QuickBooks Online Desktop App Update

Written by Charlie Russell

QuickBooks Online Desktop App Intuit is updating their QuickBooks Online desktop app to improve performance and reliability. Let’s take a look at how these apps have improved.

Charlie Russell will present the session, Keeping Up With QuickBooks Desktop — A Look Ahead, at Accountex USA 2017.

Online? Desktop? Confused?

First, let’s clarify what it is we are looking at.

Normally you will work with QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Online Accountant through a web browser. There are advantages to working this way, such as being able to work from any device that has a browser. There also are disadvantages to his, such as slower program speeds and not being able to use the special kinds of keys that you are used to in your operating system.

Several years ago, Intuit released the QuickBooks Online desktop app for Mac computers, a desktop app that provided you with all the benefits that you get from having a native app on your computer (speed, keyboard improvements, etc.), but that accessed your QuickBooks Online account. A year after that Intuit released a similar desktop app for Windows computers.

Got it? You are working with QuickBooks Online (or QuickBooks Online Accountant) but you are running a native app on your Windows or Mac computer. You aren’t using a browser.

New and Improved

Those initial releases had a few rough edges. Some people found that there was a tendency to crash at odd times (although I rarely saw that in my Windows installation).  Speed of operation wasn’t as good as it should have been for a “native” app. The Mac and Windows versions had separate sets of code, so it took Intuit work harder to keep both versions updated to the same level.

With this new update, Intuit has changed the development environment, and that should bring a number of improvements. Now both the Mac and Windows versions use the same set of code, which makes it easier for them to update the products (Windows and Mac) and keep them in sync. Speed should improve. Reliability and stability should improve. Note that I have only been using the Windows version for a short time so I can’t really prove (yet) that these improvement goals have been realized, but I am encouraged by what I’ve seen so far.

It is important to note that these apps are free if you have a subscription to QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Online Accountant.

There are two places you can download the app from, although Intuit is in the process of updating their websites as I’ll note below. When everything is updated you can use either location interchangeably because there aren’t different versions of the installer for end users and accountants. When you install the app and log in to your QuickBooks Online account, it automatically sets up for QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Online Accountant based on your login credentials.

Please note that at this time this new version is only available for 64-bit computers. If you are running a 32 bit system then you will have to wait until they have that version ready for release.

QuickBooks Online Desktop App

There are five basic reasons why you might want to use this app if you are working with QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Online Accountant:

  • You will stay signed in to your account, so it is easy to access your information. If you exit and come back, you don’t have to enter your login credentials again. Also, you won’t be logged out automatically if you “time out”.
  • Windows will open faster in the app. This is hard to measure, but at least in some cases it seems that when you open a new window or screen it seems to pop up faster.
  • You can have multiple windows open at the same time. Sure, you can open multiple browser windows, but the process of working with multiple open windows is much easier with the desktop app.
  • Information in different windows will “auto-refresh”. This is a feature that might not show up in the first releases of this update. The idea is that if you update information in one window, it will automatically update in other open windows without having to select the window and manually refreshing the screen.
  • You have keyboard shorts available that are familiar to you. There is less reliance, for example, on three-key shortcuts (like Ctrl-Alt-C for the customer list, which is just Alt-C in the app).

Let’s see how this works using the Windows version.

The first time that you run the app you will be asked to sign in to your account.

QuickBooks Online Desktop App

Once you have logged in on this particular computer you won’t have to log in again unless you specifically log out. The QuickBooks Online Desktop App will remember your login credentials. The next time that you run the app you will go straight to your dashboard.

This is good, in that you can quickly gain access to your QuickBooks Online account with a minimum of effort, which is very convenient. However, this does raise one security issue. If you are in an office with multiple people, you need to remember to log out of the app (not just exist), or log out of your computer account, when you step away from your desk. Intuit is pushing the security of your online account away from the QuickBooks Online login over to your operating system / computer security. I do have some concerns that people might not pay attention to this. The best solution is to select File/Sign Out to log out of the program, so that the next time you start the app you will have to sign in again.

Here’s what you see when you first log in, using my QuickBooks Online Accountant account.

QuickBooks Online Desktop App

As you can see above, two additional bars show at the top of the screen. The top is a menu that has most of the operational features of your QuickBooks Online account. The second has some buttons that will replace functions that would normally be found in your browser (navigate forward, navigate backward, refresh).

