Android

GnuCash: A powerful mobile financial tool for Android

Jack Wallen introduces you to one of the most powerful double-entry accounting tools available for the Android platform.

GnuCash

I'm a proud supporter of all things open source. One of the projects that has held my attention for a very long time is GnuCash. On the desktop, it's the finest personal (and small business) finance manager within the realm of open source.

But guess what? GnuCash is also available for the Android platform. If you've used GnuCash on the desktop, you know how powerful it is. So, it shouldn't be of any surprise that GnuCash on Android is (almost) just as powerful. In fact, you might find yourself using GnuCash and GnuCash alone — unless you're in deep with the likes of QuickBooks.

Features

Here are some GnuCash for Android features:

  • Create multiple accounts and transactions
  • Import your GnuCash (desktop) accounts and transactions
  • Double-entry accounting with multiple-splits support
  • Nested account hierarchy
  • Home screen widget for quick access to your accounts
  • Export your transactions in QIF or OFX format
  • Save your transactions to Google Drive, SkyDrive, Dropbox, etc.
  • Set favorites for quick access

... all of this for free.

Note: The ability to import GnuCash desktop accounts and transactions does not mean you can sync between desktop and mobile. The mobile client only supports the importing of GnuCash XML files.

With that said, let's install and start using GnuCash for Android.

Installation

The installation of GnuCash is quite simple. Just follow these easy instructions:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
  2. Search for GnuCash
  3. Locate and tap the entry by GnuCash
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the permissions listing
  6. If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
  7. Allow the installation to complete

You should now see a launcher either on your home screen, your app drawer, or both. Tap it to launch your fresh installation of GnuCash.

First run

Similar to the desktop version, upon first run, you'll have to walk through the account creation wizard. This isn't quite as detailed as the desktop version, but it does help you set up your basic account. The first window (Figure A) will ask you to either create or import accounts. If you already have a GnuCash XML file to import, tap Import. Otherwise, tap Create Accounts.

Figure A

Figure A

GnuCash running on a Verizon-branded LG G3.

The next step is to choose your currency. Scroll through the list until you find the currency used in your country.

That's it. You now have a new account set up with a zero dollar balance (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Your GnuCash accounts await.

Usage

You should notice that some of the accounts already have sub-accounts. In particular, the Expenses account (which should have 25 different sub accounts). If you tap that account, you'll see each of the sub-accounts listed (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

The Expenses sub-account listings.

The first account you should actually work with is your Assets account. Within that, you should see two sub-accounts:

  • Checking Account
  • Savings Account

For standard banking (personal), focus on these two sub-accounts. Create an opening balance for both by following these steps:

  1. From within the Assets account, tap the Checking sub-account
  2. Swipe until you're in the Transactions tab
  3. Tap the plus sign [+]
  4. Enter the necessary information (Figure D) for the transaction

Figure D

Figure D

Entering a new transaction in GnuCash.

Do this for both the Checking and Savings sub-accounts.

There are a few things you need to know about the Transaction screen. First is the Deposit/Withdraw button. By default, the new transaction is set as a Deposit. If you're actually creating a transaction that will withdraw money from that account, tap the Deposit button to switch that transaction to Withdrawal. Next is the Split button, which is directly to the right of the Deposit button and allows you to split a transaction between sub-accounts (say you want to pay your business rent from both your savings and checking asset accounts). Once you tap the Split button, you can define exactly how the split is to occur (Figure E).

Figure E

Figure E

Using the split feature in GnuCash.

The next important element of the Transaction window (one that is beholden to the double-entry accounting system) is the TRANSFER ACCOUNT drop-down. For every transaction, there's an equal and opposite transaction. In other words, if you withdraw money from one account, you must add it to another. It's complicated at first, but once you get used to double-entry accounting, it make sense (this isn't a lesson on double-entry accounting... sorry). If you don't pay close attention to this feature, you'll screw up your balances. So, make sure to select the correct TRANSFER ACCOUNT from the drop-down.

GnuCash might well be one of the most powerful financial tools available for the Android platform. If you're looking for a mobile, double-entry accounting tool, look no further than this.

Do you manage your finances while you're on the go? If so, what tools do you use? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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