Cloud Accounting QuickBooks

QuickBooks Online Windows App

Written by Charlie Russell

Intuit has released a Windows desktop app that you can use to access your QuickBooks Online files, the QuickBooks Online Windows App, also know as the QuickBooks Online Accountant App. This provides just about all of the features that you have available to you through the web version of QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Online Accountant.

What is this? It is a native Windows desktop app that will provide an improved experience for Windows users who subscribe to QuickBooks Online. This is very similar to the QuickBooks App for Mac that I wrote about a year ago.

The key features are:

  • It provides quick access to you and your client’s QuickBooks Online data without depending on a web browser.
  • When you exit it won’t log you out, so when you come back you can quickly access your file again (this is optional).
  • The program provides performance caching, where it will bring over blocks data into local memory, thereby improving the speed of access in some cases.
  • It adds a menu bar that provides you with quick access to many features, including a “favorites” menu.
  • It provides familiar keyboard shortcuts to help access features.
  • You can open multiple windows, which you can easily arrange across multiple monitors.
  • If you update information in one window then any other open window will automatically refresh to show the updated information, without your having to press a “refresh” button.

At this moment there is a bit of confusion on one account – are there two different products? At the time I’m writing this the product can only be found on Intuit websites that are accountant-oriented, where it is labeled as QuickBooks Online Accountant App. According to Intuit you should see it show up on consumer oriented websites as the QuickBooks Online Windows App later this year. From what I understand, it is all the same program, the program will show you features based on your Intuit ID as you log in.

The Intuit Business Operating System

In my October 2013 article “The Intuit Business Operating System,” I talked about how Intuit believes that its future is “in the cloud,” and that Intuit wants to provide QuickBooks on every platform. The diagram below is one that Intuit provided, indicating the intended direction for QuickBooks:

QuickBooks on every platform

At that time there was a lot of discussion about what the future would hold for QuickBooks for Windows and QuickBooks for Mac if everything was going to be “cloud based” – but the above diagram shows both Windows and Mac as being a part of Intuit’s plan? What did that mean?

My interpretation of this was that Intuit intended to build a “hybrid” system for Windows and Mac users. You would have a “native” app running on your computer, rather than accessing your data through a browser. You would be accessing the QuickBooks cloud database rather than a locally stored QuickBooks company file.

We’ve already seen them implement this with the QuickBooks Online App for Mac, and now they have come out with the same kind of thing for Windows. I wonder, does this mean that the regular version of QuickBooks Desktop won’t be an important part of Intuit’s plans for the future? Hard to say…

QuickBooks Online Windows App

At this time you can find this app at two locations:

At this time, as I noted earlier, these accountant-oriented websites list it as the QuickBooks Online App for Windows. Later in the year you will find it on consumer-oriented websites as the QuickBooks Online Windows App – but they are the same products. Log in with a standard QuickBooks Online account, you will see just the QuickBooks Online features. Log in with a QuickBooks Online Accountant account, you will see the additional accountant features. Just like what happens if you use a browser.

In my screen shots you will be seeing the QuickBooks Online Accountant App version, as that is the product that my account connects to.

Note that there is no charge for this app as long as you already have a QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Online Accountant account.

Installation is simple. Download the installer, run it, agree to the license terms. It only takes a few minutes (perhaps as many as ten if your system doesn’t have certain components installed already).

Installing QuickBooks Online Windows App

After it is installed, use the desktop icon to start the program. You will be asked to sign in with your QuickBooks Online credentials.

Signing In to QuickBooks Online Accountant App for Windows

I have multiple QuickBooks Online accounts associated with my Intuit credentials, so I am presented with a list of companies to choose from. I won’t go into the details of the hassles here – I don’t know if this is a result of my account having been used for multiple pre release tests and other issues. I think that Intuit has some problems here, with how they deal with multiple accounts. It is a mess that I wish we could clear up!  But that is another story. You might not see this kind of screen.

Selecting the account to work with

I can tell you, if you see “parent”, you don’t want to use that account (it has to do with the QuickBooks Wholesale program).

Note that this is a different list than I see if I log in to my QuickBooks Online Accountant account through a browser, as shown below. However, this is consistent with what I see if I try to use any third-party apps that accesses my QuickBooks Online account.

Company list I see if I sign in with a browser

I’ll select the “CCR Sales and Service” account, which is the one that I actively use for testing.

After a short delay, the app window expands to show you your QuickBooks Online company information.

QuickBooks Online Accountant App for Windows

At this point, everything you see in the desktop app is identical to what you see in a browser with very few exceptions. The most obvious difference is the control bar that is added across the top of the screen.

