Appgen Moneydance 3.0

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Moneydance isn't a bad product. It's got a few glitches but nothing major.
  • Manufacturer: Appgen Business Software, Inc.

  • E-mail: sales@appgen.com

  • URL: http://www.appgen.com/

  • Price: $39.95 US (free Beta 3.0 tested)

  • Reviewer: Joseph Cheek

The brochure said “The first personal finance software is written completely in Java”, and also “Import and export QIF files, search detailed transactions, reconcile checkbook balance easily, print customized and standard reports and 3-D graphs, do XML imports and exports—just load the enclosed CD”.

I have wanted to track my personal finances on Linux, and thought this might be a good way to do it. I had tried GnuCash [see page 122 for details about this alternative] but found it not feature-rich enough for my tastes. This CD, which says it runs “on virtually any operating system from Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS X or OS/2, Sun Solaris, MacOS and Windows”, sounded good. I popped it in the CD-ROM drive to give it a whirl.

The CD label clearly states “Prerelease version, not for sale”. I'm not sure how prerelease this is, but I anticipate this will be very similar to the release version. The screen shows, “Moneydance 3.0-BETA (153)”.

Hmm. The CD root directory has several files that appear to be installers: install.bin, install.exe and install.sh, as well as Setup.kdelnk files. The Setup.kdelnk file looked promising, but I had a hard time clicking on it—no icon. Once I got it working, I was greeted with a text window with this message:

Mon Jan 22 15:21:47 PST 2001
Welcome to Moneydance install press return to continue

I pressed the Enter key.

using JVM: /mnt/cdrom/jvms/Linux_i386_jre_1.1.7v3.tar
Where would you like to install Moneydance?
(We recommend /opt/moneydance)
Ahh, this looked like a good spot to install. I pressed Enter again.
Where would you like to install Moneydance?
(We recommend /opt/moneydance)
Okay, I have to type it out. Fine, /opt/moneydance.

And the text window disappeared. I had expected something like, “Installing Moneydance, please wait”, or “Install completed, press Enter”, or “Install failed, you don't have enough permissions” or something. I got nothing.

Looking through Setup.kdelnk, I saw that it called the install.sh I had found on the CD but failed to call it with root permissions. Note to Appgen: adding X-KDE-SubstituteUID=true and X-KDE-Username=root will tell KDE2 to prompt for the root password and su before calling the script. Barring that, please add an error handler with a pause at the end so we can see the error messages the script creates.

So the install procedure becomes: pull up our xterm, su to root, and enter /mnt/cdrom/install.sh. Now Moneydance installed fine. Running it from a command prompt, I am shown:

This is an unregistered version of Moneydance.
To register please visit the following URL:
moneydance.net/purchase
Error: unable to initialize 1.1 https:
java.lang.ClassNotFoundException:
com.seanreilly.apps.moneydance.controller
HTTPS protocol handler NOT initialized!
on-line banking will not work.

On-line banking would have been cool. Oh, well. Next I am asked for my currency and am offered a choice of US, Australian or Canadian dollar; Brazilian Real; German Mark; Danish Krone; Euro; French Franc; British Pound; Italian Lira or Japanese Yen. The documentation sheet I was given adds that “Moneydance has been translated into French, German, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese”. This is certainly an international program.

The main window popped up (see Figure 1). It's pretty unencumbered. The current date and time, along with the current month's calendar, are at the top of the screen, and next come summaries of my accounts (none yet) with a big goose egg for my personal worth.

Figure 1. The Moneydance Main Screen

At the bottom of the screen are currency exchange rates for the 11 currencies Moneydance supports. I found a button that refreshes these from data on the Internet. The heading told me it would list stock prices too, if I had any. Now to find out how to add them.

Time to create some accounts. The account menu (see Figure 2) lets me choose a bank, credit card, investment, asset, liability, loan, expense or income account. I chose bank and clicked on Next. I was prompted for an account name, bank name, account and routing numbers, an initial balance and currency type.

Figure 2. The Account Detail Screen

Should I give this account a default category? The only category I had was listed with a diamond and labeled Expense. Sure, why not. Should this account be a child of another account? It gave “Root Account” as my only option. Okay. The last option was labeled “Check# items” and showed:

CkCrd
Dep
Trn
ATM
{Print}
<Next Check#>

I wasn't sure what the significance of this was. I could add new entries, shuffle the order of entries and delete entries from this list. I chose not to do any of these.

