November 13, 2006

Accounting software has come a long way under Linux

Author: JT Smith

In the past week, we've covered GnuCash, SQL-Ledger, Ledger, KMyMoney, and doing your accounting old-school style using free software spreadsheet applications. While it's clear that each method has its advantages and limitations, it's obvious that accounting under Linux is in much better shape than it was just a few years ago.

While Brian Jones wasn't satisfied with KMyMoney, Conrad Canterford says that GnuCash is "a stable and robust open source accounting solution."

There's still at least one major gap in the accounting applications arena: tax software. The free software applications may be suitable for day-to-day use, but we're not aware of any efforts to create a free software or commercial application like TurboTax for Linux.

This may be because of the complexity of the problem, coupled with the fact that it's a relatively minor pain point for most Linux users. Most users deal with taxes only once a year, not often enough to inspire the development effort that it would require to create a tax return application. The principles of accounting are fairly well-known, and don't change from year to year -- but tax applications would have to deal with ever-changing tax laws across hundreds of countries to be useful.

A few readers have pointed out applications that we did not cover, such as Grisbi, LedgerSMB, Quasar Accounting, and Moneydance. We have covered Grisbi in the past, and we will be looking at accounting software again, and we'll keep those applications under consideration for coverage in the future.

One reader suggested that we ignored Moneydance because it's not an open source application. We do try to highlight free software, but we also cover proprietary apps for Linux, because we know that free software may not be the best answer in some cases.

Despite the fact that some readers complain when we do review proprietary applications, we didn't ignore Moneydance for that reason, but rather because it's not widely used on Linux.

In the case of LedgerSMB, we missed that one because it's so new. LedgerSMB was forked from SQL-Ledger a few months ago. Christopher Murtagh, one of the core developers of LedgerSMB, says that the application was forked due to security concerns with SQL-Ledger that went unaddressed, and because there "was no real sense of community development, no public access to revision control, and the manual was not freely available." Again, this is an application that we'll be following with some interest.

If you have a suggestion for other financial applications that we haven't covered, or for topic areas we should cover in the future, please let us know. Just a reminder, we're still breaking in the "special report" format, and we'd like to hear from you on how we can improve, and on what we're doing right.

Leave us a comment below, or send an email with suggestions or article pitches to with "special report" in the subject.

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