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Linux by the numbers

When people switch from Windows to Linux, it seems that accounting software often remains one of the problems holding them back. Now they can add up the numbers and be Linux loyal at the same time.

When people switch from Windows to Linux, it seems that accounting software often remains one of the problems holding them back. Neither Intuit Quicken nor Microsoft Money, the market leaders in that category, provide Linux versions.

This void has kept many users from moving to Linux, and it forces others to keep at least one computer running Windows. And these are people who want to switch to Linux.

Luckily, Linux application developers have risen to the challenge. If you are a Quicken or Money user, then these alternatives are well worth checking out for your personal accounting needs.

For accounting programs, important features include support for OFX–the Open Financial Exchange protocol used by many institutions for online banking–and the ability to import Quicken QIF files. Another useful protocol is HBCI, the German Home Banking Computer Information protocol.

Support for QIF files allows a Linux application to import data from both Quicken and Money, making the transition from Windows to Linux a lot easier.

The big three in the accounting realm–MoneyDance, GnuCash, and CheckBook Tracker–all support the QIF format. Let’s look at all three in turn.

MoneyDance 2003 is a commercial application that provides the most features of all these applications. It supports a number of options for visualizing your wealth, creating budgets, and scheduling payments. In addition, Moneydance runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux systems. You can download a free trial version, or purchase Moneydance 2003 for $29.99.

GnuCash provides a full-featured personal accounting package. Of the free applications, this one provides the most in the terms of features, including scheduled transactions, HBCI and OFX support, along with multicurency transactions.

CBT, or CheckBook Tracker, provides a small application designed for the GNOME desktop. One of CBT’s claims to fame is speed, with reports of performance ten times faster than that of Microsoft Money.

Unlike the other applications, AccWhizz provides a Web application. It’s based on the PHP Web scripting language, the Apache Web server and the MySQL or PostgreSQL databases.

Other applications include Gnofin, which hasn’t been updated since December 2000; CBB, or Checkbook Balancer, is one of the oldest accounting packages for Linux and UNIX systems.

Like Gnofin, this project appears dormant, with the latest release in August, 2001. EuroBudget, JMoney and JGnash are all written in Java, so like Moneydance, they support multiple operating systems. EMMA, or Easy Money Management and the KDE program KBudget provide more alternatives.

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