After reviewing Cha-Ching a few weeks ago, I thought it was only fair to take a look at another popular financial application for the Mac: iBank. Although it doesn’t sport a cute piggy bank icon, iBank has an impressive feature set and an award-winning user interface design.
This review will provide an overview of the features offered by iBank, highlight how to import transactions, showcase a the graph functionality, and also explain how the application connects to MobileMe for backing up and accessing transactions on-the-go.
Importing & Transactions
One of the main barriers to using desktop financial management software is the need to manually import each transaction. iBank does everything possible to make this process simple. You can either connect directly to your bank for downloading transactions (if listed as a supported bank), or login through iBank’s integrated web browser to download a Microsoft Money or Quicken file for import.
Once downloaded, you can assign transactions to a category. These come with great looking high-resolution icons to make the whole process more enjoyable:
By default, iBank uses your native OS X system currency. However, you can easily add other currencies to iBank and assign them to your accounts as needed. Transferring between them will even download and use the latest exchange rates.
After all your financial data has been imported (you can go back as far as you’d like), iBank really comes into its own. A range of tools are available for running reports, forecasting, budgets, and tracking where all your money has disappeared to!
You can also deal with scheduled transactions, and iBank will alert you when they are due to be taken from (or sent to) your account. This functionality also connects to iCal.
Investments & Savings
If you have an investment portfolio, iBank can be particularly useful for calculating how your stocks, shares, bonds, mutual funds and indices are performing. The software connects to the internet to download share quote statistics and will tell you how much money you’ve made (or, more likely, lost) on a particular investment:
Graphs & Reporting
iBank has some pretty nifty functionality for graphing different types of transactions and analyzing your financial data. Particularly useful is the inclusion of standard reports such as cash flow, balance sheet, capital gains, and ROI reports. These can save a great deal of time for you or your accountant.
Although iBank states that charts are “beautiful”, I would really appreciate a few more options for adjusting the background color and removing the superfluous reflection underneath. The design of the charts feels a little out of place. I do, however, like the animation features – graphs spin and re-draw in an impressive fashion.
Budgeting support is also helpful, allowing you to set goals for your income and expenses over a specified time period. iBank can then monitor progress as you go along based on imported transactions. You can set multiple budgets for different goals (e.g. “spend no more than $50 on eating out this month”).
I was fascinated to discover that iBank has a set of fully configurable templates for you to print your own cheques directly from the app. Obviously you need to have the appropriate cheque templates, paper and equipment to do so.
MobileMe Integration & iPhone Syncing
The latest versions of iBank are starting to utilize MobileMe very effectively, both for allowing you to access information on-the-go, and for backing up data.
iBank can be set to automatically upload a backup of your database to MobileMe each time you launch the application. This is a great way to add peace of mind, especially when dealing with important financial information. It’s also possible to post your investment portfolios to your MobileMe account and check their performance from any web browser.
If you use an iPhone, a companion application is available through the App Store which can sync with iBank over Wi-Fi, MobileMe, or any other WebDAV server. It’s a full featured application both for viewing account data and entering new transactions.
iBank combines a robust feature set, simple interface and streamlined import process to create a very attractive financial application. At $59 it doesn’t come cheap, but is competitively priced for the functionality offered. My only gripe is with the presentation of charts and graphs which I believe could be more subtle (though that’s certainly personal preference).