  1. You have an added menu, similar to what you see in QuickBooks Desktop.
  2. There is a dropdown list of your accounts, if you have multiple QuickBooks accounts. This provides the same list as we saw earlier when I first signed in. It is not your client list (which is found in the normal QBOA dropdown list).
  3. There are left and right arrows that let you navigate through the pages of the program that you have accessed, similar to what you would have in a browser.
  4. The star icon can be used to add a particular page of the program in the favorites menu. The down arrow next to is will list your favorites.
  5. The dialog bubble icon opens a Feedback pane.
  6. On the right side you have an activity list. The App differs from the browser version in that the App will only list a limited number of prior activities, while the browser version will let you continue to scroll down to load more activities from the past.

With the same window size, both the browser version and app version show the same data in the same layout, which is good. In all of my tests I also noted that the values shown on both will match. Here is a look at the same account via a browser (Chrome) for comparison:

QuickBooks Online via a Browser

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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been writing for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011. He retired from accounting and QuickBooks activities in early 2018.

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • Really interesting topic I think, raises lots of questions about future directions.
    Great article Charlie – I deliberately waited for your anticipated post rather than digging in myself – saves heaps of time 🙂

  • Great article Charlie. You raise interesting questions about desktop vs. the app version or the browser version of QBO. Recently, a tax attorney I work with asked me what accounting system he should recommend to his small business clients. His biggest concern was finding adequate bookkeeping help with whatever product he recommends. We debated available services and the pros and cons of desktop vs. cloud. Of course, I did point out that he should refer his clients to an accountant trained to make an assessment of a his clients needs rather than recommending a solution directly. The best fit solution is not always an easy decision.

    • Linda, when people start arguing about which is best, cloud vs desktop, my answer is always that you need to look at the client requirements first, and then pick the right solution for their situation.

  • Hi Charlie,

    Thank you for this comprehensive article, discussion and view of Quick Books Online Windows App. The article answered some questions and poses more.

    This new app. poses a lot questions about Intuit’s direction and future plans. Hybrid cloud, maybe or maybe not? Encapsulation of the desktop or ease of conversion from desktop to Cloud, maybe or maybe not? Competing inside development teams or differing directions at Intuit, maybe or maybe not?

    Does Intuit have a consistent plan or are they reactionary or proactive to technologies for their future? Any ideas? QB Connect 2015 may clarify this.

    For us, it is not this versus that. It is always what the clients’ require or need for their own business strategy. Cloud strategy is a part of that consideration.

    Hope others will pose their concerns, questions, and opinions, too.



    Tamra Groff, Senior Consultant, GASC/GHFG

    • Well, I can’t speak for Intuit, but I can tell you what I think about all that.

      As I mentioned in this article, Intuit has been talking about this concept for a couple of years now – although they might not publicly be using the term “hybrid”. This release is a part of what they have been planning for a long time. It is totally consistent with what I’ve seen from them.

      Hybrid apps like this – native desktop (or tablet, or phone) that hook to a cloud database is something that is mainstream now. Almost everything I do on my iPad is a hybrid like that, for instance.

      Conversion – Intuit has made no secret of their interest in moving people to the cloud. Last year’s investor’s day talk made it clear, they see higher revenues from online customers overall than they do from desktop customers. They want you in the cloud, they will not abandon the desktop (we can argue over the exact meaning of that), but they want you in the cloud.

      Competing development teams? Part of the Intuit culture. “competing” may not be the right term, but if you have been through one of their “catalyst” sessions, you’ll understand how they work. If you haven’t been through an Intuit Catalyst event, you should try one (I’ll guess that they may have that available at QB Connect again this year, but enrollment is usually limited).

      Intuit fits all those terms – consistent, reactionary, proactive, at various times. Consistent message for years and years now – the future is mobile/web based. Reactionary (they might not agree with this), if they see a new trend they will let a small team play with it to see if something can come up. Proactive – very clearly they had cloud/mobile as a part of their game plan for years now.

  • I did the install to my desktop computer. When I clicked on the new desktop icon my AVG antivirus didn’t like the .exe file. So I have uninstall QBO app it at the moment.

    • AVG antivirus is notorious for giving “false positives” on software, where it indicates a problem when there isn’t one. It really seems to take a disliking to Intuit products. If you got the QBO App directly from the Intuit website, it is safe, you can tell AVG to accept it.

  • I was really liking the Windows client, including after I upgraded to Windows 10. Then a few days later, Intuit did an update to the client and broke it on both of my Windows machines. It still works fine when I go back to the backup installations of Windows 7 and 8.1 on those machines, but it has not worked for me for about 10 days now on Windows 10.

    • The list is pretty close to being the same. That was Stacy’s article, I would have made mine a bit different back then (and now). I don’t think that the basic inventory feature in QBO is worth using, so if you want to manage inventory at all you either have to use QBDT or find an addon. There are considerations for how much “out of office” access you need, as well, but that hasn’t changed since that time.

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