For years, QuickBooks Online has helped small business owners manage their companies' finances on the go. While it's an undeniably handy ability, there are some tradeoffs to browser-based accounting.
Even the brawniest cloud servers and the most generous Internet connections cannot replicate the speed of a native app. Despite huge advances in developing Web applications that pack tons of functionality into a browser tab, features that QuickBook pros rely on—like keyboard shortcuts and advanced viewing options—often get left behind.
As QuickBooks Online gained in popularity, Intuit saw an opportunity to blend the massive real-time number-crunching capabilities of its cloud accounting platform with the productivity-boosting benefits of a Windows application.
"There are more users on QuickBooks Online than the desktop," Richard Clark, senior product manager at Intuit, told Small Business Computing. More than a million small business customers handle their accounting on the platform, and many are accustomed to logging in with a mobile or PC Web browser to take the pulse of their company's financial health in real time. Clark said Intuit has been working to "extend that [experience] to the PC, particularly for power users."
The result, launched today, is the company's new QuickBooks Online Windows app.
Desktop Shortcut to the QuickBooks Cloud
Available now as a free download, the software is a "true hybrid app," not a feature-light wrapper around the QuickBooks Online browser-based experience, assured Clark.
During a live online demo of the app, Clark showed how the app quickly springs to life after double-clicking its desktop icon and responds like desktop software should. Reassuringly, it's an anticlimactic process to witness. "There's a significant speed advantage," he noted.
As in the browser-based interface, users can view their cash flow situation at a glance. The QuickBooks Online Windows app also automatically downloads transactions and can be used to capture receipt information.
For "power user accountants" and other customers who like to roll up their sleeves and dig into their small business' finances, the app supports multiple detached windows, letting them visually organize their accounting environment however they desire. Separate browser tabs are a thing of the past. Users can take the app's interface, and "spread that to multiple windows, multiple monitors even," said Clark.
Intuit gave some accountants early access to the app, and so far the response has been largely positive, Clark noted. After putting the app through its paces, Kathy Tighe, manager of client accounting services at the accounting firm of LitmanGerson Associates, LLP, said in a statement that it "allows me and my clients to leverage this technological enhancement to access our trusted accounting software anytime, anywhere and simplifies our lives by offering a familiar platform with improved performance capabilities."
With keyboard shortcuts, customers can use their muscle memory to fly through common tasks. Full-featured toolbars and menus provide ready access to QuickBooks Online's complete functionality.
Data is automatically, if imperceptibly, synced. Employing a caching system, QuickBooks Online Windows remains logged in, pulling down all of the data users need to get going, "including some of the business logic," revealed Clark, further blurring the line between cloud software and a desktop app.
Overall, the new app delivers "a smoother experience," he noted, as he manipulated on-screen elements and interacted with data processed in the cloud. The only thing standing between small business owners and their cloud-based accounting information is a desktop shortcut. "It's inherently more convenient when it's right there."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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