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Zoho Books Review

business.com editorial staff
Updated Jul 26, 2022

Accounting tasks are no one’s favorite activity. Thankfully, Zoho Books makes your company’s finances easier to manage with the ability to automate processes and develop custom functions using a unique scripting language. With scheduled reminders and other notifications, you can reduce errors and the chance of something slipping through the cracks. These features make this accounting software our top pick for automating processes.

Zoho Books Review

Zoho Books

The Verdict

Zoho's built-in automation tools set this accounting software apart from its peers. The ability to eliminate tedious, error-prone tasks and streamline operations is why Zoho Books is our best pick for process automation.

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Zoho Books Editor’s Score: 9.1/10

Payments9/10
Automatic invoicing8.8/10
Third-party integrations8.5/10
Mobile app9/10
Customer service10/10

Why We Chose Zoho Books as the Best for Automating Processes

Small business owners, especially those with few employees, have a lot on their plate. They need to issue invoices, send reminders for those invoices, make payments, and track expenses and projects. They often need to do it on a budget, and to cap it off, they typically need to do it all by themselves. For business owners who want to offload some of these time-consuming tasks, particularly those related to accounting, Zoho Books is worth considering. 

We found that Zoho’s strength lies in its ability to automate tedious, error-prone accounting tasks. Unique among accounting software options, it features a dedicated automation section packed with various tools, including the ability to set “rules” to automate financial workflow. You can also program email alerts, send automated invoice reminders and set up in-app notifications to ensure you don’t forget critical tasks. More tech-savvy business owners can even build their own tools using Zoho’s own coding language. All this and more makes Zoho Books our best pick for those seeking accounting software with automated processes. 

FYIFYI: Some of the best POS systems integrate with top accounting software, allowing your business to easily track relevant data on both platforms.

Zoho Books finances
Zoho Books makes it easy to manage your business finances in one place.

What We Like About Zoho Books

  • Zoho’s ability to automate financial functions is almost unparalleled among the accounting software products we reviewed. 
  • Tech-savvy business owners will love that the software includes its own scripting language to code custom functions. 

What We Don’t Like About Zoho Books

  • Zoho requires coding abilities in order to make the most of its automation features, which may be challenging for business owners who aren’t tech-savvy.
  • The cap on the number of monthly transactions and users may dissuade high-volume, employee-heavy businesses from using the software. 

Ease of Use

We liked that Zoho keeps its interface minimalistic and uncluttered. A toolbar on the left-hand side of the screen houses the main features, each with a drop-down menu of additional tools. The main dashboard is attractive and displays important business statistics, such as receivables, payables and cash flow. Based on our experience, users won’t have any trouble navigating Zoho’s intuitive user interface and figuring out how to perform essential tasks.  

Beyond the main dashboard is where things can get a bit trickier. Zoho allows users to drill down into the data and automate tedious tasks, which is one of its major strengths compared to better-known alternatives. However, we found that there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to performing more advanced automations. Zoho also features its own scripting language that will likely delight tech-minded business owners, but it may discourage less tech-savvy users. 

Zoho Books Features

Zoho Books has several capabilities that help you complete your accounting tasks quickly. Here’s an overview of what we found notable, especially when it comes to automating processes. 

Payment Reminders

During our test run, we found it convenient to automate payment email reminders and create multiple messages that go out at different times. For example, you could create a payment reminder email and send it a week before the invoice is due, send a second email on the due date, and then send a third email if you haven’t received a payment a week after the due date.

If you connect your account to a payment processor, you can accept invoice payments online. Compatible payment gateways include PayPal, Braintree, Stripe and Square. Learn more about these processors in our review of Stripe and our Square review.

Zoho Books platform features
The Zoho Books platform features a dedicated automation section.

Automated Report Generation

One cool feature we really liked is that you can schedule reports to be automatically generated weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually, and then emailed to you in the format of your choice (PDF, CSV or XLS). You can also set up the software to automatically email you a weekly report that gives you an overview of your business’s performance, with summaries of your income and expenses, cash flow, top expenses, and active projects. More than 40 standard reports are built into the software, including a general ledger, profit and loss, sales by item, timesheet details, and aged receivables and payables.

