iBank 4: Ideal Mac Money Management

In my search for the ideal money management application, I keep coming back to iBank. I reviewed Jumsoft Money here on Mac.AppStorm a few months back, and mentioned a few other options I’ve tried. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect – there are important features that I can’t use, and others that I don’t make use of – but on the whole it’s been stable and easy to work with, and I’ve not yet found an alternative that beats it.

We reviewed the last version here a while back, but now IGG Software has released a major update, so it’s time to revisit iBank and let you know how it works and what you get for your money.

How It Looks

Between iBank 2 and iBank 3, the UI received a big polishing – between iBank 3 and iBank 4, the same has happened again. Overall, this is down to an effort to simplify and clarify the interface in the new release.

iBank Interface

iBank Interface

Some are not going to like the changes – perhaps it’ll feel like a dumbing-down – but I feel that information is easier to read and quicker to identify in this new form.

If you prefer a more visual display of your transactions, you can switch to a Cover Flow inspired version, though it’s hard to see how this will really make it easier to work with your figures:

CoverFlow seems a little superfluous...

CoverFlow seems a little superfluous...

Returning to the first screenshot, then, let’s walk through the main interface features. The window is divided into two main sections, a left-hand panel that includes a list of your Accounts and their associated websites, your Reports and Budgets, and a Manage section that lets you control things like your Categories, Securities, and Transaction Templates.

The Manage Section

The Manage Section

The up-and-down-pointing-arrows button in the bottom row toggles display of a Summary Panel, which can be switched between a Net Worth or a simple Summary of money you own and money you owe.

How It Works

Getting your information into iBank 4 is easy. The first time you run the app, it will offer to import from the Mac or Windows versions of Quicken, Microsoft Money, or other finance applications. The ability to import your data in QIF, OFX, and QFX formats means that you should be up and running quickly whatever app or service you’ve used previously.

iBank 4 can also directly connect to many institutions to import your statement data directly from your bank. Sadly, this is one of the features that I’ve not been able to use, since none of my account providers allow this access – users in the UK are likely to have a similar experience, since it appears very few, if any, institutions here offer this kind of service. Still, though I know direct access would be quicker and easier, I’ve managed to get by fine for several years without it.

A middle step between direct access and importing from statement data saved in QIF or another format is using iBank’s built-in browser to access your bank. Simply enter the URL in the account settings and then click on Web Download in the toolbar, and iBank will bring up the site and catch any statement downloads as they begin.

The In-Built Browser

The In-Built Browser

If you do have to resort to importing from QIF files, iBank makes the job easy. The import window lets you see which transactions are already logged (items in the screenshot below with a green tick icon are new), so it’s easy to avoid duplication:

Importing a QIF File

Importing a QIF File

Once you’re set up, adding new transactions is simple – just click on the + button at the bottom of your list and you can enter information directly. Personally, I mostly rely on the iOS app, which I’ve found to be very effective (despite recent issues with it running extremely slowly…), and I would say the easiest and best thought-through of all the apps I have tried in this genre.

Reporting

One of the areas improved in the new version of iBank is its reporting features. The app has always been strong here, but the new implementation makes things even easier and clearer.

Setting up a new report is straightforward – just hit the plus button at bottom-left and select ‘Add Report…’ and then set criteria and select from different types of report, and you’re done:

Creating a Report

Creating a Report

Reports are interactive, so clicking on a heading or a section of a pie-chart will let you view associated transactions.

Associated Report Details

Associated Report Details

Budgeting

One of the new features in this version of iBank is the introduction of ‘envelope’ budgeting. This approach to keeping a budget is quite popular, and there are apps and online services that are specifically designed to help keep track of things following this methodology. You can read simple introductions to the approach here and here.

Setting up a new budget in iBank 4 is straightforward: you begin by choosing a name, frequency, and which accounts are to be included in the budget, and then select from the income categories you have set up, set your desired spending for each of your outgoing categories, and establish starting sums for each category, and you’re set.

Straightforward Budgeting

Straightforward Budgeting

This is a very effective and proven approach to budgeting, and the implementation here is straightforward and clear. I’m hoping that the iOS app is updated soon to allow users to carry their budgets on the go.

Other Features

iBank 4 can also be used to track your investments:

Investment Tracking

Investment Tracking

This is not a feature that I have used, so I can’t assess how it compares to other applications. If you have experience of working with this aspect of iBank, please chime-in in the comments so we can hear how it’s worked for you.

Exporting from iBank 4 is nicely handled – just set the date range, the accounts you want to export from, choose the location for the file, and you’re done.

Export Away!

Export Away!

In Conclusion

iBank 4 is a good upgrade of an app that was already quite solid. At $59.99 it’s not exactly cheap (upgrade pricing is available), but for its ease of use and its excellent reporting features, it’s hard to beat. In my experience over the last two major upgrades, the app is reliable and meets my needs better than any other finance app I’ve tried.

What do you use to keep track of your spending? If you’ve tried iBank in this or previous versions, let us know how you’ve found it.


Summary

iBank 4 delivers a new standard for intuitive, full-featured personal finance software. Monitor account balances at a glance, track your investments, maintain budgets, and manage your credit cards, savings, checking and loans — all in an easy, powerful, familiar Mac interface.

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