QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based software that can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection. It offers four scalable plans and a user-friendly interface, making it suitable for most businesses.
Meanwhile, QuickBooks Desktop is desktop-based—meaning it can only be accessed from the computer where it is installed. It’s great for businesses that appreciate the stability of desktop software and those that require its advanced features, like inventory assembly management and industry-specific features.
This QuickBooks Online vs Desktop comparison will help you decide which QuickBooks product is right for you based on pricing, features, ease of use, and more.
We are driven by the Fit Small Business mission to provide you with the best answers to your small business questions—allowing you to choose the right accounting solution for your needs. Our meticulous evaluation process makes us a trustworthy source for accounting software insights. We don’t just scratch the surface; we immerse ourselves in every platform we review by exploring the features down to the finest nuances.
We have an extensive history of reviewing QuickBooks products, and we stay up-to-date with the latest features and enhancements. Our first-hand experience, guided by our internal case study, helps us understand how the different QuickBooks products compare with each other and how they work in real-world scenarios.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: At-a-Glance Comparison
Both QuickBooks Online and Desktop are on our list of the best small business accounting software. QuickBooks Online is our top recommendation, while QuickBooks Desktop is our leading desktop accounting program.
Which Is Right for Your Business?
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Pricing
In the battle between QuickBooks Online vs Desktop for pricing, QuickBooks Online is a more scalable 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 prefer a monthly vs annual subscription.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Features
Class & Location Tracking
★★★★: Very good
N/A: Feature is unavailable
QuickBooks Online and Desktop both offer excellent income and expense tracking and bank reconciliation tools. However, we found notable differences in various features, discussed in the sections below.
A slight difference between QuickBooks Online and Desktop in terms of invoicing is that the former allows you to calculate sales taxes automatically to apply to an invoice based on the customer address. This feature is particularly useful if you sell and ship products out of your state.
Both programs allow you to create and send invoices to clients, but QuickBooks Online’s invoices are more professional-looking and have more room for customization.
While QuickBooks Online offers project management features, it doesn’t have the same level of customization options as QuickBooks Desktop. For instance, QuickBooks Desktop allows you to create customized job costing reports tailored to specialized industries, including manufacturers, contractors, and retailers.
Additionally, all versions of QuickBooks Desktop allow you to set up cost estimates for projects and then compare them to actual expenses. In contrast, you need to upgrade to Advanced to be able to use QuickBooks Online’s budget vs. actual reporting feature.
QuickBooks Online allows you to track your activity, such as income and expenses, by class and location. This is useful for businesses with multiple departments or divisions and those that provide various types of services. Meanwhile, QuickBooks Desktop allows you to set up classes, but you can’t track your income and expenses by location.
In both QuickBooks Online and Desktop, you can assign costs to your inventory items and track the quantities sold to calculate the cost of goods sold (COGS). However, QuickBooks Desktop includes enhanced features, such as inventory assembly management, which is especially useful for businesses that engage in light manufacturing or assembly of products from various components or parts, such as bike manufacturers.
When you upgrade to Enterprise, QuickBooks Desktop’s most comprehensive plan, you’ll gain access to advanced inventory features, including barcode scanning and serial number tracking. For more information, head to our QuickBooks Enterprise review.
One of the advantages of QuickBooks Desktop over QuickBooks Online is the availability of five industry-specific editions: manufacturing and distribution, professional services, contractors, retailers, and nonprofits. These versions, available in Premier and Enterprise, provide custom-tailored features and reports based on the unique needs of your industry.
QuickBooks Online beats QuickBooks Desktop in mobile accounting. As one of our best mobile accounting apps, the QuickBooks Online mobile app lets you perform many accounting tasks, like sending invoices, accepting payments online, and viewing financial reports from your mobile devices.
The QuickBooks Desktop mobile app is very limited as it only allows you to capture expense receipts. If you want to perform bookkeeping from anywhere, we strongly recommend QuickBooks Online’s mobile app.
If you have employees, you can add QuickBooks Payroll to your QuickBooks Online account for as little as $45 per month plus $5 per employee. QuickBooks Payroll allows you to pay your employees by checks or direct deposits, e-file and e-pay taxes, print and e-file W-2 Forms at year-end, and more. Head to our detailed QuickBooks Payroll review to see if it fits the bill.
