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When Will OSS Financial Apps Catch Up? 134

RomulusNR asks: "One sticking issue preventing small groups such as small business and nonprofits from wholly migrating to Linux, or even open-source application software, is the sub-adequate feature scope of accounting applications. QuickBooks is the standard, easier for non-technical people to learn, and is free or extremely cheap for nonprofits, and comes built-in with nearly every tax form and chartered accounting reports imaginable. Open source software seems like a natural fit for nonprofits, but if they can't fulfill their legal financial obligations with it, it's a non-starter. Add to that the fact that most people are not terribly tech savvy, and some have spent a lot of time learning the few aspects of QuickBooks that are most relevant to them; retraining on a totally different app is not a practical endeavor. Is there any hope that the field of OSS accounting apps will catch up to the practical needs of those who would theoretically best benefit from them?" The linked article is from Newsforge which, like Slashdot, is owned by OSTG.
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When Will OSS Financial Apps Catch Up?

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  • by PB_TPU_40 ( 135365 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:00PM (#15633172)
    My fiance and I use crossover office with quicken. To me it shouldn't be that hard, another option is wine. Yes you could write a finacial app, but migrating books from exsisting apps would be a bear as well. There are options, its just none are for the non tech savvy. Maybe in the near future? :D
    • I think the author was asking about free open source accounting programs, not ways to run commercial apps on linux.
      • That is sort of the ideal. I can't pin it down, but there's a Stallmanian philosophical bent in me that believes that F/OSS engenders freedom and community effort and frugality, and all these things are right in line with what most nonprofits are about, so it should be easy to make a happy marriage between F/OSS and nonprofits and charities. But there's these sticking issues of limited functional availability, or difficulty in adaptability, and this IMHO is a big area for them.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          You're throwing out the baby with the bath water.

          If you can eliminate 80% of your software cost by using linux and wine and quicken, why do you reject the entire plan because you still have to use quicken?

          Why does the solution have to be 100% FOSS? Large companies aren't. My current company uses WINXP, HPUX, Linux, and I'm guessing some more esoteric OSes on the manufacturing robots.

          Why must a small business be 100% FOSS?

          Makes no logical sense, makes no fiscal sense.
      • SQL Ledger (Score:3, Informative)

        by soloport ( 312487 )
        The SQL Ledger [] portal offers a double-entry accounting package, supported by a Postgres backend. I've found it to be relatively feature-rich.
        • That's what I use to run my small freelance business and it does everything I need. Probably not as easy as a desktop app to set up, but once it's set up, it's good to go.
          • As a small business, how would you compare the functionality of this package to, say, quickbooks? And have you used any other packages in the past that you could compare it to?
        • That's an excellent solution, but it sure helps to have a decent amount of accounting knowledge when you are setting that up! Any small business who took the time to get SQL Ledger running would find that they were well prepared for the future.
        • Well, I expect the problem is that an accounting package that is double entry and shows it in the interface is a deal breaker for most small businesspeople.

          Accountants are in many respects a species of geek, just like the computer geek. They may not speak each other's language natively, but they can learn. A computer geek will ask "what is the right way to handle books?", and an accountant will give him a rather complex and technical answer, which is just what the computer geek expects and in fact wants.
  • I would imagine that most programmers are trying to forget about taxes for most of the year. However, we are constantly writing documents, browsing the Internet, etc. There is not much incentive for most programmers to dedicate time to writing financial software, unfortunately.
    • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:27PM (#15633288) Homepage
      However, if you read the linked article you'll see that there are actually several good accounting programs available, including some "just as good as -- or possibly better than -- QuickBooks."

      It's not about lack of software, it's about "network affects" and the irrationally high premium many people but on avoiding change.
      • ARE YOU KIDDING ME> When my bank and Credit cards interface with QUICKBOOKS. My Account uses Quickbooks. I click a button and all my accounts update automatically from the web, Bank accounts and charge cards. So I don't really care if something else is free when it cost me more then the software cost in time and a bookkeeper just to input the data.

