Moneydance 2011

Back in February of 2010 I replaced Quicken for Windows with Moneydance on the Mac.  Since then I’ve written briefly about SEE Finance and more recently about iBank 4.

As a Moneydance user it seemed only fitting to also talk about the latest Moneydance release, Moneydance 2011.  As I write this, version 2011 is currently in release candidate state.  Since release candidates are feature-frozen I don’t feel I’m jumping the gun by writing now.  Moneydance 2011 has been officially released and can be downloaded from here.

I’m going to assume that readers are already familiar with Moneydance 2010.  If not, you might want read the original article I wrote, or visit the developer’s website.  Having said that, I thought I’d mention some of what I consider to be the more salient improvements Moneydance 2011 brings to the table.

First off, the general look and feel of the software is the same; the interface has undergone only cosmetic changes.  The application is still written in Java and is still available for all three major OS platforms.  Moneydance still isn’t the prettiest software, but its strengths have been and continue to be functional in nature.

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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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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.)

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