QuickBooks Online is best for companies needing multiple users who can access the platform from anywhere since they handle accounting tasks remotely. While QuickBooks Desktop is more expensive for multiple users, one license can be used to keep the books for an unlimited number of companies.
This article is part of a larger series on Accounting Software.
A notable difference between QuickBooks Online and Desktop is that you can access QuickBooks Online anytime and anywhere from any internet-enabled device, whereas QuickBooks Desktop must be installed on your computer. Both are on our list of the best small business accounting software, wherein QuickBooks Online is our overall top recommendation and QuickBooks Desktop is our leading desktop accounting program. Learn more in our QuickBooks Online review and QuickBooks Desktop Pro review.
QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop at a Glance
$30 to $200 per month
Starting at $349.99 per year
Number of Users Included
1 to 25
Maximum Users Allowed
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that prefer a cloud-based solution
Users that want to manage the books of multiple companies
Ease of Sharing
Send invitation through email
Must create an Accountant’s Copy
Overall Ease of Use
QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop
When To Use Each
- Xero: QuickBooks Online and Desktop can’t track fixed assets. If your business uses a lot of machinery and equipment, you should consider Xero. It allows you to track fixed assets, such as buildings, machinery, equipment, and land, and record and calculate book depreciation on your assets. Read our Xero review for more information.
- Zoho Books: QuickBooks Online has a capable mobile application, but it’s not as powerful as the Zoho Books mobile app. Zoho Books lets you record bills and bill payments and enter time worked then assign it to a project or customer, which are things you can’t do in the QuickBooks Online mobile app. For more insights, see our Zoho Books review.
- Lendio Accounting: QuickBooks Online and Desktop are among the most powerful accounting software programs, but they’re also among the most expensive. If you’re a very small business that’s starting out, you can save money by using free accounting software like Lendio Accounting (formerly Sunrise). Check out our review of Lendio Accounting to learn more.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Pricing
$30 (Simple Start)
Number of Users Included
1 (Simple Start)
Maximum Number of Users Allowed*
1 (Simple Start)
30-day Free Trial
60-day Money-back Guarantee
*All users are included in the price of each QuickBooks Online tier. However, for each QuickBooks Desktop plan, only one user is included, which means you have to pay a fee for each extra seat. For example, QuickBooks Desktop Pro costs $349.99 for one user, $549.99 for two, and $749.99 for three.
QuickBooks Online offers four plans, each with a set number of users while QuickBooks Desktop is available as a yearly subscription with an additional cost per user. QuickBooks Online’s pricing structure is a better choice since you can find a plan based on the number of users you have without paying an additional fee. It’s ideal for businesses that can’t afford expensive annual subscriptions. Approximately 89% of customers agree that QuickBooks Online is easier to maintain than QuickBooks Desktop.
FSB Case Study
Despite the two programs having very similar features, we found notable differences between QuickBooks Desktop vs Online in our internal case study. For example, in Online Plus, you cannot compare estimated to actual project costs, whereas with Desktop Premier, you can compare your estimated costs to your actual expenses and revenue.
You’ll also notice in the chart below that Online Plus beats Desktop Premier in terms of mobile accounting. The QuickBooks Desktop app is limited to capturing and uploading requests while QuickBooks Online’s app lets you do more, such as invoicing, accepting online payments, and assigning expenses to projects or customers.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop FSB Case Study
Touch the graph above to interact Click on the graphs above to interact
QuickBooks Online: Starting at $30/month; $85 as tested
QuickBooks Desktop: Starting at $350/ year; $550/year as tested
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Features
Send & Track Invoices
Track Income & Expenses
Reconcile Bank & Credit Card Accounts
Manage Unpaid Bills
Manage & Track Sales Taxes
Capture & Organize Receipts
Track Project Profitability
Capture & Organize Receipts
Determine Sales Tax Rates Based on Customer’s Address
Compare Estimated vs Actual Project Costs
Manage Unlimited Companies for Free
Create Inventory Assemblies
Apply Advanced Pricing Rules
Get Industry-specific Editions
A big advantage of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop is its calculation of sales tax based on the customer address, which is useful if you sell and ship products out of your state. While both can manage inventory, QuickBooks Desktop takes it one step further by allowing you to create inventory assemblies, which is great for manufacturing companies. It’s also preferable for budget planning since it lets users compare estimated and actual budget costs.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Mobile App
iOS and Android
iOS and Android
Capture Expense Receipts
Create & Send Invoices
Receive Payments From Customers
Assign Expenses to Customers or Projects
View Financial Reports
Record Time Worked
If you want to perform bookkeeping from anywhere, we strongly recommend QuickBooks Online. Its mobile app, which you can download on Google Play and the App Store, includes nearly all the features of the browser version, plus other functions like receipt capture and mileage tracking. It made our list of the best mobile accounting apps.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Integrations
If you need more automation features through integration with third-party tools, QuickBooks Online is the clear choice as it connects to more than 650 third-party integrations. QuickBooks Desktop has only a few integrations available, and most are focused on ecommerce. Recently, it integrated with Webgility, an ecommerce bookkeeping provider, which boosts its inventory features across various platforms, like Amazon, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and eBay.
- QuickBooks Online: PayPal, Square, SOS Inventory, Fathom, WooCommerce, Shopify, and more
- QuickBooks Desktop: Webgility, Gusto, and Microsoft 365, plus a few others
In addition to third-party integrations, QuickBooks Online integrates with native products, such as QuickBooks Payments, QuickBooks Payroll, and QuickBooks Time (formerly TSheets). QuickBooks Desktop can be integrated with QuickBooks Desktop Payroll and QuickBooks Time.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Ease of Use
QuickBooks Online is generally easier to use than QuickBooks Desktop as it has a more streamlined user interface. QuickBooks Online files are also easier to share because you only need to invite a ProAdvisor to your company file, and they’ll have 24/7 access to your books.
