iBank 4

Recently I was contacted by IGG Software about a post I wrote back in early 2010 detailing my search to replace Quicken with a Mac equivalent.  Doug Bowman (formerly of Google and currently at Twitter) commented about my article on his Twitter feed.  I guess that generated a little buzz for a couple days.  In my original article I evaluated GnuCash, Moneywell, Moneydance, and iBank, eventually settling on Moneydance.  In that original comparison I used iBank 3, but the performance after importing my ten years of existing Quicken data was so poor that I couldn’t actually test the features.

When IGG contacted me, they informed me that they’d released version 4 of the software since then and that the performance had been improved drastically.  They asked if I’d take a look at their latest version.  I love personal finance software and I was interested in seeing the improvements, so I happily agreed.

The goal in my original article was to find a Mac-native replacement for Quicken.  As I mentioned I did that with Moneydance over a year ago.  Since that problem has already been solved I decided that this article should focus on two things:

  1. Answer the question of whether or not iBank is now capable of handling large amounts of data
  2. Finally review iBank to see if the important features are there

 

The short answer to question #1 is a resounding yes.

Continue reading “iBank 4”

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SEE Finance

SEE Finance 0.9.12.4

As I mentioned in my Moneydance review, this application was recommended via a reader comment.  I hadn’t heard about the application when I did my original review, but it was so good I decided I had to include here.  Ultimately I chose to stay with Moneydance, but SEE Finance was so good I gave it serious consideration.

SEE Finance is a relative newcomer to the Mac personal finance arena.  I didn’t spend significant time testing every nuance of the application, but during that testing I was able to determine that it met virtually all of my requirements.  SEE will handle any kind of account type I need, including investments.  It was fast; much, much faster than Moneywell, GNUCash, and iBank 3.  The only application that matched its speed was Moneydance.  It imported almost 11 years of financial data exported from a QIF file without choking.  The only accounts that had issues were some investment accounts where I’d transferred money.

SEE was very stable in my testing.  The application provides multiple overviews of your finances, with seven different types of standard reports.  These reports can be modified and saved.  Reporting is very capable, providing PDF output and some graphing.  SEE also provides budgeting capabilities, scheduled transactions and transaction filtering.  Downloading from certain financial institutions is supported.  Graphing is delivered in some areas, but I didn’t see a way to create custom graphs.  It also looks incredible, sporting a very attractive UI with none of the homely look that Java/Swing brings.

SEE is Mac-only, so if you’re looking for a cross-platform solution this will be a problem.  It doesn’t contain the concept of the homepage as Moneydance does either.  Personally I’m a pretty big fan of the Moneydance homepage; unlike the cluttered and overloaded homepage(s) Quicken provides, Moneydance’s homepage is a single page where I can include only what I need.  Moneydance places scheduled transactions in a list that I can include on my homepage.  I can also see them on a calendar, which is actually more useful than I had originally thought.  SEE Finance can also create recurring transactions but they’re presented in a list mode only.  Having these on a homepage is a personal preference, so I can’t really fault SEE Finance; they just have a different way of going about it.  Ultimately the functionality is still there.

Moneydance also includes some nice plugins (like Payoff!) that I didn’t see equivalents for in SEE Finance.  I’d imagine much of that could be found online so I doubt it’s a showstopper for most folks.  I also had a little trouble entering split transactions in SEE Finance.  It was a learning curve on my end, but I found Moneydance to be more intuitive in this area.  Not that data entry in Moneydance isn’t clunky at times, in this case Moneydance just seemed more intuitive.  One slightly annoying thing about data entry in SEE Finance is that auto complete doesn’t work with sub categories.  I have to choose them from a dropdown box with the mouse pointer every time.  My hope is that this will be resolved in future versions.

I found reporting to be a bit more customizable in Moneydance than in SEE.  Moneydance also provides customizable graphs in addition to customizable reports.  As far as I could tell SEE Fianance’s graphs are all canned and can’t be customized.  I have many, many customized reports and graphs in Moneydance, so this ended up being pretty important to me.  That said, SEE Finance is very capable of producing many useful reports, including most of the same reports I currently use in Moneydance.

The cross-platform nature of Moneydance has become more important to me now since that I have a Windows 7 netbook.  One license allows me to use it on the Mac, Windows, and Linux.  All versions use the exact same file (more than I can say for cross-platform versions of Quicken).  I can edit the file on Windows, then go home and work on the same file on my Mac (I use Dropbox to keep it in sync between computers – encrypting the file first, of course).

The version of SEE Finance I downloaded was a full version, hindered only by a nag screen on start up that goes away once you purchase the software.  This is a vary liberal evaluation policy that allowed ample time to use the software.  As of November 2010 the software was selling for $29.99; an incredibly good price for software with such an extensive feature set.  This software isn’t even to version 1.0 yet and it’s already much better than iBank 3 and Moneywell (in my experience, at least). [Update 7/12/2011: iBank 4 has significantly improved; I’d now consider it as good or better than SEE Finance]

At the time of this review SEE Finance was the closest runner to Moneydance in speed and feature set.  Although SEE Finance looks great and performs well, there are still several features that Moneydance brings to the table that I personally find very valuable.  I wasn’t compelled to switch from Moneydance, but if you’re a Mac user I’d recommend running both Moneydance and SEE Finance side by side for a while to see which one you like better.

