Who is GnuCash for?
GnuCash is accounting software that offers basic accounting features and is completely free, making it a great option for startups and small businesses with limited budgets, as well as people who want to track their personal finances. GnuCash is a single-user system, so you will not be able to add additional users to the application. As a result, the product is ideal for a sole proprietor, but would not be suitable for businesses planning to expand. GnuCash is not cloud-based software, so you will need to download the application from their website.
GnuCash was originally developed in 1997 as an alternative to Quicken, but newer versions of the application include strong trading features as well. GnuCash has been translated into 21 languages and offers strong multi-currency capability, making the product a great option for small businesses and startups doing business globally.
GnuCash’s trading features are quite extensive; especially for a free product and include double-entry bookkeeping functionality, a checkbook-style ledger to track both income and expenses, and the ability to handle transactions in a variety of currencies. Automatic statement reconciliation is also available in GnuCash, with bank transactions automatically downloaded and matched against system transactions. You can add the automatic bank import feature during setup and will have the ability to view imported bank data before completing the import feature, which helps maintain accuracy and eliminates the need for paperwork newspaper on the road. There is also a bill payment reminder in GnuCash which will notify you when bills are due and more importantly will also notify you when a customer’s payment is overdue.
While many of GnuCash’s features can be used by individuals and businesses, the product offers very specific advanced accounting features designed for use by businesses. These features include:
Accounts Payable (A/P)
If you own a business, it’s a safe assumption that you have bills, and GnuCash makes it easy to manage and pay those bills in a timely manner. The A/P feature integrates with the rest of the application, eliminating the need to enter duplicate information. You will need to make sure you create an A/P account under Passive when setting up GnuCash if you are paying vendors. It only takes a minute or two to enter a new invoice in GnuCash, and you can edit the invoice at any time before processing the payment. Be sure to mail the invoice in order to save it and prepare it for payment.
Once an invoice is ready to be paid, all you need to do is process the payment using the Process Payment screen (shown above). This lets you choose which bill(s) you want to pay as well as which bank account you want to pay them from.
Checks can be printed in GnuCash from the account register using standard Quicken checks, and you can print a single check or multiple checks.
Accounts Receivable (A/R)
If you sell items or services to customers on credit, you’ll need to keep track of how much they owe you. You will also want to know when their payment is overdue. GnuCash’s A/R feature allows you to do just that, while providing full billing capability. Make sure to add the A/R account under Assets when setting up GnuCash. Additional features of the A/R module include the ability to track quantities sold, adjust price levels, offer discounts to customers, and calculate the appropriate sales tax on the invoice.
The same Process Payment screen used when paying an invoice is also used to post payments received from customers by simply indicating under the Partner option whether the payment is for a vendor or a customer. An employee option is also available on the Process Payment screen for companies that pay employees.
Follow-up of customers and suppliers
You use this screen above to enter additional details about each customer, including a specific currency. A similar screen is available for entering vendor information.
When tracking a customer, you can add useful information to their account, including billing terms, a customer discount, and a credit limit. You can also add the appropriate tax table if the customer should be taxed on the purchase. When entering vendor information, you can also assign each vendor terms and sales tax information.
GnuCash offers a strong budgeting capability, so you can create an annual budget for any or all of your accounts. You can also create a budget and then copy those numbers into a new budget if you want.
GnuCash offers excellent reporting capability, with a variety of management reports and financial statements. Choosing the report category will display the different report options available in that particular category. In addition to financial statements, GnuCash also offers customer, vendor, and employee reports. All reports in GnuCash can be printed or exported to HTML format if desired. However, the customization of the reports is limited to choosing specific filters, which is unfortunate since the product offers an excellent selection of reports.
GnuCash offers amortization management as well as limited payroll capability, although it may be best to use a third-party payroll application like Gusto or Paychex which files payroll forms and pays the appropriate taxes; especially if you pay multiple employees. There is no time tracking capability in GnuCash at this time.
GnuCash offers a variety of help and support options, although no formal support options are available.
GnuCash Help Manual
The GnuCash Help Manual is available on the GnuCash website and includes a comprehensive introduction to the product, as well as links to other help and support options. The manual offers step-by-step instructions on setting up, editing, and using accounts and includes a separate section for business features. In addition, the manual is accessible from any screen of the application.
GnuCash Tutorial and Concepts Guide
The Tutorials and Concepts Guide offers an abbreviated version of the more comprehensive Help Manual, including an overview of the product and sections on managing personal finances and business finances.
The GnuCash wiki provides users with documentation that may be helpful, including installation information and recent product changes. Additionally, an FAQ page is also available and you can contact the GnuCash user community using the mailing list option. An Internet Relay Chat (IRC) option is also available.
Advantages of GnuCash
One of the biggest benefits of using GnuCash for micro businesses is the ability to track both personal and business finances. As a bonus, the app offers excellent reporting capability and gets you up and running in no time. Although the interface is somewhat dated, there are plenty of help options available throughout. Plus, the $0 price tag can be a big plus for those on a strict budget.
As an open source application, GnuCash is completely free, although they do have a donation page for those who wish to contribute to the open source community.
The ease of use of GnuCash
Those interested in GnuCash can visit their website to download the application. As a cross-platform program, GnuCash can be installed on a variety of operating systems, including Windows, MacOS, Linux, Fee BSD, and Solaris. Installing the product is painless and only takes a few minutes. Once the installation is complete, you can choose to create a new set of accounts or import QIF files if you used Quicken. The app uses a wizard to help you through the setup process, whether you’re entering new accounts or importing accounts.
There’s also an option to access the new User Tutorial, which I highly recommend, as the app isn’t as intuitive as QuickBooks Online or Xero. If you end up creating a new set of accounts, the wizard will guide you through the process, including choosing the accounts that best suit your needs. Don’t worry if the account descriptions don’t match exactly, as you can edit them once the new account creation process is complete. The configuration options are different for those who will use GnuCash as a personal finance application and those who will use it for business.
To speed up the setup process, GnuCash includes a default trading hierarchy that you can choose from, which you can modify later to better suit your needs.
The default navigation screen in GnuCash is the Accounts window (shown above), which displays all the accounts you create during the setup process. Once the application is in use, you will see the current balances of all accounts and sub-accounts. You can click on any of the account balances displayed to access a register for that account. You will also have access to all system functions from the Accounts window by simply clicking on the desired area and then choosing from the available options on the drop-down display. Once you access a feature in GnuCash, a new display window opens and a tab is placed on the tab bar, making it easy to navigate between multiple windows simultaneously. If you get stuck anywhere along the way, just click the help option at the top, which will take you to the online help manual, which offers step-by-step instructions on everything from getting started to customization options. of the app.