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This QuickBooks Online review was done by me, Greg Lam. I own the Small Business Doer website and my goal is to help small business people. The review is my own personal opinion and I was not paid by the manufacturer to write it. I also don’t have any affiliate links, so do not receive commission if you do decide to use QuickBooks Online. Although, I might sign up for a QuickBooks affiliate program in the future – might as well get something for the time it took to create this :)
I’ve been a small business owner since 1998. I have a degree in business from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. (Canada). I’ve been doing bookkeeping for myself and others since 1998, primarily with QuickBooks. I’m also a certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor.
I am currently comparing various online accounting software and will write a review on each of them as I go along. I wanted these reviews to be as unbiased as possible, as my goal is to help users pick the online accounting software that is the best for them, not to promote software companies.
There are 3 online offerings that QuickBooks provides: 1) Online Simple Start, 2) Online Essentials, 3) Online Plus. To see a comprehensive chart on the differences, please visit the QuickBooks Product and Pricing page. I did not extensively test out the additional payroll functionality of the software. This review was made using QuickBooks Online Plus (US edition).
This QuickBooks Online review was written on July 17, 2012. The date is important to note, since software changes so quickly.
I spent a total of 3-4 days using the software and writing this review. I manually imported a trial balance ending December 31, 2011 from my QuickBooks Accountant Edition 2012 Desktop software. From there I entered and reconciled all the transactions for one month.
If there is anything that I’ve said that is inaccurate or false, please let me know so that I can update the article.
You can look at QuickBooks Online at http://quickbooksonline.intuit.com.
Signing up is easy. All you need to enter is a name, email, user ID and password. No credit card is needed, making it easy to jump right in and take the software for a test drive. There’s a free 30 day trial before you have to start paying.
Intuit (the maker of QuickBooks) was founded in 1983 in Mountain View, California, USA. QuickBooks is by far the dominant accounting software choice for small business owners in the United States and several other English speaking countries in the world. This makes QuickBooks a benchmark for which all other small business accounting software is judged.
A statement ripped directly from QuickBooks Online’s home page is:
QuickBooks is more than secure online accounting. It’s your business organized in one place.
I don’t think I could summarize QuickBooks’ ambition for small business any better. QuickBooks’ is more than accounting or bookkeeping. The question you may want to ask yourself, is do you need accounting software or a small business management tool? Because QuickBooks’ tries to be more than accounting, it can also be more complicated to work with and understand than other accounting software.
There’s a learning curve to QuickBooks, and it can be a challenge, especially for those not familiar with computers or accounting software. However, once you understand how QuickBooks works, the software can be quite powerful.
The usability of software is something that can get overlooked when strictly examining comparison charts or feature lists. There’s a difference between having a feature and having a usable feature.
I’m an experienced QuickBooks user as well as a certified Pro Advisor, so my comments on QuickBooks Online’s usability will no doubt be biased, since I understand the QuickBooks way of doing things. However, I have had the benefit of extensively testing out many other accounting software providers, giving me perhaps a decent perspective on QuickBook’s user interface.
The main navigation in QuickBooks comes from a menu bar at the top. The areas you have to choose from are:
Under all the main navigation items, there are subcategories. This means that to get around QuickBooks, you usually need to make two clicks. One click on the main menu, and then another click on the sub menu. If you’ve used the desktop version, you may be familiar with the ability to customize the icon bar at the top (as seen in the screen shot below), enabling you to be one click away from your most used features. Unfortunately, you’re not able to customize an icon menu bar in the same way in QuickBooks Online.
The blessing and curse of QuickBooks is that it has a menu item for everything. Check out this massive menu item list (the main menu items are bolded):
The reason I listed every single menu item is to show you how many different functions you have. I think the reason why there is a learning curve with QuickBooks is that there are so many choices. For a beginner, this can be overwhelming.
Perhaps an explanation for why QuickBooks has so many menu items is that over the years users have requested more and more features and functionality. In the quest to be everything to every small business, Quickbooks has obliged.
One thing you can do combat this proliferation of menu items, is to rearrange the menu items, so that the most used functions appear on the left hand side. To do this, click on “More” in any sub menu and you’ll see the option to “Rearrange Menu”.
You will then get the option to drag and drop the menu items in whatever order you like.
I personally dislike the way QuickBooks places non-functioning buttons within its menu, such as the “Accept Credit Cards” item. When you click on “Accept Credit Cards”, QuickBooks brings you to its merchant services promotional page, not a window that will allow you to accept credit cards from customers.