        • Actually, I agree with this.

          At least as I see it, unless a piece of software interfaces with my bank, it's not worth anything. Once you've used software that just sucks the transactional data directly from your bank and dumps it into your ledger, does all your reconciliation automatically, etc., etc., you can never go back. Ever.

          It's the sort of thing that's valuable enough that it would be worth keeping a dedicated PC sitting around to do nothing else, if I had to use computers that couldn't run the package that did it.

          From a small-business perspective, it saves hours of work a week, and in some cases might be the difference between just having the business owner do all the books themselves and hiring someone to keep track of receipts/bills/whatever (or perhaps more likely, hiring another regular employee so that they can devote their time to keeping track of the books).

          As I understand it, GNUCash will download bank transactions from banks in Europe, because they use a standardized protocol for it. But here in the U.S., the de facto standard is the system used by Quicken, and it's all proprietary or similarly hobbled, thus no Free solutions that will do it. If anyone else can substantiate what the story is, I'd be interested.

          But anyway, I agree -- a "general ledger" program that requires the user to input every transaction is not going to satisfy most people anymore. That might have been impressive 10 or 20 years ago, but what most people who use Quicken or Quickbooks want and expect is something that will integrate with their bank, get all their data, and do the balancing/reconciliation/reporting/tax-preparation for them. If you can't do that, IMO you're a non-starter.

          That said, I don't think it's what's keeping people from transitioning to Linux: keeping Quicken going requires that you have ONE Windows PC, somewhere in a corner someplace. It's not the sort of thing that stops you from migrating a business, if you really wanted to switch. (How many businesses only have one computer? Not very many, and the ones that do, aren't very significant.) What I think is keeping people on Windows is inertia, pure and simple. Linux is different, people hate things that are different. You could have replacements for every application on the entire Windows platform and people would still find SOMETHING to keep them from switching, in order to rationalize their basic fear of leaving their comfort zone. The problem isn't that Linux doesn't have application x, the "problem," to a lot of people, is that Linux is not Windows. As long as Linux is not Windows, they will always find reasons not to switch to it. I call these people idiots, but they're a large percentage of the population.
          • That said, I don't think it's what's keeping people from transitioning to Linux:

            It's the reason one of my two Windows systems at home is still running Windows, and a source of frustration for me.

            I've moved our laptop from Windows to Ubuntu. It's an old beast that was running W98SE, so it made sense to move to a modern OS. My wife has taken to it and for the most part (we have some problems with Firefox not displaying properly and not downloading necessary extensions, but that's another gripe) is quite happ
          • Quicken doesn't keep me from Linux, but it does keep me on Windows. I'm not a business, I'm an individual, and I don't have room for more than one desktop. Yes, I could dual-boot, but it causes additional hassle and "overhead" to do so, especially if I want things to "just work".
          • As I understand it, GNUCash will download bank transactions from banks in Europe, because they use a standardized protocol for it. But here in the U.S., the de facto standard is the system used by Quicken, and it's all proprietary or similarly hobbled, thus no Free solutions that will do it. If anyone else can substantiate what the story is, I'd be interested.

            GNUCash allows the import of ofx/qfx files - In my case with the web interface of my various accounts I download the (quicken formatted data), open

        • So you can avoid such re-typing of information. The GnuCash files can also be converted to QIF which your accountant should be able to read.

      • Having explored the options out there I can say that there are solutions, but none of them really fit the bill. Most are cumbersome to setup and maintain for starters. Once setup they seem to take the stance that you are either looking for a digital version of paper accounting or that you want to manage a personal checking account.

