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Edited by: Kimberlee Leonard
 and Reviewed: Kimberlee Leonard

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop Comparison 2023

Author: | Oct 5, 2023

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Go Sifter Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Business accounting has increasingly shifted to the cloud in recent years as mobile use has increased. Cloud accounting solutions bring plenty of businesses, but there are still instances where desktop software makes more sense. This look at QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop compares the two versions, breaking down the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Deciding Factors

QuickBooks OnlineQuickBooks Desktop
Price$30-$90 per month plus $45-$135 a month for payroll$41-$84 per month plus $87-$130 a month for payroll
Ease of Use4/5: The online version is both easy to set up and to use3/5: The desktop version comes with a steep learning curve
Ease of Sharing with Accountants5/5: QuickBooks Online allows administrators to set up and manage external users1/5: The desktop version is not designed to add external vendors like accountants
Support3/5: Customer support is available through the app or by phone, but some users report difficulty getting help2/5: Desktop support is less accessible than online support and customers report long wait times
Scalability4/5: The online version allows you to add and remove users at any time and pricing grows with your business3/5: QuickBooks Desktop must be installed on each desktop, making it harder to scale
Maximum Number of Users3/5: QuickBooks Online’s top plan includes up to 25 users4/5: QuickBooks Desktop has an enterprise version that includes up to 40 users

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Features

Before you choose between QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop, it’s important to note that both solutions are among the top-rated accounting solutions. The biggest difference between QuickBooks Online and Desktop is accessibility. QuickBooks Online is cloud-based, which means you can use it from any device as long as you have a username and password. You’ll have to install QuickBooks Desktop on every machine.

But when looking at QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop, a few feature differences are important to keep in mind. Here are some of the most notable:

QuickBooks Online exclusive features:

  • Real-time collaboration: Work with other team members in real-time.
  • Full-featured mobile app: The online version of the mobile app allows you to access all your features, while the desktop version is limited.
  • Access to updates: Desktop versions eventually go out of date. With the online version, you always have access to the latest edition.
  • Wider range of invoice styles: Another difference between QuickBooks Desktop and Online is a bigger range of invoice styles with the online version.

QuickBooks Desktop exclusive features:

  • Comprehensive inventory management: Dealing with product inventory? QuickBooks Desktop may be a better option.
  • Industry-specific versions: Desktop users have access to several different niche editions that can help tackle their unique needs.
  • More report options: The reporting feature of the desktop version is more robust.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Cost

Cost may be one of the biggest deciders as you’re researching QuickBooks options. QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop pricing is based on a monthly vs. an annual plan. There’s also an enterprise version for businesses that need more than a few users to have access.

Quickbooks Online provides the lowest prices. There’s a $ 30-a-month plan that includes the basics. With this plan, you can track expenses and income, capture receipts, log mileage, and manage sales tax.

If you need more than one user, though, you’ll need to upgrade to the Essentials Plan, which costs $60 a month and covers up to three users. For up to five users, you’ll pay $90 a month and the $100 monthly plan allows up to 25 users.

This pricing doesn’t include payroll. To add that to your monthly plan, it’ll be another $45 to $125, depending on the features you need. You’ll also be charged $6 to $10 per employee each month for payroll.

It’s also important to note that QuickBooks is offering a trial option for monthly plans. You can choose to try the product for 30 days for free or to get 50 percent off the first three months.

For QuickBooks Desktop vs. Online, the basic plan is $41 a month, and there’s no free trial or three-month discount. This is limited to one user. If you need more, the three-user plan costs $84 a month, but if you want to add payroll to your Desktop plan, you’ll pay $87 a month for one user or $130 a month for three.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: User Reviews

Reviews tend to be more positive for QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop. In both instances, changing features get the majority of complaints. However, desktop users are hit more heavily with this since QuickBooks sunsets older versions, forcing customers to upgrade to access their accounting tools.

But online users have frustrations, as well. One consistent issue is difficulty getting support when it’s needed. Customers also report issues after upgrades. Monthly subscription prices seem to increase fairly frequently, which can eventually make it too pricey for smaller businesses.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Integration with Other Software

If you’re on the fence about QuickBooks Cloud versus Desktop, integrations could help you decide. Many of the features exclusive to the desktop version are available through other apps that integrate with QuickBooks.

Whether you go with QuickBooks Online or Desktop, you’ll get integrations, but the online version has far more. If you don’t have IT personnel on site, setting up QuickBooks to work within your existing environment will be easier with the online version.

The desktop version links to most of the major office applications, including popular email solutions and Salesforce. If you have access to I.T. resources, the QuickBooks SDK can help you link QuickBooks Desktop to your custom applications.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Which Is Best for My Business Needs?

In many cases, in the QuickBooks Online vs. QuickBooks Desktop debate, QuickBooks Online wins. But it’s important to look at all the features and the pricing and decide what works best for your business.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop wins for small and mid-sized businesses that need access from multiple devices. The online version will let you sync your data between both your desktop and mobile devices. You also don’t have to worry about installing it or making sure it stays updated.

However, there are instances where businesses prefer QuickBooks Desktop vs. Online. The desktop version works well for larger businesses with dedicated accountants on the payroll. It also brings more value to businesses with large inventories and manufacturing processes that need to be managed alongside their payroll and financial tracking.

QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop Comparison: The Final Verdict

There are plenty of considerations when you’re researching QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop. In the end, though, the best choice for you will be the version that fits your business needs. QuickBooks Online is typically the best option, but larger companies or businesses with heavy inventory and manufacturing processes will often find the desktop version best suits their needs.


What is the main difference between QuickBooks Online and desktop?

QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based application, whereas QuickBooks Desktop must be installed on each PC or Mac.

What are the disadvantages of QuickBooks Online?
Is QuickBooks Desktop being phased out?
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