Intuit QuickBooks desktop and Intuit QuickBooks Online has been the most popular accounting software for a reason but there are some drawbacks
QuickBooks has been the standard for accounting tools software since Scott Cook founded Intuit in 1983. The business accounting tool was first called Quicken before renaming it to QuickBooks for Small Business.
The company dominates the market for accounting software with almost 80% of the small business DIY market. Intuit QuickBooks Online was released more recently in 2004 and now serves more than 1.2 million businesses over its cloud-based online accounting software. The company upgraded Intuit QuickBooks Online in 2013, adding some features and making it easier to use.
I started using the desktop version of QuickBooks Pro in 2010 and switched over to QuickBooks Online in 2014. I like the easy-to-use software and thought I would do a QuickBooks review for the blog. If you’re thinking about running your own business, you will definitely need some kind of accounting software to organize your sales and expenses.
Get Your Business Organized with QuickBooks Desktop Accounting Software
Intuit QuickBooks desktop was the first accounting software I ever used for my own business though I had worked on other accounting software packages for employers. The Pro version for desktop starts at just over $200 but it’s a one-time expense so no monthly fees.
Though I’ve since switched to QuickBooks Online, I did like the fact that I could buy QuickBooks desktop once and use it for as long as I needed. The desktop version includes just about every feature you need to organize and manage your small business from creating a real-time view of the business with the Company Snapshot form to tracking all your accounts and expenses.
The 2016 version of QuickBooks desktop includes integration with shipping through UPS and FedEx, advanced reporting features and several ‘instant view’ pages that summarize everything quickly.
Getting started with QuickBooks Pro is fairly quick since the software integrates with Excel, Outlook and most other business software. You can import data from these or other accounting software packages through instructions provided on the startup screen.
You will also need to sync up your banking accounts and other financial platforms to pull in and view all data into QuickBooks. The software can integrate multiple accounts from multiple institutions to summarize and show on one screen. QuickBooks Pro can generate more than 150 predefined reports as well as customizable reports that can be printed or converted to pdf.
The payroll feature on QuickBooks Pro manages your employee data including payroll taxes, sick and vacation time and direct deposit information. The inventory & services feature allows you to track and manage inventory through multiple vendors as well as create invoices.
Get on the Cloud with Intuit QuickBooks Online
Intuit has made a lot of upgrades from its older version for the new QuickBooks Online Plus. Beyond the financial reporting and billing changes, the new cloud-based QuickBooks includes a Starbucks mode and new privacy settings that can hide sensitive information if you’re working in public.
QuickBooks Online is compatible with Windows 7, OS X and newer versions though not with Linux. I use it with Firefox and know other users that use it with Chrome and Internet Explorer. I work mostly from home so haven’t downloaded the mobile app but it is available for those that want to use their accounting software on the go.
The general setup is simple with a couple of screens to select your type of business and customize any settings you want to use. The home page dashboard gets you started with a few brief ‘how-to’ videos to organize according to your industry and needs. Coming from the desktop version of Intuit QuickBooks, it was pretty easy to make the transition though new users will be able to get started without a problem.
While the quick start tutorials are easy to follow, the easiest way to get started is to simply click through the diagram on the Getting Around tab. The diagram maps out how everything is connected on the QuickBooks accounting software and each icon is clickable. Even those with no accounting skills will be able to follow the map and quickly see your business operates.
QuickBooks Online Self-Employed makes estimating your quarterly taxes much easier and Intuit claims that users find an average of $3,809 in tax savings a year. The software automatically categorizes your expenses to quickly see where your money is going.
QuickBooks Simple Start is the lowest-price level for the small business accounting version and starts you off with income and expense tracking. You can create invoices and sync everything with your bank account for easy management.
QuickBooks Essential is one-step up and includes a bill management and payment feature as well as additional sales and profit reports. While Intuit claims that the Plus-level of QuickBooks Online is the most popular, I think most businesses will find all the features they need in the Essential version. The Simple Start version includes about 20 different reports while the Essentials version upgrades this to more than 40 different reports you can run.
QuickBooks Online Plus adds inventory tracking and the option to prepare and print 1099s for your business. Up to five people can access the account and you can restrict employees and subcontractors to limited access.
You can add on features to Intuit QuickBooks Online as your business grows. The accounting software offers nearly 300 different add-ons including third-party software and Intuit’s own programs. Add-ons include payroll services, customer relationship management, project management and many others.