TipTip: Among the best tax-saving tips we can recommend, using accounting software is highly advised. Such systems can help you track key data, like profit and loss, to make tax filing simpler.

Custom Functions

One feature that really stood out to us was Zoho’s ability to create customized automation tools. Tech-savvy business owners might appreciate the opportunity to geek out on Zoho’s ability to code custom functions using the program’s own scripting language. Zoho maintains a team of coders who can help less tech-inclined business owners build what they need to automate even more functions.

Zoho Books scripting language
Zoho Books has its own scripting language, allowing you to create custom automations.

Mobile App

Zoho Books’ mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices. It also has a version for Windows phones. With the app, you can create invoices, run reports, capture receipts, record expenses and track billable time no matter where you are.

Client Portal

We were impressed by Zoho’s client portal, which makes it easy for your customers to view their invoices and pay their bills online. You can use it to send estimates and chat within the program too. Zoho even alerts you when your customer views an estimate or invoice, accepts or declines an estimate, or makes a payment.

Invoicing 

With the Zoho Books software, you can create projects, set tasks, track the time you spend on them and invoice customers for billable time. The client approvals feature lets customers approve timesheets before you bill them. The software also allows you to track and invoice billable expenses. 

The template gallery has more invoice customization options than most accounting programs offer. You can choose from 16 templates, several languages and multiple fonts. You can also add your logo and a background image and select colors for the background, accents, your company’s name, customer name and the rest of the text on the page. Other document types, such as estimates and payment receipts, are also customizable.

While Zoho does a good job of letting you customize the look and feel of your invoices, we found that the invoice-customization tool was a bit less intuitive than the alternatives we reviewed, which is something less tech-savvy users should keep in mind. Check out our review of Sage Business Cloud Accounting to find out about a rival product that also allows invoice customization. [Read related article: 10 Critical Elements of Professional Invoices]

Inventory Tracking

Although inventory-tracking tools are available only with Zoho’s Professional plan, we found them quite useful. The software shows you the available quantity when you enter the item on an invoice. If you enter a higher number than you have on hand, the number turns red. You can set up the system to automatically email you a notification when the inventory drops below a certain number. 

If your inventory needs are more advanced – say you need to bundle items, for instance – you can add the Zoho Inventory app to the accounting program for an additional cost.  Business owners with more complex inventory needs might also want to read our review of Xero, which recently beefed up its inventory automation features. 

Integrations

Zoho Books integrates with other Zoho systems and several third-party programs, including payment gateways, tax programs and Zapier, which allows you to connect to hundreds of additional apps. As an example of another Zoho system that can work with Zoho Books, see our review of Zoho CRM.

Audit Trail

When you view a transaction, Zoho’s audit trail shows you when it was created, if it was converted to or from another type of transaction, and if the transaction has been updated, sent or paid. It notes the name of the user who made any edits, along with the date and time of those edits, and allows you to add comments to the transaction. This is ideal for businesses with multiple people tracking company finances.

Zoho Books Pricing

Zoho Books stands out as one of the most affordable accounting software applications in its class, especially considering its many desirable features, like inventory tracking, project management, and billable time and expense tools. The software is available in three paid plans, plus a basic free version for very small businesses. You can add a few optional features to your account for an extra fee. 

The vendor gives you the option of a month-to-month or annual plan. Monthly prices are shown below, but Zoho offers a hefty discount if you pay for the entire year upfront (see image). 

  • The Free plan is available for businesses with less than $50,000 in annual revenue. It supports one user and one accountant and includes a fairly robust set of features, including 1,000 annual invoices, recurring invoices, automatic payment reminders and email-only support. 
  • The Standard plan costs $15 per month and welcomes three users: you, your accountant and another user. You can manage up to 5,000 invoices and use the software to create invoices and projects, track expenses, and reconcile accounts. This package includes mile tracking, recurring invoicing and automatic bank feeds. [Find out more about online business banking.]
  • The Professional plan costs $40 per month and allows five users. In addition to the features in the Standard plan, this plan has purchase ordering and inventory-tracking tools, lets you create sales orders, and supports multiple currencies.
  • The Premium plan costs $60 per month and supports 10 users. You get everything in the two other paid plans as well as your own custom domain, access to a vendor portal, and Zoho Sign and Twilio integrations.

