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Personal accounting software for the Mac

(30 Posts)
tribpot Tue 17-Jan-12 06:40:47

I've been tracking my accounts and doing some very basic forecasting using Excel (my banks doesn't offer download facilities so I just c+p the screen into Excel). Having used MS Money many years ago on a PC, and wanting to do some proper budgeting, I bought a copy of Home Accountz for my Macbook.

Oh my - surely the ugliest user interface I have seen (<cough> outside work) in a long time ... and no way to multi-select transactions (I've been test-loading from my spreadsheet) to delete them ... I can't get on with this at all.

So I am now evaluating Liquid Ledger and that seems a lot better but still not brilliantly intuitive to assign things to categories - and of course there are many, many categories and no way to group these together. It also falls over when importing csvs so I have a routine to output my Excel stuff as .qif.

I also downloaded MoneyWell, as I quite liked the idea of 'bucket' or envelope budgeting that it suggested, and it has iPhone integration as well. But another cluttered and unintuitive UI, and it seems to save changes without reflecting them back on the screen unless you click in several places to force it to refresh, very odd.

I'm going to evaluate YNAB as well I suspect, but did anyone have any recommendations based on what I've written so far? Unless I have rose-tinted specs on, none of them seem a patch on MS Money.

OberonTheHopeful Tue 17-Jan-12 18:38:27

I don't have any suggestions as such but I'm watching this for the same reasons: used to use MS Money and need a Mac alternative.

I recently came across this. They offer a thirty day trial so when I have time I'll give it a go. There's also a companion app for iPhone. It's a US product, but they claim it can work with UK settings and the accounts can be set up in any currency. It doesn't look like it interfaces with any UK bank, but it can import files from them.

tribpot Tue 17-Jan-12 20:21:49

Thanks Oberon. I looked at iBank but some of the comments in the App Store suggested there was a lot of work to de-Americanise it (one of the ones I'm evaluating now has the concept of a 'chequing' account, which is hilarious, a good attempt to localise that went wrong). This not-very-extensive review doesn't suggest it is a problem, however.

I feel like there's a definite gap in the market for MS Money to be reincarnated, esp for the Mac!

tribpot Wed 18-Jan-12 08:01:58

Hmm, been having another play around this morning and have found it quite difficult adjusting the categories of expense in Liquid Ledger, it glitched about four times and I kept having to kill the app and restart. When I ran a test report (and it does seem to have a nice suite of reports) it kept complaining about an 'unassigned transaction' that was actually the opening balance of the account, which seems poor.

Got on a bit better with MoneyWell until I once again just wanted to go back to the view of all the transactions in my current account and it just refused to fetch this data and display it, until I'd clicked all over the place and it then managed to retrieve the data.

Liquid Ledger is £13.33 and MoneyWell is £33.62, which is a substantial difference (iBank is £39.99 in the App Store, no UK price on its website, which is where you need to buy it to get the free trial ($59.99 = £39 and a bit). I see that iBank also has some snazzy tutorial videos and you can download a full user manual, with a bit of clicking I find MoneyWell has some snazzy videos (if you want to watch how you connect to US banks .. ) and LL has a quick start guide only.

I think it makes sense to evaluate iBank as well - the interface also looks a bit 'kooky' and cluttered - it seems like they all just lack that 'looks like your bank statement or online view of an account' simple screen that just lists all the transactions out in a compact, no-nonsense list. Hmm.

OberonTheHopeful Wed 18-Jan-12 18:03:52

You're right tribpot, there does seem to be a gap in the market. I'm busy with work for the next couple of weeks, but I definitely think I'll give iBank a go using the free trial (apparently it's only time limited, the functionality remains the same).

I'd even thought about going back to MS Money using VMWare, but I've lost the CD and I don't think you can even buy the UK version any more. Besides, I'd prefer something that was Mac native.