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Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 on the Mac

This is really the only PC game I’ve ever really liked.  Turns out it runs great in Sun’s VirtualBox running Windows XP.  The only caveat is to turn off the mouse integration while playing; that way the right mouse clicks work properly.  Great to have this one back again.  This is the only thing I even keep Windows around for now.

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Turning Off Windows

When I decided to switch to the Mac one of the first things I did was create an application to application comparison matrix in order to ensure I could find an comparable Mac replacement for all my important Windows applications.  I found some great articles written by others who’d made the switch and that really helped in that process.  Now that I’ve had my Mac for a year and a half or so I’ve found replacements for virtually everything I had on Windows.  In order to help others who are making the switch to a Mac or maybe just looking for a Mac replacement for a Windows application they can’t seem to shake, I thought I’d put my cross-reference list here, albeit it in a very informal, unstructured manner (trying to avoid a boring list).  I’ve included links where possible.

My hope was that most of the apps I used on Windows would have a Mac port.  That way I wouldn’t have to learn something new and the learning curve would be shortened.  I’m not opposed to learning something new but switching everything over at once and having to relearn everything is a tall order and I wanted to be productive as quickly as possible.  Luckily many of the apps I used on Windows had Mac ports.  Firefox, for instance, is available for both (as well as Linux).  I used Safari for a while but ended up going back to the comfort and familiarity of Firefox.  Unfortunately the default theme for Mac Firefox is kinda ugly, in my opinion.  I use the Silvermel theme and it both looks and works great.  There’s also Opera and Camino, as well as a slew of other, more obscure browsers to choose from.  Most recently though I’ve been using  Google Chrome; it’s been lightening fast, incredibly stable, and has a great bookmark syncing feature.  It’s also available not only for the Mac but for Windows and Linux as well.  No matter which browser you go with giving up Internet Explorer will be incredibly satisfying. Continue reading “Turning Off Windows”

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Moneydance 2010

In the spring of 2010 I’d been a Quicken user for a little more than ten years (since 1999 to be exact).  In the summer of 2008 I made the switch from Windows to a Mac but I had to hang onto Windows XP for a couple applications for which I just couldn’t find Mac equivalents.  One of these two applications was Beyond Compare for which I finally found a suitable replacement in DeltaWalker.  The other was Quicken.  Quicken for Mac does exist but every review I’ve ever read about it is completely unfavorable.  I’ve never seen a product more universally panned.  It hasn’t been updated since version 2007 and the first proposed update since (Quicken Financial Life) had a fraction of the features of its Windows counterpart.  That initiative was scrapped by Intuit (generally read sentiments being that it was pretty terrible) and has since been tasked to a company Intuit recently purchased called Mint.com.  That product at the time of this writing is called Quicken Essentials for Mac (the title really a euphemism meaning fewer features for the same price).  It’s still pretty lame in comparison to its Windows counterpart, so much that I’m not willing to spend $60 on it only to likely have to request a refund (since I can’t seem to get a trial version).

So after having the Mac for about a year and a half I went on the search once again for a suitable Quicken replacement for the Mac.  There were more players than I had originally thought but most of them did not have a comparable feature set to Quicken.  After doing some research I ended up settling on four possible replacements; iBank, GnuCash, Moneywell, and Moneydance.  What I found is that I experienced such poor performance on many of the replacement solutions I was unable to test most of these “feature by feature”.  All of the other applications had problems of varying degree importing my Quicken data as well.  Instead this is more of a review of Moneydance than anything else.  For more extensive reviews on multiple personal finance products click here.

(I’ve added an addendum review to include a short review on a Mac personal finance application called SEE Fiance after it was recommended in a comment below by Robert Tell.  I’ve also added a follow up review on iBank 4.)

Continue reading “Moneydance 2010”

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DeltaWalker

DeltaWalker Folder Comparison Window
DeltaWalker Folder Comparison Window

Before I switched from Windows to a Mac I did a lot of research.  One of the things I spent a considerable amount of time on was software.  Could I find Mac equivalents for most, if not all, of my Windows software?  I found that I could find a Mac equivalent for almost everything, save for a couple programs.  One of those programs was a little file/folder comparison and sync utility called Beyond Compare.  Believe it or not, this was almost a show-stopper for me because I literally use this program every day.  I bought it back in 2005 for $30 and have been using it constantly ever since.  I had been certain that a comparable program for the Mac would be easy to find but it just wasn’t.  (I’ll refrain from using a bad “it must really be Beyond Compare” pun.)

