Posted by: reformedmusings | September 27, 2008

Moneydance 2008 for Linux

As I said in this post, I’m trying to replace the few remaining Windows programs with native Linux ones. My Windows XP virtual machine still works fine, but that’s not the way I want to do business forever. I had been using Intuit’s Quicken for over a decade, but they show no interest in supporting Linux. So, it was time to look elsewhere.

I looked at free solutions like KMyMoney, which comes with the KDE desktop application set. It has a great interface, but doesn’t doesn’t directly support online banking/investing. It also doesn’t print checks. It can get data from your bank though another separate program and a plug-in, but that’s too long of a logistics chain to be reliable. A change in just one program in the chain can unplug you from your bank. Not a good situation for a mission-critical function.

I decided to try KMyMoney anyway. Right from the start, I had problems importing my QIF data file from Quicken into KMyMoney. I made several attempts using their directions, but never succeeded. Without these features, KMyMoney isn’t really a serious financial program for my normal use.

I took a look at GnuCash. Although it does print checks, it didn’t support online banking, either. It is also Gnome-based rather than KDE. So, it was another non-starter.

I had tried to install Moneydance over a year ago, but could never get it to work. Thanks to help from online forums, I was finally able to get Moneydance up and running recently as I documented in this post. It wasn’t Moneydance’s fault, but a Java configuration issue. Unfortunately, the fonts in the Open Source Java look terrible on my system for some reason that I haven’t yet been able to discern. The choice seems to be between crummy screen fonts but be able to print, or have nice screen fonts with Sun Java but no printing. I chose printing.

For purists, I must point out that Moneydance 2008 isn’t free. OTOH, it only costs $39.99, which I think is very reasonable for what it does. Even better, the trial version is fully functional. The only limit is the ability to create only 30 100 new transactions. For online bankers like myself, it could be months before I enter 30 transactions by hand. Downloaded/online transactions count against the limit. That provides an outstanding chance to see if the program will do everything that one needs. However, the folks who cling unwaveringly to the Four Software Freedoms won’t like the EULA or the price. Doesn’t bother me, though.

So how well does Moneydance 2008 work? Great. I exported my Quicken data, bank accounts and investments, to a QIF file. I then imported that QIF file into Moneydance. At first I got greedy and tried to import about a decade worth of data, but that didn’t go well. I think that this was because some old accounts were no longer used and left some garbage in the database. So, I backed off and imported two years worth. That worked much better. I still had to clean up some links to closed accounts, but it didn’t take long. Nothing like the problems I encountered in other programs. Everything transferred, including categories and memorized transactions. Test one complete.

After cleaning up the basic accounts, I next set up the online portion. This proved incredibly simple and worked immediately. All of my accounts updated perfectly. Existing items were matched, new ones added. Categories were preserved for existing items. No duplications. Very nice. Test 2 complete.

Next requirement was check printing. Moneydance supports standard checks, wallet checks (it calls them “checks with stubs”), and voucher checks. The default setup was pretty close on my wallet computer checks, including the information on the check stubs. It only took a few minutes of tweaking to get the lineup perfect, a must for a Type A like me. No problems with the check printing at all. Test 3 complete.

The overall design of Moneydance follows the checkbook metaphor that almost all personal finance programs use. If you’ve used Quicken, Moneydance will come naturally. I can’t speak for MS Money, but I assume that it’s similar. The program seems rock solid and pretty quick. Moneydance supports three platforms–Linux, Windows, and Mac–so that you can trade data around your house with ease. you can view the Moneydance screens for Mac or Windows starting here. The Linux ones are not on their site, but are close to the Mac ones.

You can read about all of Moneydance 2008’s features on their website as well. As a teaser, in addition to basic finance like reconciliation, online banking/investments/bill payments, and check printing, it does scheduling, budgeting, reporting/graphing, portfolio tracking, encryption, multiple currencies, and VAT/GST tracking. That’s more than I’ll ever use, but it’s there if you need it.

After using Moneydance 2008 for Linux for about a month, with regular online banking and check writing, I’ve concluded that this is the right solution for me. I haven’t used or updated Quicken in all that time, so that’s a good sign. Moneydance does everything that Quicken did for me, and does it natively in Linux. Although not free at $39.99 from their site, it is the only full-function personal finance program for Linux. Thumbs up from Bob!

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Responses

  1. […] up on the checkbook yesterday, and Moneydance notified me of the availability of a new version. I’ve been using Moneydance for a number of years to handle my finances in Linux. It works great and effortlessly downloads […]


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