by James Thornton
Published on 24 March 2016
Quicken is an accounting software solution that's been around almost as long as the abacus. Well maybe not that long - but it was first released in 1983 when it ran on DOS, so it's truly one of the granddaddies of the accounting software world. Recently, its developer Intuit announced plans to sell the company, so if you're still using the software it could be a good time to switch to one of the many Quicken alternatives in the cloud.
Quicken is a useful piece of software. It lets you categorize your personal spending and business expenses automatically, and can give you an easy-to-view snapshot of your profit and losses at any time. But the fact that it's a desktop-only solution means you miss out on the advantages of cloud-based Quicken competitors, such as flexible pricing plans, integrations with other software, and the ability for multiple users to access the software from anywhere.
The lack of of a cloud-based service was one of the reasons Intuit decided to cut its losses with Quicken. The company's chief executive Brad Smith said: "Quicken is a desktop-centric business and it doesn't strengthen the small business or tax ecosystems. Our strategy is focused on building ecosystems and platforms in the cloud."
But switching to one of the cloud alternatives to Quicken can be a daunting process, with so many solutions out there. Here we look at some of the top Quicken alternatives, using feedback from the GetApp user community to help assess the apps in 10 different areas to help you choose the right cloud accounting software for your business…
You can expect to pay a one-off fee of $104.99 for a standalone version of Quicken Home & Business, and it's tempting to think you're getting a better deal by making this one-time payment, rather than opting for one of the many cloud-based Quicken alternatives and getting tied to a monthly fee. This isn't necessarily the case though, and many SaaS accounting solutions offer more features than Quicken for a low monthly fee. Apps like Xero, FreshBooks, Sage One, and Saasu all start at under $10 per month. However, there's one small business accounting app that undercuts everyone…
You can 'wave' goodbye to fixed fees with this free accounting software, designed exclusively for small businesses with nine employees or less. Wave Accounting is one of the most popular cloud alternatives to Quicken, containing much of the same basic functionality. This includes the ability to connect securely to your bank account to sync transactions, and generate reports such as balance sheets and sales tax reports, as well as invoicing support, with the ability to accept credit cards on the invoice itself.
While the core functions of Wave are free, you'll need to pay extra if you want additional payroll and payments features. Pricing for these plans starts at $4 per employee for the first 10 employees, then $2 per employee after the tenth one.
GetApp user James Krener, owner of Krener Bookkeeping & Tax, loves the software. He says: "My business has evolved over the years and Wave has too. I like Wave because of its awesome support heroes and it's free!! How can you complain about free? I will always use Wave and recommend it to clients."
Quicken's top-end product, Quicken Home & Business covers both business and personal finances, and there's enough in there to serve the basic financing needs of small businesses. Its features include the ability to see profit and loss snapshots at a glance, as well as what's coming in, what's going out, and what's left. However, there are alternatives to Quicken that also meet the needs of the small business owner but which, crucially, offer multi-user support.
Alternative: Zoho Books
As already noted, Wave Accounting is ideal for businesses with nine or less employees since you won't pay a dime for it, and it's been tailor-made for those without an accounting background to be able to get to grips with.
Zoho Books is another software that's a good fit for freelancers and small businesses. The user interface is designed to be easy to use, making it a good option for those who aren't financially-minded. This simplicity doesn't mean that Zoho Books is light on functionality though, and you get similar features to Quicken, including bank and credit card account reconciliation, financial report generation, and expense tracking.
GetApp user Keean feels that Zoho Books is a "good financial management software tool for small businesses". He adds: "Zoho Books is point-to-point accounting software for SMBs that allows companies to manage their finances and make better decisions."
Since Quicken is a desktop accounting program, its integration with other business software is very limited when compared to cloud-based solutions. It doesn't have an API, meaning that it's difficult for cloud software vendors to connect their apps with it.
Alternative: QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks Online is the king of integration when it comes to accounting software. The product is produced by Intuit, the vendor behind Quicken, and tops GetApp's accounting software ranking for app integrations, scoring a perfect 20 out of 20.
The list of QuickBooks integrations is off the chain, and the application can be connected up to a wide variety of business software, from big names like Salesforce, Zendesk, and Shopify, down to smaller, more niche solutions. It can help you pull your business' current financial data into the apps you use for project management, sales management, eCommerce, inventory management, scheduling, analytics, and more. This can help add valuable functionality to your other apps as you get an overview of how you finances tie into different areas of your business.
"QuickBooks Online has a good range of apps integrating into it and the list is growing daily," says GetApp reviewer Rajeev Sharma, ICAEW chartered accountant, principal of LotusWise Chartered Accountants.
Quicken has a mobile accounting app companion for both iOS and Android devices. While the current version, 4.2.1, scores a healthy four stars on the iTunes App Store, the Android version isn't so well regarded by users. The Quicken 2014/15/16 Companion is currently averaging just 3.2 stars on Google Play, with many reviewers complaining of poor support and errors within the app.
One user, Kathy Applebaum, says of the app: "When I got a new Mac, I upgraded the desktop app, which meant I needed to upgrade the Android app. I've tried everything to get the upgraded app to work correctly, with no luck. Emails to support have gone unanswered. The forum gives no clue how to solve this."
Step forward FreshBooks, which topped our accounting software GetRank for mobile support, scoring 19 out of 20.
The free FreshBooks apps for iPhone and Android both average more than four out of five stars on the respective app stores, comparing well against other Quicken alternatives. The FreshBooks mobile application allows you to send invoices, capture expenses, and track your billable time against project budgets while you're on the move. The iPad version lets you check in on your business' financial situation at any time, thanks to a dashboard that lets you see your income and expenses.
