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Top Choice: Our favorite online-based business accounting apps

Jeffery Battersby | March 11, 2014
With online accounting applications, there is one truism you can hold on to: No one app is perfect, no not one. All offer essentially the same tools for keeping your business finances on track, but none offer what can be considered a complete set of tools. And none can perfectly satisfy every business' needs. The reality is that none of these apps are exceptional, but all are serviceable, which, perhaps, is all you need in any business accounting application.

If you're a QuickBooks user, Xero offers a free conversion service that is pretty fantastic, although it will require a little bit of legwork on your part. I provided my QuickBooks Online data to Xero and in just a few hours they'd converted, verified, and imported it into Xero. All without a hiccup.

Xero offers forms customization for your invoices, statements, and other documents you might send to your clients. This tends to be the feature I like least in nearly every accounting application I use, and I dislike it as much in Xero as I do in any other app. Don't get me wrong, your invoices won't look bad, you just don't have great customization options.

If you're trying to keep a detailed finger on your business' financial status, Xero provides you with 26 reports, including everything from balance and aging reports to budget variance reports, all which can be customized to better suit your needs.

Xero's iOS app is pretty awesome, although it lacks what I feel is a killer feature: Options for tracking time billing information in the field. Sure, I love that I can create bills as soon as a job is done, check to see how much a client's last invoice was without having to open a browser, and even snap pictures of receipts for purchases I've made in the field. But for many — myself included — time billing is the killer app. I shouldn't have to use a third-party app to collect data that's a part of my day-to-day business.

Top contender: QuickBooks Online

QuickBooks Online (3.5 out of 5 rating; $13 to $40 per month depending on plan selected) is by far the prettiest of the online accounting apps, taking a design page from both Mint (Intuit's online personal finance app) and the latest version of QuickBooks for Mac. Of all the apps I tested, QuickBooks provided the best online access to all of my business-related accounts, including credit card and bank accounts. In short, I had no problem at all automatically downloading my business' financial data from any of my sources, which wasn't true of all the other apps.

QuickBooks offers many more customization options for forms, including about 10 templates with a variety of themes. The reports are clear and beautiful and provide an excellent graphical view of your business information. In fact, the web-based reports are of better quality than are those in Intuit's desktop accounting app.

I do have one complaint about QuickBooks Online and it has nothing to do with the way it works as an accounting app and everything to do with why it isn't the best app in this list: Advertising. QuickBooks Online is endlessly flacking for other Intuit products, like online payment options for your customers or Intuit's payroll services. Stop! Seriously. If I say I don't want something don't bother me about it again until I ask. Thanks.


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