with email if you want to actually get a response.
  • Live Chat – For quick responses, use the live chat feature on the Zoho Books site (and within the Zoho Books software itself). I found myself using this resource most often. The responses are well-worded, informative, and quick—I mean, can you beat a less than 60-second initial response time?
  • Help Center – There is a detailed Help Center with step-by-step how-to articles and some troubleshooting advice. These articles are helpful and vast enough to cover most questions I had. However, the search feature could use some improvement.
  • Community Forum – You can ask questions here and receive answers from the Zoho Books community.
  • FAQ – Zoho books has the biggest FAQ section I have ever seen–by far. If you have a question, I’m sure there’s an answer hiding somewhere in there.
  • Webinars – You can sign up for weekly webinars on Zoho products in general, although they are not always pertinent to Zoho Books. You can also watch a prerecorded Zoho Books webinar.
  • YouTube – Zoho Books does have a YouTube channel, but it’s seen better days.
  • Blog – The Zoho Books blog mainly features Zoho Books updates and some business advice.
  • Feature Suggestion – There is a feature suggestion section where customers can tell Zoho Books what they want to see next. You can also vote for preexisting requests.
  • Accountant Finder – Zoho Books provides an accountant finder resource to its customers.
  • Feature Timeline – While Zoho Books doesn’t reveal upcoming feature releases, the company does provide a timeline of past updates.
  • Social Media – Zoho Books maintains fairly active Twitter and Facebook accounts. None of the tweets or posts are particularly outstanding, but there are some helpful business tips and Zoho updates. Zoho responds fairly quickly to customer questions and complaints. However, there is no separate Facebook or Twitter page specifically for Zoho Books, so much of the information may not be relevant to you.

Negative Reviews and Complaints

For the most part, Zoho Books customer reviews are positive, and the majority of negative reviews are outdated and have been resolved. However, there are still a few things customers would like to see improved:

  • Downtime and Outages – There have been cases of server downtime and outages that a few users are not happy about.
  • Lack of Integrations – This was the most frequent complaint for quite a while. And while there are a few users still begging for certain integrations, the new Zapier integration connects Zoho Books with over 750 other apps. More recently, users are calling for a better Zoho Books and Zoho CRM integration.
  • Mobile App Bugs – The Zoho Books apps are generally well-liked, but there are a few reported bugs, especially from Windows users (who rate the app lower than both Android and iPhone users).

Positive Reviews and Testimonials

Most Zoho Books reviews are incredibly positive. The software receives 4.5 stars on Capterra, 4.75/5 stars on G2Crowd, and is featured in GetApp’s top 25 Accounting apps based in the cloud (Zoho Books is number three). In addition, the mobile apps receive 4.5/5 stars in iTunes and 4.5/5 stars in the Google PlayStore.

Here are a few reasons people like the software so much:

  • Easy to Use – This is by far the most common praise of Zoho Books. Users find the software easy to learn and easy to use.
  • Save Time – In the same vein, users find that Zoho Books’ easy to use interface and many automated features save valuable time.
  • Mobile Apps – Users love the mobility and robust feature set of Zoho Books’ mobile apps.
  • Feature Updates – Many users are impressed by the updates Zoho Books has implemented because of customer suggestions. I myself am incredibly pleased by how frequently the software updates, and I’ve found that any weaknesses pointed out while reviewing this software are often resolved.
  • Great Customer Service – Zoho Books has seriously improved by leaps and bounds in this area. Many users appreciate customer service for being friendly and prompt in their responses.

Check out what a few users are saying:

“I’ve tried QuickBooks, Quicken, other expense and timeclock apps…Zoho Books is one app that has the ability to integrate with multiple features EASILY! My time is money and Zoho Books saves me money because it saves me time!” – Rachael Maddison, Rachael Maddison Creative

“I must say am very impressed with Zoho Books. It is an easy to use comprehensive platform. It is impressive how quick the system is and how quickly I can navigate the system from any screen to analyse data, reports and any information I need. This is an excellent Accounting System that doesn’t require being an accountant to understand and use it correctly.” – Jason Kimber, Solutions to Success

“I’ve tried all of the other big brand business accounting products, and while they have adequacies in certain areas, they lack in many other areas. Zoho Books is feature rich, and is exceptional value for money. The customer support is prompt, supportive, and flexible. I would reccomend Zoho Books to anyone, especially any small business owner.” – Levi Whitten-Connolly, North Dock

Integrations and Add-Ons

In the past, Zoho provided a very limited set of integrations. Luckily this has changed. Zoho Books now offers 12 payment gateways and 16 third-party integrations, including a Zapier integration (which connect Zoho books to 750 other apps). You can also connect your Zoho Books account with seven other Zoho Products.

