The Best Desktop Accounting Software 2024

Choosing desktop accounting software can be overwhelming for small businesses. You want something that’s reliable, easy to use, and cost-effective, but between all the options out there, you’re scratching your head over which provider to go for.

If you’re looking for the TL;DR version of this article, then take note. In our view, QuickBooks is the best provider to go for in 2024. We’ve awarded QuickBooks the top prize because of its comprehensive functionality, customizability, and intuitive interface–but that’s not to say it’s for everyone.

Read on to discover more about the best desktop accounting software in 2024 based on your company’s needs and expectations.

The 7 Best Desktop Accounting Software Ranked

  1. QuickBooks: Best for small businesses
  2. Xero: Best for startups
  3. FreshBooks: Best for micro businesses
  4. Wave: Best free accounting software
  5. Bonsai: Best for freelancers
  6. Xendoo: Best for larger companies
  7. Sage: Best for product-based businesses

The Best Desktop Accounting Software Reviewed

To create this list, we assessed the leading desktop accounting software providers, reviewing factors like their cost, features, usability, integrations, security, and much more.

QuickBooks – Best for small businesses

Screenshot of QuickBooks' Dashboard

Starting Price Free Plan Top Features Double-Entry Reporting
$15/month Unified expense tracking
Time tracking
Contractor payments

If you’re looking for a full-suite small business accounting service, QuickBooks won’t disappoint. This software provider has taken into account every possible aspect of a small business’ financial management, and the desktop application reflects that.

From invoice management to payroll to inventory, QuickBooks has everything a small business needs to take the stress out of accounting. This, in fact, is why it has the number one spot. While providers like Bonsai, for example, excel in customer relationship management and Sage in inventory management, QuickBooks offers all these features and more.

Read the full QuickBooks review

QuickBooks Pricing Plans

  • QuickBooks Self-Employed: $15/month
    • Best for freelancers, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals
  • QuickBooks Online: $30/month
    • Ideal for small businesses
  • QuickBooks Desktop: $549.99/year
    • Suitable for larger businesses with complex accounting requirements
  • QuickBooks Payroll: $75/month
    • Comprehensive, integrated payroll management system
  • QuickBooks for Mac: $30/month
    • Specifically designed for Mac users

As you can see, QuickBooks has carefully curated its plans to suit different audiences, and all of them come with a free mobile app and a rich set of features. While payroll comes at an additional cost, this is quite common amongst accounting providers–Xero and Wave also charge extra.

One thing to note is that if you’re a digital freelancer, QuickBooks’ features–even on the cheapest plan–might be more than you need. Wave, alternatively, is a free option with simple but useful functionality for this customer base.

Pros

  • Complete suite of accounting features
  • Detailed, customizable reports
  • Exceptional integrations

Cons

  • Small number of invoice templates
  • Limited data restoration options
  • Managing multiple currencies involves manual effort

Xero – Best for startups

Screenshot of Xero's dashboard

Starting Price Free Plan Top Features Double-Entry Reporting
$13.50/month Powerful app integrations
Unlimited users
Detailed reports

Xero is our winner for startups who anticipate scaling their business. The best thing about this platform is that it can grow with you. Plus, while QuickBooks, Bonsai, and FreshBooks all have limits on the number of users you can add to the platform, Xero offers limitless seats. This is excellent for startups and small businesses where team members wear many hats, giving everyone visibility into the financial management process.

Another reason we commend Xero is its integrations. If you’ve got a preferred provider for time tracking or inventory management, you’ll probably be able to integrate it with the platform, which impressively boasts over 800 integrations.

Read more about Xero in our full review

Xero Pricing Plans

  • Early — $13/month
    • Send up to 20 invoices per month, reconcile bank transactions, and capture bills and receipts
  • Growing — $37/month
    • Unlimited invoices, along with bulk reconciled transactions
  • Established — $70/month
    • Unlock the ability to use multiple currencies

Xero’s subscription plans put it in the mid-tier range of pricing plans. It’s more expensive than FreshBooks, but it has more functionality. The one major drawback we found was the fact that you need to go for the Established plan to access multiple currencies. If your organization needs this feature, the platform could become an expensive cost.

Pros

  • Scalable solution
  • Effortless user interface
  • Real-time reporting

Cons

  • Can only use multiple currencies on the highest-tier plan
  • Payroll costs extra
  • Limited customization

FreshBooks

Screenshot of FreshBooks' dashboard

Starting Price Free Plan Top Features Double-Entry Reporting
$8.50/month – Beginner friendly
– Inventory management
– Powerful automations

With its clean, intuitive interface and a solid range of features, FreshBooks is a sensible option for micro businesses and agencies looking for accounting support.

