Comparing Invoicing Applications: Zoho Invoice, Invoices Made Easy, Blinksale, and Citrus

September 12th, 2008

Web based applications do more than capitalize on their ability to be accessed from anywhere – they also relieve their users from the pressure of maintaining hardware and updates. With online invoicing applications not only is there a tool for invoicing for companies on the go, but also there is a solution to some of the problems of invoicing. By allowing users to recreate invoices, making sure that they are paid out in a timely manner, and uncomplicating the tracking process, online invoice applications provide a tool for the modern business.

As we looked at the applications that focused on invoicing, we first selected a group that reflected the simple needs of most businesses, setting aside the applications that provide additional accounting or time tracking features for a separate review. We judged the applications on the criteria we would want ourselves for a simple invoicing application; customization, ease-of-use, and tracking. To start, we’ve got a chart that lays out the comparison, and after the chart we’ll go into detail about the applications. As with all of our comparisons, if you would like to see any of the applications in greater detail, there are full reviews through the links below.

Zoho Invoice Citrus Invoices Made Easy Blinksale
Invoice in the email body no yes yes yes
PDF invoices yes yes yes yes
Snail mail invoices no no yes no
PayPal integration yes yes yes yes
Multicurrency support yes yes no yes
Product templates yes yes yes no
Invoice customization yes yes partial yes
Estimates/quotes yes yes no no
Import invoices yes yes no no
Export invoices yes yes no yes
Setup recurring invoices yes yes no yes
Thank you cards no yes no yes
Payment reminders yes yes no yes
Customer portal yes yes no no
Search function no yes no yes
Templates yes no no yes
Starting price (monthly) free free $5 free
Free Account number of invoices per month 5 5 n/a 3
Invoices per month (max) 1500 unlimited unlimited 1500
SSL encryption yes yes no yes
Import from CRM yes no no partial
Reports yes yes no no
Companion application Zoho suite none none Basecamp

We found Zoho Invoice to be deceptively simple. At first the simplified interface and limited options for color customization (choose one color of four) led us to believe that we were looking at a basic invoicing platform, but the moment we went past the welcome screen we realized that Zoho Invoice was so much more. After setting up your company information and inputting a few customers, you begin to see what it is that has made Zoho a presence among the productivity applications. Simple, easy to understand interfaces with powerful features. Nowhere is this more present than under the invoice screen, where all elements of controlling the invoice, from setting the type of currency to entering payment information are only one click away. In fact, Zoho Invoice excels in cross linking features and tabs together, and there are no pages without easy navigation to necessary functions. Importing invoices, exporting as PDF, and being able to see a variety of reports are more of the functions possible from the screen. Reports, accessible from the Reports tab and linked through the Invoices pages, can be generated by aging, status, date ranges, and due dates. Reminders for late payments, SSL encryption, the ability to set a date for your fiscal year, custom fields on invoices – the list could go on, but suffice to say that the invoicing application that is part of the Zoho productivity suite is a capable application for enterprise users.

Zoho Invoice Screenshot

Of course, the largest feature of Zoho Invoice is that it is part of the Zoho productivity suite, which means that it integrates well into all the applications that Zoho offers. There is a drawback when it comes to invoicing outside the dollar, but if customers can overlook a preset exchange rate, Zoho is a powerful invoicing system.

Invoicing Made Easy is an invoicing platform with the simplicity of a website and an unique offering; they will send out the invoice for you, saving you time. For the fee of $1, Invoices Made Easy will ship invoices created with their application, a benefit for businesses that find the invoicing process too time consuming.

Invoices Made Easy Screenshot

Invoices Made Easy partners mailing invoices with a straightforward invoicing platform with the basics of all the applications we reviewed; invoicing, reports, and the ability to input products and customers. For businesses that do not have time or need the convenience of easy mailing, Invoices Made Easy also provides electronic payment options through PayPal and Authorize.net. Yet in the effort to make the application simple, Invoices Made Easy has made their application too basic for any business that needs to control the way the invoice looks. Monochromatic with links that open web pages rather than a packaged interface make the interface unappealing, and the convenience of mailing seems to come at the sacrifice of customization. The only way to customize invoices is by uploading a logo, and there are no presets for taxes. In the end this leaves Invoices Made Easy as a solution for businesses with limited time and resources to perform basic invoicing with mail services.

