QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop | What Should You Use?

| Read Time: 6 minutes
Share This Post

Any business that wants to succeed needs to have some accounting software, regardless of whether or not they have an actual accountant. Accounting software helps you keep track of your expenses, purchases, income, and much more. In the world of accounting software, few products compare to QuickBooks: a staple of the industry. But while QuickBooks is pretty well-known overall, there are actually two different versions of the software to check out: Online and Desktop. Both versions of the product offer different features and advantages. Let’s break down QuickBooks Online vs. Quickbooks Desktop in more detail so that you know which is the best choice for your company given its size, needs, and more.

What is QuickBooks?

QuickBooks is a brand of accounting software produced by Intuit. It’s extremely popular with small and large businesses alike, but where people once had to purchase and install a desktop version of the software for each computer or account they wanted to use it with, now QuickBooks has an “Online” version as well. Both of these versions offer many of the same accounting features, but there are some key differences to be aware of before you decide which to purchase for your business.

QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop: Overview

QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based accounting product that was launched in 2004. Over the last 10 years, QuickBooks Online has improved significantly from its core version and now directly competes with QuickBooks Desktop: Intuit’s flagship product. QuickBooks Online is software primarily for small businesses or for business owners that do their own accounting. The software is somewhat scalable if you purchase the Advanced plan, making it a good choice for new businesses that have serious room to grow in the future. QuickBooks Online works anywhere you have an Internet connection. But you have to pay regularly to access the software. QuickBooks Desktop is the core version of the software and was launched in 1992. It has been updated multiple times over the following decades and comes in three versions: Pro, Premier, and Enterprise (ideal for much larger businesses). Each of these versions comes with core accounting features and controls, such as expense tracking, budgeting, and job-costing. Note that QuickBooks Desktop is only available for Windows computers, whereas there’s a separate QuickBooks for Mac product if you are committed to using Apple computers.

QuickBooks Online Pros and Cons


  • Can access from anywhere you can connect to the Internet
  • Very intuitive and easy to use
  • Has a monthly pricing structure
  • Offers over 650 integrations
  • Good core features and is only getting better over time


  • Minimal customer support
  • Doesn’t have as many core features compared to Desktop
  • Doesn’t allow sales orders by default

QuickBooks Desktop Pros and Cons


  • Very good core feature base
  • Allows for traditional accounting
  • Offers over 200 integrations with add-ons or other software
  • Can potentially be more secure


  • Lacks good customer support
  • Can’t remotely access the software on the go
  • Only available for Windows
  • Can be expensive as you target the more advanced subscription tiers

Feature Differences

The great news is that QuickBooks’s online and desktop versions both offer excellent features, though there are some differences. In general, the desktop version of the software is a little more developed and complete, although QuickBooks Online has a few specialized features you can only get with it. Both software types offer double-entry accounting principles as well as accrual and cash-basis accounting. Desktop offers a little better in terms of reporting and offers more complex accounting options and controls. However, QuickBooks Online offers “ QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping ”. This allows small business owners to pay for professional support accounting from certified CPAs and QuickBooks accountants. This may be a great choice if you don’t have the budget to hire an accountant full-time or need to make sure that whoever does your accounting is fully certified. QuickBooks Online is also superior when it comes to invoicing, as you can easily create custom and beautiful invoices for all your customers. Furthermore, QuickBooks Online is designed with automation in mind, allowing you to set up recurring invoices, batch invoices, and more. Both versions of the software do offer contact management, though Desktop allows you to both track and manage any leads you might have for future business. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Online allows you to make up to 80 reports depending on your plan, whereas Desktop has a theoretical maximum of 130 reports if you go for the higher-priced subscription plans. Neither version of the software has built-in payroll, though you can add payroll with Online as an optional add-on for $45 a month. QuickBooks Capital, the service’s lending option, is only available to users of QuickBooks Online (though there are much better lending institutions out there, such as Seek Capital). QuickBooks Desktop offers pretty good options in terms of sales orders, but you can’t use any of these through QuickBooks Online. Lastly, QuickBooks offers both Android and iOS apps for mobile controls. As you can see, both versions of QuickBooks have a lot to like, though Desktop has some staple features you might miss with Online. In contrast, Online has a few more advanced and automation-related features for small businesses that may not have the manpower to spend hours on accounting each week.

User Friendliness

Which version of QuickBooks has better ease-of-use or user-friendliness? In short, it’s QuickBooks Online, which is much easier to use compared to its desktop counterpart. That’s partially because Online has been built from the ground up to be accessible for everyone, even those without a lot of accounting experience. Desktop is a little more dense and better for trained accountants who know what they’re doing. QuickBooks Desktop will certainly take a lot longer to learn the ins and outs of if you are running your own accounting for your small business.

Customer Support

Neither QuickBooks Online and Desktop’s Pro and Premier plans have fantastic customer support overall. In fact, only QuickBooks’ Enterprise Desktop plan really has customer support worth writing home about. However, QuickBooks Online doesn’t require you to pay extra for any customer support, but both versions of the product do have phone-based help centers you can call anytime. Keep in mind that wait times are usually quite long and there isn’t an option for email support.

Integration with Other Software

Fortunately, both versions of QuickBooks do allow you to integrate the core accounting software with add-on products and other software. QuickBooks Online can integrate with over 650 different applications or add-on products. In contrast, QuickBooks Desktop can only go up to 200 or so. Overall, QuickBooks Online’s integration status is a lot better, both in terms of sheer quantity and overall integration smoothness. For instance, QuickBooks allows you to integrate with add-ons that can cover core business needs or include multiple payment gateway options. QuickBooks Desktop doesn’t offer much in either of these categories.


Of course, you should also consider pricing when choosing between QuickBooks Online and Desktop. Both versions of the software have different pricing structures. QuickBooks Online, being a cloud-based “software as a service” solution, uses a logical pricing structure for that system. You can choose between four pricing plans that range between $25 a month to $150 a month depending on which features you like or need for your business. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Desktop offers a licensing pricing model and a yearly subscription pricing model. Prices will vary based on which version of the software you decide to purchase, and range from as low as $299.95 per month to over $1000 a month for QuickBooks Enterprise 20.0. Ultimately, both of these pricing tiers make the target customer clear: QuickBooks Online is better for smaller businesses with lower budgets while QuickBooks Desktop is better for more established businesses that may have their own accountants using the software throughout the year. Keep in mind that any add-ons you decide to combine with your core QuickBooks experience are not included with these prices. QuickBooks Online’s pricing model may be a little better if you have multiple users running accounting for your small business, especially if you don’t have enough cash flow for a long-term subscription.

Final Verdict – Which Should You Use?

In the end, QuickBooks Online edges out a little bit ahead of Desktop overall in our opinion. That being said, Desktop might still be the better choice overall if you have a larger business and want some core accounting software that your accounting team or CPA can use regularly without having to connect to the Internet. If you aren’t sure, you can always try QuickBooks Online temporarily for a relatively small cost, then move over to the other version of the software if you like. Don’t forget to contact Seek Capital about business loans or other financial needs, too -- we’re happy to help wherever we can! Sources https://quickbooks.intuit.com/online/move-to-online/ https://www.picpa.org/consumers/cpa-locator/what-does-a-cpa-do https://quickbooks.intuit.com/live/

Did You Know?
We've funded over $400 million for small business owners since 2015