Quicken to GnuCash: Choosing a Linux Financial Management Application

I finally made the move from Quicken on Windows to GnuCash on Linux. This is a big deal because Quicken was the only Windows application I still used regularly. Quicken is the only reason I keep a Windows PC in my office, in other words. I know there are a ton of fellow Linux users like me who keep Microsoft Windows around solely to use Quicken.  So for those who want to completely cut the cord from Windows I decided to share my transition to GnuCash, covering both the highs and lows, though thus far it's been all good.

I had originally planned for this initial post to describe how to import Quicken accounts into GnuCash, but then I thought that it would be best to review the Linux Financial Management options out there and tell you why I chose GnuCash.

Before getting started, here's an excellent comparison of accounting software on Wikipedia. Also, here is an interesting Ubuntu Forums discussion on Quicken substitutes that covers most options.

Personal Finance application choices for Linux Users include:

  1. Grisbi – Available in the Linux Mint Software Manager
  2. HomeBank – Software Manager install
  3. KMyMoney – Software Manager install
  4. MoneyDance – Wine Commercial Application. $49.00
  5. Skrooge – Software Manager install
  6. jGnash – Java application
  7. GnuCash – Software Manager install, though command line preferred

This is not a complete list, I realize, just what I looked at and in most cases actually loaded on my Linux machine.

I didn't try MoneyDance. It looks good, but when I have a choice between a Wine app or a Linux native app (GnuCash is written in C), I always go with a native application.

A lot of people like HomeBank. I found it a bit simplistic and not very Quicken-like. It also had a huge deal breaker in the inability to print reports other than by screen capture.

Applications like KMyMoney and Skrooge are KDE-based so a ton of support libraries are required for Cinnamon Guys like me (at least for KMyMoney. Don't remember with Skrooge.) I installed both, along with all of the supporting libraries, but didn't care for the look-n-feel of either. Also, you guessed it, neither were very Quickenny.

jGnash is a Java application which I installed but didn't spend much time with. Most Java desktop apps have that distinctive, um, butt-ugly look to me, mostly due to font rendering. If there is ever ANY alternative to a Java desktop application I'll take it. A good looking UI is important. There weren't any features in it that I found compelling anyway.

GnuCash it is then! GnuCash does everything I want it to do and is the closest to the Quicken experience that I've found, particularly in its checkbook ledger display and inline entry support. A strength of GnuCash that even Common Joes like me need in a Personal Finance Manager is the ability to create year-end reports at tax time.  I created several reports and would suggest that my GnuCash reports are superior to those I created in Quicken. I think my Accountant will be very pleased.

Apart from being an excellent replacement for the Quicken experience, GnuCash, unlike several of its competitors, continues to be actively developed. That's an important issue to me. GnuCash is designed for businesses and CPA Types, so some like to say it's “heavy.” But hey, if you used Quicken for years, then you won't find anything heavy about GnuCash. I certainly don't.

Look for future posts on my Quicken-to-GnuCash experience. Hopefully they will convincingly validate my move to GnuCash and perhaps even inspire others to make the big switch and enjoy the life of All Linux All The Time.

Posted December 18, 2013 07:58 PM EST

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