Sat, 15 Jan 2005

Learning Accounting

I've decided it's time for me to learn something about accounting. I've been using GnuCash for a while to generate invoices, but without understanding the underlying accounting. GnuCash has the tendency to break either when it or one of it's many dependencies is upgraded, crashing while spitting out errors like undefined symbol: gnc_option_db_lookup_taxtable_option. It also has a long-standing bug which causes invoices not be be printed correctly when linked against GtkHTML 1.0 as it is in the Debian packages. So I'm also looking for another accounting package to replace it.


The first one I tried was Lazy8 Ledger, a java program. It's built as a plugin to jEdit making the interface kind of bizarre with text editing widgets where they don't seem to belong. In general, the interface just feels awkward, though with time, it might make more sense.

The next program I tried was FibuSQL. This program seems to be pretty immature and lacking much documentation. It claims to have been tested against MySQL and PostgreSQL, but the table creation script fails when using InnoDB tables.

Next up was SQL-Ledger. This looks very promising with lots of features and a clean interface. It has almost no (free) documentation though. The author sells the manual for $190. It looks like it generates nice-looking invoices and reports which is a plus. SQL-Ledger will certainly be a contender.

Next up is Quasar. It has lots of documentation and seems to be feature-rich. It's compiling now. (Tip for compiling on Debian: Install the libqt3-mt-dev package and set QTDIR=/usr when running configure.)

I also have a demo of Linux General Ledger, a proprietary ncurses-based application, to try out. It seems to be mature and well-documented. If it does what I need (I'm not sure exactly what that is yet), I'd be happy to use a mouseless program. Those Function keys are kind of far away for me, though. I'd prefer VI key-bindings. It's on sale for $29.95.


Of course, to use any of these programs, I need to know something about accounting. The Lazy8 website directed to this great tutorial by Bean Counter Accounting. I finally understand debits and credits. I also picked up a book called Accounting the Easy Way which, 20 pages in, is good and reinforces what I've learned so far from the Bean Counter.

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The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else. - Frederic Bastiat