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Top Choice: Our favorite online-based business accounting apps

Jeffery Battersby | March 11, 2014
With online accounting applications, there is one truism you can hold on to: No one app is perfect, no not one. All offer essentially the same tools for keeping your business finances on track, but none offer what can be considered a complete set of tools. And none can perfectly satisfy every business' needs. The reality is that none of these apps are exceptional, but all are serviceable, which, perhaps, is all you need in any business accounting application.

Rest of the pack


While it's not quite as polished as the other apps, FreshBooks (3 out of 5 rating; $0 to 40 per month depending on plan selected) is my personal favorite. What, for me, puts FreshBooks ever so slightly on the plus side of the balance sheet? Simple: Portable time billing in an app. FreshBooks is the only online accounting application that provides an iOS and Android timer you can use to track time billing in the field. A feature missing from all the other apps. It's a small thing, but critical in my line of work, where I often bill clients for the time I spend on location.

While I love FreshBooks' time billing, I do have a complaint. FreshBooks' timer doesn't remind you that it's running. No badges, no warnings, no clues that you've accidentally left a timer running for 36 hours.

Beyond time billing capabilities, FreshBooks offers an easy to use interface that provides a number useful features, chief of which is its ability to import existing data from a variety of sources. I was able to import all of my client information in a matter of seconds using the vCards you can export from Apple's Contacts app. None of the other apps were able to do that. While a free account plan is available, it's almost useless.


Like QuickBooks Online and Xero, Kashoo (2.5 out of 5 rating; $20 per month) has a lot to offer in terms of accounting tools, although I found the Web app's interface to be on the austere side and, as a result, a little confusing to use. Like all the other apps, Kashoo can be linked to your credit card and back account so that it can easily download income and expenses and reconcile transactions.

The user interface consists of three columns, the first of which allows you to navigate through Kashoo's tools. The center column changes depending on which of the tools you've selected and can display tabs for receiving payment from your clients or creating invoices. This same column is also used to display report information such as profit and loss statements and aging reports.

While Kashoo is quite capable of handling your business transactions, I found Kashoo's Web interface to be less than it could be, especially after having used the other three apps. In fact, I found Kashoo's iPad interface to be easier to use than I did the Web site, but I don't want to do all my business accounting on my iPad.

Bottom line

What's the bottom line here? Honestly, they're all so close it's challenging to choose. FreshBook's time billing makes it a personal favorite for me. It's a feature I wish I had in QuickBooks Online and it's likely that, if I were starting anew, that feature alone would push me over the edge. QuickBooks Online is beautiful, familiar, and easily downloaded transactions from every source I threw at it, but I hate the feeling that I'm constantly being up-sold to some other feature or product. Xero is spot on; while it doesn't have the visual beauty of QuickBooks Online, the fact that you can add as many users as you need without breaking the bank makes it a tool you can grow with.


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