        For instance, almost everything done in my business is invoicing. That means I want a basic, but complete, chart of accounts. I want to see how much was spent on office supplies l
        • SQL-Ledger (Score:2, Informative)

          by 6031769 ( 829845 )
          It's time to take a look at SQL-Ledger [] in that case. I would list the features here, but it would probably take all day. Suffice to say that for a system which can handle invoicing, inventory, reporting, quotations, POS, customer and supplier tracking, multiple currencies, templated documents (in HTML and LaTeX), etc. it does everything my business requires and then some. There's even a number of working online demo's, so you can try it out with almost zero effort. IMNSHO it is a very high quality system an
      • the irrationally high premium many people but on avoiding change

        In other areas, I might agree with you, but this is financial software we're talking about. Changing the way you do things generally increases the potential for something going wrong. If you change your project management software, maybe you miss a milestone or lose some e-mails or something, which is annoying but generally recoverable. Having basically anything go wrong in the financial arena is a big deal, though. You can't tolerate is
    • by invisage01 ( 940106 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:32PM (#15633316)
      I write an accounting application for some Australian industries. It's my day job - and i don't think it could get any more boring as far as development goes. Essential to business - hence there is a great deal of $$$ in it. This makes the boring task worthwhile - asking someone to do this boring task for no $$$ benefit is a HUGE ask. I often daydream of what i could be developing rather than accounting software - my work is mindnumbing and to businesses who use our software it is mission critical - so if things go wrong there is a great deal of abuse. For these reasons i don't think the OSS accounting packages are going to be available any time soon.
    • Well then, why doesn't Novell sponsor the development of a financial application? They discovered the importance themselves ( .html []) while still selling SUSE Enterprise Linux. It's amazing how companies sometimes behave or don't take their business seriously.

      O. Wyss
  • Probably never. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThousandStars ( 556222 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:08PM (#15633207) Homepage
    I say "probably never" not because I'm a troll, but rather because you have to consider the nature of financial applications: they're difficult to write and require innumerable persnickety design detail to get right. These days Quicken has the "network effect" of many users, meaning that most banks offer downloads for Quicken. That's brutally hard to overcome, as the people know. In terms of taxes, one can now file online in the US if you're using the 1040EZ, I believe, and maybe even the regular 1040. So web apps may make that point moot. Even if they don't, tax information has to be updated every year. Who among developers wants this thankless job with no pay?

    Financial apps are also not of major interest to developers - not only they require the attention to detail noted above, but attention to boring detail. Most developers are interested in development, not the nuts and bolts of small business accounting or something similar. As a result, I think it will be a very long time, if ever, before Linux "catches up." Of course, if more people were writing these apps instead of waiting for others to write them or writing about why others haven't written them, the choices would be much better.

    • Re:Probably never. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ClamIAm ( 926466 )
      tax information has to be updated every year.

      So the Gub'mint should make it available in machine-readable form. This way, all you need to do is feed it into your program and everything works.

      But hey, we don't live in a reality where stuff works in a sensible manner...
      • So the Gub'mint should make it available in machine-readable form

        Open format readable form, too.
      • Or maybe someone should simply show the advantages to Peachtree and/or Quicken about coming up with a Linux version of their software. This is the ONLY reason we still use Windows on the desktop right now. Only 25 computers, but still.

        The govt. isn't the answer, it is usually the problem. There are already some great apps on the market for accounting. The problem is not that we need more regulations, it is that we need them to run on more platforms.

        There IS room both OSS and proprietary applications for
        • What matters to me the open-ness of my "platform". That means that my data in my accounting app isn't locked tighter than Fort Knox. Like my current Peachtree setup (Old PCA Classic Btrieve dbs). It means that I can have good software, and when my needs no longer match the functionality of my software, there's nothing stopping me from building tools to extend it. Right now, I cannot integrate Peachtree Complete 12 with my webstore in real time. Not possible. I'm stuck doing nightly inventory reports a
          • I would agree with you on that point, about the newer peachtree versions being a problem. We are using complete 04, and have hit a wall with 20k entries in PO orders per vendor, and the new version has a HARD limit of 5 (previous were a 'suggestion').