If you’re new to QuickBooks, expect to spend a bit of time familiarizing yourself with getting around QuickBooks Online.
There are some self-help features built right into QuickBooks Online’s interface.
The first self-help feature is the little video icon you may find underneath the left-hand side of the sub menu. I say may, because there are not videos for every function.
Clicking on the video icon pops up a youtube video with a quick tutorial on how to use the particular function you are on.
The second self-help feature I like is the “How Do I?” button found below the sub menu on the right-hand side of the screen.
Clicking on the “How Do I?” button will pop up a help-window with relevant frequently asked questions. If the “How Do I” button doesn’t give you the answer you were looking for, you may want to try the “help” link.
Clicking on the help link takes you to a separate QuickBooks Online support site.
The third self-help feature is “Related Activities and Information” found at the very bottom of most function windows.
Clicking on “Related Activities and Information” will display relevant information.
For the video, “How do I?”, and “Related Activities and Information” links, I like how they provide relevant information at the click of a mouse. On the other hand, I wonder if getting help would be simpler if there was only one way to access all the help information. I think the positioning of the “Related Activities and Information” would be an ideal spot for all the help and support information.
You’ll find that QuickBooks Online gives you many ways to get to the same information. Sometimes this can be helpful, letting people choose different work flows. Sometimes this can be confusing, since there are so many buttons you can hit.
A feature of QuickBooks Desktop that I always enjoyed was the ability to easily drill down further into information. If you don’t know what drill down means, I’ll explain. Drilling down is the ability to get more details about a transaction or report. This is opening a profit and loss report, clicking on an particular expense account, and being able to see all the expense transactions within that account.
I’m happy to report that QuickBooks Online preserves this drill down functionality.
QuickBooks Online also allows you to easily navigate through related transactions. This is being able to one-click your way through a customer’s invoice, the payment, and then the deposit into your bank account.
The reaction time of online software is an important consideration, especially if you’re used to the responsiveness of desktop applications.
QuickBooks Online is quite fast, and with my particular computer setup and internet connection speed, I ran into very little lag (time spent waiting for something to happen) when navigating around. The desktop version is still quicker, but the difference in speed would not be something that would prevent me from using the online version.
Being able to find your data easily is nice. This is actually quite an important feature since I find bookkeeping to be an investigative type of job. The more powerful your search capabilities, the faster you can work.
QuickBooks Online has a nifty find feature, found at the top right of your screen.
The find function is an excellent tool. My favourite part is that you can search specifically by any transaction type (such as invoice or payment) or by all transaction types. Sometimes you need to filter your search results, but other times, you want to pull up as many possibilities as you can.
When you use the “find” function, you get a pop-up window (as seen in the above screen shot). When you click on a listed result, the transaction shows up in your main window (as seen in the screen shot below). This makes it fast to go through the search results and find what you’re looking for.
Being able to track what someone else has done is important for auditing. It’s good for investigating how data was entered and manipulated.
The audit trail (the “who did what, how they did it, and when” trail) in QuickBooks Online is called “Activity Log”. It allows you to see the history of every action performed in QuickBooks Online.
The neat feature is that you can click on items in the log. This either takes you to the transaction, or if the transaction was deleted or changed, provides you the details of what used to be in the transaction.
Another useful software function is the ability to undo a mistake or to redo something that you accidentally deleted.
QuickBooks Online has limited ability to undo or redo a transaction. You do have the option to undo text that you entered (CTRL+Z for PC or OPTION + Z for macs), but once you delete or create a transaction, you can’t use undo to reverse what you did. If you delete something by accident, you’ll have to recreate it. If you create something by accident, you have to delete it. The only exception to this that I’ve seen, is that your able to to use the activity log to restore deleted vendors and customers.
Accrual accounting is like the grown up bicycle, while cash accounting is like the training wheels on a child’s bike. Eventually, you’ll want to (and need) to use accrual accounting.
QuickBooks Online uses the accrual accounting method. It also has the ability to do cash based accounting, so even if you start off using that cash method, you can switch to accrual as your company grows.
If you want to switch between cash and accrual, you can find this option under Company > Preferences.
Having a general journal entry window lets someone who understands bookkeeping or accounting quickly add transactions and make modifications to the books. This is an extremely essential feature that your bookkeeper or accountant would be glad to have.
The ability to do journal entries in QuickBooks Online is found under Banking > Journal Entry (you may have to click on “More” to see the “Journal Entry” menu item).
You can add a memo on each line as well as a memo for the entire transaction. You also have the ability to associate a customer or vendor name with each line.
