Koku: A Fresh Approach to Personal Finance

In many ways it’s the holy grail of Mac apps. Apple has instilled an appreciation for the beautiful, the polished, and the carefully designed. And if there’s one part of our lives that screams out for an experience like that it’s money management.

I mean it makes sense, right? Computers are good with numbers, and people usually aren’t. Computers can be used to identify patterns and formulate projections, and people like to see patterns and projections. And on the Mac platform we should be able to get all of that lovely functionality wrapped up in an aesthetically pleasing package, right?

Well there’s a new contender that’s entered the fray: Koku. Making the rounds, Koku has attracted the attention of the Mac community. We’re all dying to know if someone new can build the type of financial monitoring app that we’ve all been looking for.

And so here we are. Let’s take a look at the areas that Koku excels in, and the spots where they need to do some work.

The Interface

An interface isn’t all about fashion. Just because there are polished pixels and fancy drop-shadows doesn’t mean the interface is well designed. It just means it’s stylish. The foundation that those styles are layered onto is even more important. Koku has chosen to forgo a personal “style” of user interface, sticking more to the subtlety that the default styling of OS X offers.

The Main Interface

The Main Interface

I like the UI. As subjective as that comment is, I felt like it’s a good place to start. The right-hand side of the window is the main view of your account information and transactions. The left-hand side of the view offers you options to change what you see in the right-hand view. You can change the account that you’re viewing, or enter into various report views which we’ll touch on later.

Koku also supports, and quite heavily encourages, tags as a way of organizing your transactions. We’ll get into that a little more later on too, but suffice it to say that you can access a list of all of your tags by clicking in the titlebar of the left view.

Accounts and Transactions

The real core of Koku is in the experience of viewing your accounts and inputting your transactions. If your bank or credit union is one of the ones supported by Koku, then you’ve got the best user experience you could hope for: Koku takes care of that for you. For the rest of us though, we’ll need that experience to be as frictionless as possible.

In the bottom left hand corner is a “+” button which reveals a dropdown, the first option of which is “New Account”. Now we have a two step process, the first asking us to choose the type of account that we’d like to create, and the second offering us options we can configure for that account.

Adding an Account

Adding an Account

I think this process could be streamlined a bit, perhaps merging the two steps into one slide-down window. Considering that the options can change depending on the type of account that’s being created, perhaps those options could be adjusted, with some nice animated effects, if it’s needed.

Transactions are initiated at the bottom of the page, in the main/right-hand view. The controls for working with them also live at the bottom of the window. Keyboard shortcuts are nicely implemented for adding transactions and such, for those who wish to get up to speed with Koku quickly.

Adding a Transaction

Adding a Transaction

Tags

Koku is based upon tags for organizing your transactions. You can apply multiple tags to individual transactions. Adding tags is straightforward, and built into the UI for adding a transaction. In fact, it’s probably harder to add a transaction without a tag than to add one with a tag.

Adding a Tag

Adding a Tag

I think this mindset really works well. Often times, tags can be cumbersome and complicated. But I think Koku has implemented the well, and they really make it much easier to come to grips with your financials. In fact, Koku has some more tricks up it’s proverbial sleeve when it comes to getting a better look at your financials. And tags are a pivotal part of it.

Reports

An important part of any good money management app would be tools to help you better understand where your money was spent, where your income came from, and how all that might look in the near future. In this area Koku doesn’t disappoint. Koku comes with three reports built-in: spending distribution, spending history, and a summary of your accounts.

Koku's Built-in Reports

Koku's Built-in Reports

All of these reports have beautiful animations baked in, showing off the portion of the report that you’re focusing in on at the moment. But it doesn’t stop there. Koku also offers you the ability to generate your own custom reports, based on the ones provided, so you can target certain areas of your financials with more scrutiny.

Conclusion

If you’re new to the Mac, or just to the world of personal finance apps, I whole-heartedly suggest that you give Koku a try. Their website offers a free trial download, so you can see for yourself whether or not the app would work for you, and your lifestyle.

While it may not be the flashiest app out there, I think Koku brings a well-executed feature set to the table, especially considering it’s currently in its current version. Hopefully the app and its developers will continue to invest in Koku’s development, so the app can help all of us understand how to invest ourselves.


Summary

Koku is a fresh approach to personal finance management that puts you in control!

8
  • http://www.heymonkeydesign.com Lenny Terenzi

    If Koku (or Squirrel) would implement split transactions. They would have me for life. There is no way to fully get accurate reporting without that feature.

  • http://samcater.com Sam Cater

    Got the free version, which offers only one financial account, but that is all I have.

    Good application for keeping track of cash flow, I recommend it :)

  • cjred

    Cool! but It will be better with an iOS version.

  • Juz

    So can anyone comment on if/how Koku (great name for us wizened old Shogun players!) handles:
    (1) automatic tagging of downloaded transactions?
    (2) balance projections based on future scheduled transactions?

    #1 especially is desperately important for any finance tracking app to get right.

    Moneywell is still the best overall on the Mac for my purposes by a fair way, so little friction day to day to use, but I always like to see where the competition is.

    Cheers.

    • Sushant

      MoneyWell is great, except that it has almost nothing for “analysing” expenses as opposed to “controlling” them. I would like to know how the intricacies of how (and how much) I have spent, and then maybe enforce how much I should spend. MoneyWell is simply the best for the enforcing part, I agree it beats everything including YNAB. For the analysis though I cannot find something better than Jumsoft’s Money, though it has taken a lot of flak for being buggy recently. CoinKeeper is also good (seriously!) but slow and mobile-only. I need multiple currency support. Does anyone know any better apps? (Mac)

  • http://www.davidhellmann.com David

    I downloaded the version from the website. it looks really good. but yes, an iOS App with a great Sync Solution and it was awesome. I love MoneyBook and Budgetbook but a System for iOS and Mac was that what i need :)

  • Chris

    I use YNAB ( http://www.ynab.com ) for all my finances and budgeting. Using the YNAB methods I’ve been able to pay off tons of debt, set up a reserve fund, and generally have far better control of my finances than ever before.

  • http://wannabgeek.com wannabgeek

    Nice first attempt but Squirrel is more elegant and functional. Squirrel also has an iPhone app with a Ipad version on the way.

    Like Koku the only feature missing is the ability to split transactions, though the developer has promised it is on its way.

  • http://dustindauncey.com Dustin Dauncey

    Koku is a great, stable application and I recommend it for anyone who needs basic financial management. Reports are solid and quick and tagging is great. The summary view is very useful.

    If you have a fairly complex financial situation or/and are in to investments, this may not be the app for you – yet.

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