While the platform doesn’t have the depth and breadth of features that QuickBooks has, this is part of its appeal. It’s designed for organizations looking simply to streamline and simplify accounting processes like invoicing, expenses, bank reconciliations, and time tracking.

Plus, while some providers like Bonsai and Wave lack inventory management capabilities, FreshBooks is a great option for product-based businesses, thanks to its inventory management features.

Read more about FreshBooks in our full review

FreshBooks Pricing Plans

  • Lite — $8.50/month
    • Up to five billable clients, unlimited expense tracking, and estimates.
  • Plus — $15/month
    • Up to 50 billable clients, plus unlock features to set up recurring bills and client retainers
  • Premium — $27.50/month
    • Unlimited clients, plus features for tracking project profitability

For micro-businesses with a simple financial structure, FreshBooks’ Lite option would suffice. However, the platform really comes into its own with the Plus plan. With this subscription, you’re able to harness the power of FreshBooks’ automation capabilities: automatically capturing receipt data, setting up auto invoices, and gaining access to granular reports.

Although this plan is nearly double the price of the Lite plan, it’s still much cheaper than QuickBooks’ mid-tier plan. To make the choice between them, you’ll need to think about how much functionality you need. If you’re looking for granular insights and robust features, then QuickBooks tips the scale.

Pros

  • Sleek user experience
  • Very affordable for micro businesses
  • Inventory tracking

Cons

  • Only high-level reports
  • Limited users and billable clients with lower-tier plans
  • Not scalable

Wave – Best Free Accounting Software

Screenshot of Wave's dashboard

Starting Price Free Plan Top Features Double-Entry Reporting
Free A wealth of free features
Robust reporting
Intuitive interface

If you want to use an accounting software platform without having to pay for it, Wave is an excellent option. This free provider offers a wealth of free but quality features, including capabilities to send invoices, automate the bookkeeping process, and track expenses.

However, as to be expected with a free platform, there are some shortcomings. Wave, for example, only offers high-level reporting functionality, and there’s no inventory tracking feature.

Depending on the nature of your business, this could be a hindrance. But if you’re a sole trader or service-based business without a dedicated financial professional, the lack of features could be a blessing in terms of simplicity and ease of use.

Read more about Wave in our full review

Wave Pricing Plans

  • Free plan with unlimited users, double-entry accounting, invoicing, payments, and automated bookkeeping.

Wave stands out from the crowd because it’s free. So, how does the platform make money? Like all payment providers, it charges a standard transaction fee for payments processed through the platform.

You’ll also have to pay to unlock certain features: $8 per month for mobile receipts, while payroll features start at $20 per month for self-service tax states. Compared to QuickBooks and Xero, this cost is still inexpensive. Still, you don’t get the rich functionality with Wave that you do with subscription-based competitors.

Pros

  • Simple design
  • Easy to use without experience
  • Great free automation capabilities

Cons

  • No time tracking
  • No inventory management
  • Limited integrations

Bonsai – Best for Freelancers

Screenshot of Bonsai's dashboard

Starting Price Free Plan Top Features Double-Entry Reporting
$21/month Countless invoice templates
Bonsai bank card
Create proposals and contracts in app
✅ (through integration)

Bonsai is a unique platform, expertly crafted to appeal to a certain audience: digital freelancers. With the desktop app, you can draw up contracts, send invoices, schedule recurring invoices, and much more–and it’s super easy to do.

Bonsai, unlike many accounting platforms, isn’t designed for finance professionals. It’s aimed at people who run their own companies, and the intuitive nature of the platform reflects that. Saying that, for small businesses, Bonsai will lack some functionality.

For one, there’s only one seat per plan. On top of that, it doesn’t enable double-entry accounting or inventory tracking like QuickBooks.

Read more about Bonsai in our full review

Bonsai Pricing Plans

  • Starter–$21/month
    • All the functionality of the platform minus the ability to integrate with QuickBooks or Xero for payroll and double-entry accounting
  • Professional–$32/month
    • QuickBooks and Xero integrations enabled
  • Business–$66/month
    • Unlock the ability to onboard and manage subcontractors

Bonsai isn’t the cheapest provider on the market, but its customer relationship management capabilities add depth to the platform that other providers can’t match. In fact, it’s no wonder QuickBooks and Xero both offer integrations with Bonsai–the contract feature is exceptional.

