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Jewish World Review
Feb. 5, 2010
/ 21 Shevat 5770
Making Cents of Finances on Your Mac
This shouldn't be a problem, but it is, and on more than one level: getting a
handle on your personal finances via the Apple Macintosh platform isn't the
easiest thing out there.
And, frankly, that's a shame.
Here's why this matters: On Jan. 25, 2010, Apple Inc. reported selling 3.36
million Mac computers during the previous quarter, a 33-percent increase over the
same period a year ago. Coupled with the Jan. 27 announcement of the iPad and the
excitement attending that move, it appears more and more home users are moving to
the Mac platform.
Personal finance is a key application for computer users. We like to track our bank
accounts, stock portfolios, IRAs and so forth using PCs because they're high-tech
devices, assumedly super-accurate and capable of producing all sorts of nice
reports. And while you can set up a spreadsheet to track a simple checking account,
the longtime success of Quicken in the Windows-based computing world suggests many
people prefer to have more bells and whistles than Microsoft Excel might provide.
Another big plus of using personal finance software is the ability to export
tax-related transactions to a tax prep program, with the hope of assuring a bigger
Quicken has appeared in several versions for the Mac platform, and a new one is
reportedly due this month. For now, however, users have two Mac-specific programs
from which to choose: iBank (CQ), $59.99, from IGG Software of Putney, Vermont, or
iFinance, $29, from Synium Software of Mainz, Germany. Both firms also offer
compatible versions for the Apple iPhone: iBank Mobile will set you back $4.99,
while iFinance's Mobile version is $1.99.
Each program promises a range of account types - bank accounts, credit cards,
investments - as well as a range of reports, graphs and other displays. IGG
Software's iBank claims the ability to connect directly with a bank, via the
Internet, to download data from an account; Synium's iFinance says it can import
various data file types downloaded from a bank's Web site.
Well, in both cases, the answer is yes - and no. Though it costs about half the
price of the iBank product, iFinance did the best job of importing data from my
account at an area credit union (no names, but they're in Linthicum, Maryland). It
got the deposits and debits correct, but somehow left me "overdrawn" by several
hundred dollars, a fact disputed by, among others, my credit union's online
The data importing results with iBank were more cheering, but wrong in another
direction. Despite numerous attempts and strategies, including the creation of
specific "import rules" to assign transactions in a certain fashion, iBank
consistently imported my data as consisting solely of deposits, leaving me with
nearly $189,000 in my checking account. (I wish.)
There must be a way to fix all of this, to make iFinance balance my account
correctly, and to set iBank so that it can tell the difference between a deposit and
a debit. But I'm not a computer programmer, nor am I an accountant, and, frankly,
the idea of these programs is to avoid such unpleasant tasks. The ultimate "fix"
might be to edit each individual transaction, but with a current count of 1,114 such
transactions, however, I don't have the time.
Part of the fault may lie with my credit union and the way its computer system
exports data. I'll try this, at some point, on a Windows system and see what
happens there, and with the soon-coming Quicken/Mac product.
On the other hand, online finance site Mint.com, now owned by Quicken parent Intuit,
was able to tap into my credit union's data and prepare a flawlessly accurate
accounting. Kinda makes the software thing irrelevant, I'm guessing.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
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