QuickBooks Online: First Impressions


Last week I told you I was about to make the jump to QuickBooks Online. I also said this wouldn't become a site just about QuickBooks. Both of these things are true.

I had a chance to get my client file setup, and put it through a few good tests last week so I wanted to give you my first impressions. Maybe a month or so from now I'll give you another update, once I have really put it through its paces.

The Basics

I won't go into details about the client, but I think it's important to give you an idea of the type of work I'll be doing in QBO. It's a small business with less than 5 employees that will require payroll. It has multiple bank accounts which get quite a lot of daily use. We need to track GST (sales tax), payroll tax, staff health insurance, loans, and shareholder activity. We need to track receivables and payables, and there's a good chance we'll want to eventually setup class tracking and job costing.

I will be reconciling the accounts daily, doing payroll weekly, and providing a basic set of reports weekly with a more detailed set monthly. Payroll remittances are monthly, GST returns quarterly, and then of course prepping for year end. This is all pretty standard stuff, but I think by the end of the year I will have used a large percentage of QBO's feature set.

The Setup

The good news for me was that we were starting off with just a set of opening balances. I didn't have to mess around with importing prior years' data, which can be a real nightmare. I found the setup to be very simple. I think the phrase "it's very similar to the desktop experience" will be used or paraphrased quite a bit in my reviews. It really feels like Intuit did their best to give people the power of the desktop client with the convenience of a cloud-based app. When you finish filling out your industry information, they even give you this little graph. It's not terribly useful but for some reason I really liked it. It shows you how many people have signed up for QBO, how many in your industry, and how many in your industry that are also in your area.

QBO Chart

The one thing I expected to see after the interview questions was a tailored Chart of Accounts. In the desktop version the industry type dictates the type of accounts that are setup by default. For example, a company that buys and sells products will have Asset, Cost of Goods Sold, and Income accounts setup to track the inventory as it's bought and sold. Did I check a box by mistake? Maybe. All I know is that the set of accounts that were created was overly basic (no really...look at the image below), so I had to spend some time creating new accounts. There's also an option to import a file that contains the accounts...either by creating one by hand or exporting one from QB desktop. I had enough accounts that needed to be changed that it was quicker to just do this manually.

QBO Chart of Accounts

Setting up the bank accounts was very easy (*). I logged in to the account, chose which ones I wanted to sync up with QBO, selected the matching account in the COA, and that was it.

  • Tip: Disable any ad-blocking plugins you might have on QBO's site. The bank verification wasn't working. Turns out the data it was trying to load was mistaken for an ad. Once I disabled it for that page everything worked smoothly.

Bank Reconciliations

For a full-featured bookkeeping service, this is the section I spend the most time in. Consequently, if you get this wrong I tend to consider the app as a whole a bust.

QuickBooks gets it right.

There's a feature in the desktop version that I like a lot. If you assign a transaction to a particular vendor, it asks if you'd like to remember this for the next time. The next time you open up the transaction screen to match up your bank downloads, it already knows that "PURCHASESTAPLES04129" means the vendor is Staples, the category is Office Supplies and GST is the tax code.

QBO takes this one step further. Once I asked it to remember my choice for a particular transaction, it went ahead and updated all of the existing transactions on the screen. This a huge time saver.

In the next month I'll be doing a lot of work in QBO. I'll report back to give you a more in-depth review. If I need to be shallow and give it a rating based on first impressions, I'd have to say I'm really impressed. If it can stand up to my stress tests this will definitely become a permanent part of my bookkeeping toolbox.