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What's new in GnuCash

By on August 25, 2003 (8:00:00 AM)

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- by Joe Barr -
It's been almost a year since I first wrote about <SLASH HREF="//linux.com/relocate.pl?id=d20d4c1241f29b6076aa3a7b93b9c646" ID="e23aa1039f32e3245f8cf1d9a017c17f" TITLE="http://www.gnucash.org/" TYPE="LINK">GnuCash</SLASH>, the open source alternative to Quicken, the perennial best-selling/most popular proprietary application for personal finances. You may not have noticed, given the thick layer of SCO news the past week, but the GnuCash.org project has recently announced both a new release of the application and a new release of its documentation: the GNUCash Guide. You can download both of them <SLASH HREF="//linux.com/relocate.pl?id=740299669d6fec64becbe1997582bad7" ID="1354d3de54f6c512cc9e18732fc24c41" TITLE="http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/gnucash/" TYPE="LINK">here</SLASH>.

After I wrote about release 1.6 of GnuCash last September, and especially after the feedback I received, my view was that GnuCash was at an awkward stage in its development. Perhaps because of the failure of an effort to make it a commercial success, interest in GnuCash had waned for a while. Maybe it was simply a reflection of where it was in its development cycle. Whatever the reason, it seemed to be caught in the middle. It was difficult for some to learn to use, and yet at the same time it wasn't really geared to meet the demands of business use.

When I say too difficult for some users, I am not talking about Linux newbies confused by the differences in the interface. I mean users without a basic understanding of accounting. GnuCash is based on double-entry accounting, like any professional accounting application should be. Folks who want nothing more than a way to balance their checkbooks may not want to have to learn basic accounting in order to use GnuCash for that purpose. If that's the case for you, more's the pity. It's a dandy application. And you really should know a little about accounting in any case.

The newest release of GnuCash is 1.8.5. You still should know what double-entry accounting is to make full use of GnuCash. But it has made big strides toward removing the second barrier by offering new functionality designed to meet business needs. The documentation explaining how to use those tools is ready as well.

Before I report on the new ease-of-use changes for business, let's talk a bit about double-entry accounting. Balancing a checkbook doesn't require double-entries. When you put money in your bank account, depositing a paycheck, for example, you enter it in your checkbook as a deposit and add it to the balance. When you write a check to pay for your online access, you enter the check number, payee, and amount in the checkbook and subtract it from the balance. That's all there is to it. The only account you're concerned about is your bank account.

Double-entry accounting requires additional accounts and additional entries to handle those same two transactions. The balance of each account is tracked with debits and credits. The debits and credits are itemized in separate columns: debits on the left and credits on the right.

Some accounts normally have a debit balance. These "debit accounts" include things like your bank account balance, savings, and other assets. Posting debits to these accounts increases their balance. Other accounts normally have a credit balance. "Credit accounts" include liabilities: the amount you owe on your car or home, for example. Posting debits to these accounts decreases the account balance.

In double-entry accounting the debits have to equal the credits in every transaction. Let's look at what would be required to record the checkbook examples above in a double-entry accounting system.

First of all you would need three accounts in order to record those transactions: salary, bank account, and ISP. To record the deposit of your paycheck, you would credit the salary account and debit your bank account. To record your check to the ISP, you would credit the bank account and debit the ISP. That's all there is to it.

GnuCash makes it even easier to do doule-entry accounting than I've described. It also has a much better explanation than mine, so if I've left you confused, read the section on double-entry accounting in their docs and it may become clear.

Updated: The link to the GnuCash docs above has been updated to point at the latest version of the docs.

Now let's take a tour of GnuCash 1.8.4 (1.8.5 was released since I started writing this story) and focus on the new tools for business. We'll set up the books for a hypothetical enterprise: a miniature donkey ranch.