Blinksale is an invoicing application that has a high degree of customization, offering CSS editing and preformatted invoices. Blinksale also has the features companies want; branding (logos), fields for tax and freight, and the ability to send thank you notes and reminders for payments. The interface is easy to understand (there are five tabs for Dashboard, Invoices, Purchases, Recurring, People), but the best features of Blinksale are still the customizing ability and the tagging function. Rather than letting users rely on just dates or reference numbers, Blinksale gives users the option to tag their invoices, giving a keyword for quick searching later.

Blinksale Screenshot

The detraction of Blinksale is that, outside of sending yourself an invoice, there is no way to preview your templates, nor is there a way to run reports. Instead Blinksale users are forced to rely on the Dashboard for information on money due, or billed items. Free and users with the starting price plan ($12 a month) are also denied the ability to send invoices as PDF, which makes Blinksale useful for businesses already using Basecamp, but not for users looking for a stand alone application.

For a stand-alone product, Citrus is worth looking into. Versatile, powerful, and with a full range of features, Citrus would be a good choice for businesses that need invoicing with tracking. As with Zoho Invoice, Citrus has options for reporting, invoicing, and customization, but unlike the other applications Citrus has integration of several online payment services (Citrus supports CMS, RapidData, SecPay, PayPal, and MultiBill). With Citrus, users can run their customers’ payments through these services for tracking and control of accounts. This is where Citrus stands apart from the others, with unique options for customers. The ability to set credit control to regulate spending, providing tools that allow customers to dispute and validate payments, and receive statements are part of Citrus’ strength. For businesses looking to establish long term relationships with customers these options are ideal, reducing confusion in billing.

Citrus Screenshot

Citrus also has features that heavy users will find convenient. Through the invoice screen users can set up profiles of products so that they can automatically be put into invoices (no more entering in the same thing over and over), and even create price lists, so that sets of products can be put into an invoice as a package. If, for example, the user was invoicing for hot dogs, they could assemble a price list for buns, dogs, and garnishes as a single invoice entry rather than listing each of the ingredients.

If there is a downside to Citrus, it is that features such as managing products are only accessible through specific screens – there is no cross linking from other tabs – which makes Citrus challenging for new users. The good news is that there is a wealth of features, but without knowing where they are, users are unlikely to use them.

Of the applications reviewed, only Invoices Made Easy did not have a free account, offering instead a monthly plan of $5. Invoice Made Easy’s unique feature that allows users to send invoices automatically by mail begins at the rate $1 per invoice, with purchaseable credits available. As a step up from the free plan (and the limit of 3 invoices a month), Blinksale asks $12 and adds SSL encryption and the ability to send 50 invoices. Zoho Invoices free account allows 5 invoices a month and jumps up to 25 with the starting plan of $5. Users can go up to 1500 invoices a month with Zoho Invoice, and enjoy the full range of features with any of the paid plans. Citrus’ free plan limits users to 2 customers, 5mb of storage space, and 5 invoices, but rises to 25 customers and unlimited invoicing with a monthly fee of $10. Higher monthlies can go as high as 12,000 customers and 500mb of storage.

All of the applications reviewed offered to send invoices, give reports on invoice amounts (either through the dashboard or a generated report), and allowed you to set up recurring invoices, but the differences in the applications were in the range of functions after that. For businesses that have limited time, Invoices Made Easy is worth considering, offering easy mail options with basic invoicing. For companies looking for invoicing that could expand into a productivity suite, Zoho Invoicing is a strong candidate with a range of features, or they may want to think of Blinksale and its integration (although basic) with Basecamp. Both offer an easy to understand invoice, though Zoho Invoice’s support for product lists and reports makes it more beneficial for heavier users. Citrus had the greatest number of features, but may be offering too much for the light user, who may prefer the simplicity of Blinksale or Invoices Made Easy. To find out more about these applications, or if you would like to see more applications in this category there is the Listio search invoice+business.