Additional users cost $2.50 per month for all plans. Another Zoho add-on service called Autoscans costs $8 per month for 50 scans. When you upload documents, such as vendor invoices or receipts, to Zoho Books, it automatically scans them and extracts the data to create new transactions, saving you the time of manually creating them.

Zoho Books discounts
Zoho offers a substantial discount to those who choose an annual plan.

Implementation and Onboarding

Zoho offers two ways of test-driving its services. On the vendor’s website, you can try out a demo version of the accounting software, allowing you to explore the user interface and features using a fictional company. There is also a 14-day free trial available that lets you use the full-featured program with actual business data. If you need more time, the free trial can be extended by request once the two weeks are up. 

We found that onboarding new users is extremely easy and can be done within minutes of visiting Zoho’s site. You can also call the provider’s sales number or contact them via email for personalized setup advice. Zoho maintains offices all around the world, so your time zone is unlikely to be an issue. 

Customer Service

While some software vendors provide only minimal customer service, we like that Zoho offers its paying customers multiple support resources. You can contact the company by phone 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday, which is a rare perk in this sector. Users can also chat with an agent or email the vendor either within the accounting software or via the company’s website. 

Online help resources include FAQs and a searchable knowledge base. In-house coders are also available to help less tech-savvy business owners make the most of Zoho’s automation abilities. Note that the free version of the software includes only email-based customer support. 

Limitations

One major limitation of Zoho Books is the cap on monthly transactions. Users are limited to 5,000 transactions per month, even on the highest-tier plan. Although many service-based small businesses probably won’t exceed this limit, it’s something to keep in mind for those with a very high transaction volume. 

People who run multiple businesses should also know that although you can have multiple companies under a single account, each business will require a separate subscription. On a related note, Zoho supports only three users on its Standard plan and up to 10 users on its Premium plan; after that, you need to pay an extra monthly fee for each additional user. That can add up depending on how many users you need. 

Compared to competitors such as QuickBooks and Xero, Zoho has relatively few integrations with third-party apps, and it doesn’t offer any payroll services. Zoho also lacks the comprehensive vendor network that would make it an effective player in the accounts payable space. Processing accounts payable is a vital part of running a business, so small business owners may want to consider software that supplements Zoho’s capabilities. 

TipTip: Check out our overview of the best accounting and invoicing software to learn more about free software such as Melio that can supplement Zoho on the accounts payable side. Also head over to our QuickBooks Online review to learn about a rival platform that includes accounts payable features.

Methodology

When identifying use cases and generating scoring for the best accounting software on the market, we evaluated features like payment and invoicing capabilities, integrations, mobile apps, report generation, supported user count, and customizability. We also considered pricing, the availability of free trials and customer service. 

We relied on vendor websites and software demos when conducting our analysis, in addition to studying user reviews for independent opinions on the highlights and downsides of each product. For automation specifically, we focused on the number of processes that could be automated via built-in tools, as well as the ability to create custom tools. 

FAQs

What is Zoho Books used for?

Zoho Books is a cloud-based accounting software system used by small businesses to automate many financial management functions, such as invoicing, payments and workflow. 

Is Zoho Books free?

Zoho Books is free for businesses that generate less than $50,000 in revenue. Otherwise, you can purchase one of its paid plans.

How many businesses use Zoho Books?

Zoho is used by 150,000 businesses around the world.

Bottom Line

We recommend Zoho Books for …

  • Business owners who wish to automate many tedious invoicing and accounting tasks. 
  • Companies on a budget, especially microbusinesses that are small enough to take advantage of Zoho’s free version. 

We don’t recommend Zoho Books for …

  • Less tech-savvy business owners who want a more user-friendly, intuitive product with fewer bells and whistles. 
  • High-volume businesses with more than 5,000 transactions per year. 
  • Companies that require a large number of integrations with third-party apps.
Zoho Books Review

Zoho Books

The Verdict

Zoho's built-in automation tools set this accounting software apart from its peers. The ability to eliminate tedious, error-prone tasks and streamline operations is why Zoho Books is our best pick for process automation.

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business.com editorial staff
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