Free Webinar Wednesday January 14th: – QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop on Cloud

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quickbooks online compared to quickbooks desktop

Join Robert J. Chandler, President/CEO of Cloud9 Real Time as he deep dives into QBD and QBO giving the pros and cons of both, and the radical nature of cloud-hosting QBD. This session will be followed by Q and A of QBD in the Cloud.


Intuit is really pushing its QuickBooks Online these days, but it isn’t a product that most financial pros are confident with.   

For many if not most QuickBooks professionals, using QuickBooks Desktop (for Windows, Mac is another story) for years, this is where our comfort zone is.  Intuit keeps attempting to push us out of that comfort zone.

They ARE Different!


According to national QuickBooks and accounting expert Charlie Russell, posting to his Sleeter Group Blog, “Usually whenever someone asks me to compare these two products my stock answer is don’t compare them, they are different products and they fit different situations.”  

“But how can we choose if we don’t compare?”  Russell in seemingly mock-contradiction explains adroitly that even though these two Intuit accounting software products share the name “QuickBooks”, they aren’t of the same genus.  QuickBooks Online is NOT a copy of QuickBooks Desktop that has been Internet-enabled. They are actually different products with different database structures and different paths to solving issues, even though both were developed in-house by Intuit


So, as you explore with your client and assess what they are doing, what kind of industry and situation they have going; Is the staff located in one office or do they work from multiple locations?; Are they manufacturing and inventory-centric and need extra item tracking, like barcoding, or are they service oriented?

Comparison of QuickBooks Online & Desktop*

*Comparison data derived from the comprehensive list provided by Woody Adams as summarized by Charlie Russell

1. Common Features Found on Both QuickBooks Desktop & QuickBooks Online

  • Accept credit card payments from customers
  • Audit trail to track changes to transactions and lists – Note that QB Online has an activity log that also tracks user login/out
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Company Snapshot
  • Custom fields – varies on the number, and how you can use them, so you have to look at the specifics
  •  Express setup of QB company file
  •  Multi user access (different limits to the number)
  •  Multiple windows
  •  Online banking
  •  Payroll (additional fees may be required)
  •  Print Bills
  •  Recurring Billing / Memorized Transactions
  •  Zoom into details from reports
  •  Document management – is much more limited in Online
  •  Budgets (not in QB Online Essentials)
  •  Class Tracking (not in QB Online Essentials)
  •  Create Estimates (not in QB Online Essentials)
  •  Prepare and print 1096, 1099 (not in QB Online Essentials)
  •  Job costing – although this is quite limited in QB Online
  •  Purchase Orders (not in QB Online Essentials)
  •  Invoices
  •  Time tracking and billing by customer (not in QB Online Essentials)
  •  Reversing journal entries
  •  Memorized reports

In addition, there are some features that are only found in the Accountant versions of both products.

  •  Accountant Center
  •  Adjusted Trial Balance (also in Enterprise)
  •  Client file dashboard , File Manager kind of stuff
  •  Set accounting period

These features will be found in most QB Desktop products, but only in the Accountant version on the QB Online side.

  • See and Undo previous reconcile
  • Client Data Review – some portions available in non accountant desktop if you log in using external accountant, features differ between online and desktop
  • Comparative balance sheet and P&L
  • Adjusting journal entries – only in Enterprise on the desktop side
  • Voided/deleted transaction report

2. Features Found in QuickBooks Desktop but not in QuickBooks Online

Says Sleeter Group’s Russell: “QuickBooks Desktop product has been around longer, and in the past it has gotten a lot more attention from the developers.  Sometimes I think of the differences between Microsoft Word (which has EVERYTHING but you might not use it all) and Google Docs (simpler, has the basics, but not all the extra stuff). Do you need all these things? If not, QuickBooks Online is an option.”

[editor note: If you DO need the desktop version features below, you need QuickBooks Desktop – and if you need those desktop features accessible online 24/7 with high security and backup as well as multi-user access, you need Cloud9 QuickBooks Hosting]

  •  Average Cost inventory valuation
  •  Balance Sheet by Class
  •  Batch Invoicing
  •  Batch Timesheet Entry
  •  Billable Time and Expense preferences
  •  Billing rate level
  •  Business Planner
  •  Forecasting
  •  Calendar
  •  Change orders on Estimates
  •  Collections center
  •  Condense data file – but it isn’t clear to me if you actually would need this in QuickBooks Online?
  •  Available Quantity in Inventory
  •  Customer Snapshot
  •  Convert estimate to a purchase order or sales order
  •  Advanced Excel export that can update existing exported reports
  •  Industry specific reporting (lots and lots of industry specific reports here)
  •  Inventory assembly items, Bills of Material, the ability to build assemblies
  •  Inventory Center
  •  Lead Center
  •  Fixed Asset Manager
  •  Mileage tracking
  •  Multiple currencies
  •  Multiple ship to addresses for Vendors
  •  One click transactions (pay bill from bill, create credit memo from invoice, etc.)
  •  Price Levels
  •  Progress Invoicing/billing
  •  Receive partially against a purchase order
  •  Report Favorites
  •  Report – collapse rows
  •  Share report templates with Intuit community
  •  Inventory – reorder/rebuild points
  •  Shipping Manager
  •  Sales Orders
  •  Sales Order Fulfillment Worksheet
  •  Transaction History Panel
  •  Units of Measure

Moving up the line, here are some features found only in QuickBooks Enterprise.

  •  Auto price markup
  •  Default classes with class tracking
  •  Enhanced Item Receiving, to split receipt from bill
  •  Advanced find/select of items
  •  Journal entries, list of previous entries (also found in Accountant)
  •  ODBC access for reporting
  •  Auto purchase orders
  •  QuickBooks Statement Writer (also found in Accountant)
  •  Working Trial Balance (also in Accountant)
  •  Batch Enter Transactions  (also in Accountant)

3. Features Found in QuickBooks Online but not QuickBooks Desktop

  • Remote access – you can do this with QuickBooks Desktop but you need an additional software product or use Cloud9 QuickBooks Hosting
  •  Auto Send Reports – reports or report groups can be scheduled to send automatically
  •  Automatic upgrades – this is both a good and a bad feature, with QuickBooks Online you are almost always running the most up to date version (whether you want to or not)
  •  Company Scorecard
  •  Delayed charges/billing – enter charges to be billed later
  •  Income list/transaction center
  •  Invoice automation – automatically create invoice from unbilled activity
  •  More than one A/R or A/P account per journal entry
  •  Location tracking, a secondary level of class tracking (QB Online Plus only)
  •  FIFO Inventory valuation (available in QuickBooks Enterprise but only with the additional cost Advanced Inventory feature)

There Are More Differences – We are certain that this isn’t an exhaustive index – please do point out others that we may have missed.

Remember us: Cloud9 Real Time was the hands down multiple award winner in 2011-2014 for the best QuickBooks, Sage, and other Cloud-hosted server solutions.  Get our demo or take a 7-day test drive and find out what all the hubbub is about!


Sarah Gardiner

All stories by: Sarah Gardiner