After cleaning up all the remnants of my earlier installation (both from the .gnome subdirectory and the various files left around by GnuCash 1.6), I started 1.8.4 for the first time. A Tip of the Day window appeared along with a smaller one, asking if I wanted to set up a chart of accounts, import files from Quicken, or open the tutorial. After closing the Tip of the Day, I chose to set up the chart of accounts and clicked OK.

Another window explained what the account setup would entail. When I clicked Continue I was asked for the currency type from a long list in a drop-down menu and then to pick the type of accounts to create. The choices ranged from "A Simple Checkbook" to Spouse Retirement. I chose the Business Accounts category. Next I was given the opportunity to enter starting balances in the list of business accounts it had created for me. I put $10,000 in a checking account. Then I clicked Finish and setup was done. It had only taken a minute.

The chart of accounts created for me by GnuCash was very generic, so I added two new accounts before doing anything else. I right-clicked on Expenses from the account listing, then selected Add Account from the pop-up menu. I called the new expense account "Livestock Purchases."

The next thing to do was to buy three donkeys from the Texas Donkey Emporium. I clicked on Business on the tool bar across the top of the GnuCash window and was selected Vendors->New Vendor. Then I filled in the name and address of the vendor and clicked OK.

When I received the bill for the donkeys, I started GnuCash again and clicked on Business->Vendors->New Bill. After selecting the vendor and entering a brief description, another window appeared so that I could enter the remaining details. Some of the data was already filled in. I entered the description, expense account (the new Livestock Purchases I added above), quantity, and unit price for each animal. When I hit Enter for the first one, a second line appeared. When all three had been entered, I clicked on Post button, then verified that I wanted to post the transaction by clicking OK. Then I closed the window.

Checking the accounts window afterwards, I saw that I still had $10,000 in the bank, but now also had a $4,500 expense and a $4,500 liability as well. The liability amount represented the accounts payable created when I entered the bill. Now it was time to pay the bill.

Still at the main GnuCash window, I selected Business->Vendors->Process Payment. A Payment Information window appeared where I selected the vendor to pay and entered the payment amount. I also needed to select a Transfer Account. This is "other side" of the double-entry accounting. I chose the Checking Account under assets as the source of the funds for the payment.

After paying the bill, a status line between the icon toolbar and the listing of accounts advised me that I had Net Assets of $5,500 and profits of minus $4,500. I had certainly picked a realistic example. The process had been so easy I was encouraged to sell the three donkeys to two different buyers and try to turn a profit.

I added two customers by clicking on Business->Customers->New Customer and filling in their names and addresses. Then I clicked on Business->Customers->New Invoice. I recorded the sale of Anna and Freida to one customer for a $1,750 each. I used the Income: Sales account that GnuCash had created for me to record the sale. Then I repeated the process and created a second invoice to record the sale of Daisy to the other customer for $1,800, posting each invoice as I finished it. By the way, you can also print the invoices while you've got the invoice on the screen. Or you can come back later to do that. The same is true of posting them.

The status line on the main window now told me I had earned $800, so I was feeling better about the ranch. But what about reports? GnuCash has them covered, too.

In addition to the nine standard reports and graphs having to do with income and expenses, there is now a separate menu listing six different business reports: customer, employee, and vendor reports, payables aging, receivables aging, and invoice printing. There are also ten reports on Assets and Liabilities, an Account Summary, a tax report, and a transaction listing. If that's not enough, you can write your own.

I've gotten a little long-winded in this story, but I haven't really done more than scratch the surface of the capabilities of the latest GnuCash. I didn't mention its ability to handle and pay employees, for example. Or its tax tracking capabilities. Or provide a better look at its standard reporting.

But I've seen enough to recommend that if you are looking for an accounting package for small business, you start by looking at GnuCash. In fact, GnuCash might very well be a better replacement for QuickBooks than it is for Quicken. I know I am going to give it a very thorough real-life exercise in my own small business. Who knows, you might save yourself a bundle. If you just want to balance your checkbook, GnuCash can handle that, too. In fact, it has a sample set of accounts you can use for exactly that purpose. But a spreadsheet might be an easier way for you to accomplish that, albeit without all the bells and whistles GnuCash offers.

