QuickBooks Online vs. Desktop: Everything you need to know in 2018

Posted 3 months ago in Product ReviewsSmall Business Tips
by Megan Jensen

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.

The biggest difference is that QuickBooks Online is what’s called 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 computer. Check out these articles for more details on the different types of QuickBooks desktop products: QuickBooks Pro vs. Premier, and QuickBooks 2019

Let’s dig into more of the specifics:

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 your 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, and work from wherever you are. Phone, iPad, PC, Mac: whatever you’re using, you’ll be able to do what you need to do, including all the following:


QuickBooks Online lets you not only create and customize invoices, but you can also automate the process by telling QBO what to send and when to send it. With Desktop, while you can easily copy previous invoices, you still need to manually finalize and send them each time. And you can’t do it on-the-go.  However, if you use QuickBooks Payments for your credit card processor and for invoicing, it can be integrated with either QB Online or Desktop.

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, with QBO 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 and wait until you get to the office to record them.

With ZipBooks you can not only connect to your banks and see transactions updated automatically, but ZipBooks also learns your habits and categorizes transactions for you automatically. Then we give you a confidence percentage based on how sure we are that it’s been categorized correctly.

Product Updates

One of the perks of cloud accounting is getting software updates in real time. QuickBooks Online give you 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

With QuickBooks Online you can have up to 5 users registered to use your account for free, from anywhere. 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.


Technology is a beautiful thing– until it fails! So, in the event that happens, it’s good to have a literal backup plan. QuickBooks Online provides automatic updates with data encryption to make sure your files are safe. Desktop includes backup protection for $9.99 per month.

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 $80 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.


QuickBooks Online costs $35, or $60 per month depending on the plan you need for your business. Try it free for 30 days! QuickBooks Desktop costs $299 for the basic, one computer, one user software.

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, or try them free for 30 days.


In a nutshell, it’s pretty clear that cloud-based accounting has taken over when it comes to convenience and efficiency.  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!

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