Article from Issue 212/2018

Graham explores GnuCash 3, Kawaii-Player 3.3.1, tig, HandBrake 1.1.0, GameMode, XLEngine, and more!

Money manager

GnuCash 3

It's not and never has been the most exciting subject for most of us, but keeping on top of your personal finances is an essential life skill. Perhaps the most important part of that skill is looking into the box of your own (or your business') finances, and one great way of making that more interesting is to use some clever software to help take both the monotony and the complexity out of the problem. That all this has to do with money is perhaps why there isn't a great deal of open source software from which to choose, while there is a great deal of proprietary software and services that will offer to help for a fee. However, for many years, there has been GnuCash. While it's never been the easiest or most intuitive point of entry for taking back financial control, it's always been very capable, powerful, and free.

GnuCash uses something called double-entry bookkeeping to handle your finances. This approach doesn't have the immediacy or the simplicity of a modern commercial application. It basically means that you need to balance every transaction as you enter them into a ledger. Money comes in from one place and leaves from another, and two transactions (the double entry) are listed to show this flow of money. It has the advantage of acting a little like a checksum value as it stops you from making a mistake in one entry, because it won't balance with the second. It gives you great insight into how credits and debits flow through your accounts. However, double entry doesn't have the same autonomous approach taken by modern software or services, but that is definitely a good thing if you like control. GnuCash has always been comprehensive and capable of helping with tax returns and the complex mix of input and output, investments, and liabilities that most of us juggle. But until this release, it's always been consigned to the ancient era of Gtk+ user interfaces.

It's fitting then that this is a major milestone release with version number 3.0, because the main addition is the long-worked-on migration to GTK+ 3.0. This single update, brings all the niceties that we now take for granted in many modern Gnome applications, including its refined visuals and input control. But there are many other updates in addition to this. You can generate four new reports, for example, and the CSV importer that many of us rely on to sync GnuCash with our online bank statements now actually works. Regular expressions can be used to filter transactions, and prices can now have 18 characters of precision, if you need them. Small features like accounts being referred to internally using UUIDs rather than names and much improved chart rendering also help bring GnuCash into the 21st century. At the same time, GnuCash has received a rash of updates to keep the old application ticking over, so while there's no rush to perform the upgrade, if you've always been too cautious to trust your finances to an old Gnome application, now is the time to give the new version a go!

Project Website

1 Import data: Use clever Bayesian filters to import your bank's exported files or your own spreadsheets. 2 GTK+ 3: Everything looks so much nicer now that GnuCash has upgraded its back end. 3 Double entry: As ever, the key to using GnuCash is balancing your inputs and your outputs. 4 Tabbed views: Open as many different reports or account lists as you need. 5 Split transactions: Input and output can be split according to their source and destination. 6 Invoice generation: Use GnuCash to send invoices. 7 Calculators: GnuCash can work out details such as loan amounts and even tax payments.

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