Meanwhile, QuickBooks Premier has two payroll options with prices that start at $50 per month plus $5 per employee. If you can file taxes confidently on your own, Enhanced Payroll might be suitable. If you want QuickBooks to file your taxes for you, then you must upgrade to QuickBooks Desktop Assisted Payroll for $109 per month plus $2 per employee. Learn how else the two products differ in our QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Enhanced vs Assisted Payroll comparison.
Another notable difference between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop is their integration capabilities. QuickBooks Online integrates with more than 750 third-party integrations while QuickBooks Desktop has more than 200 only. Here are some of the popular integrations for QuickBooks Online and Desktop:
- Fishbowl Inventory
- Microsoft 365
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.
While QuickBooks Online offers many integrated apps, we believe there are only a few that stand out. Explore our list of the best QuickBooks Online integrations for different business purposes.
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 the QuickBooks Live Bookkeeping add-on, 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.
Alternatively, you can hire a QuickBooks ProAdvisor to help with your bookkeeping needs. To help you get started, we prepared a guide on how to find a QuickBooks ProAdvisor. Meanwhile, if you or your accountant want to become a ProAdvisor to demonstrate expertise in QuickBooks, read our article on how to become a QuickBooks ProAdvisor.
While both QuickBooks Online and Desktop are supported by a large network of independent 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.
Also, QuickBooks Online integrates with some third-party assisted bookkeeping platforms, including:
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.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Customer Support
QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop offer the same customer service options, including:
- Phone support (call back)
- Live chat
- Access to a large network of QuickBooks ProAdvisors
If you need personalized customer support, you can upgrade to QuickBooks Online Advanced or QuickBooks Enterprise. Doing so grants you access to the Priority Circle loyalty program, including a dedicated account team, free on-demand training, and premium care from QuickBooks experts.
QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: User Reviews
QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop both earned decent user ratings, although QuickBooks Desktop’s mobile app received low scores.
QuickBooks Online is praised for its ease of use and robust feature set. One user noted that it’s easy to add vendors and customers and share files with their bookkeepers, while another commented that the bank account reconciliation and invoicing features are excellent. However, some complained that QuickBooks Online can’t manage multiple companies in a single account and that it lacks assembly management features.
Meanwhile, QuickBooks Desktop gets more praise for strong functionality, such as inventory accounting and the ability to generate advanced reports. One user is happy that they can set up different reports so that they can see what and who needs to be paid easily. Those who have left negative reviews dislike that it doesn’t offer many third-party integration options.
4.0 out of 5 based on more than 3,100 reviews
4.3 out of 5 based on around 1,700 reviews
4.3 out of 5 based on more than 6,200 reviews
4.4 out of 5 based on more than 1,800 reviews
Google Play (for Mobile App)
|4.2 out of 5 based on over 49,100 reviews||3.1 out of 5 based on around 130 reviews|
App Store (for Mobile App)
4.7 out of 5 based on more than 172,000 reviews
1.8 out of 5 based on over 70 reviews
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
QuickBooks Online offers many advantages over QuickBooks Desktop, such as cloud accessibility, more convenient file sharing and collaboration, scalable plans with varying features, and a functional mobile app.
QuickBooks Desktop is preferable for companies that want to manage their books without an internet connection. It’s also a better option for businesses requiring complex inventory accounting features.
QuickBooks Online is cheaper than QuickBooks Desktop if you have many employees who’ll be using the program. For instance, QuickBooks Online Plus only costs $85 per month for up to five users as opposed to Desktop’s Premier, which costs around $2,000 per year for five users.
Yes, and you can learn it from our tutorial on how to convert QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online.
Yes, you can, but the process is a bit tedious, as you need to manually export your files from QuickBooks Online to Desktop. If you are currently using QuickBooks Online and want to switch to an interface similar to QuickBooks Desktop, we recommend using the QuickBooks Online Desktop app. Read our article on what the QuickBooks Online Desktop app is to learn more.
Every business is unique, and there may be instances where QuickBooks Desktop may be a better fit. For example, it may be more suitable for businesses with complex inventory management needs or those wanting offline access to their financial data. However, QuickBooks Online is the better choice for most companies, especially those with remote accountants and multiple employees.
User review references:
1G2 | QuickBooks Online
2G2 | QuickBooks Desktop
3Software Advice | QuickBooks Online
4Software Advice | QuickBooks Desktop
5Google Play | QuickBooks Online
6Google Play | QuickBooks Desktop
7App Store | QuickBooks Online
8App Store | QuickBooks Desktop