            They were bought out by a company that is more of a pain in the ass than Best was. My priorities are still the same, would rather run Peachtree on OSS, although it would be better if Peachtree had a more open data format.
            • Peachtree was awesome when it was just Peachtree. Then Best bought 'em to flesh out the low end of the MAS90/MAS200 system. I have NO idea what Sage is doing to screw the pooch now... But Sage Software in general sucks. Don't even get me started on SalesLogix... <shudder> The MAS90 entry fee is $20K US. It's open, but there's a price to pay. There's no middle ground between that and closed PeachTree.

    • Believe it or not, there's a small business who recently hired me to get them out of the mess that is FileMaker 5.0 -- if that, I think the majority of their machines run 4.0. I basically told them that to recreate their FileMaker database as anything relational (which they understand and want) will take about the same amount of time, whether I do FileMaker 8.0 or something else. Chances are, I'll take something like Glom [] or Rekall [], maybe even Gnu Enterprise [], create their database in that, and extend it.

      • Oh, man. I once had an idiot boss that tried to use Filemaker for EVERYTHING. It was even a replacement for email in the office. We were supposed to constantly check the server for his messages and updates. He'd ask, "How's the $WHATEVER_HALF_BAKED_IDEA_HE_HAD_THAT_MORNING? coming along" and when anyone gave him a blank stare, the next question was, "Didn't you check Filemaker?"

        I know I shouldn't, but I've hated Filemaker ever since. I also hate bosses that have idea diarrhea. Our goals were constantly chan
        • Fortunately, Glom, at least, has Python "scripting". That's in quotes because it means I really can have this thing do everything, because it has a really nice language for extending it. If I want it to do email, I plug it into Postfix -- and they have OS X all over the place, which means Postfix comes standard.

          The biggest reason I have to help these guys is they have a badly designed Filemaker system in that it isn't relational. It's great for keeping track of single pieces of information, but it relate
    • I agree with your probably never response but not your reasons. OS is great at writing the code not great at providing the content. Quicken is done so well because it includeds all the legal, tax, and accounting forms one might ever want. Open source software could recreate Quicken the program and I'd even say it pretty much has already. It is just missing the content to make it usefull.

      This is seen with most open source games. The engine is usually awesome, the content is usually lacking.
    • Financial apps are also not of major interest to developers - not only they require the attention to detail noted above, but attention to boring detail. Most developers are interested in development, not the nuts and bolts of small business accounting or something similar. As a result, I think it will be a very long time, if ever, before Linux "catches up." Of course, if more people were writing these apps instead of waiting for others to write them or writing about why others haven't written them, the choi

  • by bunions ( 970377 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:08PM (#15633209)
    I can see it now:

    "Well, I'm really interested in starting an open-source project. A game? Naaah ... maybe some cool drawing software? Or security tools to keep out hax0rz? No, no ... wait, I've got it! Accounting!"

    I always thought it was one of the acknowledged shortcomings of open source stuff that it concentrated all the work in the high-profile, high-geek-factor areas?
    • I can see it now:

      "Well, I'm really interested in starting an open-source project. A game? Naaah ... maybe some cool drawing software? Or security tools to keep out hax0rz? No, no ... wait, I've got it! Accounting!"

      I always thought it was one of the acknowledged shortcomings of open source stuff that it concentrated all the work in the high-profile, high-geek-factor areas?

      Actually, accounting software is really interesting from the code angle. There's all sorts of neat stuff you can do with the numbers.
  • Never. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CliffSpradlin ( 243679 ) <cliff.spradlin@g m a> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:09PM (#15633212) Journal
    Open source software will likely never catch up to Quicken / Quickbooks / MS Money.

    Even if the basic software functionality was created, you still won't be able to connect with your bank via the software. You won't be able to download cancelled checks, write new ones/pay bills, or any of these other functionalities. You won't be able to because the bank gets a nice kickback from the financial software publishers to open their systems up to them, and the bank has essentially no incentive to work to open it up.

