GnuCash Tutorial and Concepts Guide¶
This version of the Guide on ReadTheDocs.org is an unofficial work in progress. Please go to https://www.gnucash.org/viewdoc.phtml?rev=3&lang=C&doc=guide for the official documentation.
GnuCash is the personal finance software package made for you. It is versatile enough to keep track of all your financial information, from the simple to the very complex. It is one of the few financial software packages that supports global currencies, and it is the only open-source program of its kind. Best of all, GnuCash is easy to learn and use!
So, what can GnuCash do for you? It can keep track of your personal finances in as much detail as you prefer. If you are just starting out, use GnuCash to keep track of your checkbook. You may then decide to track cash as well as credit card purchases to better determine where your money is being spent. When you start investing, you can use GnuCash to help monitor your portfolio. Buying a vehicle or a home? GnuCash will help you plan the investment and track loan payments. If your financial records span the globe, GnuCash provides all the multiple-currency support you need.
While GnuCash is well suited for personal finances, it is also powerful enough for business use. There are many business features, from integrated accounts receivable and payable systems, to tax table construction. You will find these and the many other business features surprisingly powerful and easy to use.
Easy to Use¶
Within a matter of minutes you will be able to enter your personal finance information and generate color graphs that represent your financial status. If you can use the register in the back of your checkbook - you can use GnuCash! Type directly into the register, tab between fields, and use quick-fill to automatically complete transactions. The interface is customizable from within the application itself.
Easy to Use Menus: GnuCash menus conform to the GNOME Human Interface Guidelines. This means that they are simple and similar in appearance to many other GNOME applications.
Documentation: GnuCash has built-in Help and extensive User’s Guide documentation.
Import Methods: GnuCash supports many ways to input transactions besides manual entry. If you can access your bank accounts on-line, this is especially useful, as most banks and credit card companies support one of the following import methods. You will spend less time entering data and more time analyzing results.
Quicken Import File (QIF): Import Quicken QIF style files, a popular file format with many commercial personal finance software packages.
Open Financial Exchange (OFX): GnuCash has been the first free software application to support the Open Financial Exchange protocol. Many financial institutions are moving towards this format.
Home Banking Computer Interface (HBCI): GnuCash has been the first free software application to support the German Home Banking Computer Interface protocol. This protocol includes statement download, initiates bank transfers, and makes direct debits possible.
Reports: GnuCash comes with over 30 prebuilt reports, including Account Summary, Income, Expenses, Transaction Report, Balance Sheet, Profit&Loss, Portfolio Valuation, and many others. Reports support graphical views of the data, including pie charts, bar charts, and scatter plots. The reports can be exported to HTML files, and are easily customized.
Scheduled Transactions: GnuCash now has the ability to automatically create and enter transactions, or remind you when these transactions are due, giving you the choice of entering, postponing or removing the automated transaction.
Mortgage and Loan Repayment Assistant: Used to set up a variable payment loan scheduled transaction.
Easy Account Reconciliation: Integrated reconciliation makes reconciling your GnuCash accounts with statements simple and effective.
Multi-platform Compatibility: GnuCash is supported on a variety of platforms and operating systems. The list of fully supported operating systems (and platforms) is for
- GnuCash 3.10
GNU/Linux (x86, x86_64), FreeBSD (x86, x86_64), OpenBSD (x86, x86_64), Apple MacOS (64-bit Intel), and Microsoft Windows (Windows 7 and later).
- GnuCash ≤ 2.6.21
Apple MacOS (32-bit Intel, PPC) and Microsoft Windows (XP and Vista).
- GnuCash ≤ 2.2.9
Microsoft Windows (2000).
- Previous versions of GnuCash
have been known to work with SGI IRIX (MIPS), IBM AIX 4.1.5 (RS/6000), Unixware 7 (Intel), SCO OpenServer 5.0.4 (Intel), and Solaris (Sparc) but their current status is unknown.
Tracks Your Investments¶
GnuCash includes a number of investment features that allow you to track all your investments. With GnuCash you can track stocks individually (one per account) or in a portfolio of accounts (a group of accounts that can be displayed together).
GnuCash supports online stock and mutual fund quotes. This means you no longer need to look up stock prices one at a time. The process can be automated, and you can see the latest value of your stocks.
GnuCash is truly an application that works with and understands users from all around the world. There are many built-in features to facilitate interaction with the international world we live in today.
Native Languages: GnuCash has been translated into 56 languages. The best ones, with over 90% translated, are Croatian, German, Hebrew, Portuguese, Spanish, and Ukrainian. Almost as good, with over 80% translated, are Catalan, Dutch, Japanese, Latvian, Russian, Serbian, and Turkish. 1
International Format Handling: GnuCash understands that different countries display the date and numbers differently. You are able to work with the date and number formats you are accustomed to.
Multiple Currencies and Currency Trading: Multiple currencies are supported and can be bought and sold (traded). Currency movements between accounts remain fully balanced if “Trading Accounts” is enabled.