One thing I like the look of with iBank is that there's an active user forum that the developers also post in, and it looks from it like there are a fair few UK users. I'll look at LL and MoneyWell also though. The iBank reviews on Amazon look mixed, though in a couple of cases a low rating seems unfair. Looking at their Web page, it seems that iBank has introduced the concept of 'envelope' budgeting in the latest version. It's a pity that there doesn't seem to be a clear leader.

tribpot Wed 18-Jan-12 18:50:08

Heh, one of the things that's annoyed me about iBank is the way they're trying to position themselves as the 'gold [arf] standard' in personal budget software - trying to claim a market dominance I'm not sure they really have. Seems to me MS could make a shedload letting someone else continue to develop Money and just pay them some license costs, but ho hum.

The LL trial is only time-limited as well (actually 60 rather than 30 days!), MoneyWell is limited to 200 transactions, which I think would be enough if you were starting from scratch but I have all my lovely spreadsheet data from end of August I'd like to play around with.

As I've written a very basic macro in Excel to turn my spreadsheet data into .qif format, it's not that difficult to run, say, LL and iBank in parallel for a month and really get a feel for them.

Based on today's exchange rate, it looks cheaper to buy iBank from Amazon than the App Store, something else to ponder! One of the Amazon reviews mentions MoneyDance, which has a free iPhone app - but it has a 100-transaction limit in the trial, which I don't think is worth the effort. Shame as the GUI looks promising - probably the most Money-ish of the ones I've seen so far.

tribpot Thu 19-Jan-12 22:15:46

Okay, humble pie - I've downloaded iBank today and it's streets ahead of the other two. I've spent so much time tinkering with it that I don't want to have to delete the file and download from the App Store to start again when the trial ends!

The iPhone integration is great, I haven't played with the envelope budgeting yet, but this is well worth a look. It comes with a 470 page manual!

fossil97 Thu 19-Jan-12 22:19:49

i'm using a programme called Jumsoft Money. Nothing sophisticated but as long as I can get my bank statements into some kind of spreadsheet or CSV I can import them and do the usual budgets, totals etc.

I think I bought it IIRC but it's been worth it.

tribpot Thu 19-Jan-12 22:34:58

Thanks fossil, that's really interesting. I hadn't come across Jumsoft Money in my search but here is a review of it - and by someone who lives in the UK, hurrah!

I think I'm going to see if I can get on with this hokey 'envelope' budgeting thingy (btw if I actually took all my salary out and put in envelopes at the start of the money, I would just lose all the envelopes and we'd starve in the street) but I do like Jumsoft's clever advertising, with the suggestion of 'Money Reborn'.

One gripe with iBank is that, like the others, it only does literal transaction recognition. I'm sure MS Money had something more sophisticated - the child benefit, for example, comes in as CHB-[some standard number][some 3 digit bit that changes from month to month] so it can't (I think detect it's all the same payee. Likewise the dinner money cheque is for the same amount every week but with a different cheque number/payee, so it has set up a rule per cheque to assign it when it comes in next time - except it never will again, hey ho. Unless I'm going mad, I'm sure MS Money would figure out this was probably the same thing, likewise when credit card companies decide to append more or less of your card number to the direct debit when they call it in.

tribpot Fri 20-Jan-12 18:54:10

Hmmm, so far the news on Budgeting is not good - it doesn't look like iBank supports this except in the most basic way (more basic by the look of it than MoneyWell). It looks from the reviews in the forum that they more or less shoved something in so they could say the product did it - and the repeated requests for features such as a budgeted vs actual spend have been politely kicked into the long grass.

The iPhone app is great, though (perhaps not surprisingly, the budget categories are not carried through to it).

I feel a YNAB trial coming on.

OberonTheHopeful Fri 20-Jan-12 23:42:35

Oh, that's not great news. I was going to download the iBank trial this weekend and I'll still give it a try, but budgeting is an important feature for me (and from what I remember is something MS Money did well).