Joe Barr has been writing about technology for 10 years, and about Linux for five. His work has appeared in IBM Personal Systems Journal, LinuxGazette, LinuxWorld, Newsforge, phrack, SecurityFocus, and VARLinux.org. He is the founder of The Dweebspeak Primer, the official newsletter of the Linux Liberation Army.

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Bank statement download

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 07:24 PM
Although GNUcash supports HBCI for German users there is no mention of a similar service for the rest of the world. I appreciate this is mainly a problem presented by the banks, but I believe some of them work with Quicken to enable this facility.

Frankly I can't see my self entering data this way, so the ability to import from online sources is a bit of a prerequisite

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Re:Bank statement download

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 01:55 AM
If you'd bothered to actually look at what the application does you would have seen it does support statement importing. The problems of "online" statement importing is not the same as _no_ importing. GnuCash supports both QIF and OFX importing, most banks will not give you access to their OFX servers and its hit and miss if they will let you download the statements. This is _not_ a GnuCash problem, its an access problem that will need to be solved indepenently of GnuCash.

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Re:Bank statement download

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 27, 2003 12:41 AM
I have set up my business' accounts in GNUCash 1.8.4, and it is adequate for my needs. The only thing it is missing is support for a non-calendar financial year (the choice is there on the reports, but it is hard coded to June 1st!).

As for importing statements from the bank, my bank (RBC in Canada) allows me to directly download a QFX file and save it to my hard drive. It is a trivial process to then open GNUCash and import it. A two step process instead of a one step process like in Quicken. I can live with that.

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More of the same...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 08:50 PM
Innovation by duplication.

How long until Linux and Linux applications stop trying to copy the Windows world? Really makes OpenSource look bad. Come up with something groundbreaking, for Christ's sake!

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What are you talking about?

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 09:14 PM
Tell me what proprietary app. Gnucash is ripping off, please. It may have a lot of things in common with all the other money-management/accounting systems, but that's because they're all using double-entry accounting.

Gnucash is a great tool that requires that the user do some reading before it becomes really useful.

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Re:More of the same...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 09:15 PM
Gawddammit - well, it looks like you could not find anything else to complain about, which is a good sign...

Now stop whining and join a software project, so you can make a positive contribution.

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Re:More of the same...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 09:26 PM
How about software that block trolls ?

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Re:More of the same...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 11:03 PM
Name one piece of software microsoft developed from scratch. Idiot

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like what?

Posted by: lordcorusa on August 26, 2003 03:47 AM
I shouldn't bite troll bait, but what the hell...

What new and ground-breaking application has anyone come out with in the last few years? What ground-breaking app do you want that does not already exist? Tell us what you want, and we'll make it. I for one cannot think of a single truly novel thing left to be done on a computer.

I am sure that someday something new will be done with a computer, but until someone has some great flash of inspiration, we'll all (both OSS and proprietary) just be reimplementing, refining, and improving existing applications.

So unless you have that next new idea, kindly shut up.

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Re:More of the same...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 08:11 AM
copying the windows world? gnucash isn't doing any such thing. gnucash *might* be accused of copying the _accounting_ world, which would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do, since that's the sort of program they want to be writing!

i know, i know, we can all make jokes about accountants. some of them are probably even warranted. but for better or worse, the standards of that business are pretty well carved in stone (and law!) by now, so if financial software is what you want to write - or use - then going for something entirely different from those standards might be... less than ideal. remember, if there's anything at all wrong or strange with your books, it'll be an _accountant_ who tries to figure them out in the end.

