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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Does your account program cost you an arm and a leg?

Welcome to GNUCash!

First of all, it runs on many operating systems, including Windows, Mac and many flavours of Linux, including ]Debian series (Ubuntu, Mint, Debian etc)], Red Hat, SuSe and a few others.

Secondly, it is Open Source and totally free to use. For the suspicious, this includes the souce code which, if you have a technical programmer working for you, you can download and look through the code before compiling it yourself. But that’s for the techies – however, it is reassuring.

So, what does it do.

  • A simple answer here, is everything. I have used Quicken and Quickbooks in the past and this works in a very similar way, from entering all your accounts to producing a copious amount of reports right up to Balance Sheet. Reports can be for the month, quarter or year.
  • Not only can you build your ‘accounts tree’, but you can call the headings whatever names you like. In addition, you can add to them even after using the program seriously for some time.
  • You can download your statements in the Quicken QIF files or the new OFX files, which between the two, are used by most banks in the UK.
  • The program has routines to enable you to reconcile your statements with your accounts easily, and as you reconcile each item, you can mark them as reconciled.
  • You can liaise with your accounts program through your Android phone.
  • You can, as I have done, download the 275 page manual, print on both sides, and have it bound by the local print shop for under a fiver. Well worth doing if you are going to be serious about using this program.
  • Amazon have many books, written by many people, available in book format or Kindle format. However if you own a Kindle, you can download the document in .mobi format. Those with other e-readers, you can use the e-book format.
  • You can start using the program from any date. I used the first of the following month, and when the statement arrived later in the month you can add the balances in, these were dated the first of the month and immediately appeared in the correct place before the records I had previously entered. Great.
  • If you put in your company name and address, and your client’s name and address, you can print invoices for any sales transaction.
  • When using for the first time, you have a choice of different sets of accounts to automatically set up. Then all you need to d
There are many more good points about this program, but I tought I’d just give you a flavour of this FREE software.

The way open source works is, someone has an idea for a program. He puts this information out, and someone technical takes it up and calls for help. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of programmers around the world offer half a day, a day, or even  longer to code up, or solve problems from other coders.

There is a GNUCash Android app, but it doesn’t feed the main program too well so I use an app on my Samsung phone called “Daily Expenses”. You get a whole lot more by buying it (just over £2) and it will back your data up to either Drive or Dropbox. I use this when I am out to record all my purchases and, every week, enter them into GNUCash every Sunday.
You can delete any account errors, but that is not advisable once the entry has been reconciled with your statement. Some, but not many, banks and building societies, offer an electronic statement. I don’t mean a pdf but what is called an OFX or a QIF, or even a csv file, which you can upload to your GNUCash and most of the items will be reconciled, leaving only a few to investigate.

It is said you don’t need to be a book-keeper to operate it, but a little knowledge of book-keeping will stop you making a few errors in the first month.

Don’t worry about opening balances, you can put these in at any time, just don’t forget to put the date as at the last day of the month before you begin and they will always show up first.

A word of warning, although this is ideal for small businesses, if you, like me, are using it for your home accounts, you could be heading for a little heartbreak when you see just how much certain aspects of your life is costing you. Men, if you are doing this, split the “clothes” account into his and hers. This could be ammunition when she says “You’re not going out to the pub yet again?”


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