Quickbooks Pro, Quickbooks Online & Quickbooks for Mac: What’s the Difference?

January 2nd, 2018

The Quickbooks family of accounting products from Intuit has maintained a vastly high portion of the small business market share for over a decade. The company offers multiple versions of its product to serve different user populations. Quickbooks for Mac, as the name suggests, is a desktop tool for Mac users, Quickbooks Pro is a desktop accounting tool for small businesses, and Quickbooks Online is a subscription-based cloud accounting tool.

However, Quickbooks Online has been Intuit’s clear focus for a number of years, along with mobile, and much of the recent development effort has been on bringing the online version up to feature parity with the desktop products – both Quickbooks for Mac and Quickbooks Pro. This is still a work in progress, and although the functionality gap between Quickbooks Pro and Quickbooks Online is narrowing, parity is still in the future. There is little doubt though that in addition to catch-up, brand new features will appear in the Online product and not in the desktop products.

So what will the future look like? To many in the Quickbooks community, the inevitability that the desktop products will eventually be discontinued in favor of the Online product is obvious. To be fair, Intuit denies this, despite some comments from the CEO which seemed to imply it.

TrustRadius has collected dozens of user reviews of all three versions, so you can easily discover the common use cases and pros & cons of each product. Here is a brief summary of each product based on user feedback.

Quickbooks on a desktop, tablet and phone
Image via Intuit

What Is Quickbooks Pro?

Quickbooks Pro is actually one of three versions of desktop products currently offered by Intuit, the other two being Quickbooks Premier and Quickbooks Enterprise 18.0. Under the Quickbooks Pro umbrella, Intuit maintains a few different options. There is the basic Pro application and the Pro Plus model, which includes the Quickbooks Pro software, plus unlimited 24/7 support, automatic back-ups and upgrades. The software alone is a one-time purchase, but access to Pro Plus features requires a year subscription plan. Again, some users have expressed concerns that  Quickbooks may discontinue the desktop versions.

Users Frequently Praise These Benefits:

Users Say These Features Need Work:

  • Users often complain that the inventory feature doesn’t work as smoothly as they’d like. Most suggest that businesses with large inventories may need to look elsewhere.
  • Custom reports—particularly when it comes to inventory—may be hard to satisfactorily create.

Quickbooks Pro is most commonly compared to: Sage One Accounting, GoDaddy Bookkeeping, and Zoho Books.

What Is Quickbooks Online?

The desktop versions of Quickbooks date back at least as far back as 2000—before the rise of modern cloud technology. Quickbooks Online was developed as a response to that movement. The benefit to this is that you can share access with multiple users or devices. It also means you get real-time updates, so there may be fewer versioning problems and automatic updates. The online product is offered via a subscription model, meaning you won’t have to purchase new software anytime you want to get access to the newest features, and you’ll need to budget for a monthly fee.

Users Frequently Praise These Benefits:

Users Say These Features Need Work:

Quickbooks Online is most commonly compared to: Sage 50 Accounting, Oracle eBusiness Suite, and Sage 300 ERP.

What Is Quickbooks for Mac?

Quickbooks for Mac, as you might have already guessed, is Intuit’s Mac-compatible version of their Quickbooks desktop software. According to TrustRadius users, this software is best for the Mac user who prefers an on-premise desktop accounting solution to one hosted on the cloud. Following considerable speculation, Intuit announced earlier this year that QuickBooks 2016 is the last version of Quickbooks for Mac, although it will be supported through 2019. This is a clear nudge to users of this product to switch to Quickbooks Online.

Users Frequently Praise These Benefits:

  • Easy to convert from Mac to PC and vice versa.
  • Offers the majority of the features available in the PC desktop version.
  • Robust invoicing feature allows you to create professional-looking custom invoices.
  • Simplified process for linking to financial accounts.
  • The UI looks “Mac-like” but is easy to navigate for PC-literate users.

Users Say These Features Need Work:

  • Data backups feature may create data losses if a user forgets to restore to the most recent version.
  • May be tricky or time-consuming to migrate data from previous accounting software.
  • Users accustomed to the PC version may see some minor loss of functionality.
  • Often charged for phone support

Quickbooks for Mac is most commonly compared to: Quickbooks Online, AccountEdge, and Sage One Accounting.

Of course, you may want to look outside the Quickbooks family for your next accounting tool. Visit the Accounting & Budgeting Software Overview to find alternatives and compare products.