Among the reviewers on Google Play lavishing praise on the FreshBooks app is Pardeep Sadhu, who says: "I've been using this app for my brand new business and it's one of the best apps I've ever used. Even my customers are using it now. If you need something to help your business this is a must have."
Quicken is popular with many users, and its customers tend to agree that it's very user friendly. Reviewer Taylor from Ensorcell Investments says: "I like how easy to use Quicken is. Having numerous properties to look after usually makes things difficult for me. However, the user-friendly nature of Quicken takes away a lot of the difficulties of managing rental properties."
It seems though, that users wish Quicken had the ability to run in the cloud. "Quicken does not have an option for online use that would allow for real-time editing with multiple users," says reviewer Tanner, also from Ensorcell Investments. "Because I have business partners, it would be great if we could both log on and work at the same time. Right now, we have to make edits and send files back and forth."
When it comes to switching to one of the many Quicken alternatives, none come more highly recommended by GetApp users than Intacct. This small business accounting software topped our GetRank review rank, scoring full marks.
"Using Intacct is incredibly user friendly," says Anna Gonzaba, accounts payable/payroll clerk at Hilton Worldwide. "I really like the part of the capability of being able to enter multiple bills at the same time. I also like the options where we are able to duplicate an old invoice and change the billing dates and amounts."
When it comes to scaling up your accounting package to meet the changing needs of your business as it grows, Quicken will only really take you so far. There are five different Windows versions of Quicken ranging from the Starter Edition at $29.99 up to the Rental Property Manager Edition at $164.99, which is tailor-made for the letting industry. The downside of Quicken is that it only supports single users, meaning that you can't allow multiple employees to access the system and its files simultaneously, which is limiting if your team is growing.
Alternative: Nominal Accounting
Nominal Accounting is great for small businesses that are growing since it its pricing plan allows you to only pay for what you need. The vendor will allow you to pick the required features such as basic (bank, books and reports), integrations, sales tracking and invoicing, payroll management, and timesheets.
"As a beginner in the self-employment business, I needed an accounting package to walk me through the minefield of red tape," comments Yardsmart Landscaping on GetApp. "Nominal did just that, and saved me hours of frustration and potential errors."
When it comes to user training, there are some tips and tutorials on the Quicken site, which are straightforward to follow. But these aren't very interactive, and there's no official training schemes or certifications to go for, something you'll find in some of the top Quicken alternatives.
For a masterclass in how to do SaaS training right, look to Xero. The wealth of tools and resources available to help you get the most out of the accounting software is mind blowing. The Xero U training portal for small businesses sections off its materials and resources for business owners and financial staff. Delve into these portals and you'll find a treasure trove of video courses on all aspects of Xero, and work your way up to get accreditation. The software's huge, active user base can be tapped up on the Xero Communities section, where you can pose any questions that are bugging you about the app.
"There is so much to learn if you want to get under the hood," says Xero user Will Roffé. "Or you can perform the basics and let your financial advisor do the rest."
As an out-of-the-box accounting software, with Quicken the on-boarding process is fairly smooth. Reviewer Mallory from Wilma Properties says: "it was easy to set up my accounts".
When thinking of switching to a cloud-based alternative to Quicken it's easy to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to set up and integrate a new application into your business systems. But most SaaS alternatives to Quicken allow for seamless implementations.
Kashflow represents a good example of how straightforward implementing an online accounting software can be. The application, aimed largely at small businesses in the UK, scores a five out of five rating for ease of use from GetApp reviewers, with many singing its praises for the speed at which it can be on-boarded.
Clive Churchward, Courier Services, says: "We tested all the other (accounting) systems and Kashflow was the quickest to set up and the easiest to use."
Quicken boasts a range of different support options, including phone support from Monday-Friday (5am-5pm Pacific), and online chat. You can also throw questions open to the Quicken Community which is patrolled by Quicken experts and other customers.
FreshBooks is noted by users as one of the best Quicken competitors for customer support. Of all the applications listed in GetApp's accounting software GetRank, FreshBooks boasts a user rating for support of 4.5 stars, the joint highest (together with Clear Books Accounting).
GetApp user Peter Metzger was wowed by his experiences with FreshBook's support. "Customer service is unbelievably amazing," he says. "Every time I call they answer on the first or second ring and it's a real person who's actually able to quickly solve my problem and allow me to get on with my day."
Quicken generally releases downloadable updates to its products on a monthly basis, adding enhancements and fixing bugs along the way. The website allows you to go back through historical updates and download them manually, or choose to auto-update.
Switching to one of the SaaS Quicken alternatives doesn't necessarily mean you'll be starved of software updates, and many products issue regular improvements, with some responding directly to users' demands for new features.
Xero is one of the cloud-based Quicken alternatives that gets the most love when it comes to updates. The vendor provides constant improvements to their service, making small adjustments to the product and adding new features every three to six weeks. These updates are included as part of your subscription plan, so you won't pay extra for the new functionality.
"I love the fact that there is continually [sic] improvements and upgrades to the app without having to do anything yourself," says Kelly Migro, managing director at E-Accountant Pty Ltd. "They also listen to what the users of Xero want and will try to implement."
Quicken will soon be in the hands of a new owner, and who knows what will happen to the software after that? So if your small business is still stuck using the app, or a similar single-user on-premise accounting solution, it's worth taking the time to look into these cloud alternatives.
If you're still using Quicken, leave a review of the software on GetApp and let us know what you think. Will you be switching to a cloud alternative? If you're already using one of the Quicken competitors mentioned above - or have another accounting app you'd like to recommend, then let us know in the comments below.