The addition of the top menu bar will be a major advantage for some people. It can make it easier to find and access certain functions, rather than searching for the right icon or hidden feature. I spend a lot less time trying to figure out which icon to use for which kind of function. I guess I’m just used to top menu bars like this.

QuickBooks Online Desktop App Menu

Also note that there are shortcut keys for many of the functions. These are the simpler kind of shortcut keys that we are used to in desktop programs, two-key combinations for the most part, rather than three key combinations. Easier to use and remember.

You can get a list of all the shortcut keys from the Help menu.

QuickBooks Online Desktop App Help Keys

A big advantage that I like is the ability to open multiple windows easily. There is a keyboard shortcut (ctrl-N in Windows), or use File/New Window. This opens another window so you can be looking at different parts of the program, as you can see below.

QuickBooks Online Desktop App Multiple Windows

This is simpler than opening multiple browser windows. There are many advantages:

  • You can drag windows to separate monitors.
  • If you exit the program (not signing out), all of the open windows will close (you don’t have to close each one separately. In addition, the next time that you start the app it will remember which windows you had open, and open them all again. It even restores the windows if you reboot the computer. This is very handy.
  • If you are using QuickBooks Online Accountant and looking at a client file, if you switch to another client the program will close all of the extra windows, leaving you with just one.

You cannot use this feature to access multiple clients at the same time, although I’m sure that accountants are going to ask for that capability.

Another feature that is not fully implemented at this time is “multi-refresh”. This is something that Intuit talks about in their video introduction to the app, but it is still undergoing refinement. Essentially, if you have two (or more) windows open, and you update a value in one window, that update will affect any related values in other open windows. For example, if I have an income statement open in one window and I save an invoice in another window, that income  statement will be updated right away, without your having to refresh the window or open a new one. This is something that Intuit will be rolling out as they update the apps.

Release and Updates

This product is available now to new users (https://quickbooks.intuit.com/apps/ ). Existing users will be updated through the apps auto-updater at some point in the future. At the time I’m writing this there is only a 64 bit version available (for Windows, not sure about Mac), so if you have a 32 bit system you will have to wait.

I haven’t tried this, but if you are using the older version and haven’t been auto-updated to the new version, I’m guessing that if you uninstall the old version and then download and install the new version, you will be able to use that. No need to wait for the auto-update.

If you aren’t sure what version you have now, press the F2 key or select Help and then About QuickBooks. The new version is 3.0.0 or higher.

QuickBooks Online Desktop App Version

I’ve only been using this release (on Windows, I don’t have a Mac) for a short time now. I’m very happy with this, although there are some occasional glitches to work around (very minor issues). In fact, I’m going to be using this to access my QuickBooks Online Accountant account on a regular basis, as I think it works moderately faster and much more conveniently than working through a browser.


About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been writing for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011. He retired from accounting and QuickBooks activities in early 2018.

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • I followed your advice Charlie and uninstalled my old 1.X version and then downloaded the new faster version and logged in as an accountant. When I pressed the F2 key, it showed the new version so Intuit is making this available to accountant users. I played with a client’s file that I was recently in and noticed how fast and stable the new program is.

    I also like the drop down menus. It makes QBO more like the desktop version.

    Now, I have to inform my QuickBooks Online clients that I support and teach one-on-one in the “always sunny” Seattle area that they should do the same if they want to work more efficiently and not pull their hair.

    • It doesn’t matter if you are an accountant user or a regular user – there is only one version of the program, it just works differently depending on your login credentials. And I was pretty sure that they would have the new version at both download sites by the time this article actually got published…

  • Charlie,

    Although based in the UK I always look for your articles about QB especially as the US always find these things out well before us! Anyway had been using the old app but this version appears greatly improved. I just wish the shortcuts were the same as in the desktop (e.g.Alt+B, L opens the reconciliation screen). A high proportion of clients who have used the desktop don’t like QBO, I don’t think it’s just my clients, but this app may well help us convince them this is the way forward.

    • Hard to make the shortcuts the same as the desktop, since QBO has it’s own shortcuts and the functions really aren’t the same in many cases.