However, while larger organizations might be able to afford multiple platforms, smaller businesses and freelancers will likely want to streamline costs. For that reason, we recommend Bonsai for freelance creatives and QuickBooks for small businesses.

Pros

  • Integrated CRM and project management capabilities
  • Intuitive to use without experience
  • A wealth of invoice templates

Cons

  • No in-built payroll feature
  • Lacks inventory management
  • Only one seat per user

Xendoo – Best for Larger Companies

Screenshot of Xendoo's dashboard

Starting Price Free Plan Top Features Double-Entry Reporting
$395/month Access to bookkeeping team
Dedicated human tax support
‘Hire a CFO’ service

Xendoo brings accounting-as-a-service into the big leagues. For micro businesses and freelancers, the price–and features–offered by Xendoo will seem over the top. However, for established medium-sized businesses and large corporations, Xendoo is a surprisingly cost-effective service–and it is just that, a service.

On top of the software component of Xendoo–which, we must note, is powered by QuickBooks and Xero–you get access to accounting experts who’ll take care of your bookkeeping. With the higher-tiered plans, you can also schedule calls with a tax advisor, who’ll help maximize your tax savings and even file your tax returns.

Read more about Xendoo in our full review

Xendoo Pricing Plans

  • Essential–$395/month
    • Weekly bookkeeping, up to four bank or credit cards, and one app integration
  • Growth–$695/month
    • Up to six bank cards, two integrations, and semi-annual tax meetings
  • Scale–$995/month
    • Up to 12 bank cards, a custom chart of accounts, and three integrations

Xendoo is undeniably expensive, and that’s because of the level of human support it offers. This service basically aims to become your outsourced accounting department, taking care of all financial matters on your business’s behalf.

For fast-growing companies and established medium-sized businesses, this might appeal. The entire cost of the software per year, after all, is still much less than hiring someone full-time. However, for SMBs and freelancers, we think Xendoo is far too expensive. In our view, QuickBooks and Bonsai are better options.

Pros

  • Dedicated human-to-human support
  • Free Xero integration
  • Superb for maximizing tax savings

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited integrations
  • Essential plan is cash basis only

Sage – Best for Product-Based Companies

Screenshot of Sage's dashboard

Starting Price Free Plan Top Features Double-Entry Reporting
$58.92/month Next-level reporting
Inventory management capabilities
Professional invoices

Sage might not offer the prettiest desktop interface out there, but what it lacks in style, it makes up for in substance. This powerhouse of a platform boasts powerful, customizable reporting features, automated workflows, and the best inventory tracking feature we’ve seen, giving you real-time data about your inventory levels.

While other providers also have inventory tracking features, Sage’s granularity stands out from the crowd. Saying that the platform is not without its downsides. Aside from being expensive (more on that below), we have to say that the user experience feels outdated compared to the likes of Bonsai and Xero. Plus, it doesn’t offer as many integrations as its competitors.

Because of this, we think Sage is a great option for established product-based organizations looking for a reliable piece of software that unifies invoicing, inventory management, and accounting. For smaller organizations, providers like Xero and Quickbooks–especially with the help of integrations–will do the job.

Read more about Sage in our full review

Sage Pricing Plans

  • Pro Accounting–$58.92 /month
    • Features like invoice management, expense management, and an automated bank reconciliation tool, but only one seat.
  • Premium Accounting–$96.58 /month
    • Up to five seats and additional features like advanced reporting, job costing, auditing, and budgeting features.
  • Quantum Accounting–$160 /month
    • Unlock workflow management features and segregate user permissions by role.

Like Xendoo, Sage is quite expensive, especially as most companies will probably go for the Premium Accounting subscription to make the most out of the platform. Compared to QuickBooks and Xero, the price may be enough to put some SMBs off.

Saying that, for organizations with internal accounting teams, the customization and in-depth functionality of Sage will be a welcome sight. Undoubtedly, the platform offers more features, insights, and capabilities than any other competitor on this list.