Zoho Integrations

  • Zoho CRM – Strong customer management tool that features sales tracking, inventory management, and more. Read our full review here.
  • Zoho Projects – A project management tool that offers time tracking, bug tracking, file management, and chat communication. Read our full review here.
  • Zoho Subscriptions – Manages recurring bills and subscriptions so you don’t have to.
  • Zoho Expense – Automated expense reporting tool that also provides expense analytics.
  • Zoho Inventory – Inventory management software that integrates with eCommerce sites and over 25 shipping services.
  • Zoho Reports – A strong reporting and analytics tool.
  • Zoho Docs – A file storage solution that can be accessed anywhere.

Third-Party Add-Ons

  • PayPal – Accept online payments and enable electronic payment of invoices. Read our full review here.
  • WePay – Accept payments through a personal merchant account.
  • Zapier – Connects Zoho Books to over 500 other apps and add-ons.
  • Slack – A powerful communication platform for business teams. (Here at Merchant Maverick we’re a little partial to Slack, since it’s our team’s main means of communication.)
  • Avalara – Automated sales tax solution that automatically calculates sales tax from a customer’s address.

Security

Zoho Books takes strong security measures including 256-bit SSL encryption, two-factor authentication, and regular intrusion/virus detection and prevention scanning. Additional physical measures are taken to ensure data security, such as 24/7/365 surveillance, video monitoring, bullet-resistant walls, and more. In addition, Zoho Books backs up data regularly onto multiple servers in undisclosed locations. For more information on Zoho’s security, go here.

Final Verdict

Zoho Books offers a strong set of features that could be ideal for many small businesses. The client portal and the overall design of the UI make it a pleasure to use. Zoho Books’ invoices stand apart from other accounting software options in terms of customizability and professionalism. And the automation options in email templates, time tracking, and custom workflows save time and money.

Additionally, Zoho Books has worked hard to make itself a contender by enhancing the bank reconciliation feature and offering strong accounting capabilities like fixed asset management, depreciation, and check printing. I have very few issues with or reservations about the software. Most past issues have been resolved by numerous monthly updates. The software is still not quite as developed as Xero, but is close to on par with QuickBooks Online. Sadly, Zoho Books still doesn’t offer payroll, which could be a deal breaker for some businesses.

If you’re looking for robust accounting features at a competitive price point, consider giving Zoho Books’ free trial a go.

Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause

Head Accounting and Invoicing Writer
Chelsea Krause is a writer, avid reader, and researcher. In addition to loving writing, she became interested in accounting software because of her constant desire to learn something new and understand how things work. When she's not working or daydreaming about her newest story, she can be found drinking obscene amounts of coffee, reading anything written by C.S. Lewis or Ray Bradbury, kayaking and hiking, or watching The X-Files with her husband.
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3 Comments

    Gabriel

    False representation from ZOHO. I have been using ZOHO Invoices and ZOHO CRM for over a year now. After comparing various acounting solutions I decided to go with ZOHO Books. One of the key feature was the ability to automate the Account reconciliation through a feed from my financial institution. To make sure it was available to me before I start investing time and energy I checked on the site to make sure my bank was part of the financial institutions list that can integrate into Zoho books. I even called Customer support and both sources confirmed me that I was ok After having done 2 days worth of work to get ready for the switch I couldn’t set-up the bridge with my banks, After a few calls, tickets and emails, I was told that my bank wasn’t supported and was given no timeline when thi would be made available. Quite a lousy experience . They didn’t even offer any alternative solutions or credit to retain my business.

    2

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

    Pat

    I have been using Zoho Books for several months and I’m extremely happy with the online software. It has taking me three months to find the right software that works for my company and my clients. It has integrations beyond the big competitors and has a customer portal for viewing and paying invoices. Very user friendly with 24/7 support. Highly recommend bookkeeping software.

    5

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

    Bruno

    Hi, i am trying Zoho Books for my company situated in Lima, Perú. This software actually has a lot of accounting stuff but, as you say, lacks of some stuff that helps checking profits of products or services, and also a lack of user control (permissions),.

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

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