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Re:More of the same...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 03, 2003 12:17 AM

Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accountants

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 09:19 PM
I took Accounting in college (and decided that I did not want to be an accountant). The first barrier to accounting 101 is to understand debits and credits AND it took a bit of intense focus for most to get the basics (many drop out of accounting because they can't deal with the debit and credit thing) as the logic is there - but to apply a credit to a debit account and to get the same apparent affect you on the other side you do the opposite for the same affect (or whatever).

The reason why we have computer is to do this thinking for us! The ideal accounting application for most average business folk user, who would be hammering nails during the day and then home at night to do their accouting..., would have to have a module that would sit on top of the debit or credit accouting and do all that debit and credit logic for us and still have the debit credit stuff running underneath with a log file for audit purposes! Adjustments done by the accountant (who would also have GNUcash) would be done in the credit/debit core of the accouting application.

Quickbooks has this ease of use (where you can get away from having to do the debit and credit logic step)! And look at the success of this program!

Also for GNUcash to take off - it needs tax tables and a payroll module with tax updates... for every jurisdiction that it is used! These updated need to be available in both CD and download formats as some folks don't allow their mission critical accounting to sit on the unsecurable internet computer(s)!

I know that there was a recent call for help to head for GNUcash project as there were 5 programmers working on it! The answer to this call for help would be that the GNUcash project should be brought to a national association of accoutants (for whatever nation) and plug them in and see what they think that they want and need and that their customers could use (as accountants must first see the future use of it and must be able to present it to their clients... I know of more Quickbook users that get the OK on this type of software BEFORE even trying it - for example: our accountant is one, before we started using it we had his approval, then when he has to do his taxes he just imports the Quickbooks files into his Quickbooks at his office and then he works from there to do his reports and tax filings, etc)!

The problem with developing any program is that programmers are programers and sometimes fail to understand to real needs of bulk of the users! Double entry accouting will only be used by accoutants - and not most businesses that are small to medium as the logic of the creditdebitorisitadebitforcreditandwhenorwhy is too complex!

I think we need to take our hats off to Linas VEPSTAS and the GNUcash project for what they have done so far! If you want to peek inside the interest level of Linas go to this web page ( http://linas.org/ ) and you will understand why credit and debit logic would seem so simple to him! Here is a quote found in the first inches of his personal web site, "This little gif is a closeup of the top of one of Sinai's Tongues (phase locked regions occurring at Farey number-valued values of v), the one that appears on the iterated circle map x[n+1]= x[n] + v + k*sin(2Pi * x[n]) for v=0.5 and k ~ 1/2Pi, if I remember correctly. Way cool stuff".<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Joe Barr on August 25, 2003 09:27 PM

My response to your very eloquent rant is simple: if you don't want to learn the basics of debits and credits, then you should not be keeping your own books. You should let someone else do it for you.

See ya,
Joe Barr

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Agree with parent - Debit and credit too much for

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 25, 2003 11:12 PM
Agree with parent - Debit and credit too much for most!
AND...
I just spoke with our accountant (has office next door to this business) and, I gave him a copy of the ZDnet article about the Sobig virus with a trojan future and Sobig being a test for a later deployment of a vast organized crime data collection tool... He shook his head! His comment was that too many of his clients use accounting products that are connected to the internet.

Anyway, He agreed that the vast majority of his clients have their eyes glaze over whenever debits or credits are even mentioned! The Quickbooks method is what they understand - because it is easy for them!

Human nature is that when we need to eat that humans will reach for the easiest to get nearest food (fast food wins) vs the food that is more difficult and distant to get and manage. Studies have shown that people will shop where they can park their car where they can SEE the store they are going to (this is one reason why Malls defeated Main Street). Double entry accounting is just too far from the mental reach of most humans to be what they would use... This is a fact!

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Re:Agree with parent - Debit and credit too much f

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 01:43 PM
"Human nature is that when we need to eat that humans will reach for the easiest to get nearest food (fast food wins)"? Bullshit. That's mainstream America, not "human nature". Human nature is to eat what tastes good, and if it makes one feel good, it probably wasn't poisonous, and so one will probably eat more. Don't assume the entire human race is frickin lazy.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Tommy on August 26, 2003 12:57 AM
This depends on what you see the purpose of the accounting system as being. If you see it as a professional tool, then it should have the double entry system. If you see it as a personal tool, then that should be hidden.

