Supported by thousands of accountants and bookkeepers, choosing one of QuickBooks’ platforms as your business accounting software virtually guarantees that you’ll find the accounting solution you need.
With more than 2 million users worldwide, Intuit’s QuickBooks products are by far the most popular small business accounting software in the U.S.—and there are lots of QuickBooks products to choose from. Recently, much of Intuit’s development and advertising capital has gone to the popular QuickBooks Online. But QuickBooks Pro—also known as QuickBooks Desktop, and now referred to by Intuit as QuickBooks Desktop Pro—is still alive and well.
In fact, Intuit adds new features to QuickBooks Pro every year. While mostly cosmetic at this point, these features keep QuickBooks Pro relevant, even in a market that’s increasingly moving toward cloud-based software as a service model.
That said, just because QuickBooks Pro is popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your small business. Market share, ease of use, and the availability of support are all important factors, but you should also consider the software’s features, pricing, and the businesses it’s intended for before making your choice.
To help you make that decision, we’re evaluating all of these factors, and more, in this comprehensive review of QuickBooks 2018.
The Best New Features on QuickBooks Pro
QuickBooks revamps their software regularly, but some of those additions are more useful than others. First, we’ll take a look at some of the QuickBooks Pro updates, big and small, that users will find the most welcome.
Multiple Monitor Setup
The first useful QuickBooks Pro update can be surprisingly effective for your productivity.
Historically, the desktop version of QuickBooks hasn’t supported a multiple-monitor setup. Instead, QuickBooks Pro users who wanted to expand the view of their accounting file had to drag the QuickBooks window across multiple monitors to “spread out” their view of the software.
In the 2018 version of QuickBooks Pro, Intuit introduced multiple monitor support. Instead of dragging the QuickBooks window across multiple monitors to give yourself more room to work, now you can enable this feature right within QuickBooks so it happens automatically. This works best if you have two monitors of the same size.
If you work with three or more monitors, or if your monitors are different sizes, then the multiple monitor setup feature becomes a little trickier to use. It’s also important to note that the multiple monitor setup feature will only work if you have QuickBooks on your local computer instead of a shared server or hosted environment. Still, if you need to open several windows inside QuickBooks Pro at one time, this is a practical feature.
“Pay Now” Button on Invoices
Invoices that contain a payment link are, on average, paid twice as quickly as invoices that don’t include a payment link. QuickBooks Pro users have been manually adding payment links to their invoices for some time now. But with QuickBooks Pro 2018, users who have enabled QuickBooks Payments for credit card, ACH, and PayPal payments can add a “Pay Now” button to their invoices.
Not only does this save users from needing to manually add a payment link to their invoices, but it also automatically posts payments made by customers to the correct invoices. This saves users time (and embarrassment) caused by misapplied customer payments.
Sometimes, even a Pay Now button isn’t enough to avoid late payments. In the past, QuickBooks Pro users have either needed to print their invoices and write or stamp “Past Due” on them to get delinquent customers’ attention, or they’ve had to save the invoice as a PDF and manually add a past due notification.
But with QuickBooks Pro 2018, users can automatically add a “Past Due” stamp graphic to their delinquent customer billings. (You can’t change the appearance or placement of the stamp on the invoice, though, so if you’re picky about how your invoices look, you might not find this feature particularly helpful.)
Credit Transfer Feature
If you use the Jobs feature in QuickBooks Pro, chances are you’ve been frustrated by the inability to apply credit balances from one job to a different job for the same customer. Workarounds exist, but they’re cumbersome and muddy your subsidiary accounting reports.
But with QuickBooks Pro 2018, users can apply credits across all jobs for the same customer. Look for the “Unused Credits” field at the bottom of the Customer Payment screen, and select “Apply Credits” to apply open credits to any open invoice for the customer. This one-click transfer feature helps users streamline their workflow and prevent mistakes in moving credits from one job to another.
Even More Great QuickBooks Pro Updates
QuickBooks Pro has a number of other useful features in addition to the newest ones listed above. Some of these features are:
- Scheduled backups: QuickBooks Pro users can schedule backups on a regular basis. Rather than needing to remember to back up your company file to prevent data loss, you can set a preference to back up every day, every week, every time the program is exited, or any number of other parameters.
