Zoho Books is an online accounting software developed by Zoho, a California-based software company. Zoho also creates other platforms, such as Zoho Analytics and Zoho Payroll, which you can integrate with your Zoho Books account to improve your experience.
Zoho Books is a robust piece of accounting software that lets you manage your business from one place. Just like QuickBooks Online, it offers a range of features suitable for both product-based and service-based businesses. It’s priced competitively, and if all you want to do is monitor your financial condition, it does its job perfectly.
However, when compared to using other platforms, Zoho Books can be a bit boring. The features you see are mostly basic ones that are available with any other accounting service. The report feature only has a few customization options. Additionally, if you’re a big fan of illustrations, the only graphs and charts are in the dashboard.
Even so, Zoho Books is easy to learn, and it’s cheap, if you consider the features you’re getting. If you think it is suitable for your business, read this Zoho Books review or start your 14-day trial right now.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Inventory tracker & project manager
- Easy to use
- 24/7 live chat support
- Client portal
- Limited payroll feature
- Few report customizations
- Limited integration options
Alternatives for Zoho Books
Zoho Books provides a lot of features, ranging from a time tracker to an inventory management tool. This range of functions makes it a great fit for any kind of business. However, this general approach makes its workflow more confusing than other platforms that have customized functions, such as FreshBooks, as we mentioned in our FreshBooks review.
Zoho Books Inventory
Clicking on the “items” category on the navigation bar will show three options. The “items” page is where you can find a list of your inventory and create an entry.
The “price list” page shows all of your special prices, which will be useful if you have discounts or deals you often use. Through the “inventory stock adjustment” page, you can keep track of item quantity changes that don’t need invoices, such as damaged goods.
Zoho Books Time Tracker
Zoho Books’ “time tracking” section consists of “project” and “timesheet.” In the “project” page, you can create a new project. On the “project” page, you can also see the details, tasks and time logged by clicking on the project name.
“Timesheet” lets you keep track of all of your logged time, including billing status and a calendar view, so you can keep track of how many hours you’ve worked per day or week.
You can log your time or start a timer through the pages in the dashboard’s “time tracking” category. However, the option to start a timer is not available as a quick-add button, so you’ll have to navigate to the pages in the “time tracking” category.
All logged time also needs to be assigned to a project, which will keep everything organized, but it’s not very practical.
Zoho Books’ automated features are harder to set up than other platforms. It forces you to go to the “settings” page to set up any automatic payment reminders, including for invoices and bills. You can set up payment reminders through the “reminders” option in the “settings” page.
There’s also “workflow,” a feature similar to QuickBooks Online’s “routines,” which you can read about in our QuickBooks Online review.
Workflow lets you create automated features from scratch, a feature that may be useful for people who understand what they’re doing. It’s harder for people new to accounting and don’t know what features can increase their work efficiency.
If you already use some of Zoho’s other platforms, such as Zoho CRM or Zoho Inventory, it’s easy to integrate with your existing account. However, if you’re hoping to integrate with other third-party platforms, it may not be the best for you.
Zoho Books has a lot of platforms it can integrate with, but most of them are in the same category, such as for online payments or tax filing.
Another thing to note, if you’re considering using Zoho Books as an accounting platform, is that it recently launched a payroll platform, Zoho Payroll. However, as of January 2020, it’s only available in India and two U.S. states, California and Texas.
Unlike other platforms, such as Wave or Sage, Zoho Books doesn’t offer integration with third-party payroll services. If you need an affordable platform with the payroll feature, read our Xero review.
One downside to Zoho Books’ expansive features is that it feels generic and not especially tailored to a type of business. It’s a dependable accounting platform, but other platforms with a clear target, such as FreshBooks, offer a better experience overall.
Zoho Books Features Overview
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If you feel that Zoho Books is the best fit for your business — perhaps after trying its free 14-day trial — you have three plans to choose from.
The Basic plan, which costs $9 per month, offers basic features including invoices, bank reconciliation and projects. This plan limits the capacity of the accounting software to 50 contacts, two users and five automated workflows. However, some of the best features, such as bills and inventory management, are only available in more expensive plans.
