Best Bookkeeping App On Linux

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Well, it's a new year, and what's a new year without a "get your financial shtuff in order" resolution. Every year, I blame part of my bookkeeping incompetence on my favorite accounting app, GnuCash , so I'm usually looking for something newer and better every January. So here's my options this year:

Choices

GnuCash

http://www.gnucash.org This is always what I come back to, so why even look, right?

  • Advantages
    • FOSS!
    • The new 2.0 version is so much better than the previous 1.8 version from usability and stability perspectives.
    • Fairly robust and intuitive
    • The standard on Linux (did I mention that I'm a Linux user?)
    • Will probably be around forever, so I don't have to worry about being forced to convert all of my historical financial data to a new app any time soon.
    • New budgeting interface!
    • Tons of great reporting features
    • Reporting API using a variant of Lisp. Now if only I knew how to program in Lisp :)
  • Disadvantages
    • Can still be a little flaky at times
    • Only really installs easily on Linux. OS X and Windows users have a much more difficult time.
    • Please note that you can install GnuCash on both Mac OS X and Windows. It's just hard to do. Also, the Windows port of GnuCash is very new, and would be considered alpha software in my opinion.
    • Since it's a "real" accounting app, it may be more than I need, meaning that I sometimes have to deal with complexity that is unnecessary for my needs.

Quicken

This only runs on Linux is I use Crossover or Wine, and apparently it doesn't run very well. The same thing is true with MS Money, so no thanks.

Wesabe

http://www.wesabe.com This is a online-only bookkeeping app with some cool folksonomy features and a slick, AJAX-y interface.

  • Advantages
    • Seems very easy-to-use, especially when it comes to budgeting and report-generating
    • There's a free version, but I don't know if that will work for me.
    • Multi-user: very easy for myself and my wife to use this app at the same time.
    • Very collaborative, which is nice if you're fairly ignorant about the world of personal finance.
  • Disadvantages
    • Seems to force you to use a very non-intuitive interface (if you're used to apps like Quickbooks or Quicken).
    • You can't add new transactions manually - you have to download a qif file from your bank and upload it into Wesabe.
    • You can't use Expense accounts or categories in Wesabe, just "tags". This, to me, is very non-intuitive.
    • I spend a lot of time on a train each day, and I can't use this app offline, so that's a big disadvantage for me.
    • Very limited reporting functionality.
    • You can basically get three types of reports. This may be enough for most people, but seems a bit limiting to me.

Moneydance

http://www.moneydance.com This is a Quicken-like bookkeeping app that isn't quite as bloated and can run on nearly any OS that supports Java.

  • Advantages
    • Will pretty much run on any OS.
    • Fairly robust
    • Seems to have a plugin architecture that is compatible with Java and Python. Nice!
  • Disadvantages
    • Not free (bad), but inexpensive (good!)
    • The budgeting interface seems a bit overly-simplistic. I'm hesitant to switch to a new bookkeeping app if this particular feature doesn't really wow me.
    • How long will this non-FOSS app survive?
    • Please note that you can export all of your data to a qif format, so it's fairly portable, even if MoneyDance were to fold tomorrow.

Jgnash

http://jgnash.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php This seems to be someone's copy of GnuCash, but with a simpler interface and written in Java.

  • Advantages
    • FOSS!
    • Will pretty much run on any OS.
    • Beanshell scripting interface, which is incredibly cool
    • Stable and somewhat robust
  • Disadvantages
    • No budgeting module, which really is a show-stopper for me
    • That's really it. This is definitely my second choice.

Conclusion

In the end, you should choose a program that best compliments your bookkeeping process, not one that "just takes care of it automatically". The latter type of applications often impose a process on you that, more often than not, doesn't really "fit".

Ideally, you should be able to fulfill your process completely using pencil and paper; your bookkeeping app should simply make your process more efficient. I'd love to therefore say that I have defined my bookkeeping process from A-Z and therefore can confidently choose one of the apps above, but my process is still a work-in-progress.

So since I need to make a decision soon, I'll go with the app that imposes the fewest constraints on my process while still making me more efficient that I would be otherwise. For me, that app is still GnuCash, although jGnash comes in a close second.

Update - 7/21/09

After trying to install the stable version of GnuCash for windows about 20 times, I finally just switched over to jGnash 2.0 and haven't looked back. The interface has improved dramatically, and I find it to be much simpler and more stable than GnuCash.