The Difference Between an App, an Add-On, and a Template

Apparently there has been a lot of confusion surrounding the terms “app,” “add-on,” and “template,” so allow me to clear the air. When words like these are commonly tossed around within an industry or community, their meanings tend to become blended and eventually the words are used interchangeably, which is fine–until it’s not. Knowing the difference between an app, an add-on, and a template can come in handy while doing your company’s accounting, so I composed definitions that clarify the difference between each.

What is an app?

The term “app” is a shortened version of “application.” An application is a software program that can be on either a mobile device or a computer. In the modern day, with the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, most people use “app” to refer to mobile applications, but what we typically refer to when using the term are programs you can access on your computer. PC applications include both web applications (software that runs on a web server) and desktop applications (software launched by your computer’s operating system); PC apps are usually more complex than mobile applications, since mobile devices are so popular due to the ability to use them easily on the go.

An example of a desktop application would be any application from Microsoft Office, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. Likewise, examples of web applications include Google Sheets, Google Slides, and Google Docs.

There are also applications that work in conjunction with one another. QuickBooks, which is accounting software, and HammerZen, which is automation software for construction pros that imports statements from the Home Depot®, are two apps that integrate with one another to create an efficient bookkeeping process. HammerZen works with both the QuickBooks Online and Desktop versions. OMoney, which only works with QuickBooks Desktop, is a property management app that helps companies save time and money completing their monthly and closing tasks.

What is an add-on?

Not to be confused with the aforementioned application, add-ons are software extensions that provide extra features for your programs and apps. These extra features could be the extension of existing functions, additional items, or entirely new capabilities. Many programs are available with add-on support because it makes it easy for other developers to expand the capabilities of the program. Sometimes add-ons are referred to with different names like “extension” or even “add-in.”

The examples of programs mentioned above have a wide variety of useful add-ons. For example, Duplicate Remover is an add-on for Microsoft Excel that, as you can guess from the name, helps you locate and eliminate duplicates in your Excel spreadsheets.

Ace Cloud Hosting lists their Top 10 QuickBooks Add-Ons, and as you can tell, many of them would be considered apps. When it comes to QuickBooks, the terms “app” and “add-on” tend to be used interchangeably, so watch out for that when looking for QuickBooks add-ons!

What is a template?

A template file is a preformatted document that serves as a starting point for your file. Templates are good to use when you have to create similar documents time and time again; when you have a template, you do not need to format your documents repeatedly. Some programs come with templates, but you also have the choice to make your own and share. If you use a template, you most likely will be prompted to create a new copy so that you do not alter the original file.

Microsoft Excel has many templates, and one example of that would be an inventory list that highlights line items that you need to reorder. All you need to do is plug in the appropriate data! This is a template already present in Excel, but there are plenty more that you can find online as well!

The Simplified Accounting Solutions series consists of different DIY courses for real estate professionals and accountants, and included with these step-by-step guides are QuickBooks template files that encompass QuickBooks setup, chart of accounts, and industry-specific reports.

From this point on, you should be able to figure out whether you are using an app, an add-on, or a template (although, as aforementioned, app and add-on are very closely related and sometimes used in place of one another). If you have any questions regarding the definitions of these terms, or about anything related to construction and real estate accounting, feel free to contact us.

Gita Faust

About the Author

Gita Faust has over 30 years of accounting experience in the real estate and property management industry, Gita Faust is more than just a real estate investor; she is also popular for her work as an accountant, consultant, mentor, speaker, QuickBooks Top ProAdvisor, QuickBooks Solution Provider, member of Intuit’s Trainer/Writer Network, and, of course, author. Gita is well-known for her exemplary leadership and advisory skills. In fact, she even helped pioneer the adaptation of QuickBooks to suit the needs of professionals in real estate and property management. To share her knowledge she has written a series of courses titled Simplified Accounting Solution, which provides step-by-step guidance for those working with QuickBooks.

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