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Many new businesses often find themselves asking which version of QuickBooks is right for them and unfortunately the answer isn’t always simple. When deciding whether to use QuickBooks Desktop or QuickBooks Online, there are several important factors that should be considered including accessibility, features and cost.


Depending on who, where and when you will be accessing your company file, you may be able to easily determine which version will work best for you.

QuickBooks Desktop – This is a software program that needs to be downloaded on each computer you wish to use to access files. Once you have downloaded the software, you can create and access as many company files as you need for no additional charge. Software is available in both Mac and PC versions, however features and data can be lost when converting to and from Mac and PC backup copies. These backup copies will be necessary if your bookkeeper or accounting professional does not use the same software version and requires access to your company information. Lindsay & Brownell offers a cloud-based file sharing service called Qbox in order to sync real time changes to a company file without having to use backup copies. This service can also be useful if your business is not storing data on a shared server. Unfortunately, Qbox is not available for Mac users.

QuickBooks Online – This is a completely online platform that requires no download installation. You can access your company file from anywhere, anytime, and from any computer with only an internet connection. You are required to pay a separate subscription fee for each company file you create, which could get expensive. Your company file can be accessed from a Mac or PC without the need to convert or prepare a backup copy. Accountant access can be added by simply sending a one-time email invitation.


Both versions of QuickBooks share many similar features making it difficult to know which to choose. Here are some of the major differences.

QuickBooks Desktop – Companies with inventory and job costing needs typically work better with the desktop version. There are more reporting options and you will also be able to customize these reports to your specific needs more easily than in the online version. Additionally, payroll, payroll tax and sales tax functionality can be more easily controlled and adjusted in the desktop version.

QuickBooks Online – When dealing with more complex business transactions you may experience some “feature gaps” in QuickBooks online. Many features that are not offered in the online version are supported by third party applications (“apps”). These apps can be integrated with the online version to fill some feature gaps. The more popular apps can assist with employee expense reimbursements, payroll timesheets, customer billing and bill payment processing. Many of these apps have their own fees, but some free apps are available as well.


If features and accessibility don’t sway you towards one side or the other, maybe you would be more interested in how this decision will affect your bottom line. Both versions of QuickBooks are often offered with discounts or promotional rates through

QuickBooks Desktop – QuickBooks Pro version 2019 costs $299 while QuickBooks Premier version 2019 costs $499 for a single user login. Additional user licenses are available for an extra fee. The software is supported by Intuit for the first three years for no additional charge. After three years, supported features will no longer be accessible but you can still use the software for many more years without those features (i.e. payroll and bank feeds). If you require these features, you will need to update your software when this support period expires and purchase the latest software version. Additional payroll fees may apply depending on the level of service you require.

QuickBooks Online – There are four subscriptions levels offered for QuickBooks Online ranging from $25-$150 per month, which include anywhere from 1-25 users, plus two accountant users. The subscription price will be locked in annually and is likely to increase with each renewal. Additional payroll fees may apply depending on the level of service you require.

Understanding the pros and cons between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online is important when determining which version is right for you and your business. For assistance in this decision making process, please contact your L&B professional at (858) 558-9200.

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