Previously in this series: Citrus: Giving Invoicing The Juice

Application: Citrus
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Citrus/
Website: http://www.citrusbill.com
Citrusbill.com provides an online billing website for your customers, where they can view, download and pay for their invoices by card or Direct Debit. You can import your existing invoices, or create them with ease online. Tackle bad debt and cashflow problems by letting Citrus manage your payment... Learn more
Application: Blinksale
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Blinksale/
Website: http://www.blinksale.com
Use Blinksale to send your invoices online. Online invoicing application. Invoice clients for services or products sold by using Blinksale. Designed to meet the needs of attorneys, accountants, designers, IT professionals, software developers, journalists, contractors, engineers, architects, videogr... Learn more
Application: Invoices Made Easy
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Invoices-Made-Easy/
Website: http://www.invoicesmadeeasy.com
Invoices Made Easy is an online invoicing service designed for small service-oriented businesses such as CPAs, law offices, landscaping / lawn care, pest control - or just about any other business that regularly invoices customers for its services.... Learn more
Application: Zoho Invoice
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Zoho-Invoice/
Website: http://invoice.zoho.com
Online invoicing & billing solution with template support, makes invoice creation, sending & tracking simple. Print & save invoices, quotes as PDF.... Learn more

New to Listio? Our tag cloud search offers an easy way to narrow your hunt for the perfect web application or service. No more second guessing of search terms. Just click on one tag, then as many more as you'd like to narrow your search results. It's easy and ensures you get to the listing you want. Finding web 2.0 was never so easy.

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5 Responses to “Comparing Invoicing Applications: Zoho Invoice, Invoices Made Easy, Blinksale, and Citrus”

  1. Sivaramakrishnan Iswaran Says:

    Thanks for covering our service and for the excellent comparison.

    Updates:

    1. We have enabled the search. Now you can search your invoices, estimates/quotes, recurring profiles, contacts, items …
    2. We do have the option to acknowledge payment receipts (thank-you for customer payments)

    Regards
    Siva
    Team Zoho

  2. Scott Says:

    Thank you for including Invoices Made Easy in your review. However, I would like to correct a couple comments about our service.

    1. Invoice Customization – Invoices Made Easy allows fairly extensive invoice customization via CSS. If you are not familiar with CSS, you can simply email us a sample invoice and we will approximate it for you. Also, Invoices Made Easy has an innovative invoice customization feature called “Electronic Letterhead”. Essentially, you upload a PDF of your company letterhead and all invoices are merged with your letterhead when printed. These two customization options allow users a great deal of control over the appearance of their invoices.

    2. SSL – Invoices Made Easy absolutely uses SSL encryption for all pages once the user has logged in.

    3. Appearance – Invoices Made Easy is well-aware of our aging UI and have been working for the last 6 months to significantly update the look and functionality of the site. The totally redesigned UI should be ready soon.

    Thanks again for including us in your review.

    Scott

  3. Scott Says:

    The new Invoices Made Easy user interface has been published. Check it out at http://beta.InvoicesMadeEasy.com.

    Your existing login will work on the new site. Or, create a new account, it’s free!

    Screen shots are available at http://beta.invoicesmadeeasy.com/screenshots.aspx

  4. Andrew Johnson Says:

    Hey All

    I have been using the services of http://www.invoicera.com for quite sometime now and they are coming up with the new Invoicera with features like time-tracking, expense tracking, import function, and much more. Check out their blog at http://www.invoicera.com/blog for updates

    Cheers!!!

  5. Matt Fenn Says:

    Great article for people looking for just invoicing.

    If you’re open to a system that does invoicing but also combines accounting & business management tools then Moobiz http://www.moobiz.com is worth a look.

    You can mix business functionality to create an app to suit your business.

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