With QuickBooks Desktop, you must make an Accountant’s Copy of your data file and send it to your ProAdvisor. The copy will allow you to continue to work on transactions in the current period while your accountant makes adjustments to past periods. It’s an acceptable system but isn’t nearly as convenient as sharing your books through QuickBooks Online.
If you’re interested in QuickBooks Desktop and are planning to work closely with an external bookkeeper, you might want to purchase QuickBooks Accountant Desktop for your accountant. It allows your bookkeeper to work on the Accountant’s Copy that’s created from your books. Learn more in our QuickBooks Accountant Desktop review.
QuickBooks Online is also easier to navigate than QuickBooks Desktop. Customer, vendor, and account details can be viewed by clicking on the left menu bar. For instance, customer details, including what they owe you, can be viewed by clicking on Sales and then Customers. All transactions in QuickBooks Online can be initiated by clicking the + New button above the left menu bar and selecting from the menu of transactions.
QuickBooks Desktop offers a multitude of ways to navigate, but the easiest way for beginners is through the home page. Vendor, customer, or employee details can be viewed by clicking on the appropriate tab while transactions can be initiated by clicking on the corresponding icon.
The home page displays the most essential functions, including Vendors, Customers, Employees, and Banking. Each function includes respective icons that allow you to access and perform certain transactions easily, such as Enter Bills for vendors, Create Invoices for customers, and Enter Time for employees.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Assisted Bookkeeping
If you need more personalized support for your bookkeeping, QuickBooks Online might be a better choice since you can subscribe to QuickBooks Live for support. Users needing professional bookkeeping assistance can purchase an add-on called QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping, which connects you to a team of certified bookkeeping professionals for real-time support through video chat. Your dedicated bookkeeper will manage your books and provide month-end reports.
Meanwhile, QuickBooks Desktop users can find a QuickBooks Desktop ProAdvisor to help with their bookkeeping needs. It should be easy to find one in your area, especially now that many accountants and bookkeepers want to become a QuickBooks ProAdvisor.
While both QuickBooks Online and Desktop are supported by a large network of ProAdvisors, it’s much easier to share your books with your ProAdvisor using QuickBooks Online. Getting assistance with your Desktop bookkeeping is difficult since you must save an Accountant’s Copy of your company file and send it to your ProAdvisor.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Customer Support
*Requires QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise subscription
QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop offer nearly the same customer service options. Both even give you access to many independent QuickBooks ProAdvisors whom you can hire to help you get started and keep things in order.
The only difference is that when you subscribe to Desktop’s Enterprise, you’ll get access to the Priority Circle loyalty program, including a dedicated account team, free on-demand training, and premium care from QuickBooks experts. However, we don’t see this as an edge as both programs have excellent support options.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: User Reviews
Most of the positive QuickBooks Online reviews are attributed to the program’s ease of use. Many like how easy it’s to add vendors and customers and share files with their bookkeepers. Some complaints about QuickBooks Online include the inability to manage multiple companies in a single account and the lack of enhanced inventory features, such as assembly management.
Meanwhile, QuickBooks Desktop gets more praise for strong functionality, such as inventory accounting, and the ability to generate advanced reports. However, some are frustrated about its limited mobile app and high cost especially if payroll is included.
We compiled QuickBooks Desktop vs Online ratings from popular review websites.
QuickBooks Desktop Pro
4 out of 5 based on 2,918 reviews
4.3 out of 5 based on 1,653 reviews
8.10 out 10 based on 1382 reviews
8.4 out of 10 based on 843 reviews
4.3 out of 5 based on 5,342 reviews
4.3 out of 5 based on 1,475 reviews
Google Play (for Mobile App)
4 out of 5 based on 47,600 reviews
3.1 out of 5 based on 118 reviews
App Store (for Mobile App)
4.7 out of 5 based on 128,800 reviews
1.9 out 5 based on 56 reviews
See why many businesses switch from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When is QuickBooks Online better than QuickBooks Desktop?
Choose QuickBooks Online if most of your accounting duties are done remotely and you need a mobile app with a wide range of features. QuickBooks Online is also preferable if you have multiple people needing access to your books.
When is QuickBooks Desktop better than QuickBooks Online?
QuickBooks Desktop is preferable for companies wanting the ability to manage their books without an internet connection. It’s also a better option for businesses requiring complex inventory accounting features.
Is QuickBooks Online cheaper than QuickBooks Desktop?
QuickBooks Online is cheaper than QuickBooks Desktop if you have many employees who will be using the program. For instance, QuickBooks Online Plus only costs $85 per month but already includes up to five users as opposed to Desktop’s Premier, which is worth $549.99 for only one user. If you want to add up to five users, you’ll have to pay around $1,700 per year.
However, if you only have a few users and don’t need payroll, then QuickBooks Desktop Pro might be cheaper.
Can I switch from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online?
Yes, you can. From your QuickBooks Desktop dashboard, select Company in the top menu and then click Export File to QuickBooks Online. It’s a good idea to save a backup of your company file just in case something goes wrong. For a more detailed explanation, read our tutorial on how to convert QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online.
Can I switch from QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Desktop?
Yes, you can, but the process is a bit tedious. You need to manually export your files from QuickBooks Online by clicking on the gear icon and then selecting Export data. You’ll then need to import your files to QuickBooks Desktop through the File menu.
If most of your accounting duties are done remotely, QuickBooks Online is the right choice. However, if you want the ability to manage your books without an internet connection or need industry-specific features, choose QuickBooks Desktop. It also has more advanced inventory accounting, but the lack of a fully functional mobile app is a serious shortcoming in today’s mobile age.