At last. I’m free of Microsoft Money, and therefore very close to being free of all my old proprietary applications. I’ve settled on KMyMoney2 as a capable free-as-in-freedom bookkeeping replacement. It doesn’t do everything that I was able to do in Money, but I can live with that while hoping some of my “wants” find their way in to later versions. And in the meantime I appreciate the more streamlined look and feel of KMyMoney. It does the necessary tasks for me and doesn’t feel as heavy as Money. And it’s free. Did I mention that?
One obstacle in moving away from Money is the amount of data I have squirreled away in there. Twelve years worth, going back to 1995. I didn’t look forward to migrating all of that to GnuCash or KMyMoney (the two main candidates for this move). The solution turned out to be simple: let it go. Start out fresh with the new application. I’d recommend the same to you if you are in a similar position. The new year is a perfect time to make the cutover. Believe me, I’m as obsessive as anyone and enjoyed having all that data to crunch, but it has been quite liberating to let it go and start anew. I did end up importing several of my accounts into a separate KMyMoney file, however, to keep some of the historical record more easily at hand, and my notes on that process may help you if you’re trying to move your data over.
So: what follows are random observations on my experience making the switch and how the two applications compare in some areas. I’ll mention features I use and don’t use to hopefully give you an idea if KMyMoney may work for you. (Or, you can just start using the application. You’d probably have it set up in the time it takes to read this. It’s a long’un!)
What about GnuCash?
First, why not GnuCash? It’s arguably more established and feature-filled, and is a GNOME-based application, making it better integrated with my Ubuntu GNOME desktop. Whereas KMyMoney is one of those foreign KDE apps.
It’s easier to answer the GNOME vs. KDE question. I really don’t care much about that. I like GNOME, but I’ll use any KDE app over a native GNOME app if it suits my purposes. They’re both free desktops. Can’t we all just get along?
Other than that, GnuCash was my first choice, but I couldn’t get in to it. From everything I hear, I believe it is an excellent and powerful piece of software, but it just didn’t feel right to my MS Money-formed habits. Please don’t take it as an offense if you think GnuCash is the last word in free software finance; just dismiss me as someone too thick to get it, and who’s opinion is obviously worthless. :-)
I suspect GnuCash has many more features for business owners, but since I’m only managing my personal finances, I don’t miss that.
An example of something that really threw me is the apparent lack of “payee” handling. From MS Money, I’m used to thinking of things in terms of categories and payees, but I couldn’t see where GnuCash really managed payees as a separate entity. I’m guessing this is essentially handled, and you can go ahead and enlighten me if you wish, but I’m just telling you how it was for me. (And it’s too late to change now!)
I see that there is a Windows version of GnuCash, which may have swayed me a few years ago had it been available when I was looking for it. If you’re trying to use free software and haven’t managed to escape Windows’ gravitational pull yet, you might want to look at GnuCash. Every app that you have waiting for you on the other side is a bonus.
I’m guessing I could have found GnuHappiness with GnuCash, but there was the alternative to try…
KMyMoney First Thoughts
Why couldn’t they call it KMoney?! I’m not a big fan of the “My” prefix in software, and KMyMoney just looks and sounds awkward. But I quibble.
Once I made the decision to start fresh, it was very easy to start using My new finance program. If you’ve used Money or Quicken, you probably won’t have much trouble starting a new file in KMyMoney. It didn’t take long to set up all of my active accounts.
As mentioned, I like the organization of the application. It has a clean interface and it is fairly easy to navigate around and find things. It’s mostly straight-forward to accomplish routine tasks. I’ll mention some specific areas for improvement — in my opinion! — in the sections below.
I had thought to do parallel entry for at least a month in MS Money (which I’m running in WinXP in VirtualBox), but I’m so comfortable with KMyMoney’s feng shui after using it for a week that I’ve already stopped entering new transactions in Money.
All right! Let’s meander around some of the specific jobs we want to do in personal finance applications. No, wait. Before that:
A Note About Versions
I’m running Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) on my main desktop, and the version of KMyMoney I installed through Synaptic is 0.8.5. (Technically, it’s KMyMoney2, I think.) According to a mailing list announcement, this version was released in September 2006. I tried installing the latest .deb file and got a complaint about a KDE library dependency problem.
But that’s ok. 0.8.5 seems quite stable. Just keep in mind that I’m reporting on an older version and some of my lamentations might be addressed in later releases, although I also installed 0.8.7 (or 0.8.8?) on my Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon) laptop, and in my brief look so far it appears much the same.
(Also keep in mind that I might be crying about the lack of things that are doable today, but I just haven’t uncovered them yet. It’s early days yet.)
For MS Money, I’m using the 2004 Standard edition.
I like that payees have a prominent place in the scheme of things, with a button on the side toolbar. You can see your list of payees, edit the name and enter information about them, and see a list of all transactions for that payee, similar to how things work in MS Money. I’ll have more to say about payee reports in the reporting section below.
Classes / Classifications
It would be more logical to cover categories after payees, but I want to mention classes first because then I can talk about them in the categories section. MS Money allows you to define classes, which are sort of related to categories. One of the ways I use them is to track automobile expenses by individual car. Yes, I’m that compulsive. (I wrote up a little example in a previous post which illustrates the idea if you aren’t familiar with MS Money-style classifications.)