Perhaps it could be tuneable?

The same comment applies to the request about tax tables, but to that there are a few other addenda:
This varies greatly by country, region, and even by city. And frequently it exposes one to significant financial burden. So this is clearly a task for commercial software. But perhaps it could be designed as a plug-in?

Tax tables require constant revision, and even the commercial packages can't keep them up to date. I doubt that any free developer would happen to have the interest. So this is a case where commercial vendors are a superior choice.

If the tax calculation logic is a commercial plug-in, should the tax tables be sold by the same party? Or should data import be via the specified plug-in interface? (Sorry, no opinion here.)

But to me this seems like an ideal place for an open source project to design a place which could be occupied by a commercial vendor. Now as to whether that vendor will show up? I couldn't say. I sure wouldn't volunteer, but then I wouldn't volunteer to write accounting software, either.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 04:38 AM
"My response to your very eloquent rant is simple: if you don't want to learn the basics of debits and credits, then you should not be keeping your own books. You should let someone else do it for you."

Let me see if I understand your position. If I don't understand debits and credits, you think I should spend $200.00 per month to have someone prepare my books.

Wouldn't it be cheaper to by a $500.00 Windows machine and a $100.00 copy of Quickbooks? After the first three months I would be money ahead to do my own accounting. With Quickbooks I could remain relatively ignorant of accounting details and still produce monthly statements that any lender would accept. Maybe I just don't understand simple business ecomomics.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 08:25 AM
er... you seem to agree with Joe Barr about not doing your own books. it's just that you seem to be willing to trust the people at Quicken who design and maintain QuickBooks to be your accountants. whether that's a wise choice or not is another question entirely, i think; Joe may or may not agree that it is.

those same people at Quicken may or may not have built something into their EULA that essentially says they're _not_ your accountants after all; that's something i'd advise you to look into with some care before you trust a machine programmed by someone else to fulfill your fiscal and legal obligations for you. i know, because i program computers...

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: macemoneta on August 25, 2003 09:52 PM
I agree with the parent that the end-user visibility of the double book accounting is an unnecessarily complex user interface. When most people (not accountants) pay their bills, they move their money from an account by creating a payment. Their salary is a deposit. Of course, under the covers, this can be maintained with double book accounting practices. However, presenting it to the user and requiring the manual manipulation in this fashion will only appeal to an accountant.


If that is the intended audience, then I think the developers have done an admirable job! On the other hand, if the intended audience is end-users that want to manage their home finances, they've missed the mark. Having to learn assembly programming to use a computer is excessive. Likewise having to use double book accounting for your checkbook is also excessive.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: mkone on August 26, 2003 01:29 AM
What is so difficult about double entry.

It is this simple.

Debit is the left side of the account. And credits are the right side. Then for every debit a credit, and vice versa. A Debit either

a) Increases an asset or

b) Decreases equity of liability

Then a credit does the opposite.

Then just school the person on what equity is, what a liability is, and what an asset is in relation to accounting that is. Then what type of account goes under where.

That person is now well on his/her way to use any acounting program without just trusting to throw numbers anywhere. He knows what he does.

So what is so difficult about that. I think people do not give people enough credit. The double entry system makes sense as it enables you to properly account for everything you do. GNUCash actually helps that by letting you enter the contra account right where you enter the original transaction.

What is needed is maybe an accounting 101 as part of GNUCash's documentation.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 01:40 AM
I would have to agree with you, debits and credits are simple. When I first started using GnuCash I didn't know anything about accounting or debits and credits. Then I read the documentation that came along with GnuCash explaining debits and credits. At that point, I was off and running. I even had a hard time after that using Quicken, because it did not allow me the flexibility I needed.

