QuickBooks: Online or Desktop?

You know your business needs better than anyone, but how do you determine what version of QuickBooks would be most beneficial?

Reading comparisons of QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop (for Windows) is where you might start, and it will give you an idea of the features of each. But I believe the place to start is by evaluating the needs of your business. After all, how will you know which meets your needs, if you’ve not nailed down what those needs are?

Evaluating these elements and their importance to your business needs can help you make the choice.

Side note: QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are really two different products. QBO isn’t a web-enabled version of QB Desktop; the two have different database structures, and two approaches to solving problems. It’s easy to find bookkeepers and accountants with strong opinions, and that’s generally due having used Desktop for years and finding QBO so unfamiliar.

Another side note: QuickBooks is currently available for Mac, but 2016 is its last version, and will be supported until 2019.

Access for users and your accountant

The obvious advantage of the online version of QuickBooks is the real-time access for users, and this can be especially valuable to ‘out and about’ users who give estimates or invoices on the spot. This advantage extends to use on any device with internet access. Additionally, your accountant can have access without the need to create and send an Accountant’s Copy.

Industry-specific features

The Desktop versions have a long list of features not available in QBO, many having to do with inventory, fixed assets, and industry-specific reporting. With the exception of a professional services-only company, the inventory and asset features quickly make Desktop the version of choice. But for any type of business, the Excel exporting is much easier in Desktop.


While there is an upfront cost to QuickBooks Desktop, it’s important to realize that you’ll pay that amount and more with QuickBooks Online. Monthly subscriptions add up, whereas you’ll only pay once for the desktop version of this software. For many, that one-time price is worth having to install software on a desktop.

Each business is different and has different needs for an accounting software to meet. If you’d like to talk with someone about choosing the right version of QuickBooks for your business needs, give us a call.

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