GnuCash Accounts

The past couple of days have been spent tidying up my accounts in GnuCash. It's great when it all comes together and your accounts reconcile perfectly with your statements.

I like GnuCash a lot actually. It's slightly harder to get your head around than just listing your accounts in a spreadsheet, but much more powerful when it's done. Because money always has to go from somewhere, to somewhere, you can view transactions from both ends immediately. So every time I pay for a domain name on card, I see the money transfer from my credit card, with the net cost going to the registrar, and the VAT value going to my VAT account and reducing my debt to the VAT man. And then I can turn it round and see the actual cost to me of the domains, or track my VAT debt.

The other neat thing is that accounts are nested, so for example, I can create an account for each client within Accounts Payable, and see how much each client owes, plus clients' debts to me can be included within my assets. GnuCash's own customer invoice tools don't do use subaccounts though, which makes them actually harder to work with than doing it manually, I find.

At first I found GnuCash kind of quirky, and I did struggle with it. But the new 2.0 series is better on the UI front (now a GTK2 app) and now I know what I'm doing with it, it's actually quite easy to get everything to work and incredibly useful when it does. It becomes quite frustrating that all the other accounting information I receive is in a simple flat transaction list, like a spreadsheet or a bank statement or some printed accounts. It's not wrong; there may be no other way to do it; but it's simply not so elegant and right.

All I need is some way to get the accounts data to my accountant.

I tried a few different ways:

  • Linux VM with GnuCash and accounts, burned to a CD along with VMware player. Couldn't get Ubuntu VM to fit on a CD; Debian and Damn Small Linux wouldn't install properly.
  • Converting to QIF with a Java tool. Tried importing this into Grisbi and it looked a mess.
  • Importing GnuCash directly into Grisbi (with the intention of exporting to QIF or CSV or something). Seemed to make a mess of it, not as much as the Java exporter, but the account balances were all wrong.
  • Transforming to Gnumeric sheet with an XSL stylesheet and sabcmd. No account balances, but these can be added quite easily within the spreadsheet app. Required me to install Gnumeric.

I sent the QIF and the spreadsheet (saved as XLS) to the accountant. Other ways that occurred to me:

  • Hand them an Ubuntu CD and my GnuCash files. This would require them to reboot into Ubuntu and GnuCash isn't even included on the CD anyway.
  • Hand them an Ubuntu CD, an empty VMware VM and my accounts, and let them install everything. Probably too technical and overkill.
  • Set up a VNC server that they can log into to access a copy of GnuCash. Security aside, I don't know what kind of connection they have. It could either be too slow for them or it could DoS my outbound connection.


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