KMyMoney has nothing like this, so unfortunately I’ll have to do without. I can get by without it, but it was nice to have and I’ll miss it. I had thought maybe I could use them to track all of our child expenditures and then one day present our daughter with a bill.
Classes weren’t the easiest thing to catch on to in Money, and I didn’t use them for the first several years because I didn’t understand what they were or what they could do for me. A simpler tag scheme could be implemented in KMyMoney where you could apply one or more tags to each transaction (or split entry), but I’m sure this would be low on the priority list.
You can create nested categories to at least three levels (and probably more but I’ve only tried three so far). For example, you could have:
Food #category Food : Groceries #subcategory Food : Groceries : Meat #ocd subcategory
No, I’m not quite that compulsive about tracking food expenses! But I would like to track those individual automobile expenses, maybe like this:
Car : Gas : 1998 Saturn Car : Gas : 2001 Honda Car : Maintenance : 1998 Saturn Car : Maintenance : 2001 Honda
And then run reports to see consolidated numbers and by individual car, but it doesn’t seem to work that way. So again, alas, I’ll have to let the classifications from MS Money go.
You can’t delete a category in KMyMoney if there are transactions assigned to it. This may be a good thing and is probably some basic law of double-entry accounting physics, but you should be able to reassign transactions in a category to another. This is what MS Money gives you the opportunity to do when you want to delete a category.
In 12 years of using Money, my usage and habits changed frequently, and I moved things around quite a bit as I developed a system to work with my changing circumstances and tracking requirements. By now I’ve worked out the pigeon-holes within which to file my life pretty well, so hopefully I won’t want to rearrange things anytime soon, but there’s always change. I hope this feature gets added eventually.
Glitch with Creating Categories
If you try to create a subcategory with the same name as a top level category (any top level category — not just the one you’re creating under), KMyMoney will complain that there is already a category with that name. A workaround is to rename the top level category, create your subcategory, and then re-rename the top level one.
Nice Category Feature
When entering transactions, you can start typing a subcategory and KMyMoney will quickly narrow the list down for you. MS Money does something similar, but the K way is better for me.
I want to be able to see a list of all transactions for a category/subcategory the way I can for payees, and the way that MS Money allows you to do. There are some reporting options for this, but it would be really nice to have available at a more transactional level also.
Oh, another thing is if you’re entering in split transactions, it doesn’t appear possible to use the keyboard to do everything. You have to click with the mouse to get text entry started for the category. Instinct says that the “enter” key should accomplish the same thing. It’s cumbersome to switch back and forth between keyboard and mouse.
This one was a concern. When I finally found and started using the bill scheduler in MS Money, it was a huge time saver. I tended to use this as a budgeting mechanism, putting most regularly occurring expenses in my checking account, and entering them in 1-3 months in advance. Then I could scan through my check ledger and look for red numbers to make sure my cash flow covered everything. This was something I couldn’t see living without.
I’m happy to report that the KMyMoney scheduler works very well. It has plenty of options for scheduling recurring transactions.
There is a feature to automatically enter transactions “N” days in advance, which is super. Maybe Money had this and I just didn’t notice it or realize how nice it would be. It was pretty easy to plow through and enter a batch of future transactions every so often there, just by repeatedly hitting the enter key, so I guess I never had motivation to try something different. In KMyMoney, it’s a bit clumsy to enter in scheduled transactions — I think you get two different prompts asking if you really want to enter one. But with the auto-enter feature, transactions mostly get handled without interrogation when you start the application. (It appears you have to manually enter mortgage payments, however.)
The future entries show up in ledgers just like in MS Money, although unfortunately not with red numbers when you fall below zero, which would make them stand out better.
There is only one big shortcoming with the scheduler. Once you create a scheduled transaction, you can’t change the date on it. You have to either enter the next one and then change the date in the ledger, or you have to delete and recreate it. I’ve seen on the mailing list where this is something that should be fixed in the future.
The loan setup wizard made it easy to set up my mortgage. It created an entry in the scheduler for the payments, but I had a problem with the first payment. The entire amount was applied to principal. (Wouldn’t that be nice.) I fixed that entry and then the next one was entered correctly.
Investment account setup worked fine and should be easy to use if you’ve done investments in Money or Quicken. You can set up brokerage (cash) accounts to go with your investment accounts. Transaction entries look like they will be ok also, although I haven’t entered one yet.
I read one review where the writer was confused because when he got to investments, he had to right-click to get necessary options, where earlier things had been available on the toolbar. It would be nice if the toolbar was more context-sensitive, but it’s natural for me to use the right-button to discover things that can be done, so I hardly noticed.
Online quotes work ok but I wish you could see +/- for the new price over the last price, and I also wish you could get a number showing you your overall gain or loss on the day.
I don’t think stock splits are supported yet. Not a huge problem for me, but is a serious short-coming if still true.
