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QuickBooks Online for iPad

Inuit recently released a QuickBooks Online app for the iPad. Let’s take a look at what it can do. Keep in mind that this is “version 1.0” of the app, and I always tend to be a bit cautious about the first release of any Intuit product.

QuickBooks Online for the iPad is a free app that lets a subscriber to QuickBooks Online access their account though a native iPad app. It doesn’t give you full access to EVERYTHING, it lets you do certain critical tasks. At this time it includes the ability to:

  • Add or edit customers.
  • Add or edit invoices.
  • Add or edit payments.
  • Add or edit expenses.
  • View activity on accounts, such as recent activity, overdue customers and so forth.

So, it doesn’t provide you with EVERYTHING, but you can do a lot. This isn’t intended to provide you with every feature available in QuickBooks Online – that would make it a wieldy and complicated product. The aim is to provide you with the important features that you need if you are out in the field visiting customers and performing the kinds of tasks you do on site – primarily invoicing and collecting payments, as well as recording expenses. Please note, due to the nature of iPad apps it is very possible that you’ll see new features coming out soon.

Why an iPad App?

Wait, why an “iPad app” for a product that you can already run on your iPad from a web browser? I can already run QuickBooks Online there, so what is different?

While it is true that you have access to QuickBooks Online via the web browser, that isn’t the same as a “native iPad app” that is designed to work with specific features that the iPad offers. You have integration with the iPad camera, the ability to capture signatures, the special date selection feature in an iPad, and more. I always prefer to work with an app designed for the iPad rather than trying to use a web browser there (or an iPhone app) because the app is tuned to use the features that are special in the iPad. They fit the form factor of this tablet sized device.

I have to laugh about this sometimes – a big reason that people say that online products are superior to Windows based products is “device independence”. You can access your data from any device that has a web browser and Internet connectivity. However, when you look at a device like the iPad, the apps that are popular and that you use are NOT “device independent”, they are written specifically for the iPad and take advantage of special features there.  Some apps are relatively independent – they run on the iPhone as well as the iPad, but if you run an iPhone app on an iPad you soon find yourself wishing that the developer would make an iPad version. Ah well…

Let’s Take a Look

Let’s take a quick run through some of the features. This is not a “tutorial” article, so I won’t show you ever feature in detail. Keep in mind that if you are a member of the Intuit ProAdvisor program you have a free QuickBooks Online account available. And if you have a QuickBooks Online (QBO) account then you can get the QBO iPad app for free. Try it!

When you first open the app and connect it to your account you’ll get an introductory walkthrough that shows you some of the features and helps you get things set up. This is a nice touch, it helps you get oriented. My test company is under the name “CCRSoftware” – it is interesting to note how it lists other possible companies as you start typing.

Initial setup

After several “orientation’” screens you can see the navigation features. Down the left you see a gray “icon bar” with icons for various activities (hmmm, where have I seen this concept before from Intuit?). Clicking the Create New button lets you add different types of records – the same menu that you will see in several places in the program (the same user experience in each place, which is good).  Looking at the Activity option you can see recent activity for this QuickBooks Online file – not just the activity for this device. You can hide the left icon bar to see a full activity screen.

Icon bar and activity window

I’ve hidden the icon bar in this next screen shot. On the right is an All Activity menu with options that will let you narrow this down to a particular type of activity. You can easily see a list of overdue invoices, for example. Also note that I’ve rotated the device to landscape orientation, and the program resizes to fit the screen as you would expect in a good iPad app.

Transactions that need attention

Invoices and Customers

I can click the blue + in the upper right corner to add records. Here’s the screen to add a new customer. You can scroll this window to see additional fields. Two things to note here:

  • You can add a picture to the customer record, using the iPad camera. This is one of those “iPad specific” functions you wouldn’t see if you were using a browser, normally. This is a nice feature, but as far as I can tell at this time the picture is only visible when using the iPad app. You can’t see this if you go to QuickBooks Online with the browser.
  • There is a button to “autofill current location” which can really speed up entering info for a new customer.

Adding a new customer

Let’s add a new invoice. You can select the customer (same customer list as in your regular QBO login), add items to the invoice (and add new items to your item list), and more.

Creating a new invoice on the iPad

Once you have saved the invoice you have options to manage it.

Managing the invoice

I’ve chosen to email this invoice to the client. First you get a preview.

