Intuit QuickBooks is one of the most widely used accounting software packages on the market. Many businesses use it for bookkeeping, inventory management, payroll, and other financial tasks. It offers a selection of ready-to-use templates for creating invoices, sales receipts, spreadsheets, and more.

QuickBooks offers two core products: QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. While both solutions help businesses manage their finances better, they have distinct features that set them apart and make them a better fit for certain kinds of businesses.

So let’s discuss everything you need to know about the two versions — including their key features and differences — to help you determine which accounting solution is best for your business. 

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: A quick overview

When comparing Intuit’s two most popular products, QuickBooks Online vs Desktop, you'll discover that both are outstanding business accounting software systems with powerful features.

The main distinction between the two products is their accessibility and pricing. QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based software with a monthly subscription, whereas QuickBooks Desktop is installed locally and has an annual license pricing scheme.

QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online is the cloud-based, mobile-friendly version of the popular accounting software. It began as a "light" counterpart of QuickBooks Desktop but quickly evolved into a sophisticated version in itself.

Mobility and ease of use are the primary focus of the online edition. Thanks to cloud computing, businesses can manage their finances anywhere in the world using any device they choose. QuickBooks Online is chock-full of accounting features that make it incredibly easy to use, even for non-accountants.

QuickBooks Online is an affordable, flexible, and scalable option for small to mid-sized businesses that prefer a cloud-based accounting solution.

QuickBooks Desktop

Many seasoned accountants and bookkeepers may be more accustomed to this “traditional” version of QuickBooks that needs to be installed on your computer. 

QuickBooks Desktop offers more comprehensive features and tools that any accounting professional may need. It’s also flexible, with over 200 integrations, letting you seamlessly incorporate it into your business workflow.

However, it requires more knowledge and expertise to harness its full potential, which is why it may be better suited for accounting experts.

QuickBooks Desktop is an on-premise accounting solution with cloud-hosting options and sophisticated, industry-specific functionalities.

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QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Key features and similarities

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop share many essential features and functions, including the following:

  • Accounts payable management
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Budgeting
  • Cash flow management
  • Estimates
  • Income and expense tracking
  • Integrations
  • Inventory management
  • Invoicing
  • Mileage tracking
  • Payroll
  • Receipt management
  • Record-keeping
  • Reporting
  • Tax compliance

The two products also provide similar customer support options, including email, chat, and phone support, video tutorials, and on-demand webinars.

While both solutions offer an excellent selection of features, QuickBooks Desktop has more extensive elements. Moreover, because QuickBooks features differ from plan to plan, be sure to thoroughly examine each tier for the components you need.

QuickBooks Online: Additional features

QuickBooks Online offers several features that are not available in the desktop version.

  • Automatic backup: As a cloud-based service, QuickBooks Online automatically backs up all your data to Intuit’s server. This means you won't need as much disk space as you would for the desktop version.
  • Automatic sales tax management: QuickBooks Online automatically calculates the sales tax rate for transactions based on any client location in the United States.
  • Mobile app: QuickBooks Online provides a mobile app that allows users to perform almost any accounting task on the go. The mobile app for the desktop version is limited to uploading receipts.
  • Online banking connectivity: QuickBooks Online’s automation features eliminate busywork and help you manage your finances more quickly and efficiently. It easily connects to online banking and automatically matches bank and credit card transactions with expenses, so you don't have to enter any data manually.

QuickBooks Desktop: Additional features

QuickBooks Desktop offers more sophisticated features than comparable features found on QuickBooks Online.

  • Advanced inventory management: QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise offers a more robust inventory monitoring and pricing feature, tracks inventory levels from one channel, and helps improve inventory efficiency.
  • Industry-specific editions: QuickBooks Desktop Premier and QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise offer industry-specific solutions for general contracting, manufacturing, professional services, retail, and nonprofit.
  • The Customer Center: You can manage all customer information and transactions using the Customer Center, including creating invoices, recording payments, and processing sales orders and receipts.
  • The Vendor Center: You can manage all vendor information and activity, from contact details to various types of transactions, through the Vendor Center.

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Key differences

While QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop have comparable features and functions to help you meet the demands of your business, there are significant differences between the two that may sway you to choose one over the other. Let’s take a closer look at some of these distinctions.

1. Accessibility

One of the main differences between QuickBooks Online and Desktop is that you may access QuickBooks Online from any internet-enabled device anytime and anywhere, whereas QuickBooks Desktop must be installed on your computer.

QuickBooks Online is compatible with a wide range of browsers, including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox. It also has a mobile app that works on both iOS and Android devices.

While QuickBooks Desktop is restricted to the number of installations included in your selected service tier, you may use a hosting provider to access your desktop software from a cloud server. With a username and password, you can log in and access your data and files remotely anytime — just like you would from a local desktop.

It's also worth noting that QuickBooks Desktop is only available on Windows computers. Mac users would need to download and install QuickBooks for Mac to use the service.

2. Ease of installation and use

Ease of use is one of the most crucial factors to consider when choosing a software package. While installing QuickBooks Desktop on a single computer may take only a few minutes, installing it on multiple computers might be more complicated because each machine will need access to the company data file. 

Since QuickBooks Online is cloud-based and doesn’t require installation, it’s the clear winner in terms of ease of installation. 

Moreover, QuickBooks Online is generally easier to use and navigate than QuickBooks Desktop because it has a more streamlined and intuitive user interface. Both the online dashboard and mobile app, with their clear and straightforward graphics, are remarkably easy to understand and use.