Zoho Books’ Basic plan has the same price tag as Xero’s Early plan, which would be a great option if you need Xero’s inventory features and rarely generate transactions. However, Zoho Books’ Basic plan is better for your business if you don’t need the inventory or bills because it doesn’t limit the number of your transactions, like Xero does.
The Standard plan costs $19 per month. This plan increases your number of contacts, users and automated workflows. It also enables the bills feature. If you don’t need the inventory feature, the Standard plan is a good option for small business owners.
Zoho Books’ Professional plan, which costs $29 per month, gives you access to the inventory feature. It’s a fair price if you need everything it offers, considering that competitors, such as QuickBooks Online and Xero, cost more for a similar range of features.
Besides these plans, you can also opt to integrate with other Zoho platforms, such as Zoho Payroll, Zoho Analytics and Zoho Inventory.
Zoho Books provides the basic functions for each platform for free, but if you want to upgrade for advanced functionality, you can do so by visiting each platform’s website. You can also manually add additional users for $2 per month per user or purchase 50 scans for $5 per month.
To sign up to Zoho Books’ free 14-day trial, you need to put in your login details, such as email address and password, and the information of your organization, including business name, location and tax information.
When you log in, you’ll see a navigation bar on the left side of the page. On the top of this navigation menu, you can switch between Zoho platforms, such as Zoho Expense and Zoho Inventory.
There are eight categories on the navigation bar: “dashboard,” “items,” “banking,” “sales,” “purchases,” “time tracking,” “accountant” and “reports.” You can also find a quick-add button — a blue button with a plus sign — beside the navigation bar, which you can use to add most transactions.
Zoho Books Training and Onboarding
When you visit a page for the first time, you’ll see a quick guide telling you what the feature is and how it can help your business.
Zoho Books offers a free financial master class, which is a series of webinars covering how to use Zoho Books to monitor your finances. Zoho Books also has a YouTube channel, which is filled with tutorials to help you master its platform.
There are two ways to manually create an invoice. The first one is by selecting the “invoices” option on the quick-add menu, which you can find by clicking the quick-add button on the top-right corner of every page in Zoho Books.
You can also create an invoice through the “invoices” page under the category “sales” on the navigation bar. Click the “new” button on the top-right corner of the page. If you have an estimate or sales order, you can convert them into an invoice with a few clicks.
You can assign the invoice to an existing customer or add a new customer through the pop-up bar when you type in the “customer name” section. The columns you must fill in are the “customer name,” “invoice#,” “invoice date” and the item description sections. You can also pick a payment gateway on the “payment options” section on the bottom of the “new invoices” page.
Because you can connect with a lot of payment gateways, you’ll be able to accept credit card payments from your customers. There is also a client portal to help your clients manage their invoices and projects.
Something that Zoho Books’ invoices have that others don’t is the sales person feature, where you can note who made the sale. This feature can be helpful if you need to keep track of your employees’ achievements.
To set up a repeating invoice, go to the “recurring invoice” page under the category “sales.” You can also create a repeating invoice through the quick-add menu by clicking “recurring invoice.” You need to set up a schedule for recurring invoices, which you can do by filling out the “repeat every” and “start on” columns.
You can also set up a retainer invoice. However, unlike FreshBooks’ retainer invoices that are linked to its project management, Zoho Books’ retainer invoices are just there to help you keep track of your retainers.
You can also create a new invoice through the “project” page. To do so, click on the project and select the “new transaction button” located on the top-right corner. By selecting “create invoice,” you can automatically invoice any unbilled items, including billable expenses and unbilled hours.
Zoho Books’ expense tracking is divided into two sections: expenses and bills. You can find both in the “purchases” category in the navigation bar.
Just like invoicing, there are two ways to manually create a new expense, through the quick-add button or through the “expenses” page.
When creating a new expense, fill in the date of purchase, amount, expense account and payment account. If you want to, you can also itemize the expenses for more clarity. You can also upload a receipt to keep your expenses organized.
If you want to assign an expense to a customer or a project, you can also do that through the “customer name” column on the bottom of the “new expenses” page. If you mark an expense as billable, it will show up in your project’s details under the tab “purchases.”
You can also create bills if you have any future expenses that you need to keep track of. You generate a new bill through the quick-add button or through the “expenses” page. You can use the “bills” page to keep track of how much money you still owe your vendors.
