Cloud Accounting QuickBooks Xero

QuickBooks Online vs. Xero – Reports

Written by Greg Lam

I’ve been comparing the products from the two biggest companies in small business online accounting software, QuickBooks Online (QBO) and Xero, and in this article I’m going to look at the differences between the reporting capabilities of each.

I started off my research into reports by compiling a basic comparison list that looks like this:

QBO Xero
Is there basic reporting (profit and loss, balance sheet, trial balance, accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger / journal)?* y y
Are reports drillable?* y y
Can reports be filtered? y y
Can formulas be used and formatting adjusted? n y
Are there advanced reports? y y
Can reports be memorized? y y
Is there support for class or departmental tracking? y y
Can cash based reports be produced? y y
Can budgets be created? y y

As you can see, they are nearly identical, so I needed to factor in more than just those points. Because I’m a bit of a data driven guy, I started by making a spreadsheet of all the reports found in both software, identifying which reports can be found (or not) in both. It’s quite a big list, so I’ll put that in my next article.

Both Xero and QuickBooks Online (QBO) have come out with revamped reports. Xero calls them “New Reports,” whereas QBO calls them “Redesigned Reports.” While Xero’s “New Reports” functionality has been around for a while, it’s a constant work in progress. On the other hand, QBO’s redesigned reports are so new that you need to turn on the feature in QuickBooks Labs to see them.

It became clear to me that each software had different ways to slice up the data found within their databases. If the information has been entered into the software, there’s probably a report that exists that can tease it out. What’s different is how the data is collated and how you can display and compare it. A report in one software will show certain details that the same report in the other software will not. Sometimes a report in one software will be split into two reports in the other software. Due to the ability to manipulate the various types of reports, sometimes one software is better than the other, depending on the exact information you’re looking to display in your report. Below, I list the various tools both software give you to manipulate the reports, but please be aware that not all the tools are available for each report. Depending on the report you view, the tools will change.

I’ll start by looking at QuickBooks Online and then I’ll look at Xero.

QuickBooks Online Redesigned Reports

Here’s the breakdown of what can be done using QuickBooks Online’s redesigned reports.

How can you customize a QuickBooks Online report? These are the options available (again, please be aware that these aren’t available on all reports):

  • Choose to show active/non-active rows/columns
  • Choose to show zero/non-zero rows/columns
  • Choose from many report period defaults (next week, last week, last year-to-date, since 90 days ago, etc.)
  • Can compare periods (PP — previous period $ change or % change, PY — previous year $ change % change, YTD % of YTD) and can also have % of row, % of column, % of income, % of Expense
  • Display columns by time period, contact, locations, classes, products/services
  • Adjust the widths of the columns
  • Change the display to be compact (smaller row height)
  • Sort the data in default, ascending order, or descending order
  • Collapse or expand (sub-accounts)

You can change some content:

  • Edit header (show logo and change report name)
  • Add Notes

You can save a custom report:

  • Choose the report name
  • Add the report to a Report Group
  • Share with different users

By saving a custom report you’ll be able to re-use it again. You’re also able to schedule the saved report to be on an automatic email schedule, sent out to any group of people. You’re also able to choose to add the reports as Excel files (otherwise the default is HTML).

You can share a report:

  • Export to Excel
  • Export to PDF
  • Email
  • Print

QuickBooks Online is working on the following:

  • Support column headers that stay in place in all browsers
  • Auto-resize columns to best fit onscreen
  • Change column order in the report layout
  • Make more reports available with the new design

Xero New Reports

Here’s the breakdown of what can be done using Xero’s new reports.

You can use “Report Settings” to:

  • Compare with previous periods (as many as you like)
  • Change the Accounting Basis (cash or accrual)
  • Add a Notes column
  • Show Decimals
  • Group by:
    • Variables like Account, Account Code, Gross, Date, Group, and so on
  • Filter by:
    • Region
      • Is or Is Not and the ability to select one, a variety, or all

You can use the “Edit” button to:

  • Edit Title
  • Move/Delete the various groups of data
  • Group Accounts together (this will create subtotals below each group)
  • Name Groups
  • Add Formulas. You add formulas at the end of groups, and besides using custom numbers, you can only use Groups numbers (like Total Income and not Sales Income or Interest Income). The way to get around this restriction is to group your accounts differently. You can enter numbers, variables, IF, or operators (+ – * / < >)=
  • Re-arrange the order in which accounts are displayed
  • Summarize or list accounts within a group
  • Choose whether the account shows positive with debits or credits
  • Create a “Switch Rule,” which will move the location of account or group if the amount is in credit (for example, if there’s a gain for a foreign currency, then it could be in the Income group, whereas a loss would be shown in the Expenses group)
  • Show, hide, and reorder columns on certain reports

QuickBooks Online vs. Xero

You can insert the following content:

  • Add multiple text blocks, which allow for formatting (headings, bold, italics, underline, number list, bullet list, table, highlight)
  • Add a single footer, which allows for limited formatting (bold, italics, underline)
  • Add multiple schedules. Because schedules can includes accounts, groups, and formulas, this allows you to include a bunch of additional data you couldn’t normally. For example, you could add the balances of your bank accounts to an Income (Profit & Loss) Statement. With the schedules, you can:
    • Have them be numbered
    • Choose to only include
      • Debit Positive (Expenses, Assets)
      • Credit Positive (Income, Liability, Equity)
    • Create a Custom account, which means you can manually add a new name and manually input numbers into it

You can do the following things to reports:

  • Save as Draft. Once you publish a report, you can’t edit it (although you can copy and edit it). So draft would be used when you have a report that’s in progress.
  • Save as Published
  • Save as Template (this means that the next time you open the report, it’ll display all your customizations by default, but currently only one template can be saved at a time)
  • Export to PDF
  • Export to Excel
  • Export to Google Docs

When you publish a report, it will contain:

  • Cover Page
  • Contents (including table of contents)
  • PDF Styling
  • Numbers (hide decimals or show decimals as set on each page)

Publishing allows you to later go back to the report and copy and edit it, or export it. This can be confusing, because there’s also the option to save a report as a “Template,” but the template just makes all your customizations the default view when you access the report. This is more clear when you choose the option to save as “Template” and the message tells you: “Report options saved.”

profit and loss report

What can’t you do with the new report?

  • If you’re doing comparison periods with multiple columns, you can’t add the columns up together or compare them. So you can’t create a report that shows the last 3 years of sales and that totals them all together. You also can’t add a formula that would indicate the % change from year 1, to year 2, to year 3.

What’s in the old reports that may not be in the new reports?

  • Add drilled down reports to the main report. For example, say you have an Income Statement and you want to drill down into the Sales account to see the details. Well, with the Add drilled down reports feature you can add that drill down to the main report as a tab.
  • You can show row totals and YTD (year-to-date).
  • You can compare against budget.
  • You can change currency.

About the author

Greg Lam

Greg Lam is a passionate small business guy who loves technology and automation. He holds a BBA from Simon Fraser University, Canada. He's a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Xero Partner, and Kashoo MVP. His business interests are focused on online accounting and how it can be used to streamline and automate a company’s accounting processes. He currently lives in Tokyo, Japan.

Greg operates the Small Biz Doer website, an "Entrepreneur's Guide to Small Biz Bookkeeping." He is the author of Online Accounting Software: Finding the Right Match, published by The Sleeter Group.

Connect with Greg on Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Facebook.


  • Does QBO have classes for balance sheet accounts now? Because earlier this year we checked again, and that was still not available. It’s pretty essential for decent nonprofit reporting. There would be a lot more QBO users in the NP world if this were so.

  • Hey Greg, was wondering at the time of this article if you had included the fairly new Management Reports feature in QBO. Re report complitions…Thanks.

  • I am using QBO (Canadian version) and very disappointed in the reports. I have spent hours on the phone with QBO support to no avail, multiple agents, multiple calls.

    I can’t print a report portrait (revised reports) without it being landscape. If I try portrait, it start midway on the page and cuts off. Its not the margin settings or anything like that. The printer works fine for everything else. So I end up with a bunch of landscape reports, that look horrible. (Its actually embarrassing). And they have horizontal lines under each line of data.

    I’m not sure if this is just my set up, or if this is QBO, but support basically had no answers and to provide ‘feedback’.

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with the reports in QBO. I wish I could help you out, but this is something that’s best solved by QuickBooks themselves. However, one thing I would suggest is that you can export the report to a CSV or XLS format and then configure the page how you want in there and then print.

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