Conversely, QuickBooks Desktop was designed with accounting professionals in mind. It has a flowchart-style menu, a customizable user interface, and shortcuts for frequently used features.

3. Integrations 

QuickBooks Online has more third-party integrations than its desktop counterpart. It connects with over 750 popular business tools and platforms, simplifying and automating many accounting tasks. It also has a much simpler connection procedure, letting you use third-party applications directly online.

In addition to having more connectors available in the app store, QuickBooks Online integrations cover a wider range of business needs and offer several payment gateway alternatives. 

In contrast, the majority of QuickBooks Desktop integrations are geared at ecommerce. It provides limited payment channels, making it difficult for modern merchants to accept invoice payments online.

Even though it has fewer options available, QuickBooks Desktop still integrates with over 200 third-party applications, making it one of the most interconnected desktop software solutions.

4. Reporting options

All QuickBooks versions and plans include comprehensive reporting options. However, only QuickBooks Desktop offers industry-specific reports for manufacturing, retail, wholesale, nonprofit, and professional services.

QuickBooks Online provides over 80 reports depending on your plan, whereas QuickBooks Desktop Premier Plus and Enterprise plans offer over 150 industry-specific documents. QuickBooks Desktop also has additional features for customizing and exporting reports. 

5. Pricing and tiers 

QuickBooks Online offers four monthly plans for businesses, each with a specified number of users. QuickBooks Desktop, on the other hand, is available as an annual subscription — with an additional cost per user. QuickBooks Online has a 30-day free trial, while QuickBooks Desktop provides a 60-day money-back guarantee.

QuickBooks Online’s pricing structure may be a better choice for you if you want a fixed monthly plan. It’s ideal for businesses that can do without the expensive annual subscription and additional fee per user.

However, if you only have one user and require locally installed software with advanced functionality, QuickBooks Desktop is the better candidate. Keep in mind that the additional charges for QuickBooks Desktop can quickly pile up, particularly if you have several users.

QuickBooks Online plans

  • Simple Start – $30 a month, 1 user
  • Essentials – $55 a month, up to 3 users
  • Plus – $85 a month, up to 5 users
  • Advanced – $200 a month, up to 25 users

Aside from the 30-day free trial, QuickBooks currently offers 50% off for three months on all QuickBooks Online plans.

QuickBooks Desktop plans

  • Premier Plus – starts from $799 a year, up to 5 users
  • Enterprise – starts from $1,206 a year, up to 40 users

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Which should you choose for your business?

Every business has unique needs and demands that make one accounting software version a better fit than the other. Nevertheless, you may use the following general guidelines when deciding on the best product for your business.

QuickBooks Online is more suitable for:

  • Ecommerce businesses: QuickBooks Online integrates seamlessly with many ecommerce platforms, making it the most recommended ecommerce accounting software for smaller or web-based businesses.
  • Businesses with multiple users: Choose QuickBooks Online if you need to provide more than one person access to your books, such as a tax professional or even an independent accountant. With QuickBooks Desktop, you have to pay additional fees to give access to more users.
  • Cloud-based accounting: Businesses and on-the-go entrepreneurs who prefer to manage their businesses from their smartphones can access QuickBooks Online from any computer or mobile device connected to the internet.

QuickBooks Desktop is more suitable for:

  • Intensive inventory accounting: QuickBooks Desktop is designed for businesses that require a more robust accounting and inventory management package.
  • Specialized industries: QuickBooks Desktop is a good fit for niche businesses such as retailers and nonprofit organizations looking for a bespoke industry-specific solution.
  • Bookkeeping across multiple businesses: Provided that you don't need consolidated financial statements, you can manage the books for an unlimited number of companies using QuickBooks Desktop.

Webgility takes ecommerce automation a step further

Intuit has partnered with Webgility, an ecommerce accounting solution, to help small and medium-sized businesses save time, ensure accuracy, and make data-driven decisions to boost growth.

Webgility for QuickBooks Online

Webgility's QuickBooks integration provides everything you need for cloud-based ecommerce automation. It syncs QuickBooks Online with sales channels and marketplaces to simplify bookkeeping. 

With Webgility, you can keep every detail — from customer information and sales tax to inventory and shipping costs — more consistent across several platforms.

Webgility eliminates manual data entry, simplifies accounting reconciliation, and improves overall ecommerce operations. It also supports easy collaboration, letting you share your account with your preferred accounting expert or an outsourced accounting agency. 

You can even choose between individual transaction posting as a sales receipt or keep it simple with journal entry posting, and route the expenses and income to their respective accounts in QuickBooks.

Optimize your ecommerce business with Webgility for QuickBooks Online, and start selling more anywhere, anytime, and from any device.

Webgility for QuickBooks Desktop

Webgility syncs QuickBooks Desktop with your online stores, giving you an automated and reliable multichannel inventory hub for your entire business. 

With Webgility, you can minimize inventory mistakes and maintain centralized control over products, pricing, and profits. You can also easily add new products to online stores and marketplaces from QuickBooks.

Webgility automates ecommerce accounting, inventory and pricing, order management, fulfillment and purchasing, and more. It automatically syncs your sales and financial data and keeps your books up to date. 

Even if you sell in multiple locations, Webgility keeps track of sales tax collected from all your sales channels for easier and more accurate tax filing.

Eliminate busywork with Webgility for QuickBooks Desktop, and instead focus on growing your business. 

Webgility is the best ecommerce integration for QuickBooks users. Get started for free today and join over 5,000 businesses leveraging our solutions to save time, cut costs, and increase profits.

Webgility automates ecommerce and accounting for all QuickBooks customers