Manage Your Finances With GNUCash

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 06, 2008

Hackers might like to think that the most important programs on their computer is an editor, programming language, or even a Web browser with the latest plugins. But for many people, a computer is nothing more than a tool, something that they use to write letters, perform calculations, and create presentations. Even if Linux were the most user-friendly operating system on the planet, but if it weren't for the OpenOffice productivity suite, no one would ever use it.

I thus continue to be surprised by the relatively low profile of an excellent productivity application, GNUCash. There are many people who say that they can't or won't switch away from Windows because of Quicken, which allows them to keep track of their money. GNUCash is a similar sort of program, but as you might expect, it contains not only a large number of built-in features, but also many capabilities that can be scripted and customized.

In its simplest form, GNUCash allows you to keep track of your money, in any number of different accounts. GNUCash uses the double-entry bookkeeping system, which can seem difficult to understand until you actually try it. The tutorials that come with GNUCash were more than enough to help me understand what was happening, and how to configure my accounts. It soon became clear to me that my simple accounting needs are child's play for GNUCash, which can handle an enormous number and variety of accounts, currencies, and payment schemes.

The most recent release of GNUCash (2.2.5) came out in late April of this year. As usual, this version came with a number of bug fixes, particularly when it comes to importing QIF (Quicken Interchange Format) files. One of the goals of GNUCash is to allow users to work with their banks and credit card companies, and this often means that GNUCash must be compatible with QIF, since so many people use Quicken. In many cases, this means that you can have your bank information feed directly into GNUCash, giving you a living, unified view of your finances.

But GNUCash is more than just a Quicken clone. You can access much of its functionality using Guile, a simple version of the Scheme programming language. You can also create custom reports, including charts. And of course, you can create output files that will be read by spreadsheets and other programs.

GNUCash is a powerful and useful piece of software, albeit one that addresses a mundane task. If you are interested in taking better care of your finances, I suggest that you try GNUCash; versions are available for Unix, OS X (using X Windows), and Windows.