In the old days, choosing the right accounting software was easy.

You bought a copy of QuickBooks at Staples, installed it on your PC or Mac, and you were off and running. Nowadays, there are more small business accounting systems than ever before, and most of them are cloud-based.

To help you cut through the chaos, we decided to write a quick review of the three systems that are widely regarded as the leading choices for small businesses right now: QuickBooks Online, Xero, and FreshBooks.

QuickBooks Online (QBO)

  • The online successor to QuickBooks desktop, the #1 selling accounting software of all time.

  • Made by Intuit, the largest and best-known company in the industry (i.e. the Microsoft of accounting).

  • QBO comes in four different versions that offer small businesses a range of features and capabilities: Simple Start, Essentials, Plus, and Advanced.

  • One of QBO’s biggest strengths is that it integrates seamlessly with Intuit’s other products — including payroll, payment/merchant services, and tax preparation software. For small businesses that want to keep all their accounting tools under one roof, this is a big advantage.

  • To learn more about QBO, click here: QuickBooks Online.

Xero

  • The underdog from New Zealand. Xero was started by a group of really smart Kiwis in 2007, entered the U.S. in 2011, and is now regarded as the leading “QuickBooks challenger” in the small business accounting market.

  • Although much smaller than Intuit, Xero is the company that pioneered many of the breakthroughs in modern cloud-based accounting. The company has received numerous awards over the years and has been called “the Apple of accounting.”

  • While QuickBooks is still the market leader by a large margin, Xero is very popular with progressive accountants and is regarded by many as the most innovative company in the industry.

  • To learn more about Xero, click here: Xero.

FreshBooks

  • The upstart from Canada. FreshBooks was created by a designer in Toronto who wanted an easy way to create professional-looking invoices and bill his customers online. The tool he wanted didn’t exist, so he built it himself.

  • FreshBooks’ claim to fame is that it’s ridiculously easy to use — and it is. Although FreshBooks isn’t a full-strength accounting program like QBO or Xero, it is hands-down the simplest software for creating great-looking invoices and letting customers pay you online.

  • FreshBooks also has built-in features that help people track time, manage projects, and create proposals and estimates. As a result, it’s a very popular choice with freelancers, creative firms, and small service-based businesses.

  • To learn more about FreshBooks, click here: FreshBooks.

Additional Resources

If you want to read more about the fascinating world of small business accounting software, here’s a nice review from FitSmallBusiness.