Just like with invoicing, the columns you need to fill in when creating a new bill are your vendors, bill numbers, item descriptions and bill date.
You can create a new repeating expense or bill through the quick-add button. You can also do this through the “recurring expenses” or the “recurring bills” page. Just like in recurring invoices, set up a frequency and a starting date for your recurring purchase.
Using Zoho Books Payroll
Zoho Payroll is a new integration option for Zoho Books. As of January 2020, this service is only available in India and two U.S. states: California and Texas. If you’re within its service range, you can connect your Zoho Books account with Zoho Payroll by going into the “settings” through the gear button on the top-right corner of the page and selecting “integrations.”
To connect your accounts, click on “Zoho Payroll” to set up your account, then fill in your business details, tax information and a pay schedule. After, you’ll see the Zoho Payroll platform, where you can manage your employees, pay runs and taxes.
Just like QuickBooks’ payroll addition, Zoho Books’ payroll platform also helps you fill out your forms, so you can go straight to filing them.
You can find your report templates by clicking “reports” in the navigation bar. Zoho Books has a lot of report templates, which is normal, considering that it also has a lot of features. It has standard reports, including “purchases,” “sales,” “receivables,” “payables,” “business overview,” “inventory” and “taxes.”
The reports in the “purchases” and “sales” section mostly sorts your sales or purchases based on certain categories, such as by item, project or customer. These reports will be important for some decision-making, but it seems unnecessary to separate these reports into different templates.
There’s not a lot of filters in these report templates because they’re already very specific, but there’s still the date range and account filter. You can also customize what columns you want to see in these reports.
The reports in the “receivables” and “payables” sections give you the details of all of your generated invoices, bills and expenses.
Besides the details, there are also the aging summary and details of each category, which can provide insight on your unpaid or overdue transactions over time. In these reports, you can customize the aging interval and date range, and you can also pick which columns to display.
The “inventory” reports help you keep track of the items in your inventory. The “business overview” reports help you monitor the general condition of your business’ financial health, such as the cash flow report. There are other sections, too, such as “activity,” “currency” and “projects.”
Zoho Books’ report templates aren’t very visual because it doesn’t have charts or graphs to make the data easier to view. In comparison, Wave’s report layout is much better if you need something visual.
Using the Zoho Books API
If you prefer text over graphics, you can also operate your Zoho Books accounts through an API. Zoho Books has API documentation to help you operate its API.
If you need a quick refresher about what Zoho Books can do, you can learn more about its features by clicking the question mark button located on the top-left corner of the page and choosing “take a tour.”
If you need help with something, you can search their knowledgebase for answers, which you can find by clicking on the question mark button and then selecting “help & support.”
Should you run into problems, you can do a live chat with Zoho Books’ customer support or send them an email. Zoho Books’ live chat is available 24/7 and can serve you instantly, so it’s a plus point for people who work odd hours.
There are also phone numbers for several counties that you can call, and you can check its customer support contact page to learn more.
Overall, Zoho Books is a solid accounting platform for small businesses. It’s straightforward in both appearance and functionality. If you’re looking for a dependable platform to help you manage your business, Zoho Books is worth a try.
However, its lack of flair is also what makes other platforms more interesting, such as Wave with its visuals and QuickBooks Online with its extra functions (read our Wave review).
Another thing to note is Zoho Books’ integration options, especially for payroll. It has limited options and most of them are also platforms developed by Zoho. As for Zoho Payroll, it’s only available in India and two U.S. states, so it’s not ideal if your business is located outside of these areas.
Zoho Books’ prices are fair for what you’re getting. Its most expensive plan is $29 per month, which gets you an inventory tracker and a project management feature. Compared to other platforms with both features, such as QuickBooks Online and Xero, it’s affordable.
Zoho Books offers quite a lot of report templates, but they have limited filters and customizations. It displays the data in a standard table. Other platforms, such as Wave, often include graphs and charts to make the data easier to digest.
It’s fairly easy to contact Zoho Books’ customer support, as it’s one of the few accounting platforms with a live chat feature available 24/7. There are also many helpful articles and videos you can get from its knowledgebase to help you get started with Zoho Books.
Have you tried Zoho Books before? Let us know what you think of this review in the comments. Thank you for reading.