If you've ever sworn that you never want to go through filling out tax forms ever again, you should probably have spent that time swearing a little bit at QuickBooks as you try to work out which version is right for you. If you're self-employed then there's a good chance that the answer is QuickBooks Online 4.3.4 for iOS
and QuickBooks 2.3.1 for OS X
You may well be thinking that "Online" is a strange name for an iOS app and we'd nod right alongside you. QuickBooks Online is actually a web-based service, this is just an app to use it on iOS. It's more than just a web browser with a baked-in address, though, it is a fully-fledged and good app. It's just a service as well.
Take a tiny bit more confusion while you're at it: we say this may be the best for you if you're self-employed but there is a QuickBooks Self Employed app/service and we know to skip that. There's also a QuickBooks Online Essentials, but it's not essential.
The Self Employed one solely lets you go through your bank accounts marking with a click whether this expense was a business one or not. Honestly, it is excellent at this: it connected to our online banking quickly and is just smart and smooth and slick. That is all it does, though: it parses your bank accounts with your help. Anything that comes in or goes out you can mark and you can detail but you can't say you've just invoiced someone for a million dollars. It is brilliant come tax time but for being self employed, it's just peculiar how other QuickBooks applications/services are far better suited.
QuickBooks Online Simple Start, to give it the full name of the version we recommend, does this same parsing of bank accounts –– though we wish it were as smart and slick at it –– but it also lets you record when you've issued an invoice.
It's really quite the customer relationship manager in the way it will track your invoices and which ones have been paid so you know who to chase up. We're not very keen on the invoices it generates, we prefer our own style of them which is plain but includes much more money, so we might just use it as a database tracking rather than directly emailing invoices from the app.
Invoices and money and tax are legendarily confusing things, partly since you got into business to do the work rather than the paperwork and partly because it surely benefits the IRS if you make the occasional mistake. QuickBooks is very fast at connecting to your bank accounts and giving you this precise detail over everything: we love it for that.
We're less keen and far more confused by the whole process of using this software application as a service. Just picking the right application when you go to Intuit.com
is a head-scratcher and once you've taken the plunge, you're off entering a lot of important detail that you then have to re-enter once you realise you've chosen the wrong app. That's the online app, not the iOS or OS X version, are you still following this?
Once you've settled on QuickBooks Online, you can get the apps for Mac, iPhone and iPad –– it hasn't been updated for iPad Pro yet so it looks blotchy on that large screen –– and logging in to them does automatically load up all of your data. We liked how there is a big button for privacy that hides all money and transaction details in case you're being watched but lets you carry on working.
That work can include setting up regular customers so that you can record new jobs for them with a click. Similarly suppliers and employees if you have them. You have to buckle down to QuickBooks's way of doing all this and there are times when its popup menus of, say, expense categories are so long you'll need a ladder. Yet persevere, put your entire business accounting on QuickBooks and you'll like it.
Only, if you're in the UK, stick to using QuickBooks Online actually online. The Mac app isn't available outside the US but –– don't try this at home –– if you should happen to have both UK and US iTunes accounts, you can download it and it appears to work fine. It even works to the extent that it automatically picks the correct currency. Nonetheless, Intuit hasn't released the OS X app for the UK and it has released both the iOS and the online versions so go with those.
Actually, go with a trial version first. At time of writing there is a modest discount on the monthly subscription fee and that price will go back up before your 30-day trial is over. That price will be $13/month and as the service reminds you, that's a deductible. It's also worth it –– if the software is right for you. We can say it works for some of us, we can say it's smooth and slick in parts, we can also say that picking through all this has made us yearn for the days when all we had to do was file our tax returns.
QuickBooks Online 4.3.4 requires iOS 8.0 or later and is free to download with subscriptions then costing from $13/month
. QuickBooks 2.3.1 for OS X is also free with subscriptions starting at $13/month via the Mac App Store
Who is QuickBooks Online 4.3.4 for:
You need to be invested in the whole QuickBooks service –– i.e. have signed up online and be willing to work through all the options –– but if that's you and you're running a small or one-person business, this is for you.
Who is QuickBooks Online 4.3.4 not for:
It's probably capable of handling the books for quite large companies but we suspect it'd be fiddly to do so. Also you are giving it access to your bank account details, optionally, so you may not feel happy about that. We'd recommend it as without the app is substantially less useful, though.
-William Gallagher (@WGallagher
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