Pricing for Intuit QuickBooks Online Accounting Software
Intuit QuickBooks Online has lowered its pricing lately on the different service levels, trying to get people to switch over from other online accounting tools. There are three tier levels for small businesses that need invoicing or accounting and one product level for self-employed business owners. Intuit QuickBooks offers the option to pay monthly with no contract or offers up to a 40% discount if you sign up for six months.
The biggest difference between the Intuit QuickBooks Online self-employed product and the others is some of the added invoicing and expenses features. Most business owners will want to start with the Intuit QuickBooks Simple Start version. You can start with a less expensive version and then upgrade if needed.
Most Common Questions about QuickBooks Accounting Software
How much accounting do I need to know to use QuickBooks?
One of the advantages of QuickBooks over other business accounting software products is how easy it is to get organized without accounting experience. You will need to know the basics of creating an invoice and filing for your business but the software makes it pretty easy to fill out forms that all integrate into your accounting statements. The software also has instructions and tutorial videos to walk you through the process.
Will QuickBooks Online slow down my computer?
There is no download needed to use QuickBooks online so nothing to put on your computer and nothing to slow down its performance.
Do I need to back up my data on QuickBooks Online?
Data stored on QuickBooks Online is backed up every day and stored on two separate servers that are protected from hackers, viruses and physical damage. You can also download a copy of your data to your own personal hard drive.
Is my data safe on QuickBooks Online?
QuickBooks Online uses the same protection technology used by banks and brokerages. Intuit uses the same technology to transmit millions of TurboTax returns every year.
Do free trial users have access to all the options as subscribers?
Yes. During your free trial, you will have access to all the same options and features that are available in the paid version of QuickBooks.
What are the system requirements for QuickBooks desktop?
QuickBooks Pro requires:
- Windows Vista or newer (Mac OS X or newer for Apple)
- At least 2.0 GHz processor
- Minimum 1 GB RAM for single user
- Minimum 2.5 GB of available disk space
- Minimum 1024×768 screen resolution with 16-bit or higher color
- Minimum 4x CD-ROM drive
Can I try out QuickBooks Online before switching from QuickBooks Desktop?
Yes, desktop users can request a free trial of QuickBooks Online before making the switch. All data from QuickBooks Pro is easily converted to the online edition though not all features are offered.
Most Common Complaints about QuickBooks Software
Intuit has made some upgrades in recent years but there still are not many options to customize user access levels. This makes it difficult to restrict access for some users but not for others. Most businesses will be fine with the access levels available but some may want a higher level of security.
The biggest QuickBooks complaint is the lack of email or chat support for customer service. The company does offer phone support Monday through Friday during business hours and limited support on Saturday. Wait times for phone support are generally under 10 minutes and the representatives know the software well enough to handle questions. Intuit also offers an online form for tech support and representatives answer questions from the Facebook page as well.
I have heard some complaints from people switching to the online version that it is a little more limited in function compared to the desktop version. I haven’t needed a lot of the functions that aren’t available for QuickBooks online so it hasn’t been an issue for me. The load time for pages of the online version has slowed a little over the last few weeks, I suppose as everyone tries to do their end-of-year bookkeeping all at once.
QuickBooks Business Software Review: Summary
Intuit QuickBooks desktop and QuickBooks Online are easy to use accounting software that most small business owners will be able to use. The desktop version is still available and a good option for those that want a one-time expense but the company is trying to move users to the online version so expect more features to be added to that product.
Pricing is competitive with other accounting software packages and even quite a bit less expensive due to QuickBooks’ size and market dominance. For example, Sage 50 accounting software (formerly Peachtree) starts at $449 per year for one user and up to $1,249 per year for five users.
Pros of QuickBooks Accounting Software
- Saves time and organizes everything. You only have to input something in one place and the software will do the rest, accounting for sales and expenses in multiple forms.
- The dashboard conveniently shows a great quick view with open and overdue invoices, account balances, and important upcoming tasks.
- Offers up to 65+ forms that populate with your accounting automatically and make any kind of reporting easy
Cons of QuickBooks Accounting Software
- As with all accounting software, it can take a little time to understand all the features and get comfortable. QuickBooks can transfer your data from a lot of other business software products but it will still take some time to get used to the new system.
- Customer service still needs improvement even after the company reduced wait times for phone support. It would be nice to see email and chat support in the future.
- Certain times of the year, particularly end-of-year and before tax time, may see slower load times for QuickBooks Online because everyone tries to use it at the same time.