What Are the Major Differences between QuickBooks Online vs Desktop

Published by James Anderson on

QuickBooks online vs desktop

QuickBooks is expert accounting software that business owners and accountants worldwide use. In fact, all the lengthy accounting and bookkeeping activities cannot be completed if you don’t have this accounting software. QuickBooks provides two major branches within its suite of products, QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. The former is cloud-based, while the latter is locally hosted. Given the different functionalities of both these applications, a comparison of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop will prove to be beneficial for business owners and companies who desire to utilize it.

If you want to know more about QuickBooks, read this:- What is QuickBooks? Unique Features And Versions [Everything]

QuickBooks online vs desktop

In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive breakdown of both these products and a comparison of their features.

An Examination of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop

A comparison of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop 2021 shows that both are feature-rich accounting applications. Both processes close entries automatically and offer complete double-dash entry accounting. Whether you want to switch over to QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online or vice versa, it’s important to examine what both of them offer deeply. This examination will allow you to notice the differences between both of them.

For whom is QuickBooks Online most suitable?

QuickBooks Online was initially developed for small businesses that wanted easy online access. Today, web-based QuickBooks Online has speedily transformed into a robust small business accounting software with a user-friendly interface. You can conveniently access this application from any device or location.

For whom is QuickBooks Desktop most suitable?

QuickBooks Desktop is perfect for small to medium-sized companies. It’s also apt for niche businesses like retailers and non-profit organizations who want industry-specific software. If you want to migrate the QuickBooks data from desktop to online or opposite you can use the QuickBooks migration tool.

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop – A Close Look at the Features

Both these applications provide a great assortment of features. But between the two, QuickBooks Desktop features are more diverse. Here’s a breakdown of the various functionalities that QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop offer.

1. Features of QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online offers various features and functionalities that you can choose from. You can also add functionality if you forget to choose it at a later point. But it’s essential to properly evaluate each plan of QuickBooks Online to find their features as they differ in different plans. Some of the top features available in QuickBooks Online include:

  • Easy online banking connectivity – It corresponds the bank and credit card transactions with expenditure automatically. Thus, it minimizes the number of journal entries for you.
  • Accounting capability – In the standard plan of QuickBooks Online, 250 accounts are there. You can easily reconcile your bank balance with the general ledger through the automatic bank reconciliation functionality. There’s also a budget feature to make monthly, quarterly, or yearly budgets.
  • Sales – The sales functionality allows you to monitor your customers, make personalized invoices, and post payments. It’s also possible to dispatch payment reminders or notifications to your due customers with a payment link in the invoice. They can thus pay online.
  • Expenses – You can monitor and track your expenditure from your screen. It consists of the option to make payments of bills electronically. Apart from that, you can find upcoming bills that you will pay, find any vendor bill status, or view bills by the due date.

2. Features of QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks Desktop is not web-based but can be hosted online. Like QuickBooks Online, the functionalities of QuickBooks Desktop are kind of plan-driven, with the pricier plans giving the best features. Here are some essential features of this application.

  • Automatic bank feeds – This feature facilitates the user to download and connect transactions.
  • The vendor center – It provides a single place for handling all vendor activity. With a Built Tracker feature, you can see all present bills and the recently paid ones. You can also pay the due bills. 
  • Customer center – it allows you to manage all customers. You can make invoices, record payments, and process customer statements, sales orders, and receipts through it.
  • Inventory – QuickBooks Desktop offers better tools for inventory management, especially with its Enterprise and Premier versions. With these versions, you can access domain-specific inventory abilities developed for businesses like wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers. It allows you to create a sales order and monitor items, modify and control price levels, and also monitor inventory reorder points by the vendor.


While QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online share many features, a close comparison between them reveals that there are more functionalities offered in QuickBooks Desktop. Some of these include:

  • Better vendor and customer management ability.
  • Capability to run checks for bill payment.

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop – Accessibility

You can access QuickBooks Online anytime, anywhere, as it’s cloud-based. It makes all product and feature updates accessible. You can also access automatic data backups and restore company data from them. It also allows you to automatically download bank transactions and work in real-time with your accountant. With QuickBooks Online, you also have the capability to download its mobile app and manage your account from anywhere.

QuickBooks Desktop is web-based, so you need to download the software to your system. You can operate it on that specific computer only. It is a chief difference between QuickBooks Online and Desktop. To use QB Desktop on several computers, you need to buy additional licenses. You cannot find automatic data backup and recovery, and remote access in QuickBooks Pro and Premier. You will have to purchase Pro or Premier Plus to access these functionalities.


In terms of accessibility, it’s safe to conclude that QuickBooks Online is more accessible than QuickBooks Desktop. A significant reason for it is that it’s cloud-based.

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop – Pricing

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop come with different pricing structures. The former comes with a monthly SaaS pricing structure. It has four pricing plans, which begin from $25 and end at $180 per month.

On the other hand, QuickBooks Desktop has an annual subscription pricing. Its prices differ according to the version of software you desire to use. QuickBooks Pro is suitable for small to mid-sized businesses. It begins at $349.99 per year for one user. QuickBooks Premier starts at $549.99 per year and is ideal for one user. QuickBooks Enterprise, developed for big businesses or small organizations, begins at $1655 per year. Additional fees can be levied if you add more users, cloud hosting, and payroll.

