What is GnuCash?

Category: Finance , Software

I've heard that GnuCash is a free accounting program, similar to Quicken. So it's free, but how does it compare with Quicken or Microsoft Money, for basic household or small business accounting?

Gnucash Personal Accounting Software

Free Accounting Software - GnuCash

GnuCash is a free personal accounting software program that is available for download. This program has the usual accounting features, and has a simple, clean design. You can use GnuCash as a checkbook register, to manage income and expenses, or
for tracking stocks and bank accounts. Although the interface is rather plain, it does provide graphs and calculators to help you figure out where your money is going and how to balance the budget. And if you're multi-platform, you'll like that GnuCash runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows.

If you've used Quicken, you can import that financial data into GnuCash. If you don't have Quicken but your bank lets you automatically download your history, you can import Quicken-style QIF files or Open Financial Exchange OFX files, which many banks now use.

What's good about GnuCash? Well, you can't argue with the price... it's free. It's also open source, so there is an active community of developers working on it. It does accept the more widely used file formats, which you can import to the software on a regular basis. It doesn't take up a lot of space on your hard drive. It also can help with your small business accounting, and help keep accounts separate.

One of the many good features it has is its requirement that you account for every entry. So the program lets you know when it has a question, ensuring you keep your books balanced. It also has an extensive FAQ and help guides to look through. If you disklike the bloat, bells and whistles of Microsoft Money or Quicken, you'll probably enjoy this software. It's very plain, very business like. Here's a screenshot of GnuCash in action.

GnuCash is perhaps a little harder to use than Quicken or Money. Information has to be uploaded instead of linked direct to your accounts and updated for you. If you're not used to using a real ledger to record your bank balances and you're not going to upload your data regularly, it might not be the best software for you.

It's also still being worked on, and like any large software project, it has some bugs. So you'll have to be careful to back up your data regularly. But you do that already, right? Some technical support is available, but it appears to be only available for reporting bugs. You're pretty much on your own.

Quicken and Money Vs. GnuCash

Quicken 2008Quicken is the market leader, and also the most expensive ($29/Starter, $59/Deluxe, Business/$99) of the group. The software has features similar to the others, offering to upload information or link to particular major banks, like Microsoft's Money program. It probably sits in between Money and GnuCash as far as looks and flash. Both Quicken and GnuCash do double-entry accounting, and can handle stocks, bonds or mutual fund accounts. But Quicken is not as strong when it comes to small-business accounting. GnuCash tracks customers, vendors, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and it will generate invoices. You'd have to upgrade from Quicken to the pricier QuickBooks Pro ($199) to get all those business accounting features. GnuCash will run almost anywhere, whereas Quicken is for Windows or Mac only -- no Linux version.

MS MoneyMicrosoft Money ($29/Deluxe, $49/Premium, $59/Business) offers a number of similar features. It can upload Quicken QIF files. The personal accounting programs can be connected to your local banks to upload information automatically, often set to daily check your information. While you should always check your online bank account for consistency, it makes it much easier when trying to upload data. Money also pops up "helpful" links to articles and information about investing, accounting, and more. If you need invoicing, you'll have to upgrade to the Microsoft Money Home & Business version. And don't expect Microsoft ever to offer MS Money for Mac or Linux -- this is a Windows-only product. Comparing the two, GnuCash wins on price, plaforms, and professionalism. Money wins on ease of use and support.

Bottom line, if you need personal accounting software or small business accounting, and don't want to shell out for commercially available financial software such as Quicken or MS Money, give GnuCash a try. It might take a little while to learn, but interface is straightforward. It can be a good alternative and if your needs are not too exotic, may work just as well to help you balance your books or manage a small business.

Do you have a favorite personal accounting software package? Tell us about your choice by posting a comment below...

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Most recent comments on "What is GnuCash?"

Posted by:

Neil Holbrook
14 Dec 2007

Bob, Thanks for the tip. I have been looking to get one of the 2 pay programs but now will try a Gnu project. I have GIMP but found it as confusing as Photoshop. I use Open Office which is open source and free and do not miss Word.

Posted by:

17 Dec 2008

Money Manager EX at www.codelathe.com/mmex is superior to GNUCash and easy to use

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