Invoice preview

Here’s the invoice as it was received by the client in Outlook. There are a few problems here. However, note that this is version 1.0 so I’m not surprised that there are a few rough spots.

Invoice received from the iPad

Intuit is aware of these problems and fixes are being worked on (they could be out by the time you read this).

  • The PDF attachment doesn’t show correctly when you have a one page invoice – larger invoices should show as an attachment. This is one of the funky things about how iPad Mail works. You may find that other email readers show it correctly. They are fixing this.
  • The “Yelp” link shouldn’t show. There is an option in the preferences for you to enter your Yelp address. I hadn’t set that up yet, and so the link isn’t supposed to show. That is being fixed as well.

You can also enter payment receipts here. I did NOT test this to see if it integrates easily with GoPayment and the credit card scanner that comes with that.

Entering a payment

Here’s my payment received – I played around a bit with the camera, as you can see I can attach a photo from the camera to this transaction very easily.

Payment received

If you log in to your QuickBooks Online account via a browser you can see that the invoice shows, along with the payment. No “Syncing” or having to wait, as long as you are connected.

Paid invoice in QBO

In this next shot I’m looking up information about this customer, showing that I had an invoice and a payment. This is very handy if you are at a customer’s site and want to know what their status is. Notice the Google map – the program shows you a map of the customer’s address, which can be VERY helpful. I like this feature very much.

Paid invoices by customer


Entering expenses is very simple. You can specify the vendor from your vendor list, select the expense account, and even select a customer to bill this to. You again have the integration with the iPad camera which I find VERY useful (but the picture will only be seen in the iPad).

Entering an expense in the iPad

Miscellaneous Features and Notes

Here’s a couple of additional things that caught my eye.

In your settings you can pull in pictures for your customer list using Facebook. On one hand this can be very useful. On the other hand, I always find Facebook to be creepy (probably showing my age with that admission) and it bugs me that they can find an image even if the person isn’t your “friend” in Facebook. That isn’t Intuit’s fault, though.

Facebook settings in QuickBooks Online for iPad

Note that they point out that the pictures that are attached here are available to ALL of the iPads that access your QBO account, so this info is NOT just stored in your local device. That is good!

There is integrated Help available, and it is “context sensitive”. That is, when you ask for help, you’ll be taken to a help topic that relates to the location of the program you start from.

Integrated help

Some additional notes to add, after I’ve played with this for a bit:

  • I don’t show “estimates” in any of the screen shots above, but they are supported. I just didn’t have them enabled in my QuickBooks Online preferences (oops!).
  • You can attach photos to transactions and lists in the iPad as I show above, but you can’t always see those in the browser version of QBO. Photos are usually attached to a “note”. For estimates, invoices, payments and sales receipts you will see the photo as an attachment when you scroll to the bottom of the form in the web page.
  • Notes can be added in many places. In fact, that is the place you go to for adding a photo. However, at this time, those notes do NOT show up in the web page. It is interesting – I attach a note and a photo to an estimate in the iPad, but only the photo shows in the web version. You are supposed to be able to see notes attached to a customer record, but I haven’t gotten that to work yet.
  • In an estimate there is a “status” button at the top. Clicking this lets you set it to “pending”, “accepted”, “closed” or “rejected”. Also in that menu is “Get Signature” (which is an odd place to look for that, it wasn’t obvious). If you select that then a window opens that lets you have your customer sign the estimate – which also changes the status to “accepted”. You see the signature at the bottom of the estimate.
  • QuickBooks Online for iPad is NOT directly connected to Intuit GoPayment at this time. You can launch the GoPayment app and swipe a credit card, which sends the info to your QBO database. Then you can use the iPad to access the info. I have a feeling that they’ll be working on making this integration smoother in the future.


I like what I’ve seen so far. A few small “version 1” glitches, that doesn’t surprise me. In fact, I found fewer issues than I expected to find an in Intuit version 1 release. There are other areas that can be added, and some features that can be improved, but this is a good first step. I’m sure that Intuit will be developing more features for this app in the future.

I really do like having an iPad app to run on my iPad. Browsers are too difficult to use if you are trying to enter data quickly and efficiently. This allows Intuit to take advantage of the unique features of the iPad, without having to resort to a blown-up iPhone app.

And, if you already have a QuickBooks Online account, this is free!