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Summary:

Still waiting for Intuit to do something with Quicken Essentials for Mac? Stop wasting your time and try the latest version of iBank from IGG Software. It’s like Quicken, except it has features.

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Still waiting for Intuit to do something with Quicken Essentials for Mac? Stop wasting your time and try the latest version of iBank from IGG Software. It’s like Quicken, except it has features.

I abandoned moribund Quicken in 2009, and since then I’ve used iBank through several point releases and the latest major version update. Not surprisingly, upgrading from iBank 3 was quick and error free, but so was switching from Quicken 2007. An old QIF file with two dozen accounts and a decade of transactions imported without problem.

Finances appear in a two-pane interface; accounts and information on the left, selected accounts like the register on the right. Instead of an editing pane, transactions are now done in the register itself. The developers opted for a two-line list view to better handle investment data and to support multiple currencies, features lacking in Quicken Essentials. Personally, I prefer single-line transactions, but it’s not a deal breaker. Regarding editing, splits could be better. You can only see four splits without scrolling, annoying for paychecks and other many-split transactions.

The register also has a Cover Flow view of dubious value, and the more relevant and functional reconciliation view, straightforward “checkbox” reconciliation.

Transaction Templates encompass the concept of repeat transactions, scheduled, as seen above, as well as imported. If a downloaded transaction meets certain criteria, like payee name, then appropriate type, categories, splits, memo data are automatically added as expected.

While Quicken Essentials claims support for thousands of institutions, you can find out if iBank supports direct downloading for yours here. If not, or more likely if your financial institution charges an egregious fee for direct downloads, the built-in WebKit browser allows logging in from within iBank for downloading. This is a nice feature, though it would be nicer if iBank supplied ID and password too.

Reports are a big improvement over iBank 3, the biggest changes being combining report data and charts, WYSIWYG printing, and the ability to “drill down” to individual transactions in a report. The depth of accessible detail offered is well in advance of “spending cloud”  gimmicks and the simplistic reporting of Quicken Essentials.

Speaking of gimmicks, iBank 4 adds “envelope” budgeting. Instead of categories, you get envelopes, but with the ability to “borrow” unused money from one envelope for another. The problem is that there are no envelopes. It’s a metaphor too far, but iBank 4 retains category budgeting, so not a big deal.

Besides tracking general securities information, as seen above, iBank 4 does your stocks, funds, and retirement accounts all the way down to individual transactions. Can you imagine personal finance software that doesn’t? It’s called Quicken Essentials.

If you think I’m dismissive of Quicken Essentials for Mac, you’re wrong. There’s not enough there to be dismissive about. Assuming Intuit continues development, instead of ultimately pushing Mac users to Mint.com, it will be a long time, if ever, before Quicken Essentials catches up to iBank. Why wait for Quicken Essentials? For the same price of $59.99, iBank 4 offers a robust, full-featured personal finance program right now.

  1. Quicken stopped being essential a decade or so ago.

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  2. I disagree that envelopes is a gimmick, it is how my grandparents still budget and how people used to when everyone still used cash. Moneywell is a piece of software based entirely on the envelope system and although I don’t like Moneywell’s interface the envelope system is the one I use every month. I found quicken and iBank were great at telling me precisely what i had spent money on but bad and helping me better enforce my budget. Now iBank has envelopes I will take another look. Thanks for mentioning the feature as I wouldn’t have looked otherwise

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  3. While I have looked at iBank and like what I see there is not a way to import a quicken essentials file as yet. I have to much information to lose and would not switch until I could do this. Do you know of a way?

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    1. Quicken Essentials does not currently export QIF files. Even worse, its data file can’t be imported by Quicken for Windows. Greater compatibility is supposed to be coming in the future, but if past development activity is any indication of the future that may be a while.

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  4. i’ve used (and paid for) iBank before and abandoned it. Any financial management software that requires you to do export, import and then sit there and figure out why the hell you balances are off is a fail. Also iBank was getting all confused when you have 2 identical charges from the same place on the same day (Starbucks, for example).

    I switched to Mint.com and never looked back. iBank is a complete fail.

    I found that Mint.com works MUCH better. It talks to yo

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    1. For those with limited financial software needs, about the same as Quicken Essentials, and for those who don’t care about having a local copy of financial records, I guess Mint is okay. However, I’d suggest reading this:

      http://www.jasonowens.com/mint-com-in-2010-is-it-safe/

      If you’re comfortable with turning over relevant power of attorney and relieving Mint.com of liability, well, okay. Not me.