In case you didn’t know, a chart of accounts is a listing of all your accounts (Income, Expense, Assets, Liability, and Equity). Some software I’ve reviewed doesn’t allow you to see your entire chart of accounts on one page.
Something you should look for in accounting software is if you’re able to freely change and create your chart of accounts. This is a core need for accountants and bookkeepers.
In QuickBooks Online, you can find chart of accounts by going to Company > Chart of Accounts. QuickBooks Online comes with a default set of chart of accounts. For anyone who already has a chart of accounts set up, you may find this annoying, since you have to individually delete each account you don’t want to use and then create all the accounts you do want to use. You can alternatively edit existing accounts instead of deleting and creating, which may save you some time.
The chart of accounts is fully functional, but I do have a few issues with its usability.
First, navigating the chart of accounts can be tricky as chart of accounts is a window within a window. This means that some you have two scroll bars to use. For me, this hid the bottom menu items (the buttons in blue in the screen shot below).
Second, QuickBooks Online forces you to have a “type” of account. If you look at the screen shot below, you’ll understand better. After choosing that I wanted to create an expense account, I further had to pick what type of expense account I wanted. I don’t know why this additional categorization is necessary.
I believe QuickBooks Online is using this data to benchmark your results against other businesses (as seen in the explanation of QuickBooks Online’s “scorecard” in the screen shot below). Making you choose a “type” of account makes it easier for QuickBooks to compare your data against other companies, but from from a usability standpoint, it’s an extra hassle in setting up your books.
You can import a chart of accounts, but I don’t believe this will save you much time over manually creating or editing accounts yourself. This is because you will be forced to choose a type for each imported account as well as delete any default QuickBooks Online accounts that you won’t use. You can learn more about importing charts of accounts into QuickBooks Online in the Setup and Walk Through page on this small business doer site.
Reconciliation, or the process of matching transactions in your bank statement to transactions in your accounting software, is a crucial step in the bookkeeping process. This is because it verifies the data you’ve entered into your books.
In QuickBooks Online, the reconciliation function can be found under Banking > Reconcile (you may have to click on the “More” menu item to find “Reconcile”).
You fist choose the account you want to reconcile, the end statement date, and the statement ending balance. After that, you’ll get taken to a reconcile screen. Money going out of your account will show up on the left hand side, money going in to your account on the right side.
If you’ve used the “downloaded transaction” function (which will be discussed shortly in the importing and syncing data from banks section), the reconciliation process is quite easy. The transactions should theoretically be checked and highlighted for you, kind of making reconciliation a rubber stamp process.
The nice thing about the reconcile window in QuickBooks Online is that you can click on transactions to get more details. You can also sort by the headers, which are date, type, num, name, and amount.
The way QuickBooks Online brings in data from banks, and how it handles the data, is one if its biggest competitive advantages.
Since QuickBooks is the major player in small business accounting software, banks are more likely to play nice and work with QuickBooks. This can be especially important for people who deal with smaller banks or credit unions. QuickBooks also has more staff than smaller competitors, making them able to devote more time to support connections to banks. Because of this, chances are that QuickBooks Online will flawlessly import your data.
When the data is imported, it allows you to sort by date, description, or amount. That’s nice when you have a lot of data to sort through. More importantly, QuickBooks tries to automatically categorize the data for you, choosing the name of the vendor or customer and the type of account to associate the transaction with. As you enter more transactions into QuickBooks, this automatic categorization feature becomes smarter.
The automatic categorization will be wrong a lot though, so that’s where another capability comes into play. QuickBooks Online allows you to easily choose another category.
The feature in QuickBooks Online that I have so far not seen any other accounting software be able to do, is split a transaction into more than one category from within a bank statement import function. To split a transaction in “Downloaded Transactions” click on “split” and you will get a pop-up window that allows you to choose multiple accounts.
Oddly, you can only split transactions where money is going out of your account. If money is going into your account, you have to adjust the entry by accepting the transaction, going to the “accepted transactions” tab and clicking on the transaction. This extra process is obviously not as convenient as clicking on “split”, but it’s still not too bad. You are now able to split transactions for money going into your account.
There’s certainly other accounting software that can import and automatically categorize transactions, but QuickBooks Online is the smoothest at this. The flexibility of being able to sort the transactions, modify them, and add splits when necessary, makes the “downloaded transactions” function extremely usable.
Furthermore, the “downloaded transactions” function makes the “reconcile” function a simple double-check of data, since “downloaded transactions” forces you to only enter transactions that show up in your bank statement.
