QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Which QuickBooks Accounting Solution is Right for Your Business?

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QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are two different Intuit accounting software products used by small businesses (beginning with startups and small business owners) and mid-sized companies with a limited number of users. We describe and compare QuickBooks Online vs Desktop. 

QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Pros & Cons

Pros of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop

The pros of QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop are:

  • Cloud-based
    • Use anytime, anywhere with an Internet connection and login
    • No servers required on-premises
    • Reduces need for IT staff hours
  • QuickBooks Accountant (QuickBooks Online) mobile app has more features
  • QuickBooks Online includes up to 25 users, but Desktop prices per user 
  • QuickBooks Online restores company data files, but QuickBooks Desktop doesn’t
  • QuickBooks Online includes free customer support, but some versions of Desktop charge extra
  • QuickBooks Online includes automatic backups and feature updates, whereas some versions of QuickBooks Desktop cost extra 
  • Add-on third-party apps for AP automation
    • have your choice of AP automation software for
      • streamlined and automated workflows, 
      • global batch processing of payables payments, 
      • automatic payments reconciliation,
      • fewer labor needs, 
      • better cash flow management, and 
      • fraud risk reduction.

Cons of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop

The cons of QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop are:

  • QuickBooks Online lacks industry-specific editions, which QuickBooks Desktop offers in its Enterprise version; QuickBooks Desktop also provides industry-specific tools and reports in Premier Plus. 
  • QuickBooks Online doesn’t have as many robust features as the more established Desktop Enterprise product, like advanced inventory and job costing features and discounts by customer name.
  • Reports are more extensive in QuickBooks Desktop
  • QuickBooks Desktop offers more customization, particularly with Enterprise.
  • QuickBooks Online Advanced is designed for a maximum of 25 users vs 40 users for Desktop Enterprise.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Pricing

QuickBooks Online Pricing

Select a plan to match your business needs. 

The current monthly SaaS subscription QuickBooks Online pricing is:

QuickBooks Online Plan Standard Price Per MonthDiscounted Price Per Month
Simple Start$25.00$12.50
QuickBooks Online Plus $70.00$35.00
Self-Employed (Freelancer)$15.00$7.50
Add-on Payroll and QuickBooks Time (formerly TSheets) for time trackingAdditional monthly fees

Discounts offered may change. Optional one-time bookkeeping setup is $50.00.

Also budget for integrated add-on third-party apps, including AP automation software.

QuickBooks Desktop Pricing 

The current annual QuickBooks Desktop pricing is based on the number of users. QuickBooks Desktop pricing for 3 users is:

QuickBooks Desktop Product Standard Price Per YearDiscounted Price Per Year
QuickBooks Pro Plus$699.99$399.99
QuickBooks Premier Plus $1099.99$599.99
Enterprise (most customizable, starting at)$2,547.00$2,292.30
Add-on Remote hosting Additional monthly fee
Add-on Payroll and QuickBooks Time (formerly TSheets) for time trackingAdditional monthly fees

Discounts offered may change. Optional one-time bookkeeping setup is $50.00.

Also, budget for integrated add-on third-party apps. 

QuickBooks Desktop versions are available through digital download or as products shipped from QuickBooks or other retail merchants. 

What is the Difference between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop?

