Money: Finances and Banking on Your Mac

For a long time, I have been a very happy user of Microsoft Money. Since making the switch to a Mac, I’ve played the field, but still haven’t found a money management application that really meets my needs (or is fun enough to keep me coming back). There’s no going back – Microsoft announced last year that they would no longer be marketing Money, and they’re planning to stop support for it in January 2011.

The Mac programs I have tried include MoneyDance (very nice, and capable, but doesn’t really look like a Mac app), Cha-Ching (pretty, but simplistic and superficial), and iCompta (the quiet little guy at the back of the class, powerful and easy to use). The application I’ve used longest is iBank; having won several awards, it’s an excellent application. But I’m still not entirely satisfied.

I’ve known of Jumsoft’s Money for several years, and now and then given it a brief try, but never in much depth. Recently, I decided I really ought have a proper look at it – read on to see my conclusions.

Getting Started

My needs are quite simple: I have no investments, so I really just need a good register to keep track of what comes in and what goes out. Since reading ‘Your Money or Your Life‘ a few years back, I’ve kept track of every penny I spend, so being able to track things on the go is a plus.

If you’ve used any other personal finance application, getting going with Money will be straightforward – just export your data from your current app and import it into Money, which works with QIF, OFX, QFX, and CSV data files. If you have a single file containing all your transactions across multiple accounts , Money will separate them out on importing, and you’ll be left with a window looking something like this:

The Interface

The Interface

That might look a little cluttered one first glance, but really it’s pretty clear once you know what you’re looking at. Down the left hand side is the list of accounts and the Library, which includes Reports and a Manage section that allows you to keep track of recurring transactions, your Portfolio, and Invoices. At bottom left is a panel that lets you focus in on lists of your Payees, Banks, Categories and Inventory.

If you’ve not used a finance app previously, you can add new accounts by clicking on the + icon at the bottom left corner of the window, which lets you enter account details.

New Account

New Account

Automatic Import?

Money doesn’t have the automatic transaction downloading magic that iBank and many other finance apps do, though you can create a WebBank. This basically routes you to your institution’s website in a built-in browser so that you can download statement data and import it into your account in Money.

That lack of automatic downloading and importing transactions might be a deal-breaker for some, but I live in the UK, and as far as I know there is no UK bank that allows this anyway. Once you’ve downloaded your transactions, Money will bring up an import dialogue that lets you choose which account they should be added to.

Importing

Importing

Working With Money

The bulk of Money’s window is taken up with your transactions. These can be displayed in list form, as in the top screenshot, or in Cover Flow or Category views. You can see in the screenshot below that Jumsoft have included some very nice grid icons for different categories – and you’ll notice that this doesn’t look as good if you’re mostly using custom categories:

Transaction Types

Transaction Types

It is, though, easy to customise these icons if you care enough: just switch to Category view, select whichever you want to edit, and then hit Cmd+I, and you’ll see an edit screen from which you can change various aspects of the category.

Edit a Category

Edit a Category

My sense is that Cover Flow mode is more of a gimmick than a useful feature – it doesn’t add anything to the way your data is displayed, but some might find it easier to view the information in this more visual way.

CoverFlow

CoverFlow

To edit a transaction, you need to double-click it or use the Cmd+I keyboard shortcut. If the transaction’s already been reconciled, you’ll be asked if you really want to edit it, and if you answer yes, an editing panel drops down, as below. In-line editing would be quicker, but I find that I quite like this interface, mostly because it lets you really focus in on that particular transaction.

Edit a Category

Edit a Category

As well as the list of commands at the bottom of the main window – ‘Add’, ‘Edit’, ‘Flag’ and so on – there are also a number of keyboard shortcuts available.

The Bills section allows you to set up recurring transactions – again, clicking on ‘Add’ from this window, or hitting Cmd+N, drops down a panel in which you can enter details of the transaction, establishing its frequency and all the other details. This is useful for putting your finances on auto-pilot, especially as regards those regular, predictable payments and receipts.

Schedule a Transaction

Schedule a Transaction

Money has pretty good invoicing capability built-in. Switch to the Invoices section, click ‘Add’, and you’ll go through a familiar procedure to build a new invoice. Click on ‘Layouts’ and you’ll open an editor that lets you change just about everything you might want on your invoices:

Invoice Template

Invoice Template

The inclusion of this functionality is great and unexpected – it makes it possible to keep all your financial transactions in one place if you wish, though many will prefer having a dedicated time-tracking and invoicing app, like On the Job or Billings.

Money’s investment tracking seems quite straightforward. It provides clear graphing of value over time, as well as giving a snapshot of Market Indices. Though I dug around on the developer’s website, and checked in the manual and quick-start guide, I wasn’t able to work out where Money gets its data – and this might have implications for users in different locations.

Your Share Portfolio

Your Share Portfolio

Money can produce several good, customisable reports. These are very much oriented towards printing – you can open a report immediately in Preview, or email it quickly by clicking on the Email button, which will save it as a PDF and attach it to a blank email in Mail.app.

I prefer the interactive reports available in iBank, though I can see the usefulness in being so easily able to export and send your reporting – especially come tax time, if you need to pass on your figures to your financial adviser.

Finances On-The-Go

Jumsoft has released a companion iPhone app for Money, available free on the App Store. With simple Wi-Fi sync, this allows you to take your money tracking on the road.

I found the app too slow to really be workable on my first generation iPhone, especially when it comes to generating reports – I’ve waited about 30 seconds for a report to compile. That said, the reporting that is available is powerful and convenient, so sometimes I’m sure it would be worth the wait.

I quite like the stylised design, and the way that it displays each day’s transactions separately:

iPhone Application

iPhone Application

But where the app really struggles for me is in the steps required for adding new transactions – it just feels too slow and bitty. I emphasise ‘feels’ because I can’t be certain that it actually is slower than iBank on my iPhone, but the process of entering a new transaction feels less straightforward.

Whereas iBank’s iPhone interface has a great big + dominating the display, and then you choose the account you want to add to, in Money you need to select the account first, then tap the + to add your transaction, then add various bits of detail, before you get to keying in the value…

In Conclusion

As a basic financial register, Money has a lot to recommend. It’s not as powerful as iBank or Microsoft Money, but if you’re looking for simple, and in some aspects quite elegant, tracking of your spending, it’s certainly worth a look. One other consideration might be that it is significantly cheaper than iBank ($39 against $59).

I’m unlikely to be swapping, though – mostly because of iBank’s interactive reporting on the desktop, but also because iBank’s iPhone app, while imperfect, has a better user interface and more attention paid to the experience of working with its various functions.


Summary

As a basic financial register, Money has a lot to recommend. It's not as powerful as iBank or Microsoft Money, but if you're looking for simple - and in some aspects quite elegant - tracking of your spending, it's certainly worth a look.

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