There’s certainly improvements that can be made to the “downloaded transactions” window, but in it’s present form, it’s a great feature of QuickBooks Online.
If you are having difficulty connecting to your bank through QuickBooks Online, you can manually import QBO, QFX, or OFX files (which are files that you should be able to download from the majority of banks). The process is overly complicated, as you have to click on “How Do I?”, then “Import my Web Connect or OFX file”, then “Upload the file to QuickBooks Online Plus”, then “Start the WebConnect mini-nterview”, which then pops up another window. The process shown in the 3 screen shots below.
I think QuickBooks Online has this feature hidden this way since they want everyone to automatically connect to their banks, and why not, since they’re the company that’s arguably the best at doing this. However, if you are trying to bring in bank data more than 90 days old, you will have to do this through this manual “Webconnect” process, meaning that QuickBooks has buried a feature that a lot of people will need to use. This is especially true for first time users.
Most banks do provide QBO, QFX, or OFX files, but there are situations when you’d want to import a more standard, CSV (comma separated value) file type. I wish that QuickBooks Online could also import CSV files.
Who likes manual entry? Well… no one, really. It’s the analog way to get into the digital world. A lot of our information exists digitally, and the nice thing about digital, is that it’s easy to copy and move around.
The ability to import data into your accounting software is something that is not only a nice-to-have, but increasingly becoming a must have. Why spend hours re-creating and re-entering data (and introducing errors in the process) that already exists?
QuickBooks Online allows you to natively (meaning you don’t need to use some add-on app) import a little bit of data. The “Import Data” function is found under Company > Import Data (you may need to click on “More” to find the “Import Data” menu item).
You can import Customers, Vendors, Chart of Accounts, and Products and Services.
The imports are all somewhat limited and I found that I had to manually edit the imported data. I talk about this more in the setup and walk through section of this review.
It’s nice that QuickBooks can import some data, but what would be really useful, is the ability to import any type of data you want, such as journal entries, invoices, bills, and so on. This is because many businesses have e-commerce stores, electronic cash registers, or inventory systems that provide data that they would like to enter into QuickBooks.
There is an app that you can add, called the “Transaction Pro Importer”, that can import different types of data and transactions. You can find it by clicking on App Center. The cost is $19.99 a month.
I didn’t have time to test out the importer app, but here’s a tutorial video made by Transaction Pro Importer. From some QuickBooks blogs that I read, it seems like it is a fairly powerful import tool.
QuickBooks Online allows you to import data from your QuickBooks Desktop software. To do this, go to Company > Import QuickBooks Desktop Data (you may need to click on “More” to see this menu item).
There are numerous restrictions and exceptions to the import of data. Too many to list in fact. Luckily, QuickBooks has done up a nice import guide detailing most everything you’d want to know. Please check it out at https://cdn.qbo.intuit.com/c36/v51.114/pdfs/QBDTImport.pdf if you want to see if importing your QuickBooks Desktop data is possible for you.
Data export is a big thing for me since I want to be able to take my data with me in case something happens (like the software company merges, goes out of business, or I decide to use another service). It’s also good for people who like to play around with their numbers in a spreadsheet. Additionally, you sometimes want to export certain pieces of data into other software applications.
The “export data’ function in QuickBooks is found under Company > Export Data (you may need to click on “More” to see the menu item).
As you can see from the screen shot above, the export data function is really about exporting your data to QuickBooks Desktop. This is great for people who want to keep a local back up, but I suspect most people are looking for different types of exported data, which you can find under Reports.
You’ll notice that every report will give you the ability to export the data to Excel. Since QuickBooks Online has extensive reporting capabilities, you are able to get a fair bit of data out of QuickBooks. For people wishing to use this data in other software applications, this may require combining several reports. At this point in time, as far as I can see, there is no custom export plug-ins or apps that you can use to extract data from QuickBooks Online like you can from QuickBooks Desktop.
The automatic entry of data was somewhat covered in the section entitled importing and syncing data from banks. That section of the review talked about how QuickBooks could automatically categorize bank transactions imported via the “downloaded transactions” function.
QuickBooks Online is also able to help you automatically enter data in other ways as well, such as through AutoRecall. I can’t remember, but I believe this featured is on by default. To see if the option is turned on in your QuickBooks Online, go to Company > Preferences > Company > AutoRecall.