So I compromised with a workaround; run Beyond Compare in a virtual machine and set all non-Windows local directories up as network shares.  This works, but it means that I’m still dependent on opening Windows XP every time I need to sync directories.  Every three months or so I’d check back again to see if Beyond Compare had been ported to the Mac or if a comparable competing product had been released.  After a year and a half, I finally found that product. Continue reading “DeltaWalker”

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The Mac Switch Six Months In

It’s been about six months now since I made the switch over to a Mac.  The honeymoon period is over and I’m happy to say that I’m still very, very pleased with my purchase.

One of the things I really like about it is that it’s so well-designed.  I’ve really gotten on board with the integration that Apple has provided between the Apple-developed apps.  In fact, some of the other apps have hooks into OSX for various functionality.  I even switched over to Safari about a month ago.  The switch from Firefox to Safari wasn’t because I didn’t like Firefox; it was mainly to capitalize on the integration with OSX and also with the iPhone I plan to buy soon.  Safari is good; I really didn’t feel any pain from the switch.

Another aspect of the design that I really appreciate is the all-in-one nature of the iMac.  There are really not any user-serviceable parts (aside from memory) with the iMac but the compact design means that my office is free and clear of clutter.  I have a single machine sitting on a small desk in a small room.  Nothing on the floor and minimal wires and cords snaking down the back of the desk.  What’s even better is that this machine is powerful enough to run both Windows and Linux in as virtual machines.  In the past I had multiple boxes sitting on the floor of my office taking up space and making an awful racket.  Now I have a single, silent machine running OSX for my day-to-day work and running Windows and Linux as if they were just applications.  Zero physical footprint in my office for both of these operating systems.  I’m smitten with the concept. Continue reading “The Mac Switch Six Months In”

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The iMac’s Mouse Acceleration Curve Sucks

I love my iMac.  I’ve written about that in the past.  I still love my iMac.  However, something just didn’t feel right about the mouse.  At first I thought it was just getting used to a new computer so I gave it some time.  (Of course I use Linux and didn’t have the problem.) Then I thought it might just be the wireless Mighty Mouse’s weight or drag across the desk.  So I put the mouse pad back which didn’t make a difference.  I also removed one of the batteries to make it lighter.  None of this helped.  Then I thought it might just be the Apple Mighty Mouse itself.  I replaced it with another mouse I had at home, then with another.  No luck.  My arm and my wrist began to hurt.  I felt like I had a depth perception problem or I was just crazy.

After about two months I finally just looked on Google.  I searched on something vague, like the mouse didn’t feel right or something like that.  Lo and behold the answer to my question was there; it was the mouse acceleration curve.

Turns out, somewhere along the line between Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X 10.5 Apple decided to quietly change the acceleration curve on the Mac.  The result is an acceleration cliff; the mouse moves quickly and then, right before the target it slows down…to a crawl.  Normally the mouse would slow down incrementally, gradually, allowing the person to place the pointer directly on the target.  Once the mouse slows down it creeps across the screen.  This was causing me to overcompensate and making my arm ache after a while. Continue reading “The iMac’s Mouse Acceleration Curve Sucks”

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Mac Conversion

I finally pulled the trigger; I’m now a Mac user. About a year ago Traci’s laptop’s video card mysteriously died so we bought her a replacement desktop computer. We were tight on cash so we bought a low-end Dell running Vista. I’ve lamented since then on my frustrations and disappointments with Vista and Traci absolutely despised it. It was then I began to think once again seriously of moving to Linux and avoiding an upgrade to Vista, but I found that Linux still just wasn’t quite there on the desktop yet. It was closer than it had been in the past but still not what I needed.

As a result I decided to take another look at the Mac. It had been a few years and since then OSX had been released and the prices had dropped some. Long story short, I began to think seriously about a Mac and began researching what it would take to switch from Windows. I found that it was easier than ever to make the switch.

So after about a year of Vista Traci finally had had enough. We decided to pull the trigger about two weeks ago on a new iMac for her. We received it on a Friday and had her completely moved over to the Mac by Sunday morning. After spending the weekend with her Mac I decided it was time to make the switch myself and ordered mine. Continue reading “Mac Conversion”

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Why A Mac?

So, why a Mac? Well, I’ve done a fair amount of thinking about this decision and have come to a few conclusions. I need to upgrade within the next two years. My current box, although still quite snappy, will continually become slower and slower as software and operating systems (Vista, in particular) become more processor and memory intensive.

First of all, I had to consider my options. I have three options really; Windows, Mac, or Linux. I know there are other operating systems out there but for my personal machine at home none of the other options make sense. Given these three options I first needed to identify what I really wanted. Part of me, at least the non-conformist in me, wants to buck Microsoft completely. Sorry to disappoint all you Linux apologists out there but Microsoft is and will continue to be a major force in the computing world for some time to come. There is no escaping Microsoft completely, especially if you’re coming from a Windows world and have already come to use some Windows-only software. Continue reading “Why A Mac?”

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