Investment reports don’t seem to tell all that much, although I didn’t find Money’s investment reports to be that helpful either. I have an OO.o Calc spreadsheet that I use to run some basic performance numbers on. I’m almost entirely a buy-and-hold index fund kind of investor, so I don’t worry too much about this stuff.
I know this is a big one for a lot of people, so I’m sorry I have little to report. KMyMoney has some online banking features, but I’m not using them so I don’t know what they can do. I didn’t use MS Money for online banking either. I handle a lot of my finance stuff online, but I don’t want/need to use my money program for this.
There are some good reports included, but this is an area that needs some work. (Or I need to learn some more.) MS Money is quite flexible with the kinds of reports you can run.
One thing needed is better summary reporting. I’d like to be able to list all payees and how much money total has gone to each, and the same for categories. Also would like to see more options for what goes in the rows and columns, and have multicolumn reports with multiple years. For example, I don’t think I can generate a report like this:
Payee 2004 2005 2006 Total M.U.L.Es 'R' Us $ 78 $ - $ 128 $ 206 Irata Outfitters $ 875 $ 123 $ 657 $1655 Smithoreens $ 52 $ 21 $ 78 $ 151 Total $1005 $ 144 $ 863 $2012
Which is likewise not available with categories. I like getting high-level, multiple year views of spending.
Some of the reports look ok and will be useful. The “Income & Expenses” report is good, for example, except that it doesn’t let you look at years in multiple columns. But, I don’t have a lot of data and haven’t experimented much yet. This isn’t something I’m especially worried about. I’m sure they’ll get more comprehensive in time.
Performance / Longevity
It’s very early going so I can’t say much about how KMyMoney will perform with thousands and thousands of entries over many years, but I did import a number of old entries from Money (described in the next section) and can report on what I saw.
With several of my largest transactional accounts (checking and credit cards) imported into an “archive” .kmy file, it grew to 777KB. These files are actually just gzipped XML. The uncompressed file is 9.2MB, and
wc tells me it contains 114,136 lines. It takes a little while to open the file (although note that MS Money took its time loading my 35MB .mny file), and then kmymoney2 takes almost 200MB of memory. My “active” .kmy file is 16KB compressed, and kmymoney2 consumes about 36MB when it’s open.
With the big file, performance seems fine after the initial load, although I haven’t done much with the old data. Working with the small file, the interface is very responsive.
Time will tell. People complain about MS Money files being all bloated, but 35MB wasn’t a big deal for me. The key thing was that it was very stable over the years. There was just one time I had some problems opening my .mny file, and upgrading to a new version took care of that.
I’m optimistic based on what I’ve seen so far.
(Update: I should mention that KMyMoney appears to be pretty well-established and has a good community of users and developers. It’s been around for a while and I expect it has enough momentum to carry on and thrive.)
Migration (QIF Export/Import)
Almost finally, some notes on migration. I’ll recommend again that you start fresh with a new file, but if you really want to try salvaging your MS Money data, or if you’re like me and want to capture some accounts in an archive file, I hope these tips will help:
- Create a copy of your MS Money file and make the below suggested preparatory changes in the copy.
- You should make account and category names match between the two programs before you export from MS Money. You especially want the categories to match so you’re not constantly having to select where things go. Don’t use forward slashes in your category names since these don’t seem to survive the QIF export. Not sure about ampersands (&).
- If you are using the classes/classifications in MS Money that I described above, delete them before exporting your accounts.
- Payees are automatically created in KMyMoney if you remember to check a box for it during the import process. (Or maybe it’s checked by default.)
- “Loose” QIF exports from Money work fine. You have to export each account separately, and you have to reopen closed accounts if you want to export them. It’s probably a good idea to export everything and then zip up the files for permanent archival purposes. You never know, you may be able to revive them at a later date, or may need to scour through them if you fall under investigation for tax fraud. QIF files are very readable.
- Loans and mortgages don’t seem to transfer very well. KMyMoney wanted to assign things to categories instead of accounts. I wouldn’t expect much in this area since loans have special requirements.
Some kinds of duplicate data in transfers between accounts is handled ok.
For example, let’s say you export your checking and credit card accounts which have regular payments (transfers) between the two. These transfers are not part of split transactions. Then you import the checking account into KMyMoney first. You can see that the transfers show up in your credit card account. Now if you import the credit card QIF file, it doesn’t double up on those transfers, even though they all appear in the credit card export file also. KMyMoney is able to assume that they are duplicates, apparently.
But in another scenario, what if you have paychecks going into your checking account in split transactions, with some of the money going to an investment account. When you import both sets of QIF files, duplicate transfers are created in each account. You have an opportunity to review transactions before importing and can delete or modify entries, but that would be a lot of work for years and years and years of transactions. This is probably the biggest obstacle to moving your data over intact from one application to the other.
I spent some time working on the export/import process, but in the end only got it working at a crude enough level to save my transactional data. You might be able to get things moved over much more nicely if you work at it.
Thanks, KMyMoney Team!
I really appreciate the effort people have put in to this program. Sure I gripe about a few petty features I’d like to see, but overall I’m just thankful that people are so generous with their time and work so hard on great free software like KMyMoney. (Even if I bitch about the name also.) :-)