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I'm interested in switching to an open source checkbook program. I currently use Quicken and I'm interested in switching to GnuCash but I have usability concerns.

Does GnuCash have all the features I'm used to in Quicken? Any noticeable differences?

Is GnuCash easy to use? How does it compare in usability to Quicken or Microsoft Money? I'd like to switch, but it's worth paying for software that is easier to use.

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I'd be happy if it had less features :) Every time I fire up Quicken 2010 I find myself wishing I could bring back Quicken 98. –  Eric Petroelje Aug 4 '10 at 23:30
    
Related but focus only on open-source here. –  user1770 Mar 31 '11 at 13:36
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+1, I can't understand how Quicken continues to pull the antics it does without being labeled a monopoly. I will be very happy when there is a viable and open data export format supported by all US banks (and csv doesn't count). –  Mike Pennington Jun 18 '11 at 20:40
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4 Answers

I have not used Quicken; I've used GnuCash exclusively. It feels a bit rough with the UI:

  • Double-entry book keeping is a bit awkward; you wind up entering values twice, but the point of that is to reduce errors
  • Budgeting is a relatively new feature, and I haven't looked into it yet
  • You have to think of transfers among accounts, not categories or other fuzzy organization
  • It's been around a long time, and the UI isn't flashy, but functionality is what really matters
  • I suspect an Accounting 101 text would help me use GnuCash more effectively.

Balancing that, the data is stored in a gzip-compressed xml file. The compression is also optional, so you can save it as a plain xml file. This means that you have some hope of recovery if you wind up with a corrupted file. (And for programmer-types, you could keep it in source control for additional peace of mind.)

My wife and I have been using it for several years now, and has worked well for us.

LWN.net had a pair of Grumpy Editor reviews on personal finance software here and here which would be worth reading.

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Actually, for standard transfers (from one account to another), you only have to enter the value once. And you can define "categories" of a sort - just have parent accounts that have the "Placeholder" bit set. The XML has pros and cons - with a few years of data, mine is starting to really slow down. I'm looking forward to the alternate database backend that is currently in the works. –  Stephen Cleary Aug 6 '10 at 1:53
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"Double-entry book keeping is a bit awkward; you wind up entering values twice, but the point of that is to reduce errors" I don't understand this. GNUCash records it on both accounts, but you only enter it once. It's not about typos, its about "balancing the books". This bit of misinformation led me away from GNUCash for a number of years because I couldn't make sense of it. I now understand it's wrong. –  jldugger Jul 17 '11 at 17:15
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The best way to answer this question is to try. GnuCash is free, so setting it up and giving it a go shouldn't be too hard. After all, what really matters is how helpful the program is for your purposes.

One aspect of personal finance that stops me from jumping to GnuCash/KMyMoney/MoneyDance is the ability to download transactions from my financial institutions. Last time I checked, the process was somewhat involved and support was limited for a handful of banks. Because of that, I decided to stick with MS Money (and once Microsoft dropped the ball, with Quicken). I am sure things are better these days, but I am still not comfortable with trusting my finances to something new and unproven. I still remember how painful it was several years ago, when some bug in MS Money caused occasional mess-up of the reconciliation state for the American Express credit cards.

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It's been a long time since I've used MS Money and/or Quickbooks (never Quicken), but I've used GnuCash over the past year or so.

It works, but it does suffer from some usability problems. Some of the UI is clunky. Data entry sequences are a little harder than they should be. Reports could be a little prettier. But overall it does work, and it's the best I've found on linux.

(I would definitely appreciate pointers to something better.)

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Instead of gnucash i suggest you to use kmymoney. It's easier

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I do my budgeting on a windows machine which I think rules out kmymoney. –  Alex B Aug 12 '10 at 18:13
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