GnuCash allows me that flexibility and much more, I don't even see why I would really need Quicken, other than the glossy cover.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 02:31 AM
The reason why we have computer is to do this thinking for us!

Computers can't think.

The reason we have computers is to do repetitive stuff for us, quickly, reliably and accurately.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 03:24 AM
I agree that both ways will work!

However, choice is something that most people like and in the current market they have chosen the Quicken and Quickbooks format... and in the end that says something!

So, all this support for the superior debit credit format...doesn't mean that you cannot have an optional easy entry front end to the whole debit credit thing... to simplify entry for those that just have a hard time "getting it".

If this , then number goes here, etc.
IF,
THEN.

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Re:Debits and Credits... confusing to non-accounta

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 03:23 AM
Okay, I haven't used this newest release, I've only used the 1.6 version for business accounting, but the thing that these comments miss is that you don't have to make douple entries in GNUCash.

I did have to read up on the subject and ask my accountant a few questions when I set up my own custom account structure, but since then I just open my checking account and write checks and receive payments. When I enter the transaction I choose which account this is in reference too, and everything comes out neatly.

I'm looking forward to trying the new release!

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Tracking Expenses

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 01:14 AM
I use gnucash to track expenses. If I want to know how much I spent in groceries last month, or last year, a couple clicks in the options menu of the transaction report shows me a clear picture. When I enter my transactions, I simply choose a category to place the charge or depsit. Gnucash is also smart enough to remember what I chose to speed up future entries. When I deposit a paycheck, it registers both on my income and my checking account. When I pay my rent, it registers on my checking account, where the money comes from, and on my bill category for rent, where I am sending the payment. It is nice to show my wife exactly how much money she spent on music, clothes, or whatever. And since I am running the program, I don't have to show her my computer part expense account *wink*

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Accounting packages not a natural for Open Source

Posted by: nomad47 on August 26, 2003 02:41 AM
I wish GnuCash success, but doubt whether it is a suitable project for the Open Source community.

Most of the accounting work for a small business in the US is the preparation of tax returns. For a business which has several stockholders, traditional accounting is important because you have to be able to show the stockholders what's going on. But for a one-person or a husband-and-wife business, the owners know what is going on. They don't really need an accounting system to tell them. What they do need is tax accounting, not just for Uncle Sam but also for state tax. Tax accounting is different enough from 'GAAP' accounting that big companies typically prepare multiple sets of accounts - one for the stockholders, which follows GAAP, and one set for each tax jurisdiction in which they pay tax.

Consequently, the expertise that is needed for a useful small-business accounting package is mainly tax knowledge. In many different States. And it needs to be updated every year because tax laws change every year.

The ratio of software development expertise to tax expertise required is probably something like 1:2 at the beginning, but as the years go by,
it'll be more and more skewed towards needing tax-accounting expertise.

Where is GnuCash going to get good, free, tax accounting work? IMHO, it isn't. Lots of good software developers enjoy programming so much that they do it as a hobby; that's why we have free software. I never met an accountant who did accounting in his spare time just for the fun of it. The only reason an accountant does accounting is to get paid. If I'm right, GnuCash is pretty much doomed from the outset.

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Re:Accounting packages not a natural for Open Sour

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 04:02 AM
You are right! We are going to have to pay for a really good business accounting package, and perhaps a few other uninteresting packages (e.g. Point of Sale). If Intuit would port their packages over to Linux, small businesses would have what they need.

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Re:Accounting packages not a natural for Open Sour

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 05:18 AM
There are plenty of Accounting packages for small business running Linux. Qasar is one of them. Freshmeat.net will make you're happy. A more sophisticated one (somewhat) will be sql-ledger.