      Intuit is trying to get new releases out to all countries at the same time, and they are doing better. But it doesn’t always happen. And since they tend to release things in waves, based on the server cluster, often the non-US areas are updated later because they are on separate servers.

  • Thanks for posting Charlie. I am tempted to try the app (again). But I noted:
    “It is important to note that these apps are free if you have a subscription to QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Online Accountant.”
    So my question is: Will the app work and be free for clients who are under my wholesale billing plan? Or must the user have their subsciption held directly with Intuit?

  • I have been using the QBO Windows Desktop App for several months and was excited to try the upgrade. I uninstalled my version and installed 3.0. When I select any of my clients I get a ‘Not Found’ message. Is anyone else getting this message after installing the new version?

      • Hi Charlie, I did call Intuit. I am one of 25% of QBO accountant users that are affected. They said that they are changing the infrastructure of QBO which affects how a firm and a client are connected. It is being streamlined and when completed will make it more efficient. So the app is affected by this change and an update is getting rolled out in batches. Their engineers are working on it. I don’t quite understand what the changes are I just tried to repeat what I was told by Intuit tech support.

      • Specifically I can’t print wide reports to fit to a page, can’t download to a pdf or excel file

        • In my installation I have no problems with wide reports using the Export to Excel or Export to PDF options. If I click the printer option and print to a PDF driver then it ignores the “landscape” setting and won’t print correctly, but all other operations work correctly for me.

  • Like Jenny Brausch, I have been using the QBO app for quite some time. I downloaded the new 64 bit app. I can access everything, pro advisor area, client area notes, documents, etc. , the pro connect tax, but when I try to open a client or my own QBO file, I get an error message something to the effect that I am not authorized to view view the file. Tried it both on my desktop and laptop but get same error. Had to reload the 32 bit app.

    • Hi Frank, I just posted above so you may not have seen it. I called Intuit and there is an issue that is affecting 25% of the QBO Accountant versions. They are working on resolving the issue. They didn’t have an estimate on time line for fix.

      • No I did not see it. Thanks Jenny. I wish Intuit would test their software better before releasing. It makes it so difficult, because the negative QBO accountants, bookkeepers, etc. use this type of issue to bash QBO and discourage people from using it.

  • As with any new release from Intuit, there often are rough edges. I didn’t run into any of these issues yet, so I guess I’m lucky. You certainly can (at this time) go back to the prior release, or continue to use a browser to access your information.

    Intuit does have a tendency to rush things out the door, so they can get additional feedback. I’m not a fan of how they operate, in this regard.

  • I wish the QBO app icon on the desktop was not called “QuickBooks” as I have so many QB icons for each version of QB Desktop installed. Perhaps Intuit can rename the icon “QuickBooks Online” or “QBO” – that would be more helpful, and logical!

    • True – but Intuit has been homogenizing things so that it is all “QuickBooks” these days.

      However, in Windows, you can change the name of the desktop icon very easily. You just can’t change the icon (at least, not easily). Right click on the shortcut and select “Rename”.

  • October 27, 2017 update:
    I can not see my clients after the QBO app update. I can log into QBO accountant, but can not get to my client’s dashboard. How can I access my clients’ accounts?

    I updated my QBO Accountant for Windows today (10-27-2017). After the update, I can log into the dashboard, I can see the client list, but when I click on the client (or even My Company), I am redirected to a page that says that I am not authorized to see the account.

    A while back, Charlie Russell explained the difference between the name of the company in the online accountant’s version and the place where it says “My Company.” It was complicated for those of us who have been using QBO for a long time. After Charlie’s explanation, I understood the differences, even if I can not explain them. It appears to me that this error is related to the two ways to look at a client’s accounts. I think it needs to be fixed by programmers.

    I worked today at a client with Mac computers, and everything worked smoothly.

    What is broken in the update? How can I fix it? Or, when will the Intuit team fix it?

    • Peggy, I’m not having a problem with accessing my client list either through QuickBooks Online Accountant or through the QuickBooks Online desktop app. Do you have multiple “team members” in QBOA? Are you listed as the “Master Admin”? If you are the Master Admin or you are a team member with Full access, and still have problems, you should contact the Intuit support team directly. Sometimes things get out of whack in QuickBooks Online Accountant files and Intuit has to straighten them out. I don’t think that this is an issue with the program itself.