If you’re a sole proprietor, a small start-up, a non-profit organization, or just someone who wants to keep better track of their personal finances, you may want to check out GnuCash. A free open-source project, GnuCash is a full-bodied accounting software.
Originally launched in 1998, it was initially developed as an alternative to Intuit’s Quicken, while including some small business accounting features as well. Compatible with Linux, Windows and Os X, it has received nearly 3 million downloads since 2007. Its latest version, 2.6.11, which included updates and bug fixes, was just released in January 2016.
A Brief Overview of Business Features
Invoicing: GnuCash allows you to create and print customized invoices for your business.
Check Printing: With this feature, you can print standard checks or develop a more customized layout.
Scheduled Transactions: GnuCash allows you to set up routine transactions for set amounts, while still being flexible enough for you to make changes or postponements.
Payroll Management: With Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable options, you can use GnuCash for light payroll activities.
Reports/Graphs: GnuCash can express your data in bar graphs, pie charts and scatter plots. It also comes with a variety of customizable reports, like balance and profit and loss sheets. You can also use GnuCash to have employees fill out expense reports.
Multiple Currencies: GnuCash is not only compatible with the American Dollar. You can use GnuCash with a variety of currencies, and with more than one currency at once.
Exportation Options: Come tax season, you can export all your data from GnuCash into your favorite tax preparation software.
A Brief Overview of Personal Features
Mortgage & Loan Repayment: GnuCash can help you set up payment plans, not just for business loans, but for things like personal loans, student loans, auto loans even your mortgage.
Budget: In addition to managing your company’s finances, you can balance your own budget too using GnuCash’s checkbook style register.
Stock Management: GnuCash has a feature that lets you track and receive quotes from stocks and mutual funds, making automatic updates to your portfolios based on data retrieved from websites.
Pros to Using GnuCash
It’s Free: One of GnuCash’s most obvious benefits is its price. Commercial accounting software can cost several hundred dollars, and while that may not be much for a large or even medium-sized business, it’s often beyond what a small-startup budget can handle. GnuCash offers a robust set of accounting features absolutely free.
It Uses Double-Entry Bookkeeping: Another one of GnuCash’s biggest draws is that it uses what’s known as “double-entry bookkeeping.” If you’re not already familiar with accounting software or accounting practices in general, this essentially means that for every action, there’s an equivalent action.
If you obtain $2,000 from a business loan, you’re also obtaining $2,000 in debt. You’re constantly balancing equations by making adjustments in two accounts. This method is known to reduce the likelihood of errors.
It’s User-Friendly: GnuCash is a user-friendly software. If you’ve used accounting programs before, you should have no trouble with setup or navigation. GnuCash also provides a number of ways you can receive assistance.
In addition to the daily tips provided within the software itself, you’ll find helpful guides, a tutorial, and an extremely thorough FAQ section on their website. You can also subscribe to their mailing list which is said to be informative for users and developers alike.
Cons to Using GnuCash
It’s Not Beginner-Friendly: While GnuCash may be user-friendly, it’s not exactly beginner-friendly. If you don’t have experience with accounting software or much knowledge of accounting in general, it may take a while to learn all of this program’s ins and outs. With that being said, it’s definitely not impossible to pick up. If you find that GnuCash’s helpful resources are going a bit over your head, there are videos on YouTube that cover the GnuCash basics.
It Can Be Outgrown: GnuCash makes it clear on its website that the software is meant for individuals, small businesses, and potentially some small-scale non-profit organizations. Anything larger will likely have needs this software is unable to meet. So potentially, you could start using GnuCash and then within a few months or a few years, outgrow its capabilities and have to transport your data into some other accounting program.
Its Appearance Resembles Typical Accounting Software: If you’re looking for a fun, colorful accounting program that embodies your hip, modern company, this isn’t it. While GnuCash offers a clear format that’s certainly easy to navigate, and while the program functions well, it’s also about as dry bones as you can get.
What Customers Are Saying
Users have had generally positive reactions towards GnuCash. It’s been described as being powerful but also flexible and fairly customizable. Its users appreciate the amount of features they’re given for free and the fact that they can import their data from other accounting programs and across multiple devices; however, many of the software’s features aren’t as customizable as they are in commercial accounting programs. At least, not by the everyday entrepreneur or accounting professional. Customers point out that invoices in particular can be difficult to model to your company’s brand.
GnuCash has also recently come out with an Android app. Available on Google Play, it’s marketed as the desktop program’s “companion,” offering many of the same features, like income and expense accounts, scheduled transactions, and reports; however, the app is capable of standing on its own. You don’t necessarily need the desktop version to go with it.
Unfortunately, the app does not synchronize with the desktop version, so if you make changes to an account while you stop for breakfast in the morning, they will not show up on your computer that afternoon. You can, however, manually import the data so the information remains consistent across all devices.