- Period copies: QuickBooks Pro also lets users create “period copies” of their accounting file. A period copy allows users to exclude data outside a certain date range from the file copy. These come in handy during audits, as users can restrict the auditor from examining data outside of the audit year.
- Accountant’s copy: Many accountants now prefer to log into their clients’ QuickBooks files and make changes directly to the live data. Some accounting software doesn’t include this capability—but QuickBooks Pro does. With this software, users can create an “accountant’s copy” of their company file. That can be useful when your business accountant needs to do a significant amount of cleanup work for a previous accounting period but the business owner still needs to be able to use their QuickBooks file on a daily basis.
QuickBooks Pro Pricing
Small business owners are price-conscious. Happily, all QuickBooks products are affordably priced.
Most small business owners who choose to work with QuickBooks Online spend between $35 and $60/month in subscription costs, which adds up to $420-$720 per year. By comparison, QuickBooks Pro costs just under $300, and the user then owns the software outright. From this perspective, QuickBooks Pro seems like the better option from a price standpoint.
However, it’s important to note that Intuit “sunsets” their desktop products every three years. This means if you use certain features like QuickBooks Payroll or merchant services, you’ll have to repurchase the software at least once every three years to maintain all your functionality, and to get updates and security patches.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’ll be connecting your business bank account and business credit card accounts to your QuickBooks file. For most banks, there’s an upcharge of $10-$15 per month per account to connect your bank accounts to QuickBooks Pro. And other features—like hosted cloud access and multiple user capability—are also only available for QuickBooks Pro at an extra cost.
Which Businesses Should—and Shouldn’t—Use QuickBooks Pro?
Price shouldn’t be the only consideration when choosing your accounting software. When choosing their bookkeeping solution, business owners also need to consider ease of use and access, functionality, and availability of support—not just from Intuit, but also from their accountants and bookkeepers.
Most small businesses can use QuickBooks Online without compromising in any of these areas. Yes, QuickBooks Online does cost a little more than purchasing QuickBooks Pro outright, but what you gain in terms of ease of access, instant updates, and available integrations with third-party apps can quickly offset that additional cost.
There are some exceptions to the “most businesses can use QuickBooks Online” rule, though. Small businesses with the following requirements should consider QuickBooks Pro over QuickBooks Online:
- Unreliable or limited internet access: If your internet connection is unreliable or limited, using a cloud-based accounting software like QuickBooks Online will be frustrating. In this case, you’re better off using QuickBooks Pro or another desktop software like Quicken.
- Need for job costing: QuickBooks Online is getting closer to fully functional job costing, but it’s not quite at the level of QuickBooks Pro. If you need job costing to run your business, consider sticking with QuickBooks Pro, at least for a little while longer.
- Inventory management: QuickBooks Online’s inventory management features are improving, but they’re not yet at the level of QuickBooks Pro. If you need to manage your inventory inside of QuickBooks, your best bet will be to choose QuickBooks Pro (or QuickBooks Enterprise) over QuickBooks Online.
- A need for speed: Most users who are familiar with QuickBooks Pro express frustration with the speed (or lack thereof) at which they can work in QuickBooks Online. And it’s true that larger company files seem to load slower in QuickBooks Online than they do in QuickBooks Pro. This can, of course, be attributed to internet speed as well as the size of the company file. Regardless, if you’re easily frustrated by slow-loading reports, you might want to stick with QuickBooks Pro.
- Businesses with no remote access requirements: If your accountant is on staff, and if you don’t need to access your QuickBooks file remotely, you’ll likely be happiest with QuickBooks Pro. Just make sure you store company file backups offsite or in the cloud to prevent permanent loss of data.
Is QuickBooks Pro Right for Your Business?
Even though Intuit is focusing most of their development and marketing efforts on QuickBooks Online, there’s no solid indication that Intuit will be discontinuing QuickBooks Pro in the immediate future. QuickBooks Pro is still a strong option for small business owners who can’t—or don’t want to—use QuickBooks Online or Premier.
All told, if your business has job costing or inventory needs, QuickBooks Pro is the best option for you. You’ll appreciate its functionality, ease of use, and the availability of support not only from Intuit, but from accountants, bookkeepers, and a variety of online resources, as well.