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Re:Accounting packages not a natural for Open Sour

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 08:33 AM
you may be right about accounting not being done for fun, but that doesn't _necessarily_ mean GnuCash is doomed.

as somebody else noted, those parts of the program might be done as plug-ins; it's at least theoretically possible that GnuCash could morph into a for-pay software-programming or software-configuration sideline for accountants everywhere, periodically make and sell GnuCash tax accounting plug-ins for their own geographical area for the current year, sort of thing.

whether this would be economical enough to actually materialize is, of course, another matter entirely. all the GnuCash developers can do about it would be to create the best, clearest, most simple and usable plug-in architecture humanly possible and then document it well; if i only had the necessary programming skills, i might look into helping with that.

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Re:Accounting packages not a natural for Open Sour

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 10:36 AM
Obviously you do not work in the accounting field. I do. Your comment are so far off base as to be meaningless. Multiple set of books? Enron maybe, but the vast majority of firms have no need for that.

Taxes are a completely, and I do mean a completely different beast (aside from sales taxes which are handled fine).

The vast majority of our clients use Quickbooks or Simply Accounting. Most of the software uses is purchased once and not updated (unless they are using it for Payroll). They do just fine. GnuCash can easily be made to do all of the same functionality without ANY need for tax knowledge.

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Re:Accounting packages not a natural for Open Sour

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 06:06 PM
Who said all linux software development must be for the US market. I run a small business in Australia and GnuCash is ideal. We don't have the rickety tax legislation America does but it can handle our tax system very well...

Rather than change the package, lobby, change the world instead<nobr> <wbr></nobr>:)

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Great Review Joe!

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 08:23 AM
Thanks for the good review Joe. I really liked the step-by-step of how why and what features you used .

I get very annoyed with "install" reviews which you have been guilty of in the past.

I want to hear %90 about the functionality and new features of a software app, if you feel the Redhat install is particularily painful feel free to include ONE paragraph about it. The best way to handle install issues is to send diffs of INSTALL to the developers.

Perhaps I'm spoiled but "apt-get install gnucash" is all the instruction I ever need. ; )

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Re:Great Review Joe!

Posted by: Joe Barr on August 26, 2003 09:25 PM

Thanks.

Re the "install reviews." You're right, that is exactly what I was reviewing, as the "It's hard to install Linux" was at the time a meme that needed lancing. Even beyond distributions, ease of installation remains one of the top "red button" issues.

But I can see how folks would get frustrated if they were looking for something else, because that isn't what I was writing.

Joe Barr

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Just set my mom up with this.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 11:18 AM
I just set my mom up with GNUcash. She is quite impressed with it, and what it is able to do (ie keep track of her comvoluted finances) After explaining the 2 way system she seemed to get it. Now she is knowledgable in finances, she was a bank teller for 10+ years, however she is slow and has trouble comprehending things sometimes, the result of 2 brain surguries for brain cancer. All in all If she can handle it I'd venture to say 70-80% of the rest of the population could figure it out too, with a little help of course.

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Re:Just set my mom up with this.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 08:34 PM
My wife has used GnuCash for our finances for the past year. She's not a particularly savvy computer user, but every time she does our bills, she says "this is free? Why would he just give it away?"

In my opinion, that's the best compliment an open source program can get.

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Shameless plug - brinance

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 12:28 PM
I wrote a small program that is simply a checkbook register, with a couple of minor bells/whistles. I wrote it as an alternative to GNUCash for the command-line, because that's all I was using GNUCash for, which is definitely overkill. Anyway, take a look if GNUCash does way more than you need and uses too many libraries, and you like the command-line:

<A HREF="http://www.locoburger.org/prog/brinance/" TITLE="locoburger.org">Homepage</a locoburger.org>

<A HREF="http://www.locoburger.org/files/brinance-2.3.tar.gz" TITLE="locoburger.org">Download latest version</a locoburger.org>

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Business needs GNUCash

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 01:20 PM
I run a business. I do not connect to my bank, nor do I connect with any tax program. I've read the comments and as a business owner, I need a program that has good detailed reports and the ability to keep track of my invoices, credits, income and expenses. GNUCash looks like it is on the right track.

