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Tracking Time in QuickBooks Desktop and Online: The Differences

Time-tracking is one area where QuickBooks 2013 and QuickBooks Online share many characteristics, but differ some.

It’s been a long, slow road for QuickBooks Online. Its simplicity in its early days – over a decade ago – helped users learn QuickBooks slowly, since Intuit started out with a bare-bones framework and wasn’t quick to add functionality.

QuickBooks 2013 widened the gap between the two, though QuickBooks Online has steadily grown to be a worthy competitor for its own sister product.

Take time-tracking, for example. It’s a simple, understandable process, one that you don’t need a QuickBooks tutorial to learn. Easy to master in both versions, time-tracking tools in the desktop version are different than those offered by its desktop counterpart. The core functionality is very similar, but each has a few unique features.

First, let’s look at QuickBooks Online’s time-tracking. Assuming you’ve turned on all of the features possible in Preferences (Company | Preferences), your screen will look like this after you’ve entered a single activity (Employees | Single Activity Time Sheet).

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A Single Activity Time Sheet in QuickBooks Online

You can see how you’d use QuickBooks Online’s time tracking tool to enter information about a single billable event. You just click on the arrows next to fields like Name, Date and Customer. You can either enter the total time spent on that task or enter a start, end and break time, and QuickBooks Online will calculate the hours worked.

This process can go very quickly if you’ve already created employee, service and customer records. If you haven’t, you can click the << Add New >> option in the lists that drop down and provide the needed information on the fly.

Now let’s look at an entry for a single service activity in the desktop version of QuickBooks 2013.

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A completed billable time entry in QuickBooks 2013

Once you learn QuickBooks’ basic operations, filling out a single-activity time ticket is not challenging. You’d get to this screen by opening the Employees menu, and then selecting Enter Time | Time/Enter Single Activity. Information is entered the same way as in QuickBooks Online – by selecting options from drop-down menus, putting checkmarks in boxes and occasionally typing. Record data can be added on the fly here, too.

As you can see, you can enter start and stop times in QuickBooks Online, where QuickBooks 2013 lets you start, pause and stop a timer. QuickBooks Online has the option to display the billing rate, and QuickBooks 2013 does not. QuickBooks Online has a field for Territory, and QuickBooks 2013 doesn’t. Though you can’t see it here, you can open the weekly timesheet while the single activity screen is still open in desktop QuickBooks. You can’t do this in QuickBooks Online.

A QuickBooks tutorial would also take you through the Preferences elements of both applications to point out even more differences. Suffice it to say, both are very capable time-trackers, and each would appeal to different groups of users.

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