Besides Ecco, Quicken is really the last app that I still need Windows for. (Quicken for the Mac is way inferior.) So I thought I’d finally figure out which of the Mac personal-finance contenders would best suit my needs: simple budget and expense tracking on several checking accounts and a credit card or two. All evidence pointed to iBank. I downloaded the program on free trial and checked it out. The register worked nicely, the interface was smooth, and it seemed like importing my 12 years’ worth of Quicken data could be accomplished. So I plunked down the not inconsiderable charge for the program, spent an hour or two figuring out how to avoid having transfers appear twice after the import, and thought I’d solved my problem.
Then I tried to create a report. And the program that had until that moment seemed well-built and -designed turned to sand between my fingers. Report? iBank basically says. What’s that? Oh, you have to create a chart and then you can generate a report? That seems silly — I don’t need a pie chart, it doesn’t tell me what I need to know, but if I have to pay the pie chart tax before I can get to my report, OK! I’ll make some pies! So finally I click the button to make a report and wait for the program to ask me some questions about, you know, which categories and dates and accounts I want to include in the report. But there is no dialogue box. The program grinds through its data and a minute later it spits out a clumsily formatted PDF. Wait a minute; I can customize the chart, and that should then change the report, right? But no, that would be too logical. Whatever I do to the chart, the report is still the same useless, largely unreadable junk.
This is a problem, because, really, the only point to the tedium of entering all these transactions is that at the end of the labor you can click a few buttons and actually gain some insight into where and how you are spending your money. iBank is like a financial-software roach motel: you can get your data in easily enough, but just try getting useful information out the other side!
My guess is that coding up a useful report generator must’ve fallen off the developers’ feature list somewhere along the way and keeps dropping off the upgrades list. Obviously I’m hugely disappointed, particularly since the trial version of iBank doesn’t let you enter more than a handful of transactions, so you never really have the chance to test out the report quality.
I think the next step is to give up on this category altogether and experiment with the online/cloud-based alternatives. Of the available choices, Wesabe, which I’ve begun playing with, and Mint appear to be the likeliest contenders. I’ll let you know how it goes, and welcome any tips and experiences you may have.
I’m not much for reporting features, but I quite like MoneyWell by No Thirst Software. I’ve found the developer to be very responsive to support requests, although he might be a bit busy at the moment since MoneyWell is part of the MacUpdate bundle. He’s also working on an iPhone version but it won’t come out until after iPhone OS 3.0.
I’ve used Wesabe and its much better with the recent redesign, but I still prefer desktop software.
I use Quicken on a Mac, and am now trying Mint. Which I like for its ease of data ingestion, if you will, but I don’t see anything yet that compares to the reports I can make with Quicken. Which is what I really want/need. Guess I will take a look at Wesabe next.
After becoming sorely annoyed with Mac Quicken, and after investigating several finance programs just like iBank to no avail, I finally settled on a nice little program called Prospects by Motimotion. http://www.motimotion.com/prospects/
I actually signed up for wesabe a year or so back, but ran into the same problem – after getting all my data in there, there wasn’t anything useful I could do with it. The reporting was feeble. It may have changed since then, but my experience wasn’t good.
The last time I looked at Mint, it appeared it doesn’t let you export your data, though its reporting is better. This too is not helpful.
I’m running Quicken on Windows 2000 ;-)
As is so often the case, the free software world has come up with an alternative: in this case, Gnucash. As is so often the case, the free alternative doesn’t attempt to hold your data hostage, or try to lock you in to their product. It also gives you 80% of the functionality of its commercial cousins, so think hard about how much you want that other 20%. It also gives you a bonus cornucopia of unpredictable configuration difficulties specific to the constellation of free software on your individual computer. Finally, it holds out the hope of being able to make improvements (better reports, say?) and contribute them back.
I watched Gnucash for a long time, and finally gave it a serious try a month ago in the hopes it would do better than Quicken for Mac in keeping books in two currencies, and downloading transactions from banks in all the new formats. It’s not bad on that front. But it’s not quite the satisfying alternative, that, say OpenOffice.org is.
I’m actually using Quicken Online. I just discovered it, it’s free, it’s really intuitive, and you get all kinds of lovely charts and graphs. Should run fine on Safari as well.
These are great suggestions, thanks. Here’s where I am now:
*I like Wesabe’s approach to categories the best but having trouble getting it to connect to my bank accounts
*Mint had a better time collecting my accounts, and it seems that it’s more flexible about categories these days, but: no cash accounts, you can’t manually enter transactions — that’s too bad.
*Prospects looks worth checking out, as does Moneywell.
*As far as I can see Quicken Online doesn’t let you use your own categories. If that’s true (Bryce? Anyone else?) then it’s a dealbreaker for me. I need my own categories!
Long time no see. I’d be happy to help you with the bank connection troubles you hit on Wesabe. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marc Hedlund, CEO, Wesabe
Marc — thanks — that’s a CEO who stands behind his product :-) I actually resolved the issues with suggestions from your support folks already. All my accounts now properly hooked up. So far I am pretty happy with Wesabe, though adjusting to any new system after 15 years with Quicken takes some work. More as I explore more…
Over on the Open Salon version of this blog Paul Collins points out that the report I sought *is* actually available in iBank — it’s just sort of hidden by the interface. This is good news and means I might give iBank another try. But in the meantime I’ve actually really gotten into a lot of the features of Wesabe. I’ll do a followup post soon.
Thanks for trying out iBank. I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t find it as intuitive as you’d hoped at first glance. As Paul likely pointed out, the reports are in fact customizable through the chart features – the only exception to this is that the standard “Cash Flow” report always covers a 12-month period (regardless of the chart’s ending date). The accounts, categories, date range, and currencies are all customizable within the chart interface, before you click the “Generate Report” button.
That said, we certainly appreciate the feedback on iBank’s reporting features. We are always open to constructive criticism from our users to help us improve the software. We have received a number of good suggestions for making the report features more user-friendly and look forward to working on this aspect of iBank for the next major upgrade.
I do hope you will give iBank another try! Don’t hesitate to ask if there is anything we can do for you.
IGG Software, LLC
I have labored many hours on putting the data into iBank, yet not a single report contains anything whatsoever…I studied the manual again and again, thinking that I might overlook something, no, neither version 3 or 4 generates a single useful report. I have never seen such a piece of trash as iBank, and I have been online since the very beginning in 93. What a wast of time. I don’t understand that such a company can even exist…
I agree a terrible program. I bought the first iteration of IBANK and you could not download your account transactions from many financial institutions, so I purchased IBANK 4. Now I can download the transactions, but can’t do anything with them. There is no way to view categories once you enter them, and the reports overwrite the categories you used or edited. I would not recommend it to anyone.
After purchasing IBank and finding that every time I closed it and reopened it a new set of data welcomed me. It was never what I had just finished reconciling. My Scheduled transactions disappeared time after time. I was in conversation with one of their specialists to fix the problem. She was unable to help me and we gave up. We wiped out the program and bought a new IMac. Thought the computer might have been the trouble. Installed IBank downloaded transactions from our financial institution. IBank had thrown entries from my credit cards into my checking account and entries from my checking account were just not there. I spent hours deleting inappropriate entries,entering all my new data (just dealing with one account). When my checking account was finally reconciled. I closed and backed up the program. When I reopened everything I had done was gone! All of the incongruous entries were back. I have never been so frustrated! What a huge piece of trash.