Bookkeeping the FOSS way

Simple vs. Split Transactions

Each transaction that takes place in GnuCash splits at least two ways. This usually just involves a current account and a single remote account. This is known as a "simple" transaction.

However, there are times when your incoming transactions may be divided in numerous ways, and in GnuCash these are known as "split" transactions.

As most of our expenses are taken out of our salary, it is safe to say this is where the majority of split payments occur. If this is the case, start in your Income | Salary account and not it in your Checking account as you have been doing for the rest of your expenses.

Double-click on Salary, and enter description and salary amount. Before finalizing this entry, select Split from the top of the screen. Fill in the Transfer section but do not press Enter. Click Tab until you reach the next row and add your next split entry. Continue this until you are finished splitting your paycheck.

Other Features

GnuCash is extremely feature rich, so much so that the application guide runs to almost 300 pages. Although we can't provide a complete list here, some extra features caught our attention.

GnuCash can import transaction data from the SWIFT network and other international banking institutions. Currently the software supports files in QIF, OFX/QFX, CSV, MT940, MT942, and DTAUS formats. Just go to File and Import to start the process.

GnuCash also has a very handy loan repayment calculator which can add these payments into your account. It can be used to calculate payment periods, interest rates, the present value, periodic payments, and future values.

Another useful feature is GnuCash's reporting function, which allows you to display numerous transactions in a variety of formats. There are several commonly used reports, which can be customized to suit your needs. However, if you feel these are insufficient, you can create your own custom reports.

Summing Up

The main advantage of GnuCash is that it builds upon layers of complexity. Users with little or no bookkeeping experience can use the simple setup wizard to create main accounts, sub-accounts and enter their transaction data within minutes. The GnuCash project's open source nature may also provide some reassurance to business owners who worry about trusting their financial data to private companies that can go bust at any time. Although we focused on the Linux version of GnuCash, the software is cross platform, meaning that financial data can be shared across operating systems, though perhaps not quite as easily as with a cloud-based finance platform like Sage. As the GnuCash website notes, although the program does come bundled with various flavors of Linux, they don't always include the latest version. Make sure to follow the instructions in the Installing GnuCash section to enjoy all the latest features.

The Author

Nate Drake is a freelance journalist specializing in cybersecurity and retro tech.

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