Here in the U.S., it's tax time, leading many of us to resolve to keep better financial records in the future. If you run Mac OS X, Linux, or any of the "traditional Unixes" such as Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, etc., it's worth taking a look at GnuCash, a cost-free and open source accounting application. GnuCash is very similar to the proprietary accounting software Quicken, produced by Intuit. Of special interest to international readers is that GnuCash supports on-line banking for Germany through the Home Banking Computer Information protocol. Documentation is available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, and the menus and pop-ups are localized for 21 languages.
If you'd like to use GnuCash to maintain your business accounts, the easiest option is to use its druid (the "helper" that some other software companies refer to as a "wizard.") to set up a standard checkbook for a small business. This includes the basic accounts that most of us use: income, plus expenses like office supplies, utilities, postage, etc. You can also easily delete accounts that you don't use, or add accounts that you need for things like paying subcontractors if you have them. If you're migrating from an existing accounting program, GnuCash supports import of Quicken files in .qif format.
For many freelancers, a plain old spreadsheet works fine for simple financial record keeping. Still, besides being free, GnuCash offers some great convenience features. Among these is the Scheduled Transaction, whereby you can, for example, tell GnuCash to automatically enter the cost of your Internet access on the first of every month, or remind you to pay your utility bills on the 20th of every month. You can also use more sophisticated features like combining double-entry and equity accounts to generate things like Profit and Loss reports. Visit GnuCash's website for more information on software dependencies and installation!
By Corinne McKay