This is QuickBooks Online’s description of the Autorecall feature:
When AutoRecall is enabled, entering a name on most transaction screens causes QuickBooks Online Plus to automatically fill in the rest of the transaction (amount, account, and so on, except for a few fields, such as the date). It fills using the last saved transaction of that type for that customer, vendor, or employee.
For example, when you select a vendor’s name on a check, QuickBooks Online Plus fills in the entire check, just like the last one you entered for that vendor.
You can change fields before saving the transaction.
If you enlarge the screen shot above, you may have noticed that there’s a link to “Tell me about other ways to automate transactions”.
The pop-up box shows the different ways that you can automate data entry into QuickBooks. This automatic entry and memorization of data is something that I’ve enjoyed as a QuickBooks Desktop user. Why re-enter data many times when you can let the software do it for you?
The automatic entry of data is something QuickBooks Online excels at over its competitors. There may be some competitors that handle certain automation better than QuickBooks Online, but none that have the depth and breadth of automation that QuickBooks Online has.
Reporting is the end result of bookkeeping that most people are eager to see. Once you generate reports, you can finally see how much money you made, how much people owe you, how much you owe people, etc…
QuickBooks Online has advanced reporting functions with hundreds of stock reports. Each report has the ability to be customized, filtered, and memorized. Among all the accounting software I’ve tested, QuickBooks has by far the most extensive set of reports with the most customization options.
If you look at the list of reports in the above screen shot, you’ll the different types of reports available.
Once you’re in a report, you can click on the “Customize” button to filter and display your data differently, as seen in the screen shot below.
QuickBooks Online does not have as many customization features as QuickBooks Desktop does, but they are comparable. If you make heavy use of the reporting functionality of QuickBooks Desktop and are looking to switch to QuickBooks Online, I’d recommend signing up for a trial version to see if it has the reporting capability you need.
Another reporting feature that you’ll probably use is Memorize. Memorize is a button I use a lot, since it allows you to save the customization you make to reports.
While it is useful to have the variety of reports, I don’t find I use that many reports in the small businesses I work with beyond Profit & Loss, Accounts Receivable (A/R), Accounts Payable (A/P), Trial Balance, General Ledger, General Journal, Balance Sheet, and the Reconciliation reports. Most of the accounting software I have tested gives you access to those basic reports.
Something that QuickBooks Online (the Plus version) has that some competitors don’t is the ability to do budgeting. To access the budgeting function go to Company > Budgets.
I have used and been happy with QuickBooks Desktop’s budgeting feature in the past and it seems like QuickBooks Online’s budgeting function is similar in functionality. However, I’ve almost always had to export the data into Excel to further play with numbers, since the formatting or aggregation of data was always a little bit different than what I wanted it to be.
You can edit QuickBooks Online’s sales tax settings by going to Company > Preferences > Sales Form Entry > Sales Tax. I’ve included a screen shot so that you can see all the sales tax options available to you.
If you’re from countries like Canada, UK, and Australia this section is a bit irrelevant to you, since you probably can’t use the US version (I checked and you need to have the ability to pay from a US credit card). Sales Taxes are in important section to people from these countries since they have value added taxes, such as VAT, GST, HST. Value added taxes need to be closely tracked for items sold and purchased. QuickBooks Online US only tracks sales on items sold, but each country’s respective QuickBooks Online version is configured to handle their sales tax requirements.
Are you familiar with the terms “paper trail” or “burden of proof”? Both mean the same and they refer to the fact that you need to prove every transaction in your records. This is done most of the times through digital or paper receipts documenting your financial transaction. With this in mind, it makes sense to be able to attach this proof to every transaction, right?
You can of course keep a digital or paper based record system outside of your software program, but I’ve found it incredibly useful to have the proof attached to my bookkeeping software’s record, since it makes it easy to double-check the document for something like a data-entry error.
QuickBooks Online has no ability to attach documents to transactions at the present moment, but this may be a feature coming in the future. I base this off the fact that QuickBooks Desktop has this feature and a QuickBooks forum for feature requests hints at this feature being added to QuickBooks Online.
Update May 2nd, 2013: QuickBooks Online now has the ability to attach documents to sales receipts, customer invoices, and vendor bills. The product is still in BETA, but it allows you to attach as many documents as you like, in whichever format you like.
Additionally, SmartVault has launched a new app for QuickBooks Online, which allows you to attach receipts to almost any type of transaction. You can find out more at http://www.smartvault.com/quickbooks-online/.
Multi-currency is something that’s becoming ever more crucial in today’s business world. Many people sell to and buy from multiple countries and collect (or pay) in more than one currency.
