Personal Finance Software for Mac Question: Deluxe 2008 Edition
February 12, 2008 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Mac switcher / Intuit hater question: Is there a good alternative to Quicken for the Mac?

My wife just got me a new MacBook as a pre-Valentine's day present (yes, she's awesome.) There are obvious equivalents for all of the applications I have on my old desktop (running XP), except one: Quicken.

I know there's a Mac version of Quicken, but from what I hear it lacks a lot of the functionality of the Windows version. I also know that I could run the Windows version via Parallels, but that doesn't appeal to me for two reasons: a) the only reason for me to install Parallels/XP would be for Quicken, which makes the whole thing rather expensive, and b) over the last few years I've come to hate Intuit with the proverbial heat of a thousand suns just as much for their product-sunsetting, privacy-invading ways as for their insecure software. (Bastards.) So Quicken in either form is right out.

Our requirements are fairly typical, I think. Our financial life is not crazily complex, but we've got investments and a mortgage so I think we need something more than an spreadsheet or an "envelope-based" program (like Budget). Some budgeting and forecasting capability would be nice. Being able to download transactions from online banking is a necessity. Whatever I choose, I don't want to be locked into a proprietary format, so the ability to use or export to a common format is vital. (Ability to import our previous history from Quicken is NOT important. I haven't been keeping up recently, so our Quicken file is pretty out of date at the moment -- I would be OK with starting over in a new program.) So, what personal finance software for the Mac should we look at?

There's this thread asking the same question, but it's almost three years old, and the situation has probably changed. Mentioned in that thread are Liquid Ledger, iBank, and Moneydance. I also know about GnuCash. Any opinions about these four programs? Are there other alternatives I should look into?
posted by harkin banks to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I personally use Open Office's spreadsheets, but I've heard good things about Cashbox from some people.
posted by uaudio at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2008

For what it's worth, the new iBank beta appears to solve my biggest complaint about iBank, which is that it didn't have worthwhile integration with my banks.

That said, after a quick glance, I'm not sure I'm happy with it. It doesn't seem to pull online balances, just the individual transactions.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 12:33 PM on February 12, 2008

I use Quicken for the Mac (which I realize you don't want), and while I've never been really unhappy with it, I never used its more full-featured PC cousin. All the same, my understanding is that Quicken 2008 is being rewritten from the ground up to take advantage of the current Mac architectures and to run natively on Intel Macs.

Whether the re-write will bring the program into parity with the PC version is unclear to me (or whether it will resolve your qualms with Intuit). And, of course, a major rewrite may render Quicken worse than it is now. In any event, the heat of a thousand suns is pretty hot.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:05 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: We recently switched from Quicken (Mac) and Quickbooks (PC) to Moneydance. I chose Moneydance over Gnucash because it started up very quickly and generally seemed lighter on its feet. I think it's perhaps a little less flexible in some ways, but it does have the ability to use custom Python scripts, and a few other plug-ins. It does download transactions from your bank, though we haven't tried that. It does have investment accounts, and it also lets you see your net worth, which was kind of cool - you can enter "asset" and "liability" accounts.
It has "loan" accounts, which will work for your mortgage - the loan account lets you track principal, interest, and any escrow amount separately, as you'll want.

I hear they're working on better documentation, which is good, but you should be fine if you're not trying to import data (we ended up writing a custom Perl script to convert "printed" CSV reports from Quickbooks into QIF format, which we could then import to Moneydance).

On the whole, I think we're pretty happy with it. I'm using the Windows version, but there are also versions available for Mac and Linux/Unix. The cross-platform versions were a big part of our choice (we could also never get Gnucash set up on our older Mac for some reason).

The data is stored in XML format, I'm told. You can export to QIF, tab delimited, or XML, and it looks like you can select the transactions to export by date alone.

Support is OK. They have web forums and an e-mail list - I recommend using the e-mail list, as I got the impression that the forums are not frequented quite as frequently.

The price is right - $30. I believe they have a generous upgrade policy as well.
posted by amtho at 1:17 PM on February 12, 2008

The total rewrite of Quicken, a.k.a. Quicken Financial Life, will apparently be even LESS functional than the current version. Banking only, no investment tracking features.

I wouldn't count on Intuit to even ship it on time, let alone ship a product that's worth buying.
posted by xil at 1:57 PM on February 12, 2008

FWIW I have a friend who works in the Quicken Mac workgroup @ intuit. He told me a while ago that the powers that be realized over 50% of their users are on Mac and are redesigning accordingly. that said i've tried the lot of alternatives and i've not been impressed enough to switch from the decrepit Quicken.
posted by markovitch at 2:03 PM on February 12, 2008

I've really enjoyed using Moneywell (, though it looks like it might be missing some of the features you need. I'd chk it out anyway. It's a great app with a VERY responsive developer who is adding features quickly.
posted by gregoryc at 2:51 PM on February 12, 2008

Best answer: Another vote for MoneyDance. I like it because it is cross platform - I can access my records from my linux server, my windows game pc and my mac-mini...

Shouldn't all programs be like this?
posted by Arthur Dent at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2008

Xil, I'm bummed to hear that--I have about 10 years' worth of data in Quicken, and I'd like to keep using it in the future, but Intuit's Mac support has never been great.

On the other hand, yay for markovitch's friend.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:08 PM on February 12, 2008

I also know about GnuCash. Any opinions about these four programs?

I used GnuCash on a mac for a while for some straightforward household stuff, and actually liked it quite a bit, better than quicken, and far better than my previous excel-based solution. However, I remember the installation being difficult and time-consuming install. I can't remember exactly why it was difficult, but you have to use fink unstable to get gnucash 2, and it probably had to compile most of the dependencies rather than using binary packages, since these also come from unstable. (It is completely insane how many dependencies that program has.) In fact I seem to remember having to compile stuff myself, possibly the fink package didn't work or didn't exist then. Sorry my memory isn't more specific. The reason I'm not using it now is because I haven't wanted to deal with re-installing it following a hard drive failure.
posted by advil at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2008

I'm not sure how well it (or if) it works with automatically downloading bank statements, but I recently started using Cha-Ching. It's actually very nice, though I think the budget feature is a bit awkward personally.
posted by icebourg at 8:18 PM on February 12, 2008

Response by poster: In case anyone finds this thread on search: I ended up going with Moneydance. I was tempted by iBank -- iBank 3, currently in beta, looks pretty nice -- but ultimately what sold me was the cross-platform data access that Arthur Dent mentioned. The Python extensibility also appeals to the geek in me. Oh yeah, and it seems to do everything I want -- I haven't done any budgeting or complicated reports with it yet, but setup is straightforward and I find the interface to be intuitive.
posted by harkin banks at 11:34 AM on March 10, 2008

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