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QuickBooks’ Customer Center in Desktop and Online Versions: The Differences

The differences between QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online use to be very broad… As more and more users get into QuickBooks Online, the development team is perpetually working towards bridging the GAP to make the two programs the same.   But for the time being they are not!  In our QuickBooks Courses in South Florida we work with QuickBooks Desktop Only, but towards the end of the class we discuss some of the the differences.  The Customer Center is still an area that differs heavily.


Several years ago, Intuit introduced the Customer Center in the desktop versions of QuickBooks. This helpful feature serves as a clearinghouse for all of your sales-related information, pulling together data and links to help you save time (and clicks) as you work on customer issues. QuickBooks Desktop features are generally covered thoroughly in QuickBooks training classes.

QuickBooks Online also offers this feature, but it’s not as fully developed as it is in the desktop edition.

A customer record in QuickBooks Online

The two applications do share many attributes, though. Using either, you can:

  • View, add, edit and delete customer records
  • Link directly to transaction screens
  • Email and print sales forms, and
  • Run reports.

More Flexible and Comprehensive

The Customer Center in the desktop version of QuickBooks, however, offers the best experience. It allows for more data input and provides more tools and display information.

Look at a customer record in the desktop edition:

QuickBooks desktop’s customer record

Critical Contact Options

The most obvious difference lies in the depth of contact options. In QuickBooks Online, you can only enter data in fields provided for address, email, phone, mobile, fax, other and website. The desktop version offers those plus an alternate phone, multiple shipping addresses and four web-based contact options, including social media sites and miscellaneous URLs.

QuickBooks Online’s contact records include four tabs in the lower left corner. The first is the actual contact information. Three others provide fields for notes; a tax resale number and checkbox indicating that the customer is taxable; and payment details, preferred form delivery method and payment terms. The desktop version’s tabs open windows that allow all of this information plus credit limit, price level, more detailed sales tax information and several custom fields.

Customer records in QuickBooks desktop have contact management options that the online version does not. You can view related transactions and enter additional contacts, to-do items and notes.

Desktop QuickBooks’ contact management options

Still More Differences

Other elements that are present in the desktop version of QuickBooks’ Customer Center are missing in QuickBooks Online. For example, there’s no global transaction column (in the desktop version, you can toggle between a list of customers and transactions in the left pane). You can send reports to Excel by clicking a button in QuickBooks Online, but there’s no automated mail merge (you could probably learn a workaround for that task in a QuickBooks class). And the Collections Center is not available in the web-based version.

QuickBooks Online has enough processing power and flexibility to serve the needs of many small businesses. And its user interface is top-notch.  But QuickBooks desktop is still superior in this area.


Hector Garcia,   CPA
Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

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