QuickBooks Online US currently has no multi-currency capability, which is a bit puzzling to me, since this feature is an option in other countries.
QuickBooks Online offers two ways to bill out customers, via a sales receipt or an invoice. You can access both functions through Customers > Sales Receipt or New Invoice.
In case you’re not familiar with difference between sales receipts and invoices, I’ll briefly explain. A sales receipt is for when you receive full payment at the time you make a sale. An invoice is for when you either receive partial payments or receive payment at at time after you make a sale.
If you look at the screen shot of a sales receipt above, you’ll see all the options available to you when creating a sales receipt.
The sales receipt form seems straight-forward and simple enough to understand and enter data into. The invoice function has slightly different options, since you don’t need to select “payment information” as you’ll receive payments for invoices in a different window.
Payment processing is the ability to send an invoice out to a customer and have them pay via credit card, debit card (bank account), PayPal, or some other type of online method.
QuickBooks has its own payment processing division, know as Intuit Payment Network.
Something that is not noted in the above screen shot is that you also have the ability to allow your customers to also pay by credit card. The fees are 3.25%, which in most situations works out to be higher than what PayPal offers, which is 2.9% + $.30 transaction fee, and as low as 2.2% + $.30 transaction fee for businesses with a lot of sales.
So, there’s a bit of a decision whether or not to accept credit cards. If you only get paid via bank accounts, the $.50 per transaction is rather minimal. If you don’t choose to accept credit cards, some customers won’t be able to pay or will take longer to pay.
The big benefit in using Intuit’s Payment Network to do your payment processing is that this automates the collection of payments as well as enters the payment transaction directly into QuickBooks for you, cutting down on data entry.
If you want to use other providers for payment processing, you’ll need to see if the payment processor has an app that works with QuickBooks Online. You can check by clicking on the App Center.
For example, if you wanted to use PayPal to accept payments, you could subscribe to the $10 a month app by BotBill.
There’s special taxes and reporting requirements associated with payroll. Can the software handle this for you? If it can’t, is there a way to smartly input these?
Being able to do your payroll through your accounting / bookkeeping software is nice if you have employees. Calculating payroll manually is doable, there are online calculators that can help you. However, the reason you want to use software for your bookkeeping is so that you don’t have to do things manually.
QuickBooks has a payroll built-in (well, for an extra fee of course). It’s usually $40 a month for the payroll feature, but I would check the pricing page for current pricing.
You can access the payroll feature by going to Employees.
Unfortunately I can’t comment on the payroll feature since I’ve never used it in QuickBooks Online US before. I’ve done it for QuickBooks Pro Desktop 2012 and the payroll did everything I wanted it to do, and was especially useful for compiling government reports.
A good feature of payroll is that it allows you to pay employees via direct deposit (this is included for free with the monthly subscription to the payroll service).
Inventory has to be handled and accounted for in a special way, can the software handle this? Being able to track inventory is an essential function for any business that sells products that they need to keep track of.
QuickBooks Online Plus (this is the more expensive version of QuickBooks Online) has the ability to track inventory. If the feature is not turned on, you can turn it on by going to Company > Preferences > Products and Services > Quantity on Hand (inventory tracking).
To add items to your inventory, go to Customers > Products and Services List (you may need to click on “More” to see this menu item).
You have a variety of options for choosing products, such as what price you pay for inventory and what price you sell it at.
Currently QuickBooks Online can’t do inventory assemblies, which is creating an inventory item from other inventory parts, such as creating a bike from a frame, pedals, tires, and so on. If you need this feature, you’ll have to use QuickBooks Desktop for now.
Once you have set up an inventory item, you can both buy it and sell it through the Customers and Vendors menu items. A neat thing is that when you are selling the item, a little pop-up will let you know how much inventory you have on hand.
This inventory function in QuickBooks Online is not a full-fledged inventory management system, but it works well enough. If you have your own inventory system (ex: an online e-commerce store), you may be able to use an app to import transactions into QuickBooks Online (such as the Transaction Pro Importer app discussed in the data import section of this review)
The power of software is the ability to easily share and process data across various applications. You may currently be using software for CRM, payroll, invoicing, or e-commerce. Whether your online accounting software can import that data may be a crucial deciding factor for you.
In other cases, sometimes your online accounting software won’t do everything you want it to do, so the only way to get a feature is to integrate your online accounting software with software that provides what you want.
QuickBooks Online has a dedicated App Center, which is found under the App Center menu item.
