Intuit has recently started introducing a new procedure for converting a QuickBooks for Windows (desktop) file to QuickBooks Online. They refer to it as “three clicks in three minutes or less”, and it provides a streamlined method of converting your file to QuickBooks Online that is being rolled out in QuickBooks 2010 through 2013. Let’s take a look at how this works.
Keep in mind that QuickBooks Online is very different than QuickBooks for Windows, so make sure that this is the conversion you want to make. There are many features in QuickBooks for Windows that aren’t supported in QuickBooks Online. One of the nice things about this conversion process is that you can run the two programs in parallel with your real data – at no additional cost for the trial period of 30 days.
Editors note: Some of the information here is out of date, as QuickBooks Online has evolved since the article was written. You can find some updated information in another article in our blog. We are working on an updated article.
Can I Do It In Three Clicks?
Just about – although it might actually take a few more than three. However,it works very smoothly.
To start, select Company from your QuickBooks company menu and select Export Company File to QuickBooks Online. Note that you might not find this option – I’ll explain more about that later in this article.
You’ll get the introductory window:
Click the button to continue (that is one click, not counting the menu choice). The program will examine your current company file and then list the features that you will lose if you move to QuickBooks Online.
That is odd, I thought that QuickBooks Online had inventory tracking now? Well, it is, but only in QuickBooks Online Plus, and this conversion creates a QuickBooks Online Essentials file. Essentials doesn’t support inventory. In any case, it is nice that they give you a list of the things that you’ll be losing. Click the button to continue (that is the second click).
You can create a new account, or you can use an existing account. This is your “Intuit account”, not just a “QuickBooks Online account”. You may already have one if you are a ProAdvisor or if you have signed up for any App Center apps in your QuickBooks for Windows installation.
Click on the button (that is the third click) and your data is uploaded to Intuit. How long this takes will depend on how large your file is to start with – it only took a few minutes with my small sample file. When that is done, you get the following:
OK, so to finish the process it takes a “fourth” click (sorry, Jessica) – but that is OK, this was a smooth process. You don’t have to provide a credit card to start your trial (I really like that), you don’t have to make copies of your desktop file, you don’t have to go out and find the right website, it is all done in one smooth process that you start right inside QuickBooks.
Within a short time after completing this you will get an email message saying that the conversion is complete. With my simple test file I received this message within a few minutes. It could take longer with larger files.
There are some variations that you may run into (which may add a few more clicks). If you already have an Intuit ID and you log in, you may see a screen that lets you choose to create a new company, or override and existing QuickBooks Online company that you already have. Be careful as the “replace” option is NOT a “merge”, you lose any existing data, and there isn’t a way to undo that.
I did run into one problem with converting a file from QuickBooks 2013. I couldn’t convert the file – it would give me this error message
Apparently this is due to a problem in this particular test file – I had no problems converting OTHER company files from QuickBooks 2013. At this point it isn’t clear what the problem was with the file – Intuit is looking at it to see what the problem was.
Where Is This Available?
This new feature is being rolled out for QuickBooks Premier in the 2010 through 2013 versions, although sometimes it is a bit hard to find:
- You need to have the most current “revision” of your copy of QuickBooks. Older revisions might not include this feature. If you go to the QuickBooks Product Update page you can find what the current release is for your product (press F2 in QuickBooks to get your product info, including revision).
- This feature is only found in Pro and Premier in the Windows desktop versions. It is not available in the Mac or Enterprise versions. QuickBooks Mac users have to first convert their file to QuickBooks Windows (and that is a whole story by itself). Enterprise users can use the “old method” that I describe later in this article. Intuit figures that people using Enterprise are less likely to be happy with QuickBooks Online. I don’t understand why the new method is not available when they do offer the old method anyways?
- If you have QuickBooks Accountant you won’t see the feature, but you can “Toggle” to one of the regular editions and then you will see the new feature..
If you try it with QuickBooks 2013 you may get a “Server” error message that says the conversion cannot be completed. This should be resolved soon.
How Well Does Conversion Work?
If you aren’t working with inventory part or inventory assembly items, the conversion seems to work pretty well, but it is very important that you compare the converted file with the original file.
Let’s take a look at what the conversion did for me. The first thing to look at is to see if your financial statements match between your starting Windows file and your ending Online file. I recommend that you look at your balance sheet, profit/lost statement and aging reports (both receivables and payables) to compare.