    Publishers now have online collaboration tools for this stuff.. open source never will catch up. At most it'll be useful for low-complexity personal accounting, nothing on the scale that satifies enterprise needs.

    • Re:Never. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *
      What you'll have to do is reverse-engineer and emulate the protocol one of the apps you mentioned uses.
      • Would you trust your bank account to software that had been reverse engineered from protocols the developers don't know anything about?
        • You trust Samba, don't you? That was byte-by-byte reversed from the (broken) Microsoft SMB protocol, and continues to evolve under that context. You send, receive and share files, data, print jobs and other things using Samba, all without a single lost byte. Why wouldn't you trust your account details with the same level of confidence?

    • you still won't be able to connect with your bank via the software. You won't be able to download cancelled checks, write new ones/pay bills, or any of these other functionalities

      What about OFX? I can download my bank info in XML format, and have been able to do so for years. So, the banks have already "opened their systems", probably enough so that this isn't the problem with OS financial apps.

      As for bill-pay and other functionalities, most banks of any size probably already have either web-based a
      • OFX is no great leap forward - it's just a hacked up, somewhat non-compliant XML-alike. The standard "Quicken" format which hasn't really changed much since 97 (just went from 2 digit -> 4 digit dates) can carry most of that data, as far as I know.

        (Yes, I've looked into this - I've contributed to - an open-source budgeting tool for (at least) Linux and Windows)
  • by dereference ( 875531 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:13PM (#15633229)
    Look at the dateline of the NewsForge article:
    Quickbooks: the missing link for small business Linux
    Thursday December 16, 2004 (01:34 PM GMT)
    By: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller
    So it's been 18 months already, and the arguably nothing has changed.
  • Easy answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stratjakt ( 596332 )
    As soon as you write it.

    Probably just a little after you start writing all those AAA game titles for linux.
    • Then you'll have to do something in between. Might I recommend a combination blockbuster game and accounting package?

      I'll call it QuakeBooks III Team Accounting. From the back of the box:
      The deadlines of the alien accountant Xaero are narrowing, impassively double-entry booking as transactions transform high-ranking clientele into spineless bankruptcy, but the seedy stench of Accounts Receivables isn't enough to cloud your judgement: abandoning every ounce of common sense and any trace of doubt, you lunge
  • We could get a decent framework easily enough. But tax rules and the like aren't written by devs- you write a rules engine and hand hold real accountants through using it.
  • Linux? or OSS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Karma Farmer ( 595141 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:36PM (#15633325)
    Do you want accounting software for Linux?

    Or do you want open-source accounting software?

    Your question is worded so that it only make sense if we pretend that the only software available for linux is open source.
    • To answer your pedantry, I would be looking for open source. It just so happens that if I'm in the mindset of trying to introduce F/OSS into the small-nonprofit world, then that mindset would almost certainly also be inclined towards Linux.

      I know someone will come up with a dozen examples, but really, I think one would be hard pressed to find broadly useful open source software that only has a Windows port.
  • by Noksagt ( 69097 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:39PM (#15633349) Homepage
    I maintain a FAQ [] on a financial forum about open source financial applications. It is mostly geared towards personal users, but there are links and information to business-focused applications as well. There are non-profits & small businesses who do use F/OSS!

    There isn't an open source QuickBooks clone. But many F/OSS applications do have features which QuickBooks lack (and vice versa, of course). Rather than looking for a "clone," one should clearly define their requirements & look for the app or apps that may fit those needs. If some are "close," money and/or labor can be spent refining the F/OSS applications. If all are far from your requirements (such as a requirement like "I need software which does exactly what QuickBooks does & has the exact same interface"), then suck it up & purchase QuickBooks. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg! If you find your organization doing this a lot, then re-evaluate your software selection practices--alternative software usually doesn't mean cloned software (whether F/OSS or proprietary) & you will never be able to benefit from very good software which is monetarily cheaper, uses open formats, and is functional.
    • alternative software usually doesn't mean cloned software