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  5. I have a PC waiting to be replaced by an iMac whose only purpose it to run those few Windows programs I haven’t seen fit to replace, one of which is Quicken 2010. Back when I started using Quicken (back in the DOS days, even before the Internet), I told people that Quicken alone was enough reason to buy a PC. I have used Quicken through many versions, in multiple countries and with different currencies and in retrospect, the troubles I have had have been more annoyances than actual problems. That having been said, I am REALLY looking forward to completing my abandonment of the PC world by migrating to a decent Mac banking program or to running Quicken Home and Business 2010 with Parallels Desktop.

    Thanks very much for this article, I look forward to trying iBank to see if it really is worth it or a complete fail.

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    1. I am interested in what you think. Did you end up switching to iBank and if so, how did you like it. I have used Microsoft Money and then migrated to Quicken. Now I am comfortable with Quicken 2010, but since I have my iMac, I’m looking to switch.

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  6. iBank 4 is a complete disappointment. I’ve been hoping it would finally live up to them hyping it as the Quicken killer for Mac, but still very, very far from it.

    The interface is still not what I’d expect from a Mac app. The new reports which I was really waiting for (iBank 3′s are horrible) are an improvement, but lack real functionality. There’s no way to just create a report to get the transactions your want. You have to drill down to get the actual report transactions. I don’t want to create a report and have to drill down and come back up repeatedly to get to the info I need.

    Data entry is still unintuitive and a pain. They dropped the single line register in favor of a double row, which takes up too much space and is not customizable. Split transactions are still handled wrong. If you transfer funds in an account through the use of multiple split transactions to other accounts the other transfers in their respective accounts show references to all the other transfers in all the other accounts. This has been an issue with iBank for a while and completely breaks any possibility to export transactions for use in another program.

    Importing my data crashed multiple times from Quicken Mac 2007. I was finally able to import, but it took 30 minutes from start to finish and only 1 account out of 30 had a correct balance in iBank 4. There’s also no multiple currency support for importing which makes importing accounts in different currencies impossible.

    They completely removed investment tracking in the application and switched to a report only format for investment tracking. Anytime you want to check out your portfolio you have to click on the report and wait, and wait and wait for it to be generated. Too slow and inadequate for me.

    So for me its still a waiting game for something to replace Quicken Mac 2007. So far the only contenders are iBank, Moneydance and new one called SEE Finance released today. Knowing that iBank 5 is at least two years away and a new Moneydance is at least another year away, I’m keeping my eye on SEE Finance. It is pre-1.0 and is still being actively developed, but already has more features than iBank.

    It would just be nice if Quicken would just pay attention to the Mac market…

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    1. I converted from Quicken 2007 because of the lack of development by Quicken. All my accounts converted transferred over without a problem. Bills did not, but was simple to add them.

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  7. Moneywell is something that you should also review and checkout. We have a story like many others where a Mac and a PC lived together in the same house and the PC only purpose was to manage finaces. Then we found Moneywell and out the door went the PC (literally to college kid). Love it and works quite well – I understand it also has an iPhone app if you need that kind of finacial support.

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    1. There is also a iOS version of iBank, and it syncs over-the-air for MobileMe subscribers, as well as over Wi-Fi.

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  8. toddt has hit the nail on the head. iBank 4 just cannot replace Quicken 2007. He’s also right in that Moneydance & SEE Finance are the contenders. Moneydance is written in Java and has a rather Mac-unlike UI (although MD 2010 is a vast improvement), but is very full-featured; SEE Finance is a Cocoa app and a work in progress: import is fantastic, but data entry is a pain, and the scheduled transaction interface needs a complete overhaul.

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    1. JP, for all its qualities, Moneywell can’t handle investments at all. Dealbreaker.

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  9. For many, the metaphorical envelope system is more practical than straight line-item budgeting. So don’t dis the system. The fact that iBank includes both shows that they know their users well & are providing the right necessary tools

    Cheers !

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    1. Curmudgeon Geographer Wednesday, September 15, 2010

      True! My wife (our budgeter) switched to YNAB 3 (developed in Adobe AIR) because of how it implements an envelope system. All I know is that using it has gotten out family’s finances in control, built up a tremendous buffer (in these times!), and it works excellently for what we need . . . helping us get a grip on what goes out.

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  10. Toddt has correctly identified some major flaws with iBank 4 in regard to investment tracking. Portfolio and Smart Portfolio have been completely removed from the application, and IGG completely changed the functionality of hiding/showing accounts. Now any account that is hidden acts as if it never existed, so any transactions involving those hidden accounts cannot be found using search, and are removed from reports and Smart Accounts. So that checking account I closed and hid last week that includes all tax and loan payments for the first half of the year apparently never happened!

    Several other long-time features no longer work like they did before, so be sure to give it a trial run before paying for the upgrade!

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