QuickBooks Online vs Desktop: Which option is best in 2019?

Posted 5 years ago in Product ReviewsSmall Business Tips
by Tim Chaves

Quick note: While we’d love for you to try ZipBooks’ online accounting software, we’re here to help you find the right solutions for you  and your business. So, maybe you’re a QuickBooks fan, but you’re not sure which version to go with. Here’s a comparison of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop to get you started.

Cloud-based applications are the norm in business today. In 2018, the public cloud services market reached around 175.8 billion U.S. dollars in revenue and is forecast to exceed 278.3 billion by 2021. When it comes to comparing accounting software in 2019–like QuickBooks Online vs Desktop–it’s hard to ignore the impact of cloud-computing. 

QuickBooks Online (QBO) is a cloud-based application, meaning it’s not installed on one specific computer, but can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection. QuickBooks Desktop is installed on the computer you choose, and can only be accessed from that hard drive. Learn more about QuickBooks desktop products here: QuickBooks Pro vs. Premier and QuickBooks 2019

Let’s dig into more of the specifics.

QuickBooks Online or Desktop?


When it comes to generating reports, creating invoices, tracking expenses and sales, and managing accounts payable, both Online and Desktop have got you covered. The difference comes in the details, and “convenience” is the key word.

With QuickBooks Online, as we mentioned before, you can access your files whenever and wherever–even from your smartphone. Additionally, you can use QBO on either a Mac or a PC; there are no limitations with operating systems.


QuickBooks Online lets you create and customize invoices, and even automate the process by telling QBO what to send and when to send it. With Desktop, you can easily copy previous invoices, but you still need to manually finalize and send them each time. And you can’t do it on-the-go. 

If you use QuickBooks Payments as your credit card processor, it can be integrated with either QB Online or Desktop Invoicing.

ZipBooks lets you customize invoices, include unbilled time and expenses, and set up recurring invoices for completely automated billing. Set up reminders to help customers pay on time, bill in multiple currencies, and get smart suggestions from ZipBooks on how to keep customers and get paid faster.

Expenses and Sales

With QuickBooks Online, you can connect to your bank so that your transactions update to your account automatically. Desktop has the same capability, but charges you $10-$15 per month extra for it. Plus, QBO allows you to snap pictures of a receipt with your phone, and then attach the receipt to a transaction on your QBO account. No need to hoard the receipts in a shoebox or wait until you get back to the office to record them.

With any ZipBooks account you can connect your bank account and accept digital payments. Transactions are always up-to-date, and ZipBooks machine learning software tracks your categorization, so it can automate your bookkeeping. Then we give you a confidence percentage based on how sure we are that each transaction has been categorized correctly.

Product Updates

One of the perks of cloud accounting is getting software updates in real time. QuickBooks Online provides bug fixes, new features, and updates as they’re released, any time of year. With Desktop, you have to wait for the new version to be released each year, and then you have to pay about $300 for it.

ZipBooks updates automatically and continuously as features are upgraded and improved, and any bugs are fixed. No need to wait for a yearly new-release.

Multiple Users

You can have up to 5 users registered to your QuickBooks Online account, for free. This could include access for an accountant or other professional to be able to view your files. Desktop requires you to purchase a license for 5 users, and if you want your accountants to be able to access your account from their own offices, you would need to create a copy and email it, or physically hand it over on a USB device.

Physically transferring information on a storage device or by email is not the securest way to go. So, ZipBooks offers you access for multiple users, including login credentials for accountants or other professionals who might need access to your account.


QuickBooks Online plans start at $10/month, but their most popular plan (“Plus”) is $60/month. Free trials are available for 30 days, but negate any discount pricing. 

QuickBooks Desktop options start at $299 for “Pro 2019.” While there are some options to purchase the software one time, QuickBooks Desktop is also moving to subscription-based pricing (see below). 

QuickBooks Online Pricing

Self-EmployedSimple StartEssentialsPlusAdvanced

QuickBooks Desktop Pricing

Pro Plus 2019Premier Plus 2019Enterprise


Read a full breakdown of QuickBooks Online Pricing on our blog. 

ZipBooks offer a completely free Starter plan that never expires. It includes things like unlimited invoicing, bookkeeping, connecting one bank account, and accepting credit card and PayPal payments. Upgrade to the Smarter or Sophisticated plans for $15 or $35/month, respectively–or try them free for 30 days.


Technology is a beautiful thing–until it fails! So, in the event that happens, it’s good to have a literal backup plan. QuickBooks Desktop is equipped with multiple data protection options. Desktop users can create either a local or online backup through their software or purchase Intuit Data Protect for $9.99 per month. 

For QuickBooks Online, users are encouraged to either export their data manually or use a third-party application to backup their data. Intuit does have a disaster recovery for online accounts, but QBO users don’t have access to this backup if they accidentally delete something in their account. Read our blog post on QuickBooks Online Backup options for a full run-down of Desktop and Online alternatives as well as some helpful how-tos.

ZipBooks backs up all of your account information and files on encrypted servers that are monitored and secured 24 hours a day.  

Customer Support

It’s nice to have a helpful, listening ear when you need some answers. QuickBooks Online includes anytime phone support, and free live online trainings weekly. Desktop tacks on an extra $89 for 90 days of phone support.

Knowledgeable ZipBooks experts are standing by to answer any questions you might have. Use the handy chat button from any area of your account to start a conversation with one of our account representatives.


We’re obviously big fans of the flexibility, accessibility and affordability of cloud-based applications. However, QuickBooks Online does have its limitations.

QuickBooks Desktop has been around longer, so it is more powerful and offers detailed functionality related to job costs, inventory, discounts, etc. But there are third party apps available to supplement the gaps in QBO development. Additionally, even Intuit is pushing Desktop users to switch to Online, so you know they’re investing money in continual QBO improvement. 

Oh, and if you like spreadsheets, here’s a mammoth that breaks down every single difference between QuickBooks software options

While we do think ZipBooks is pretty cool, we’re not about to claim perfection. We developed our software with small business owners in mind, not just accountants. Our bookkeeping tools are easy to understand, but reap powerful results and beautiful reports. 

Plus, you can use ZipBooks to grow your business by collecting and monitoring reviews–now that’s something that neither QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop offers! 

Cloud-based software wins

In a nutshell, it’s pretty clear that cloud-based accounting has taken over when it comes to convenience and efficiency. In the debate of QuickBooks Online vs Desktop, most modern business owners–and accountants–choose the cloud. If you’re looking to evaluate other cloud software options, check out our post on Xero vs QuickBooks, or consider ZipBooks.

ZipBooks is an innovative, price-effective option that can help you take your business to new heights. If you decide ZipBooks is the right accounting software for you, we’d love to welcome you into our family!

About Tim

Tim is Founder and CEO of ZipBooks. He keeps his desk really nice and neat.

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