      I realize that, of course; but an OSS app that is to QuickBooks what Gimp is to Photoshop, or what OOo is to MSO, would be about the desired neighborhood of similarity. It doesn't have to clone, but it can't be so arcane, esoteric, or alien that the user has to be entirely retrained on how to navigate to everything they need. I figure it takes a person who knows Word maybe half an hour to understand their most commonly used functions OOo Writer.
  • by Photon Ghoul ( 14932 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:40PM (#15633353)
    Slightly off-topic, but there are a lot of business areas ignored in the OSS world. Finance is also among things like inventory control and warehouse management solutions. I'm sure there is plenty of custom code running on Linux or BSD boxes out there - but a good option doesn't exist unless it's in Windows. I'm sure there are other business itches that could be scratched.
    • There's loads of things like this.

      The rule of thumb I apply when looking for free/OSS solutions to an issue is:

      "Does it fail the Groupware Bad [] test"?

      ie. "Is it the kind of thing an individual (rather than a business) would have a need to develop?" If the answer is "no", chances are that very little in the way of Free/OSS solutions exists.
      • Interesting page. Turns out we're going to be writing our own software anyway. Too bad it won't get anyone laid!
        • But businesses tend to be rather less inclined to open the source code, either because they can't think of a good reason why they should or they're concerned a competitor will use it against them.

          Therefore even after your company's written their own software, there's still a good chance that there won't be any half-decent Free/OSS inventory management solutions.
          • Very true, sadly. The reason for that, in my employer's case and probably many others, is that it would be a waste of resources with regard to maintaining the software - especially since releasing software has nothing whatsoever to do with our product.
  • GNUCash is rewriting (Score:4, Informative)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:45PM (#15633381) Homepage Journal
    I went to a presentation by a GNUCash guy a couple months back. They're retooling their backend as SQL to make development easier. This isn't an answer to the question but is probably a necessary first step for gaining developers.

    They actually do have some fairly complex accounting in the current versions.
    • by micheas ( 231635 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @04:11AM (#15634725) Homepage Journal
      They're (GNUCash) retooling their backend as SQL . . .

      It would be really cool if SQL-Ledger [] could share the same database as GNUCash.

      This would be ideal for Small businesses and small NGO/NPO's that need to outsource accounting but spend a healthy fraction of their money for accountants on travel time.

      Integration with CiviCRM, SugarCRM, Vtiger, OSCommerce, and VirtueMart and you would have a compelling package.
      • It would be really cool if SQL-Ledger could share the same database as GNUCash.

        Funny you should mention that - that was the question I asked at the presentation. The speaker wasn't opposed to the idea but didn't know how well their data models would map and didn't want to do something that would slow down development too much. I haven't followed up on it.

        Obviously I think it's a great idea. ;)

  • ...what ways, in particular, is it insufficient? (I'm actually asking out of curiosity rather than being rhetorical -- I've never used it.)
  • Legal Problems? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by miyako ( 632510 ) <miyako&gmail,com> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @09:53PM (#15633421) Homepage Journal
    I know that as an OSS developer there are a few reasons that I wouldn't start up or contribute to an open source financial program. The most obvious, and perhaps the most common reason is that accounting software isn't really fun to write- or perhaps its less fun to wright than other things. It's not as though you can really write a new algorithm to figgure up taxes- it's pretty much just the way the IRS wants to do it.
    Related to this last point is that there is a lot of obligation related to writing financial software and as a free software developer I really don't want that hanging over my head. Even with the standard "not fit for any purpose" disclaimer, I would be afraid that I would have someone coming after me if some bug in some code I wrote meant that each company paid a few million less in taxes than they were supposed to.
    The thing is, the code isn't the hard part of writing financial software, it's dealing with all of the law code stuff.
    I think that the best way to bring this sort of software to Linux is to focus on getting companies to port their software, or getting Wine to support it.
    Even moreso than with other sorts of software, I don't think that web applications are viable because of security reasons.
  • Now I think that many of you are overlooking the bigger picture that indeed there are much larger Open Source financial packages such as Compiere (paid support available), ERP5 and (which has a paid support beta program for their financial module which will be open sourced) [] [] [] p []