FeatureQuickBooks OnlineQuickBooks Desktop
Cloud-based YesNo, but optional remote cloud hosting for an additional monthly fee of $44 to $200 per user
Mobile app (iOS and Android)Yes, with limited featuresYes, but only for receipt photo capture, storage, and management
Maximum number of users25 for QuickBooks Online Advanced40 for Desktop Enterprise
Online invoicing with a Pay Now button sent to customers in an emailYes, for QuickBooks Payments usersYes, for QuickBooks Payments users
Bank transactions feed for matching and recording and bank reconciliationsYes, included in QuickBooks Online.Yes. For QuickBooks Desktop, bank fees may apply to automatically downloaded bank transactions. 
Industry-specific editionsNoYes. The Enterprise version has industry-specific editions.
Industries include:
• Construction and Contractors
• Manufacturing
• Wholesale & Distribution
• Nonprofit
• Retail
• Accountants
• Professional Services
Premier Plus has industry-specific tools and reports. 
Job costing Yes, project profitability with job costing for QuickBooks Online Plus and QuickBooks Online Advanced plansYes. With QuickBooks Desktop, users can calculate and rebill job costs. 
Calculate discounts by customerNoYes
Inventory trackingYesYes. Advanced inventory features with Enterprise Platinum and Diamond versions using an internet connection. Advanced inventory includes mobile inventory barcode scanning.
Time tracking QuickBooks Online Plus and QuickBooks Online Advanced plans include time trackingYes, all versions include time tracking
Customer supportQuickBooks Online support is free with limited hours excluding Sundays for Plus, Essentials, and Simple Start; any time and any day for QuickBooks Online Advanced $89 for 90 days or included in select products
Automatic data-encrypted backups and feature updatesYesQuickBooks Desktop has a $9.95 monthly fee for some products; automatic backups is included with select products. In QuickBooks Desktop, QuickBooks support states that you can manually restore a backup of your accounting data with your backup company file (.qbb).
QuickBooks Desktop has an annual $299 repurchase price to get the latest feature updates, except for inclusion with select products.
Restore company files with dataYes, included. No
QuickBooks syncing with LivePlan for business plan creation, forecasting and budgetingYesYes, for Desktop Windows and QuickBooks Desktop cloud hosting with RightNetworks
Accountant version of QuickBooks for CPAs and bookkeepersYesYes
Third-party cloud-based add-on appsYes, 650+ apps.Yes, 650+ apps for hosted QuickBooks Desktop.
Third-party integration with AP automation softwareYes, your choice of add-on AP automation software is available (including the Tipalti end-to-end solution starting with a self-service vendor onboarding portal)No. Integration with third-party add-on apps excludes AP automation software.
Sync QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Point of Sale with QuickBooks Online Yes, with add-on third party appYes, with add-on third party app

Frequently Asked Questions

What is QuickBooks Online (QBO)?

QuickBooks Online (QBO) is the cloud-based, online version of accounting software provided through a monthly subscription pricing plan. Small business plans include Simple Start, Plus, and Advanced. The QBO Self-Employed plan is offered to freelancers. QuickBooks Online offers upgrade options and integrates with many add-on third-party apps to increase functionality. 

CPAs and bookkeepers use QuickBooks Online Accountant software to access or prepare their clients’ accounting.

What is QuickBooks Desktop?

QuickBooks Desktop is on-premises accounting software with optional remote access through an internet connection. QuickBooks Desktop versions are Pro Plus, Premier Plus, and Enterprise, which are sold as yearly editions with an annual price that varies by the number of users. QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise offers industry-specific editions. Premier Plus offers industry-specific tools and reports. 

Enterprise is the most customizable desktop version of QuickBooks. 
QuickBooks Desktop is offered in Windows or Mac versions. 

CPAs and bookkeepers use QuickBooks Accountant Desktop software for QuickBooks Desktop clients.  

What is QuickBooks Payments for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop?

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop users can apply for optional QuickBooks Payments processing by Intuit Merchant Services. IMS charges transaction fees and other fees for accepting customer credit card, debit card, online invoice, and ACH payments. The sellers receive customer payments in their designated merchant bank account.

Do QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop Have Mobile Apps?

For both QuickBooks products, Intuit QuickBooks mobile apps are offered for Apple iOS and Google Android devices. 

QuickBooks Online Mobile Apps

Intuit and QuickBooks Online provide a mobile app called QuickBooks Accounting. Some user reviews aren’t favorable for the mobile app, which offers limited features. Try using your mobile device web browser to access more QuickBooks Online features if you’re in the field with Internet access.

Intuit and QuickBooks Online also offer a mileage and expense tracking app called QuickBooks Self-Employed. 

QuickBooks Desktop Mobile App

Intuit and QuickBooks Desktop have a mobile app named QuickBooks Desktop: Expenses to capture, store, and manage receipts. 

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