Ubuntu Linux, Day 25: Tracking Personal Finances

30 Days With Ubuntu Linux: Day 25

Along with email, writing, Web surfing, and social networking, keeping track of my finances is one of the tasks I rely on my PC for, and that I need to figure out how to accomplish during my 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux. My experiment trying to get Quicken to work in Wine failed to deliver, so today I am looking at options in Ubuntu Linux to replace Quicken.

I opened up the Ubuntu Software Center and entered 'finance' as a search term. There were a total of six apps that came up in the results, but the two with the most ratings-each with an average of 4.5 stars-were GnuCash Finance Management, and KmyMoney. I installed them both.

Need a QIF

I need some way to manage my personal finances in Ubuntu Linux.
The first time I started GnuCash, it started with a wizard that asked if I wanted to set up new accounts from scratch, or import a QIF (Quicken Interchange Format)--a legacy file format formerly used by Intuit's Quicken software. When I opened up KmyMoney and clicked on File - Import QIF was also on the top of the list for file formats to import from (ironically, the second import source on the list was to import data from GnuCash).

Quicken 2011 doesn't use QIF files any more--the default format for downloading data from the Web is QFX. Both tools provide a means of importing a QFX file, but my bank doesn't seem to offer a way for me to just download the QFX file directly. The Quicken data stored on my PC is in QDF format, which neither program can import. So, I rebooted into Windows, opened Quicken, and exported my account and transaction details to a QIF file. Then, I rebooted back to Ubuntu Linux so I could import the file into the finance apps.


GnuCash asked a lot of questions during the import process. As it attempted to map accounts from the QIF file to accounts in GnuCash, or transaction categories to types in GnuCash, or payees from Quicken to payees in GnuCash I simply accepted whatever GnuCash suggested and clicked 'Forward' because I certainly don't have any better idea how to map those things out.

Once it completed, the GnuCash application began with all of my Quicken data imported. The main screen is a list of accounts. The problem is that GnuCash interpreted every payment category as an 'account', so I have an 'account' for clothing, and an 'account' for groceries. My actual accounts are on the list as well, though.

I can't tell offhand if that is a 'feature' of GnuCash, or an issue introduced by me not taking the time to tediously walk through the install process and do a better job of mapping things than what GnuCash did on its own. I will say, although it makes the default screen a bit of a mess, and makes it more difficult to find the real accounts, having a complete breakdown of each spending category available at the click of a mouse has its perks.

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