    Don't say there aren't any such programs until you've checked out: []

  • SQL-ledger (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward []

    Great Perl-based web app. We're using it to replace our foxpro-based accounting app. We looked at upgrading our existing accounting app and it would of cost us almost 6 digits. We've been converting to SQL-Ledger with great success.

    Having the source available is bonus. (And having a perl developer on the payroll is also good) So far we've done UPS WorldShip integration, and we're planning a barcoded inventory. We will soon be integrating VendorNet support for a few of our cus
  • Peach Tree & WINE? (Score:3, Informative)

    by j0ebaker ( 304465 ) <> on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:19PM (#15633552) Homepage Journal
    I've had two versions of QuickBooks Pro. Presently, version 2004. I've tried on several occations to get Quickbooks to work under Wine. Along the way, I've heard of people having various levels of success, particularly if they first install it on Windows and then move the files over to the fake windows drive under WINE. However upon reviewing this thread on Slashdot, it dawned on me that there is another huge name in the accounting business. Peach Tree. So I went on over to the AppDB at and looked up PeachTree. I was stunned to see only one person had filed a report about it. It looks like version 2005 works fairly well under WINE as reported here: =3817 []

    Now I know it isn't Open Source, but could we sway Peach Tree to make a Linux version using winelib. We can point to the recent port of GoogleEarth as a recent success story. Or maybe we could ask PeachTree to open up their code in exchange for publicity and a huge jump in market share.

    There is GNUCash,

    KMyMoney []
  • The original title of my post was "How does FSF do its 990?" It's fair to argue that the learning/adapting curve would not be terribly steep to do chartered accounts in an alternate software, considering the ongoing learning curve of QuickBooks in the first place. But one of the killer features of QuickBooks is that it can do tax forms for you, and by that I don't just mean 1040{A,X,EZ}, but specific-purpose ones (such as 990). This is one feature I think a lot of groups and their probably-non-techie treasu
  • by rmjohnso ( 891555 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @10:39PM (#15633641)
    I'm a CPA who works in IT auditing. From an accounting and tax perspective, US-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and the tax code can be very complex. On top of that, there is a GAAP for every country, and there is even an attempt to create international standards. In addition, there are specifics for non-profits and government entities (government accounting is very backwards compared to private business accounting).

    I doubt there is a volunteer group with enough programming and accounting skills to write OSS accounting and tax software. I have dabbled in programming and tax is definitely not my strong suit. Remember too that for the big companies, they use systems like Oracle Financials, SAP, etc. Many of these run on Linux or in some sort of *NIX environment. Tons of companies also still keep their General Ledger (G/L) on internally developed mainframe or AS/400 style systems. As other posters have said, there is a lot of money to be made writing a good system and selling it. The flip-side to that coin is that the end-user customer/business has a lot to lose (money, non-compliance with regulations, other reporting requirements, etc.) from having something half-way put together or something that is entirely wrong.
  • by gfim ( 452121 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @11:00PM (#15633730)
    I run a one-man software development company in Australia. I've used Quicken Small Business Edition for the past 10 years or so. I don't like it but I've yet to find anything to replace it. Each year Quicken sends me a flyer with a discount for upgrading to version X+1. Each year, I say I'll try to find something else. In then end I go back to Quicken (either with the upgrade or just keeping my current version).

    I've tried GnuCash - with version 2.0 approaching, it looks pretty good. But it's not nearly as slick as Quicken. Other alternatives are attractive for various reasons but have other problems.