Here’s a portion of my balance sheet from the starting point in QuickBooks for Windows:
Here’s the matching report from QuickBooks Online:
As you can see, everything matches. The same held true for the other financial statements in my test case.
I also looked at the major “lists” in the two files. Here’s my customer list in QuickBooks for Windows– note that there is one customer marked as “inactive”.
Here is the customer list in QuickBooks Online. All customers, including those marked as inactive, have transferred over. You might want to try to clean up your data on the Windows side before you start the conversion.
Inventory is a tougher nut to crack, though. As I pointed out before, they list inventory as being one of the features not available. QuickBooks Online Plus DOES support inventory, but this conversion sets up a more limited QuickBooks Online Essentials file. You CAN move up to QBO Plus, but you won’t get your quantity on hand back if you do. I’m not sure why Intuit isn’t offering the option of converting with inventory balances.
Here is a portion of my item list from QuickBooks for Windows:
Looking at the product/service list in QuickBooks Online you’ll see that the quantity on hand column is empty, and again that all inactive items have transferred over.
Looking at the item list you can see some other differences. Look at the inventory item “APC”. You’ll see that there now are three items, “APC”, “APC:COGS” and “APC: Inventory Asset”. For any transaction that uses “APC” there will be added detail lines for “APC:COGS” and “APC: Inventory Asset” to properly adjust your accounts.
For the most part it seems that all of the details carry over without any problem. You won’t see ALL of your data, of course, since QuickBooks Online is a very different product than QuickBooks for Windows. Some lists won’t transfer, such as customer and vendor types, since QuickBooks Online doesn’t support those. Certain types of transactions won’t transfer either, such as estimates or pending transactions. And as I mention, anything dealing with inventory will be changed.
Here’s a few additional thoughts on the process:
- Clean up your data in the Windows side of things BEFORE you convert. Why carry over bad or obsolete data? You can use the Data Remover by Karl Irvin or the Transaction Pro Delete Wizard from Baystate Consulting – both companies produce wonderful tools. Note that Baystate Consulting is working on a “Delete” tool for QuickBooks Online that should be available in the near future if you decide that you need to delete data AFTER the transfer.
- Your QuickBooks for Windows file must be smaller than 200MB to be converted. If you have a larger file then you can use the condense feature, or get one of the services to do a compression for you (such as www.qbornotqb.com).
- You cannot convert a file that is using the multi-currency feature.
Comparing to the Old Method
We’ve had a QuickBooks for Windows to QuickBooks Online conversion routine for some time now, so what is special about the new approach? It is very easy! Prior to this we had a multiple step process:
- Select Copy Company File for QuickBooks Online from the File/Utilities menu. This would create a copy of your company file.
- Create a new QuickBooks Online account by going to their website.
- Log in to that company using Internet Explorer. Even though Intuit says that Firefox and Chrome work better with QuickBooks Online, you must use Internet Explorer for this conversion.
- Select the Company tab, and select More/Import QuickBooks Desktop Data.
- Click Continue in the welcome window.
- You may have to approve the installation of an ActiveX component.
- Click Continue in the feature comparison window.
- If you have compatibility view enabled in Internet Explorer you will get a warning that may be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with this (and you’ll have to click a button).
- Check a box to say that you are ready to continue, and click another button.
- Select how to import, and click another button to continue.
The end results of the older process are pretty much the same as the newer process, but you have a lot more steps to go through. It is nice that they are making it easier to do, and all from within QuickBooks without having to go out to other websites, etc.
You do have the option in the old method to convert JUST lists, and not transactions, but you can cover that by deleting transactions in your QuickBooks for Windows file with the condense feature.
Note that if you want to convert an Enterprise file you will be using the old method.
This was only a simple test, but outside of the issues I point out (inactive records, inventory quantities) it seemed to work well. The actual conversion process “under the hood” is probably the same as before, the new feature is a streamlined process when compared to the old way. This is much simpler to do!
I am glad that they provide a 30 day trial so that I can play with the converted file, AND that they don’t ask for a credit card up front (I hate having to do that for trials).
QuickBooks Online is a very different product than QuickBooks for Windows. I’ll be going into the differences in more detail in a future article. If you are an inventory-centric business, this might not be what you want to do. However, if you need access while out of the office, or you are operating from multiple offices, it might be worth considering.