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GNU Cash Is A Great Program

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 01:50 PM
I started using GnuCash 1.6.7 in January when I finally chucked Windoze. I imported all of my old files from MS Money with no problem, and I now keep my books for my three businesses on it.

To the person who says that GnuCash is no good because it copies Windoze apps - Get Real! Programs like GnuCash don't have to do something astounding. They just need to be a good functional tool. Too many unneeded bells and whistles is one of the things that drives people away from Redmond's products.

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Re:GNU Cash Is A Great Program

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 08:04 PM

I think GnuCash is a good program, not a great one. My biggest problem with it has been the lack of a comment type of field (the newer version offers a notes field, though, so I will be upgrading soon).

My next biggest problem with it is the lack of support from the American financial community. Most banks and credit card companies provide online account reconciliation which is not compatible with GnuCash. Furthermore, tax programs that can read GnuCash are non-existent. I doubt that an Open Source product would want the liability of updating for the myriad of complex tax laws around the globe.

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Installed GNUCash on my iBook.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 07:29 PM
I heard of GNUCash a while back. Since then I've installed it in Mac OS X on my iBook and its running like a charm.

Open Source needs software like this break into the desktop markets.

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Re:Installed GNUCash on my iBook.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 27, 2003 09:12 AM
Where can I get GNUCash for OS X?

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Re:Installed GNUCash on my iBook.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 29, 2003 11:01 PM
I used Fink. A tool that allows you to set up various Open Source packages on Mac OS X.

It took a while as Gnucash is still viewed as an Unstable Release so there was a bit of fiddling required to get it going and you will need to install a lot of additional packages like Gnome to get it to work.

http://fink.sourceforge.net/

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wish it were gtk2/gnome2

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 26, 2003 09:13 PM
I love GnuCash, I only wish it were gtk2 ported and gnome2 aware.

Regarding the complexity, GnuCash provides a solid framework which could easily be abstracted for more simple folks who don't want all the detail. The structure is there, it just needs to be built on.

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MS Money, is it dangerous

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 27, 2003 01:27 AM
This may not be the best place to ask, but...

I use MS money just to keep track of my expenses and bank accounts.
Am I in danger of having my information getting away from me? In other words, does anyone know if MS money is as bad as IE or Winduh's in terms of security?

What are your thoughts?

BTW: I'm a windows guy stuck in windows hell for more reasons than I want to explain here.

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Re:MS Money, is it dangerous

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on August 27, 2003 10:11 PM
In the end, regardless of your OS, you are responsible for your data. I am not familiar with MS Money, but I imagine it has files with your data on them that you need to backup on a regular basis.

Basically it comes down to how much do you value the information you keep, and the time it took to get it there. If this is a simple checkbook and you are keeping a paper copy as well... okay maybe not so important. But if you have spent alot of time gettng it all setup and maintaining it, then you can spend a bit of time to protect that investment.

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Re:MS Money, is it dangerous

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 01, 2003 09:47 AM
If you use XP and a box comes up saying "Sorry we have to close your program," then don't use error reporting because anything that you been working prior to the error will be sent to MS, that is if you value your work and if it's been sent over the internet who knows how many people can see it. By the way you can disable error reporting.

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GnuCash is alright

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on September 16, 2003 02:59 AM
I've been using GnuCash as my personal finance manager to track my expenses. It allowed me to track down where I've been spending my money (entertainment, dining out, etc). It's also useful to help me see how much I've saving since I started managing my finances. And the best of all... it's free!

As an experienced computer user, it only took me a couple of hours to get used to using GnuCash. I checked out MS Money 2003 trial version. It is easier to use. You can get MS Money for $40 from microsoft.com

So using GnuCash instead of MS Money took a couple extra hours out of my Sunday. But the way I look at it, it saved me $40 that day.

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