Accountants CPA Hartford
William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant
Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor
Office Address:  46 Mildrum Road, Berlin, Connecticut 06037-2423      Phone:  (860) 828-3269      Email:
New Britain
Quicken Your QuickBooks: Export Import Online Offline
Work Offline on QuickBooks Desktop, then Import to QuickBooks Online

by William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC: William Brighenti, Certified Public AccountantI have received a number of calls from QuickBooks Online users, asking me to straighten out their QuickBooks files.  If these users are small businesses, they often have QuickBooks Online Plus, which is required for multiple users.  If such is the situation, I prefer cleaning up—if not reconstructing—their QuickBooks file in my QuickBooks Premier Accountant Edition on my desktop, since it offers more features and much greater speed.

In addition, QuickBooks Online and internet service providers have been known to suffer outages, which would severely interrupt one’s accounting work if QuickBooks Online were the accounting software for the business.  Moreover it is sometimes risky undertaking reconstruction work directly on a client’s file since if transactions are deleted, data may be lost irretrievably.  It is a lot more reassuring to be able to make a number of sequential backup copies of your QuickBooks files in the event a “fatal error” is committed during a major reconstruction of the QuickBooks file.  Finally by downloading a copy of the original file unto one’s desktop and then uploading the reconstructed copy back onto QuickBooks Online, an audit trail is preserved, documenting all work undertaken and possibly offering the outside accountant or bookkeeper more protection from any potential legal liabilities.

Consequently, whenever I am doing major housecleaning on a client’s QuickBooks data file, I customarily download a copy of the client’s QuickBooks data file from the Online website, do the work, and then import the data file back into the client’s QuickBooks Online file.  A major difference in features between the desktop and online versions of QuickBooks is that while the desktop version offers an Accountants’ Copy, permitting the client to continue to post while an accountant works on the copy of the file, the online version does not.  Consequently, when the downloaded copy of QuickBooks is imported back online after it has been repaired, all of the QuickBooks’ data existing online prior to the import is lost, including all of the work undertaken since the original export.  Therefore, the outside accountant should advise the client not to post while the reconstruction work is taking place to save unnecessary expense of time and money posting transactions needlessly in QuickBooks.  Although some might conclude that the lack of an Accountants’ Copy constitutes a major impediment to working on a client’s file off-line, when one considers that it is typically due to the client’s data entry that created the need for the reconstruction of the Online version of QuickBooks in the first place, it might not be any disadvantage at all for the client not to continue to work in the file during the interim since even more harm than good could come from their continued posting in QuickBooks.

To download the QuickBooks file, select the “Company” tab, the “More” drop-down menu, and  “Export Data” appearing therein.  On the “Export Overview” page that opens upon its selection, an Active X control needs to be installed in order to execute the export, so click “Install” here.

QuickBooks export overview
Now be careful undertaking the next step.  Unless you wish to cancel your subscription to QuickBooks Online, do not select “Export Interview” highlighted.  Rather, “Save a copy of your data to your computer (a ‘local copy’) by clicking and starting the highlighted “Local Copy Interview”.

After reading the interview’s first pop-up page, explaining the local copy’s purpose, procedure, and limitations, select “Next”, and on the next screen provide your name and email address where you wish to be notified when your data is ready for downloading, since the preparation may take hours.  Upon receiving the email notification that the company data is ready for download, login to QuickBooks Online Plus again and click the task under “Messages and Tasks” called "Download the company file created on" the given date.  On the pop-up window, “Download Prepared Data”, select “I’m creating a local copy to keep on my computer”, and “Next”.  On the next Webpage Dialog window that appears, after selecting “Download”, a “save your company file” window appears, allowing you to save the QuickBooks file on your computer; the file saves as “export_company.qbxml”.

After downloading the file onto your desktop, you need to convert it so that you can use it on your desktop.  Return to the “Export Data” page, and now select “Converting a Local Copy of QuickBooks Online Plus Interview”, then “Next” on the appearing webpage dialog, and “Browse” on the succeeding dialog.  Now open the “export_company.qbxml” file, select “Convert”, and save the file where you wish, providing the appropriate name.  Your QuickBooks desktop version opens automatically, requiring you to grant Internet Explorer access to the QuickBooks company file to complete the conversion process.

The import process is just as easy.  Go to Company>More>”Import QuickBooks Desktop Data”.  In the next screen confirming “Are you sure you want to import your QuickBooks desktop data?”, type “yes” in the box in the lower right hand corner of the screen.  On the “Import Data” screen which appears, install the “Convert control”.  If the control fails to install, go to Internet Explorer’s Tools, select Internet Options, Security Tab, and Custom Level.  Scroll down the Security Settings to “Automatic prompting for ActiveX controls” and enable this setting.

If you have a version of QuickBooks Pro or Premier 2006 or newer, go to your QuickBooks desktop edition, choose the following:  File>Utilities>Copy Company File for QuickBooks Online.  Return to the “Import Data” screen and select “Browse”.  Locate the data file you wish to import, but which now has the ending file description, “oe.qbw”, instead of just “.qbw”.  Select that file.

Enter the administrator password if there is one; otherwise, enter nothing.  Since you want to import the entire file, select “All Data” on the“Import Data” screen and then “Create Archive”.
Finally select “Import Data” at the lower right hand corner of the screen.

If you followed these steps correctly, you should receive email notification within a few hours that your file has been successfully imported.

Although the exporting and importing may seem cumbersome and time consuming, if you are undertaking a major overhaul of the QuickBooks Online Plus company data file, it may be prudent to follow this procedure.  All in all, if you have a significant number of entries and work to do, working on the client file off-line on a desktop version will save you considerable time since the response time of the online version is much, much slower than that of the desktop version.  In fact, by working off-line, you may be able to undertake the reconstruction in half the time it would take you working entirely online. 

And perhaps equally as important, you now have the ability to make a series of copies on your desktop of the company’s data files while working.   Since they are immediately available, they are easily retrievable in the event that you commit a fatal deletion or error.  Finally you have a trail of your work supporting its progress, extent, and quality, in the event that there is any question later by your client or superior. I find this to be very reassuring and a great comfort.

This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to be construed as legal, accounting, or other professional advice.  For further information, please consult appropriate professional advice from your attorney and certified public accountant. 

Have a tax, a QuickBooks, or an accounting question?  Please feel free to submit it under "Comments" on our blog, Accounting, QuickBooks, and Taxes by William Brighenti, Certified Public Accountant, Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC.  For information and assistance on any tax, QuickBooks, or accounting issue, please visit our website:  Accountants CPA Hartford, LLC.

If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.  The above tax advice was written to support the promotion or marketing of the accounting practice of the publisher and any transaction described herein.  The taxpayer recipients of this offering memorandum should seek tax advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.

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