QuickBooks Desktop (Windows) or QuickBooks Online? What Is the Difference?

By Pat Hartley, MBA

I am asked almost daily, “What is the difference between QuickBooks for the desktop and QuickBooks Online?” Or “Are they different?” Or “Aren’t they the same?”

To give an answer is to be put in a quandary. You may as well ask, “What is the difference between the Windows operating system and the MAC operating system?” They both do the same thing – operate our computers – just differently!

Intuit’s QuickBooks desktop software has been one of the staples of accounting software for small- to mid-sized businesses since the late 1990s. It has grown, and new-and-improved features and images have been updated annually since then. Businesses and accounting professionals have become comfortable with QuickBooks for the desktop. Still, Intuit has recently increased its emphasis on and resources for QuickBooks Online, a different accounting software product. It does the same thing that QuickBooks for desktop does – our accounting – just differently!

QuickBooks Online is not a copy of the QuickBooks desktop software that has simply been enabled for the web. QuickBooks Online is new and different! Below are some features found in QuickBooks Online that you won’t find in QuickBooks for the desktop.

  • Remote access – You have access to the software anywhere on any device that is web-enabled.
  • Automatic Daily Bank Feeds for bank and credit card accounts.
  • Automatic updates – QuickBooks Online is updated frequently, and you’re always on the most current version.
  • FIFO inventory valuation
  • Location tracking, which is a second level of class tracking.
  • Invoice automation – You can automatically create an invoice from unbilled activity.
  • Delayed charges and billing
  • Allows more than one Accounts Receivable or Accounts Payable on a single journal entry
  • Report automation – You can schedule reports to be sent automatically.
  • Activity Log – Allows you to view login dates and times

These are just some of the features that I use, and there are many more. Each month more features and improvements are made. There is truly a big difference in the general workflow.

QuickBooks for the desktop has some robust features that I miss in QuickBooks Online, like the multitude of reporting options and a more extensive inventory-management feature. However, QuickBooks Online has added features every day, noted on a monthly blog for users.

Below is a comparison, provided by Intuit, of a few key features between the two types of software. It’s a good idea to analyze your business and how it functions to make the best choice. You can even take a test drive of QuickBooks Online. Good luck!

qb online



Pat Hartley is a Top 100 QuickBooks ProAdvisor 2015, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, an Advanced QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, and a member of Intuit’s Trainer/Writer Network. Pat teaches courses on QuickBooks at multiple colleges and runs her own business, www.accountingonthego.com. She is author of the Labyrinth Learning textbook, QuickBooks Pro 2015, and is currently authoring Labyrinth’s QuickBooks Online title.

Sleeter Certified QuickBooks Consultant

Member National Advisor Network

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