Part 4: The QuickBooks Online User Interface Explained

Reading Time: 5



New isn’t always an easy pill to swallow and that’s especially true when it’s time to adjust to a new user interface. The difference between the Desktop and Online versions of QuickBooks can be striking if you’re an established Desktop user. However, we can’t judge everything on looks alone!

When transitioning to QuickBooks Online, some Desktop users may experience a steep learning curve. While they sport similar functionality, their interfaces are tailored to the two different platforms they are designed to run on. However, once understood, QuickBooks Online has a sleeker appearance that can make your accounting easier than QuickBooks Desktop. It’s just a matter of understanding the layout.

There are two areas your attention will be focused on to maneuver within QuickBooks Online: the header bar and the navigation bar.



Once logged into the QuickBooks Online service, the header bar runs along the top and contains menu buttons to the right.

The “plus icon” provides access to everything we need to enter. Think of this as the area to go to for adding in all new types of transactions. The frame that pops up is neatly organized into our Customers, Vendors, Employees, and Other. It’s good to think of this as incoming payment type transactions, items to pay off, payroll, and adjusting/banking entries. This is similar to the flow chart on the home page in QuickBooks Desktop!

The “gear icon” provides access to your company file’s settings, restrictions, audit log, budget, as well as import and export functions.



A vertical navigation bar hugs the left side of the user interface and offers quick access to QuickBooks’ functions. Beyoncé must have been thinking of QuickBooks Online since, “everything you own in the box to the left,” works so darn nicely!

Banking provides access to areas that can automatically bring in downloads and show matches for existing bill payments and bank deposits. This feature is more helpful than the Desktop version since a drop down appears and shows Name, Account, Customer, and Class instead of a new window appearing. If the system has appropriately identified transactions, there is still a ‘Batch Actions’ selection to add new transactions to the bank register. The great thing about QuickBooks Online bank feeds is being able to review transactions that have been added or matched – and unmatch in case an error was made.

Sales provides access to the Customer Center, where your customers, invoices, products and services can be found. The top of these sections have live charts, updated in real-time, showing which customers/invoices are unpaid and which items are low on stock. While this toolbar doesn’t replace reporting, this overview is a great way to monitor your business at a glance.

Expenses provides access to vendor and expense details. Vendor details still appear at the top along with a running total of open and overdue bills. Under the expenses tab, the account is shown as a category so it is clear which account the bills/expenses are going to. This is a great tool to ensure expenses are being placed correctly on a vendor-by-vendor basis.

Workers provides access to payroll for employees and contractors. As touched on earlier, the system does a great job of showing which vendors are contractors (a check box located in the vendor detail section) and the amount paid out. If your company uses many contractors, QuickBooks Online allows for routine check-ins to ensure all necessary data has been collected – which makes filing time a breeze!

Reports provides access to all reporting functions as well as customized reports you may have saved as favorites. The Online version tries to group everything by what you need: all your overview, A/P, A/R, employee, and other reports will be grouped together to help you find the report best suited for your needs.

Taxes and Accounting areas are fairly straight forward. Taxes provides an area for you to pay sales and payroll taxes while Accounting is where you will be able to review the Chart of Accounts and begin reconciling your cash accounts.

Once you get the hang of the layout within QuickBooks Online, you’ll find it to be on par with the Desktop version for small to medium sized businesses. There’s plenty of peace of mind in knowing your platform is always up to date with the latest technology and security features without having to upgrade it every three years.



One of our favorite features is the Audit Trail. Instead of hunting through hundreds or thousands of transactions to find changes, every transaction in QuickBooks Online has the option to view the audit log from the same screen. This is so important to track any changes that have been made, such as changes to an account, name, or amount, or to view who made the change. This level of transparency helps keep every item and person in order.



A notable difference in QuickBooks Online is that checks and deposits cannot be entered directly into a bank register. Although this may seem to be a convenient option in QuickBooks Desktop, the Online version requires that transactions be entered individually using the “plus icon” in the header bar.

It is true that this approach takes longer. It can be easy to tab your way through new entries in the register in QuickBooks Desktop and inadvertently make mistakes that end up costing your business money. Rather than powering through a register, the QuickBooks Online method of entering transactions individually slows bookkeepers down enough to review the work and potentially catch mistakes before they snowball. This additional time invested in the beginning can save significantly more time investigating and fixing mistakes later.

When mistakes do happen, such as an over-payment or an unapplied payment, QuickBooks Online makes it very easy to connect transactions to the necessary items appropriately and correct the mistakes.



Mastering a new layout can be challenging, but the payoff is easy-to-use software, reliably and securely available to you, anytime and anywhere. Unless employee and large inventory tracking is essential for your firm, QuickBooks Online is a cost-efficient, easy-to-use platform for your business’s needs. As your company grows, there’s always the option to switch platforms if more specific needs develop. In the meantime, QuickBooks Online is a great foundation on which to grow your business.