On-line exchange rates: With GnuCash, you no longer need look up your exchange rates one at a time. The process can be automated, to always present you with the account values converted to your preferred currency using the latest exchange rates.
GnuCash has many features to support the needs of the business accounting community.
Accounts Receivable/Payable: GnuCash has an integrated Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable system. You can track Customers, Vendors, Invoicing and Bill Payment, and use different Tax and Billing Terms in a small business.
Depreciation: GnuCash can track depreciation of capital assets.
Reports: GnuCash offers a wide variety of ready-to-use business reports.
For those knowledgeable in accounting, here is a list of GnuCash’s accounting features.
Double Entry: Every transaction must debit one account and credit others by an equal amount. This ensures the “books balance” - that the difference between income and expense exactly equals the sum of all bank, cash, stock and other assets.
Split Transactions: A single transaction can be split into several pieces to record taxes, fees, and other compound entries.
Chart of Accounts: A master account can have a hierarchy of detail accounts underneath it. This allows similar account types such as Cash, Bank, or Stock to be grouped into a master account such as “Assets”.
General Journal: One register window can display multiple accounts at the same time. This eases the trouble of tracking down typing/entry errors. It also provides a convenient way of viewing a portfolio of many stocks, by showing all transactions in that portfolio.
Income/Expense Account Types (Categories): These categorize your cash flow and, when used properly with the double-entry feature, will provide an accurate Profit&Loss statement.
About this Book¶
This manual’s goal is to save you time. It will get you started using GnuCash as quickly as possible.
Each chapter follows a simple format. A chapter begins with a “Concepts” discussion which introduces general themes and terminology, addressed and used within that chapter. “How-To” sections, which address specific procedures follow. Finally, a “Putting It All Together” section ends the chapter by giving detailed, concrete examples.
Beginning users will find the “Concepts” sections very helpful. They provide a reference for good ways to track your finances, and serve as a general introduction to financial background and terminology. Experienced users can flip to the “How-To” sections to quickly scan procedures. These sections provide to-the-point steps for accomplishing specific tasks. The “Putting It All Together” sections present real-world examples in the form of a tutorial. Beginning with creation of a file in The Basics, each successive chapter builds on the previous chapter’s tutorial.
This manual is organized into 3 main parts:
Managing Personal Finances
Managing Business Finances
Getting Started provides you with the most basic information needed to begin using GnuCash. The chapters in this section explain concepts that are fundamental to using GnuCash. New users of GnuCash should familiarize themselves with the information in these chapters to get you up and running:
Overview - (this chapter) gives a general overview of GnuCash
The Basics - gives users a very brief introduction to accounting principles, and then provides information about how GnuCash structures its data. There is also information on basic interface elements in GnuCash. Finally, this chapter explains how GnuCash stores and manages your data.
Accounts - gives further information about accounts and how to organize them.
Transactions - gives basic information about transactions and how to enter them.
Managing Personal Finances addresses common applications and features of GnuCash in greater detail. You will see more specific cases, based on frequently asked questions about applying GnuCash to everyday situations. Here are the applications and features covered in this part:
Managing Business Finances discusses the use of GnuCash in business accounting:
This manual also includes several appendices, which contains extra information you might want to know:
GnuCash Glossary - Glossary of terms used in GnuCash
Migration Guide - Guide for former Quicken, MS Money or other QIF users
Last, but not least, a glossary and index help you quickly locate topics.
Getting More Help¶
GnuCash offers help in many ways, including the Tip of the Day, context help, a website, a wiki, the mailing lists, and IRC chat.
The context help provides detailed instructions for using GnuCash’s menus, windows, and controls. To open online help, select Help > Contents.
The GnuCash Help window also acts as a simple web browser, so you can pull up a website for additional information. You can open any website under this window by clicking the Open Toolbar button and then typing in the URL. Use the Back, Forward, Reload, Stop, and Print buttons as you would in a standard browser.
The GnuCash website contains helpful information about the program and about any updates to it. It also contains links to other online resources.
An immense amount of less-formal documenation, both of GnuCash itself and its maintenance and development may be found in the GnuCash Wiki; the Frequently Asked Questions page should be a first stop whenever you encounter difficulty using GnuCash.
GnuCash On-line Assistance¶
Several of the developers monitor the #gnucash channel at irc.gnome.org. They’re usually doing something else, too, and of course aren’t always at their computers. Log in, ask your question, and stay logged in; it may be several hours before your question is noticed and responded to. To see if you missed anything check the IRC logs.
The GnuCash website has more details on these channels. You will also find pointers there to additional useful resources such as the GnuCash wiki and bug tracking system.
The online manual also provides a search function. To search for a particular topic, click the Search tab at the bottom of the help window and type in your topic in the field provided. Click the Search button to complete your search. A list of choices should appear in the box below, clicking a choice will bring up its text on the right.