Back on the main screen (the “Home Page”, it tells me) I have a checking account with $0 in it. Clicking on it brings me to a detailed transaction window that lets me enter new transactions, reconcile my account, print checks, and set up on-line banking and bill payment (neither of which work yet). I can get graphs of my transactions also, but first I have to enter some.

Let's see...if I start with $100, I can pay myself $50, give $25 to Linux Journal and still have $25 left over. Can I get a graph now? Yes, of Expenses, Income, Income and Expenses or Account Balance, grouped by Day, Week, Month or Year. I clicked “Account Balance”, “Group By Day” and “Done”. Nothing. Try again—“Graph”, “Account Balance”, “Group By Day”...aha, the Done button is mislabeled. It should read “Cancel this action, I really didn't want to use all of the data I had entered”. The “Generate Graph” button means “show me the graph”.

The graph is a very pretty but a slightly unsettling “V” in a large window. While the V was very nice, and told me Account Balance: checking ??details?? whenever I hovered the mouse pointer over it, the high balance of $150 (after a few more transactions) was at the extreme top of the screen, and the low balance of $111.98 was at the extreme bottom. In vain I tried to find a way to adjust the scale so that I could avoid making it look like I was dead broke with $111.98 in the bank. I settled with knowing that a dip of the graph to the very bottom of the screen doesn't mean I'm broke. Phew.

I could print or save this graph and toggle 3-D mode on and off. The print command appears to print standard PostScript to a printer (such as lp) in portrait or landscape mode with letter, legal, executive or A4 formats. Hmm, printing from Moneydance doesn't work to my remote LPRng printer. Ick.

I went back to the main window—er, “Home Page”—and checked the overview. I now had a bank account with $111.98! After reloading the exchange rates (they didn't change; it must not be real time) I decided to add a stock account. Account—>New—>Investment—>Next. To create an investment account, it wants the bank name and account number. Was this right? I wanted to track stocks, not a bank account. Cancel. Perhaps Account—>New—>Asset—>Next. Nope, that's not right. I guess investment was it.

Creating an investment account and clicking on it, showed me tabs labeled “Portfolio View”, “Register” and “Securities Detail”. This was what I wanted. On the right side of the window was an “Add Security” button. Enter the name, the symbol, the type (CD, Bond, Mutual or Stock), the price, the broker, the phone number and comments. I decided to track MSFT and RHAT.

In the securities detail screen I could buy, sell, track splits and show a history of the stock. I could download data points from Yahoo or add and remove them myself. Downloading from Yahoo, I saw that over the past few months RHAT has closed between 5 and 9.2. Performance was shown on a three-month scale with no option to adjust; the data points were no more granular than one every day or two. Good thing I'm not a day trader.

I told Moneydance that I had bought 100 shares of MSFT for $50 and sold them the same day for $70. Not a bad profit. It didn't even ask me which account I used to pay for them. They closed at $61, so after a few transactions I was a few thousand dollars richer. Wow, if only I could do that in real life.

The news button didn't show me anything; it would have been nice, but I really just wanted to create virtual wealth anyway. Back at the home page, I asked for another update on exchange rates and stock prices. Hmm, stock prices don't show up in the Stock Prices section. Clicking on MSFT again I notice it's gone down to $60.125. Moneydance's data points aren't granular enough to be good for making investment decisions; it's really just for tracking how well you did in the aftermath.

I now had a virtual net worth of $4500, due to some creative data entry and a good look at Moneydance. The only other option that interested me was the Budget Manager from the Tools menu. I could choose any expense account (for some reason, I now had three expense accounts, all labeled with a single diamond) and Moneydance would create a budget based on past transactions. While that is a handy feature, I couldn't find a way to edit the budget—I could only accept what it presented me with, and I couldn't create new budget categories—and the only time it was used was in one report, the Budget report.

What I really wanted was a way to assign transactions from my checking account to different categories and have the computer tell me how close I was getting to my monthly allotment of funds. Not so. Appgen, consider this a feature request for the next version please.

My thoughts: Moneydance isn't a bad product. It's got a few glitches but nothing major. It's stable and works well for what it's meant to do. I like it better than GnuCash, but GnuCash is free, and Moneydance isn't. Would I buy Moneydance? Not without a budget tracker.

The Good/The Bad

Joseph Cheek is a senior Linux consultant with the Professional Services Group in LinuxCare, Inc.'s Seattle office. He spends most of his free time playing with his wife and two daughters and working on Redmond Linux. He can be reached at joseph@linuxcare.com.

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