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GnuCash review

Karl Wright
7 Aug 2009
Our Rating 
Free

Free, easy to use and lots of good features, making it better than some of its commercial rivals.

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Specifications

GnuCash is a free open-source accounts package.

We were reluctant to trust it with our money at first, but our cynicism was misplaced. Where we expected a confusing mess of bugs and cryptic command-line prompts, we found an elegant, easy-to-use program that gives its commercial rivals a real run for their money.

To our surprise, GnuCash comes with an excellent manual (available online), which is rare for an open-source program. When you first install the program, you run through a setup wizard, which allows you to choose your currency and, if you wish, to customise the default Chart of Accounts. The program's main screen shows the Chart of Accounts, with the relevant total next to each account.

To enter a transaction, click on the account you want to work with to open it. In the open account, enter the date of the transaction, the amount and the nominal account to which you wish to transfer the sum. When you hit Enter, both nominal accounts will be updated. Each account opens in its own tab, as does the Chart of Accounts. This makes it easy to check that your transactions have been recorded as you intended, and you can simply flick back and forth between tabs as you would in a web browser. Reconciling an account is easy. You can manually reconcile, checking off transactions against those on your bank or credit card statement.

There's support for online banking, but this feature relies on the HBCI online banking protocol, which is supported for the most part by German banks. Still, that's not too big a deal - you can always just download your statement as an OFX file. When you import your bank statement, GnuCash can automatically reconcile your account for you. You can correct any errors once the auto-reconciliation process is finished. The program comes with 40 ready-made reports, from a simple profit and loss report (called Income Statement, for some reason) to reports on cash flow, assets, liabilities and so on.

Unlike most of the programs here, GnuCash is a jack of all trades, suitable for use both in the home and in a small business. Like Quicken and MYOB, it comes with a customer database. This is good for two reasons. First, it allows you to run reports on individual customers to see how much you've made from them, how much they owe you and so on. Second, GnuCash comes with a built-in business workflow, so you can create estimates (jobs), assign them to customer accounts and match them to invoices and payments. This is important for businesses that want to run their accounts on an accrual rather than a cash basis.

We really liked GnuCash: it's easy to use, it's free and it has all the features most home users and many small businesses will ever need. Before you buy any commercial software, we recommend giving this software a trial.

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