Looking at the forums there isn't a way to automate the process of adding the same amount to a budget category each month, regardless of the previous month's spend, which looks a bit lame. There also seem to be a lot of feature requests for almost a year concerning these and other features and the only response in that time is that they've been added to the request list!

tribpot Sat 21-Jan-12 00:10:22

Yes - I did a bit of reading up on YNAB (which has excellent tutorials etc) to try and get a handle on what the heck envelope budgeting is, and in that app you also can't configure your budgeting period, it's the current month. But there is a whole methodology associated with getting to you to live on the previous month's income, so it shouldn't matter which date in this month you get paid. It sounds like iBank has a similar idea but not fully explained or implemented - if it is intentional this certainly isn't clear to the developers who monitor the forum.

(In YNAB you can 'quick fill' budget amounts based on a range of options like: last month's budget, last month's actual spend, average of previous x periods).

On that basis, I thought I'd give the envelopes another bash, but it still refuses to accept I have any income this month so there is nothing to fill the envelopes with. This is going to be true every month unless I artificially pass my salary through some made-up account on the 1st of the month after I get paid, I suspect. Which then wouldn't tie up with all the payments made out of my current account. It also seems this all gets wiped at the start of the month after - the screenshots and tutorials for YNAB make clear that you get a rolling view of this info from it.

YNAB strongly discourage loading in previous transactions when getting started as you have to go through and budget-ise it all for it really to work, so I do think they are actually rather different products with different purposes. There's no evidence really that there's a plan to address some of the envelope deficiencies in iBank 5 (as it would seem some of them carried over from iBank 3 or actually got worse!).

YNAB doesn't do investment tracking or any fancy stuff like that. Also its import routines are in QFX or OFX (if you want auto-matching to manually-entered stuff) which is a bit tedious, but assuming the iPhone app is as whizzy as the iBank one (which is really good, really quick to use and sync) it might be easier just to load everything on the go / use Scheduled Transactions.

Definitely worth evaluating iBank, I think if you want to manage a series of accounts and do basic budgeting (the non-envelope view looks more promising) iBank is probably the winner. If your priorities are the reverse (and mine certainly are) I think YNAB might have the edge.

Let the evaluation continue!

bitclueless Sat 21-Jan-12 12:31:30

Hi, really interested to see this as have just bought a mac and am looking around for budgeting software. I have never used this before, but a quick look on YNAB website suggests that their approach is actually fairly similar to the way I currently do budgeting and spending.
I am also not particularly computer literate so some of this discussion a bit over my head - but I'm going to download the free trial of YNAB. Very interested to hear the results of the comparison with iBank,

tribpot Sat 21-Jan-12 13:47:18

Hiya bitclueless, and welcome. You can't be a bit clueless if you've just moved over to the Mac world smile

I've been playing with YNAB this morning and I've come to conclusion that it is much closer to what I need right now - budgeting help, not personal accounting as such. I have no complicated transactions to track for tax returns or anything (for which I think iBank would be better) or really any need to import historical data, much as I want to for geek purposes and to make cool pie charts smile

I've watched a lot of their videos on the training site has this been really helpful in getting into the mindset and philosophy - it makes a huge amount of sense and I think <whispers> may be better than what I remember of MS Money's budgeting option!

I think most of the techy stuff above is about importing files to save typing everything in from scratch so let me know if you do want to know more about that.

tribpot Sat 21-Jan-12 16:52:27

Just finished the first of their webinars, well worth a look! You actually do get to ask questions as the trainer is going along.

tribpot Sun 22-Jan-12 21:10:16

How did you get on this weekend, Oberon and bitclueless?

OberonTheHopeful Tue 24-Jan-12 18:48:48

You can't be a bit clueless if you've just moved over to the Mac world grin. Couldn't agree more!

I did try the iBank trial, and although it looks promising as a product the budgeting is pretty basic and that's what I need most. It would be useful to track investments, but I can always do this manually (as I do now). In any case, as a US-centric program I don't think it will download the data I need so I would still have to look it up myself and manually input it. I also rarely do any contract work these days so I don't really need a program to help with tax returns.

There also seem to be a few bugs in it, and it can be very slow, and looking at the support forum on their Website it seems this is a common complaint. It's not a good sign that these things seem to go unheeded by the developers for a long period of time.