These apps are able to connect directly to QuickBooks and send data back and forth. There are currently 25 apps available for QuickBooks Online vs. 48 for QuickBooks Desktop. I’m sure the online number will grow, but am actually a bit surprised not to find integration with some big SAAS (software as a service players) and online players such as Paypal, Freshbooks, Shoeboxed, Dropbox, and Shopify to name but a few.
The app that I’m most interested in is the “Transaction Pro Importer“. This is because it allows you to import virtually any kind of data into QuickBooks Online. In some ways, this means that QuickBooks can work with any software that outputs data.
It should be noted that any online accounting software can be accessed via your web browser, regardless of your device. However, when an online accounting software provider has a device specific app or a mobile version of the site, it’s designed to work well for that purpose.
QuickBooks has mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Android.
The iPhone / iPad can be found at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/quickbooks-mobile/id393232373?mt=8
The Android app can be found at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.intuit.quickbooks&hl=en
Unfortunately, I live in Canada and cannot download these apps to test out. The apps only have a few of the capabilities of QuickBooks Online, mainly around customers and invoicing.
This is a section that covers features or functionalities that didn’t get their own section.
A couple features that QuickBooks has that I didn’t mention yet was Scorecard and Income List.
Scorecard can be accessed by going to Reports > Scorecard.
Socrecard compares your business against others, using anonymous data from other QuickBooks Online users. It seems interesting, but I don’t know how much to trust the data. On one hand, you can specify an industry, area, and even sales level. On the other hand, is the data coming from active accounts and how do you know the data is correct? If you find yourself on the bottom of the Scorecard, will this discourage or motivate you? Likewise, if you find yourself at the top, does this make you lazy or drive you harder?
Income List is another unique feature of QuickBooks Online. It can be found under Customers > Income List.
Income list is QuickBooks Online’s new way to display money-in transactions. Here’s a direct quote:
Check out our new Money Progress bar! We’re testing a bright, engaging way to show the status and amounts of your money-in transactions. See unbilled, open, and recently paid income at a glance.
Click an area in the bar to zero in on the items in that category.
I actually think it’s a neat interface. You can’t tell by the screen shot above, but clicking on any one of the colored bars re-arranges the list below to show you transactions only in the category you clicked on. This seems like a advanced accounts receivable function, which I could see being very useful.
Customer support is a crucial feature for some users, especially those who are not as comfortable with software as others. I tend to just look for documentation that already exists, since I don’t like waiting on support to potentially help me out.
I’d rather see great help / documentation than great support (although I’m sure others would have their priorities reversed). Having information that is easy to access and easy to understand makes using software so much better.
QuickBooks Online has many different places to get help. So many in fact, that you may be confused as to where to go. Here’s a list of places:
If the FAQ doesn’t contain the answer, I would visit 3 (support site), then 5 (community site). If those fail, you could always Google the answer.
Lastly, if you’re simply looking for a quick intro to a section, the videos are great for giving you a visual overview of how to use function.
There are a few ways to get support.
You can tweet QuickBooks Online at https://twitter.com/qbonline. I tweeted them before and received responses.
You can call them at 1-800-926-3667. You’ll need your company ID, so if you login to your QuickBooks Online and then click 2 (help) then on contact us, it’ll actually display your company ID.
This is the link to the contact us page on the support site, but to have it show your company ID, you need to access the site via the QuickBooks Online help link.
You can also find your company ID by going to Your Account > Upgrade.
I can’t find any way to email QuickBooks Online (I even tried Googling it), so I don’t believe there is a way to email.
My past experience with contacting QuickBooks support by phone is mixed. Sometimes I’d get the answer, other times I’d get untrained staff who didn’t understand my problem or how to solve it. The good thing about QuickBooks is that it is so large, that there is generally someone who has run into the same problem who can help. However, finding the answer can sometimes be time consuming, frustrating, and tough.
The important thing to consider when evaluating accounting software is to see whether it has the features or functionalities you need, and to decided if you can live with (or work around) the missing items.
QuickBooks Online US (and I’m very specific with US, because the International versions are different) is the most fully featured small business accounting software that I’ve come across to date.
There’s only a few things that QuickBooks Online US doesn’t have that its competitors do. QuickBooks Online US doesn’t have:
There’s probably some other items that you can add to the list, but those are the major ones.
So, my suggestions for improvements are geared more towards usability.
In some ways, the country where the software is made shouldn’t matter. However, I think for accounting software, it matters more than with other types of applications. This is because the people in their own country should (and emphasis on “should”) naturally design the software to fit the needs of their local tax and accounting requirements better than software made in another country. I’ve noticed this especially when it comes to taxes and payroll.
Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, is based out of Mountain View California. I know they have local offices in several countries, but don’t know if this is true for their online offerings as well. QuickBooks does provide localized versions of both their desktop and online software for various English speaking countries around the world.
This review is for QuickBooks Online US. I actually live in Canada and had to use a made-up address in order to be able to try out the software. Without a US credit card, I can’t continue to use the software. You might ask why I did this? The answer is simple. QuickBooks Online Canada sucks (in comparison to QuickBooks Online US). I mean the Canadian version of the software is OK, but it feels years behind it’s big US cousin. I know people in other countries, such as the UK, Australia, and New Zealand feel the same way.
QuickBooks Online Canada does not have payroll, payment processing, an app centre, or inventory (however it does have multi-currency).
So, if you live in US, your version of QuickBooks Online is years ahead of your international friends. QuickBooks Online US obviously understands all the tax laws and forms that are needed for US businesses.
Price is always an important factor for businesses. One thing I think you should consider is how much does it cost you to not pay for what you need. Or in other words, how much time (whether it’s your “free” time or someone’s paid time can you save by using the software).
QuickBooks Online pricing can be found at http://quickbooksonline.intuit.com/finance-accounting-solutions/.
As you can see, you can pay from $12.95 to $63.16 a month, depending on your needs. If you go the their pricing page, you will find a huge chart listing the difference between all the different versions.
This review was done using QuickBooks Online Plus, so be sure that the features discussed are in the version you choose. I have a feeling that most businesses will go towards at least the Online Essentials version and maybe the Plus. The simple start limits your use, by allowing you to only connect to one bank account and not allowing you to enter vendor bills that you can pay later. So I think most people will be looking at a price of at least $26.95 a month.
Realistically, at $26.95 a month, I think the money is well spent on any accounting software package that does what you need, whether or not its QuickBooks. $26.95 is a bit less than the going rate for an hour of bookkeeping, which is more like $30 to $40 an hour. If the software can save you an hour a month, it’s worth it.
If you live in the US and want online accounting software, I’d highly recommend QuickBooks Online US. I hate to have to qualify US, but if you’ve read the other parts of this review, you’d know that the US version is much different than the international versions.
QuickBooks is the leader in small business accounting software in the US, and as the leader, has the most capabilities out of all the software. A couple key features of QuickBooks Online US that I find very useful, is its ability to connect to banks and process customers payments online. There is other accounting software that does this, but QuickBooks Online US seems to have the best integrated package that works on a consistent basis.
QuickBooks Online US may not be the best in every area, but it does handle most of the functionality that the majority of small businesses need.
If you are currently using desktop versions of QuickBooks and want to know whether to switch to the online version, I would say yes, as long as it doesn’t take away any of the core functionality you need for your business. The desktop still is more functional in certain areas, but I suspect that the majority of small businesses will find that the online version now has the functionality they need. I say now, because there has been constant improvements to QuickBooks Online. Also, online versions have several advantages over the desktop versions, such as no software to install, no worrying about backups, access from anywhere, and access from many users at the same time.
Despite highly recommending QuickBooks Online US, I don’t think it’s the only choice out there. I’m currently doing an online accounting software review and comparison of alternatives to QuickBooks. From having to train people on QuickBooks and becoming a certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor (which required studying and writing an exam), I know that QuickBooks is not the easiest software to pick up. Even though QuickBooks (and other software for that matter) like to advertise that no accounting knowledge is necessary, I’ve seen people screw up their books over and over again. I don’t think it’s the people, I do think it’s a combination of you do need to know a little about bookkeeping and accounting and you do need to learn how to use the software.
QuickBooks Online does have a learning curve, so if you’re new to QuickBooks or to accounting / bookkeeping / running a business, expect to have some hiccups and need for support and training. QuickBooks is trying to be the one-stop shop for everything small business, which also means it’s more complex than other accounting software out there.
I’ve seen what some other online accounting software does, and I feel some of them have smaller learning curves and are easier to understand and navigate. If you’re a smaller company, I would look at alternatives as well to see if they might better fit your needs. Most online accounting software does provide free trials, so it’s easy to check them out.
QuickBooks Online is the benchmark for small business online accounting software, so you should definitely have it on your list of software to consider for your business’ accounting and bookkeeping needs.
If you’re wondering about alternatives, I’m currently doing an online accounting software review and comparison. Currently I’ve done reviews of the following accounting software:
Note: For an up-to-date review and comparison of online accounting software, please check out my ebook.