    My needs are very simple! I'd like multi-user access (Quicken doesn't offer this either - GnuCash may to a certain extent but it's not 100%), suitable reports for the Australian Tax Office (I know I can customise my own), fast to open and save its data files (GnuCash is very slow with 20 years of data - the multi-user requirement probably covers this because it uses Postgres), and it's go to be quick to enter invoices, payments etc. (GnuCash is horrible!). I'd prefer cross-platform and/or FOSS. If I'm going to move, it will be to something that has an open format for its data files.

    Does anybody have any clues?
  • Two words: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Thursday June 29, 2006 @11:24PM (#15633829) Homepage Journal
    'Mono' and 'Java'.

    There is your key for getting application penetration on Linux and Windows.

  • by wysiwia ( 932559 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @03:28AM (#15634627) Homepage
    IMO financial applications are the number one sample why the Linux desktop hasn't gotten more than a few percents market share. Can you really imagine an ordinary dentist ever use GnuCash on his Windows box? Or a carpenter, or a house wife? Can you really think that such people go out, buy or install Linux on their computers? No that won't happen, not until the art of writing FOSS has changed dramatically.

    That said financial FOSS applications will only become possible when they are true cross-platform, when they are available on Windows and MacOS as well. Yet that's not sufficient, they also have to look native and they have to feel native on any platform. Else people, who use computer as tools and not as gadgets, won't use them.

    Ordinary people don't look with the eyes of a fan, the look with the eyes of an annoyed worker who wants it task done as fast as possible. None of the so far mentioned applications look acceptable in their eyes. At the current state none written in Java or with GTK will satisfy these people. The only choice which produces acceptable results are using the commercial QT or the free wxWidgets toolkit. It may sound harsh but that's the case, just listen to the complains these people bring up against FOSS applications (or read pdf []).

    Yet looking acceptable is only one step towards broad acceptance, the other step is feel acceptable. Sorry, a FOSS application following the Gnome UI guidelines does not feel acceptable on Windows, MacOSX, KDE, etc. If you port a Gnome application to another platform you have to take care of all the little details which are different, which annoy users when the don't fit. These little details are listed in the only cross-platform guidelines wyoGuide ( []).

    To summarize, to make a FOSS financial application successful you have to follow these simple steps:

    - Design the application cross-platform, then you get enough market share.
    - Write it with an acceptable look anywhere, use QT or wxWidgets.
    - Care for acceptable feel anywhere, follow the cross-platform guidelines wyoGuide.

    O. Wyss
  • It's not clear to me what you want. You will probably never get a complete set of financial desktop apps you get on the PC; they are an anachronism. You will likely see more and more open source web/server-side applications that you can install locally.

    In the past, the development of such apps has been hampered by the predominance of proprietary standards and formats, but that has been changing. The more the industry moves to open formats and XML (and they do, e.g., OFX), the more open source financial ap
  • It will catch up later. As with EMACS, Shells, Desktops, CLI Tools, GUI Apps and all the rest. But when it does it will be there to stay.
  • by GRW ( 63655 )
    Linux Canada [] has an open source business accounting package called Quasar.
  • sure lots of hobbyist geeks programming in their basements are eager to implement financial software in their spare time...

    some apps simply don't have enough sex appeal...
  • You're new here, so let me help you with this one:

    Q: When will OSS Financial Apps Catch Up?

    A: When it becomes a big enough itch to scratch.

    Seriously, just because YOU need an application for Linux that doesn't exist, doesn't mean there's a developer out there who is interested in writing one.

    You might talk to your vendors who write applications like TaxCut, Quicken, MS Money and so on and ask them if they'll port one of theirs to Linux. Linux is still developed in the spare time of thousands of

  • How about: When the typical open-source developer has the income and complex finances to require something more sophisticated than a checkbook balancing program.

    If you think about the values and culture that drive Free Software and contrast with the values and culture that drive Quicken and QuickBooks, you'll see the immediate disconnect.

"The C Programming Language -- A language which combines the flexibility of assembly language with the power of assembly language."