Thank you so much for posting all of this info tribpot smile. Are you by chance a software tester? From what you've said I'll definitely be trying YNAB and I like the idea of the online training. I'm a bit slammed at work this week and out at the weekend, but I'll give it a try ASAP and post back.

tribpot Tue 24-Jan-12 20:05:24

Oberon - thanks for giving me someone to talk to about this grin, and I'm glad others may find the thread useful at some point too.

I'm not a tester although I used to be a developer (and we had super-strict, count-the-pixels-between-the-edit-boxes design rules) and have been a tester/test manager in ye days of yore. Now I work in the more arcane parts of the world of NHS IT.

I'm actually quite annoyed that the reviewers have taken such a superficial look at the differences in these two pieces of software, which it seems to me have very different audiences and focuses. But I'd agree that the iBank forum doesn't make for very inspiring reading. At 40 quid you're not going to change software packages every year but it's not such a huge investment that they won't lose customers if they don't react to some of the problems, I think.

I honestly can't recommend YNAB highly enough at this point as a budgeting tool. Well worth a look. If I was more interested in home accounting I would definitely consider iBank.

bitclueless Tue 24-Jan-12 22:45:56

Hi sorry, I stupidly started posting on this thread on one of my less used aliases so have to name change to post...anyway I haven't got very far with YNAB - but it seems to do what I do naturally anyway, but to a much more anal detailed degree...I have also been getting a bit frustrated with the Mac, I am so used to PCs and just can't work out the basics on the mac, like where everything IS...maybe I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks...
Anyway can I ask whether you two are male or female? (just curious, but you have that blokey style of writing)...

tribpot Tue 24-Jan-12 23:19:26

Macs do take a bit of getting used to, it's true. Can I ask what made you decide to switch? I bought mine at least half because it was so shiny and beautiful, not for any practical reason at all.

You can reduce the categories in YNAB so you're tracking stuff at a less detailed level, but if you've got your budget under control I'd suggest trying iBank (flashy but good) or Liquid Ledger (basic but good value for money) - or of course Jumsoft as fossil suggested.

V amused to have a blokey style of writing; I am, as Lisa Stansfield so memorably once sang, all woman. Oberon I have assumed is also female, although I have no evidence from his/her posts grin. I do work mainly with guys (as virtually all women in IT do!)

bitclueless Tue 24-Jan-12 23:59:41

Ha, knew as soon as I said it i'd be wrong about gender- but once on here I had a long 'conversation' with someone I assumed was a woman and wasn't, so now I try to work it out (without much succes clearly!)
Macs - we decided to convert for our home computer because we had a bit of money and needed to replace the pc, and I had fallen in love with my iPad and just wanted more....but I do find I don't really have enough time to learn new technology properly, which is frustrating - haven't really got to grips with iTunes even.
Anyway thanks for the tips. I'll have a look at the other things you suggest

tribpot Wed 25-Jan-12 10:50:20

I can't find the article I read when I first converted to a Mac but this looks like it might be quite useful - and you can always post in Geeky Stuff. It is frustrating - it took me a while to figure out in Liquid Ledger how to edit a budget line because the double-click and right-click options are just not the same as I was used to.

The integration with other Apple products like iPad and iPhone is fantastic though. You should have heard the amount of swearing when both DH and I had to upgrade our iPhones to the latest software, iOS 5. Mine was dead easy, plug it into iTunes, wait (a long time), et voila. DH has a Windows laptop with iTunes and it all sounded a lot more problematic. So keep going, you'll get there!

OberonTheHopeful Wed 25-Jan-12 22:44:01

bitclueless, I didn't realise that there was a blokey style of writing, but your instincts were correct. Perhaps I should select a different nickname.

tribpot Thu 26-Jan-12 06:20:57

Well Oberon I didn't realise anyway! Let me know what you think about YNAB when you get a chance.

UnimaginitiveDadThemedUsername Sun 29-Jan-12 09:01:42

I use Moneydance, having converted from MS Money.

Generally I like it, although I don't use it to its full potential. It can run on Mac, Windows and Linux and there is an iPhone app that synchronises with the desktop.

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