QuickBooks Desktop Accounting, QuickBooks Online

Understanding the Key Differences Between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are two of the leading accounting software on the market today, but there are some key differences worth noting. The biggest difference between the two is that QuickBooks Online runs on the cloud, while QuickBooks Desktop is locally installed. But there’s more to them than just how they are set up and run.

If you’re choosing between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop, then this QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop comparison will help you decide which software fits your business needs. 

Cloud-Based vs. Locally Installed

As mentioned earlier, QuickBooks Online is cloud-based and QuickBooks Desktop is locally installed. This means that QuickBooks Online needs an internet connection to run, while QuickBooks Desktop should be installed on a computer and can run without the internet. If most of your accounting tasks are performed remotely, QuickBooks Online is better. However, if internet connectivity and speed are a concern, then we highly recommend QuickBooks Desktop.


While QuickBooks Online is a monthly subscription with a certain number of allowed users in each plan, QuickBooks Desktop is offered as an annual subscription with some additional perks. For instance, the QuickBooks Desktop 2022 version includes unlimited customer support for free, compared to the earlier versions where you need to purchase a QuickBooks Care plan.

Users Included

QuickBooks Online allows for a certain number of users in each plan and all supported users can access the program simultaneously. QuickBooks Online Plus includes a single user, Essentials supports up to three, Plus accommodates up to five, and Advanced allows up to 25 users. On the other hand, with QuickBooks Desktop, only one user can use the program unless you pay for an additional user. The entry-level version, QuickBooks Desktop Pro, costs $349.99 per year for one user, $549.99 per year for two users, and $749.99 per year for three users.

Industry-Specific Versions

While QuickBooks Online is highly customizable, it has no industry-specific editions. QuickBooks Desktop has a standard business edition plus five industry-specific editions: Construction, Retail, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Professional Services, and Nonprofit.

These customized editions also come with industry-specific reports and workflows.

Mobile App

QuickBooks Online has a capable mobile app that lets you perform many accounting tasks on the go, such as creating and issuing invoices, entering bill payments, and checking your accounting reports. QuickBooks Desktop has a mobile app but it’s only designed for capturing receipts.


QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop share many of the same accounting features, such as invoicing, bank reconciliation, income and expense tracking, and financial reporting. However, QuickBooks Desktop’s features are usually more developed. 

For example, QuickBooks Online and Desktop both have inventory features, such as the ability to track stock levels and receive alerts when inventory is low, create purchase orders and run inventory reports. However, QuickBooks has more robust tools for inventory, especially in QuickBooks Premier and Enterprise. With Premier and Enterprise, you can create sales orders and track items committed to customers, adjust and control price levels, and monitor inventory reorder points by the vendor. If you sign up for the Platinum plan, you’ll get advanced inventory which enables you to scan bar codes, track inventory parts by bin, lot, or serial number, and calculate costs using the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method.

Just like inventory management, the job costing functionality in QuickBooks Desktop is more enhanced than in QuickBooks Online. If you need to track job costs and profitability, then you need to sign up for QuickBooks Online Plus or Advanced. With QuickBooks Online, you’ll be able to track labor costs, expenses, and payroll. You can get deeper with QuickBooks Desktop. It lets you set up rule-based customer groups to help you better manage your customers. With QuickBooks Enterprise, you’ll get advanced job costing features specially tailored for contractors and professional service providers.

Ease of use

Both QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop are intuitive in their own interface. Since QuickBooks Online is cloud-based, there’s no need for installation and setup, making it extremely easy to use. The QuickBooks Online dashboard is very intuitive, and with a little practice, you’ll be able to get the hang of it in no time. QuickBooks Desktop needs to be installed and set up, but you don’t have to do it yourself. When you purchase QuickBooks Desktop from an Authorized QuickBooks reseller like Paygration, we will take care of the installation and setup. Once set up, we’ll guide your way around the program through ongoing support and consultation. Besides, the QuickBooks Desktop is streamlined and is very easy to learn.

Need Help Choosing Between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop?

If you want additional guidance on choosing between the two programs or if you need help purchasing and setting up your selected software, contact us at 866-949-7267.  In addition to a free consultation, we also offer special discounts on our QuickBooks products. For QuickBooks Online, we can extend the original 90-day discount to a full year. If you want QuickBooks Desktop products, we offer perpetual ongoing discounts instead of the standard MSRP price with one year discount only.