Not giving up on gnucash

Derrick Ashby daeroncs at
Sun Apr 24 22:35:36 EDT 2005

It was useful to see a comprehensive list of Rod's problems with gnucash
(his email of 24th April to Neil).  Of his 5 key issues, most are to do
with peripheral features of gnucash that I personally don't use.   I
have never tried to download data from a bank, the tax report is of no
interest to me, since I'm Australian not American  (It would be nice if
someone submitted some localising code for this, but I'm not holdng my
breath), and I've never tried to use the loan druid. That said, they are
obviously important to him.

My plea would be to not provide a facility to alter the display of the
credit/debit columns Rod's 2nd issue).  Comments I have read in the list
suggest that there is no defined standards with regard to financial
institution statements.  Having just checked statements I receive from 4
banks, I can report that credit card statements usually have a single
column, but that the bank account statements all have withdrawals on the
left and deposits on the right.  Rod is entirely correct in saying that
this is the opposite to the way that gnucash operates.  However, I am
not alone in holding the view that this is because the bank issues a
statement from its point of view, and gnucash operates from the user's
point of view.  Both views are in accordance with the correct accounting
standard, which is that Debit transactions are in the left column, and
Credit ones in the right - it's just that the bank views deposits by the
customer as credit transactions (they are a liability to the bank,
because they are money the bank owes you), wheras the customer should
view them as a debit, because they are an asset - money that the bank
owes them.  This is a struggle that a lot of people have with double
entry bookkeeping (including me), but gnucash helps by allowing you to
change the labels on the columns.  After a while it just stops being an
issue.  At the most I would say that it might be useful if gnucash
provided a single column "statement" view choice in the View->Style
submenu that operated on a single account window.  Going to a single
column style of data entry would be very confusing when it came to
entering splits. (And given the reality of GST, most of my transactions
turn into splits!)

When it comes to personal finance v. business finance, I was very
pleased to discover in gnucash a product that I could use for both.  If
you have no use for the "business" features, it isn't hard to not use
them.  I suppose providing a preference to hide the business menu would
not be hard, but why bother?  Mind you, I do use Accounts Payable in my
personal finances, because I use online banking to schedule payments of
bills for when they are due, and don't particularly like the option of
entering future dates in transactions in gnucash.

Gnucash isn't a perfect program: nobody would say that it is, but there
are no perfect programs.  It would be well to remember that Excel, for
example,  first appeared in 1985, and has since gone through numerous
major version upgrades, and has had countless man-years of programming
effort spent on it.  It's a pretty good program, and a much better
spreadsheet than the one provided by Open Office, which is still in
version 1.  If gnucash had received the resources provided for either
Excel or Open Office it would doubtless be a better program.  The effort
required to port gnucash to Gnome 2 is clearly extremely large, and
obviously reduces the amount of time that can be spent fixing bugs in
the existing code base, and there isn't much point in whinging about
minor problems that you might have with the existing version. 

With any piece of software there will be features you are unhappy with,
or things that don't appear to work.  If you decide that these make the
program unusable for you, then don't use the program. Don't assume,
though, that your issues are necessarily going to be earth-shattering
for anyone else.  If a program feature doesn't work as you expect it's
often useful to try and work out how the programmer intended you to use
it - what's obvious to him isn't always going to be obvious to the
user.  (It works the other way, though - programmers don't always do a
good job of looking at a problem from the user's point of view...)

No, I'm not giving up on gnucash.  Neither should you.


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