Pros

  • Fantastic inventory management
  • Next-level reporting
  • Integrates with Microsoft 365

Cons

  • Costly
  • Limited integrations
  • Clunky interface

The Best Desktop Accounting Software Compared

Best For Standout Features Free Plan Offer Double-Entry Reporting Compatibility
QuickBooks Best for small businesses Unified expense tracking
Time tracking
Contractor payments
✅- 30-day free trial PC, Mac
Xero Best for startups Powerful app integrations
Unlimited users
Detailed reports
✅- 30-day free trial PC, Mac
FreshBooks Best for micro businesses – Beginner friendly
– Inventory management
– Powerful automations
✅- 30-day free trial PC, Mac
Wave Best free accounting software – A wealth of free features
Robust reporting
Intuitive interface
✅- free to use PC, Mac
Bonsai Best for freelancers Countless invoice templates
Bonsai bank card
Create proposals and contracts in app
✅- 7-day free trial PC, Mac
Xendoo Best for larger companies Access to bookkeeping team
Dedicated human tax support
‘Hire a CFO’ service
✅- 30-day free trial PC, Mac
Sage Best for product-based companies – Next-level reporting
Inventory management capabilities
Professional invoices
✅- 30-day free trial PC only

Conclusion – What is the Best Desktop Accounting Software?

With its competitive subscription cost, powerful features, and delightfully intuitive interface, QuickBooks tops the list of best desktop accounting software providers today–especially for small businesses.

Saying that QuickBooks has some worthy competitors–namely Bonsai for digital freelancers and Xendoo for larger organizations. However, for most SMBs looking for accounting software, QuickBooks is a fantastic, reliable option.

Cloud vs. Desktop Accounting Software

Cloud and desktop accounting software are easy to confuse. At the end of the day, both provide you with access to an accounting software platform.

The major difference is that, with cloud-based solutions, your business’ data is stored in the cloud on your supplier’s servers, meaning you’ll need an internet connection to access the application. With desktop applications, the software is installed on your company’s hardware, meaning the data is stored locally on your device.

How We Test Accounting Software

Our objective is to give you unbiased and valuable insights on the leading accounting software platforms. To achieve this, we conduct thorough testing of each provider for a minimum period of 30 days, reviewing:

  • Pricing – We meticulously analyze the pricing structures of each software platform. This approach provides an accurate assessment of the affordability of each platform within the market.
  • Features – Our evaluation covers crucial aspects like ease of use, reporting capabilities, bookkeeping, CRM integrations, and security.
  • Integrations – During the evaluation of each software platform, we meticulously scrutinize the available integrations and their effectiveness in helping end-users achieve their objectives.
  • Automation – We conduct comprehensive tests on automation capabilities across all features. Our evaluations aim to inform you about a platform’s potential to enhance productivity.
  • Ease of use – Recognizing that a challenging user experience can be discouraging and time-consuming, our review involves assessing the user interface as if we were newcomers to accounting software. We evaluate how easily non-technical users can navigate and comprehend the platform.
  • Third-Party Reviews – In order to provide a comprehensive overview of a product, we integrate our reviews with insights gathered from reputable third-party websites such as Reddit and Trustpilot.

How to Choose the Best Desktop Accounting Software

Investing in accounting software is a crucial decision for your business, and it’s important to make the right choice. Here are considerations to bear in mind as you evaluate different options:

  • Pricing: Dive into the software’s cost, considering both the initial investment and long-term expenses. Choose a solution that is not only affordable now but also becomes more cost-effective as your business grows.
  • Features: Scrutinize the features offered in each plan. Look for a provider that can meet as many of your requirements as possible without requiring additional software purchases. If you’re comparing plans from the same provider, ensure you don’t overlook essential features present in a higher-tier plan.
  • Scalability: Consider your business’s long-term growth plans and evaluate whether the selected software offers the flexibility to scale as your business expands and gains more customers.
  • Ease of Use: Any software investment should be user-friendly, intuitive, and enjoyable to use. This ensures you can start benefiting from it immediately rather than spending valuable working hours trying to understand its functionality.
  • Integrations: Confirm that the chosen plan includes access to the integrations you need. Some platforms only offer integrations exclusively with higher-tier plans.
  • Customer Support: In case you face challenges, having a reliable customer support team is essential. Ensure the chosen provider offers easily accessible support, preferably through 24/7 live chat.

FAQs

Are there any desktop accounting programs?

Is there accounting software without a subscription?

What is a desktop accounting system?

What is the most commonly used computerized accounting software?

Is Microsoft Excel an accounting software?

Related Reading

Hannah Pisani

Hannah Pisani is a seasoned writer with a keen focus on the intersection between technology and the evolving nature of work. Over the last five years, she has written content for numerous leading technology brands, including Microsoft, AWS and Oracle. She regularly contributes to international technology publications such as Silicon Angle, Cloudwards and Techopedia. Hannah's depth of knowledge encompasses HR software, cybersecurity, SaaS tools and marketing optimization. She thrives on leveraging her expertise to empower business leaders, guiding them towards informed decisions that optimize efficiency and drive productivity.