  • QuickBooks Desktop pricing – If you are a single user and desire locally installed applications with good features, QuickBooks Pro will be apt for you. But note that the additional costs for QB Desktop can quickly add up.
  • QuickBooks Online pricing – This option will be suitable if you have numerous users and utilize live bank feeds. It has a monthly pricing structure which is apt for small businesses.


Since there are many pricing variables, you should study them deeply. Only then can you find the right one for you according to your specific needs.

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop – User Friendliness

User-friendliness or ease of use is an essential consideration when purchasing software. Fortunately, neither of these two applications is challenging to use.

1. QuickBooks Online

The application supports several browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Safari 11, and versions later than that. As mentioned before, you also get a mobile app that works well with Apple and Android devices. You can quickly gain access to all features of the application from your dashboard. Here you can view a menu bar on the left part. Customize the dashboard to find the key information. If you want to experiment with its various features, you can avail of a free 30 day QuickBooks Online demo. To boost the setup process, you can utilize the default chart of accounts present in the application. You can also import services in QB Online and prevent the hassle of re-entering the data.

2. QuickBooks Desktop

The interface of QuickBooks Desktop provides navigation via a flowchart-style menu. You can easily locate the function you are searching for through the navigation centers. A yellow tab on the right part provides rapid access to newer functionalities present in the latest version. You can access features through the vertical menu or the drop-down menu bar. Also, you can add a shortcut to regularly used functionalities through the My Shortcuts option.


Although both the applications come with a user-friendly interface, QuickBooks Online offers more ease of usage than QB Desktop. When you compare the system navigation of both these two applications, you’ll find the navigation from the user dashboard in QuickBooks Online a lot more convenient.

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop – Mileage tracking

All versions of QuickBooks Online have automatic mileage tracking. But it is not offered with any QuickBooks Desktop version. QuickBooks Online allows you to use the GPS of your smartphone to track mileage and transfer the trip to your QuickBooks account. You can also categorize trips as personal or business. There’s also the feature to add trips manually to your account and run mileage reports which you can share with your accountant.

You can add mileage manually in QuickBooks Desktop to your account. Further, you can also integrate with a third-party service. But it does not offer the functionality of automatic tracking.


The robust automatic mileage tracking feature of QuickBooks Online makes it a clear winner on this front.

Comparison of Reporting Options in QuickBooks Online vs Desktop

Although options for reporting are good in both applications, only one of them provides niche-specific reporting options. Here is the chief difference between QuickBooks Online and Desktop regarding the reporting options.

1. QuickBooks Online

All the plans of QuickBooks Online have outstanding reporting options. The advanced plan offers highly detailed reporting options like financial metrics such as cash flow and revenue. You can click the ‘Reports’ option and find them in various categories like Favorites, Expenses and Vendors, Business Overview, Sales Tax Report, and many others. You can also export the reports to MS Excel for customization.

2. QuickBooks Desktop

Users can find over 100 standard reports that they can customize in QuickBooks Desktop. In the Premier and Enterprise plans, you can find over 150 reports having domain-specific reporting options. Apart from this, easy report processing is possible through Report Center. You can find a sequence of icons under every report image so you can mark the report as a favorite and access it later. Users can view more information about the report and also request report-driven help.


A comparison of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop 2021 in reporting clearly reveals that QuickBooks Desktop has more comprehensive reporting options. It also provides industry-specific reports and forecasting that you cannot find in QuickBooks Online.

Ability to Integrate into QuickBooks Online and Desktop 

The capability to integrate with other programs offers many conveniences. It is one aspect where you can find a big difference between QuickBooks Online and Desktop.

1. QuickBooks Online

It provides integration with over 500 third-party apps in various categories. They include Project Management, Payments, Payroll, CRM, Time Tracking, Inventory, and Invoicing. It’s easy to link with a third-party app within the program, which proves to be quite time-saving.

2. QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks Desktop allows you to integrate with over 200 third-party applications. But it still falls behind QuickBooks Online, which offers over 500 integration options for the same.


It’s easy to conclude that QuickBooks Online is better than Desktop with regard to integration options. It offers a seamless integration process, which provides access to third-party applications within QuickBooks Online without you needing to import data or sync applications.

Support Options in QuickBooks Online and Desktop

Both the applications provide largely similar support options. You can find more costly plans giving you enhanced support options.

1. QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online offers innumerable short video tutorials, on-demand webinars, and training sessions. In the QuickBooks Online community, you can interact with other users, pose questions, and find solutions to various problems. You can access support from within your application and contact support personnel. 

2. QuickBooks Desktop

QB Desktop provides similar support options like video tutorials, training classes, and on-demand webinars. The easy setup process allows you to start running the software in only a few minutes.


There’s no clear winner in this regard. You cannot find any difference in the support options offered by both QB Online and Desktop.

QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop – Which Is Right For You?

After a thorough comparison of both the applications, you can conclude that QuickBooks Desktop provides better functionalities. It offers enhanced reporting domain-specific functionalities, and its price structure is better than QuickBooks Online. But if you want to work with cloud-based software and have more significant integration needs, it’s best to opt for QuickBooks Online. You don’t need to download the software on a system when you have it.

See the QuickBooks Desktop Download Process:- What’s the Process for QuickBooks Download, Installation, and Activation?

Final Words

You might have noticed lots of differences while understanding QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop. In spite of the differences, both provide powerful accounting capabilities for small and medium businesses. Although QuickBooks Desktop provides more comprehensive features, it might be possible that QuickBooks Online is a better option for you. To find the suitable one between them, it’s wise to assess your unique business needs. It will allow you to make a good choice between the two.

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