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Review: iBank 4 Makes Quicken Essential No More

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Still waiting for Intuit (s intu) 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, 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.

32 Responses to “Review: iBank 4 Makes Quicken Essential No More”

  1. I have switched from Quicken 2007 to SEE Finance and I’ve been actively working with the developers to improve it, and they listen!

    I still have Quicken 2007 installed on my Mac, but having used SEE Finance and gotten used to its quirks (which are WAY less than Quicken 2007), I will be using it exclusively from here on out.

    I am not affiliated with SEE Finance in any way, I’m just a user that likes for stuff to work and SEE Finance is hands down better than Quicken 2007 and I couldn’t stand iBank.

    • Chet Wilkinson

      Scott, would you let me know how to get support (email? phone?) for the SEE Financial product? I’m testing See Financial along with iBank4 and I’m still keeping Quicken 2007. The Help files with See Financial leave ALOT to be desired; for example I am having difficulty with statements. Any info you have on support would be helpful. Thanks!

  2. I have been using ibank 3 since 2008. I have even imported lot of old data in it. A suggestions for the double row problem:
    Fiddle with the preferences and reduce row height from 32 to 16, that makes the view similar to a spreadsheet with single width rows.

    As others have said it, ibank has lot of problems.
    But I have moved past many of the issues, and am comfortable using it. I have also spent countless hours in this software in course of years, and I wish I didn’t because I’m not sure when I export data out of it, to the next softwware, it probably will be a mess.

    Due to the limitations of iBank, I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping excel spreadsheets with all transactions (which I download from each bank website that I use). And I’ve been thinking, may be I should just give up the whole finance software thing and use excel and CSV based approach for managing money. If I can write some kind of script to automate downloading, then I’ll definitely do that. I am getting tired of paying full fee for software, every time a new version comes out (instead of upgrade fee, ibank charges full).

    I want to move away from ibank and any other Mac based paid software, because the companies try to charge too much money for upgrades and such (and the softwares are limited so upgrades are a must).

    I’ll try GnuCash, if it works well on Macs. Otherwise, I plan to go full on spreadsheet (csv files) and custom scripts.

  3. I like iBank, especially with it’s functionality to sync with the iPhone. However, having 2-rows per transaction is a pain to read and scan transactions vertically. I put in a feature request on their site to change this to the traditional 1-row per transaction.

  4. Like others who have commented here, the primary reason I bought Fusion was to run Quicken PC version. (Everything I’ve read says to avoid the Mac version like the plague.) Frankly, I’m not interested in moving to Quicken for Mac. That being said, what is the best iPhone app for Quicken PC users? By “best” I mean: (1) able to export/import files from Quicken PC — even if it involves the intermediate step of using .qfx files, (2) able to keep track of different accounts, (3) able to assign a category to each transaction, (4) able to find specific transactions, (5) able to filter transactions by various characteristics, (6) able to present expenditure & revenue reports split in various ways (e.g., monthly expenditures & revenues by category). I’m sure I’ve forgotten some but, of these, #1 trumps them all. Suggestions?

  5. I have used IBank 3 and hate it! After it downloads, it often duplicates or completely misses transactions. I have to spend hours reconciling. The budgeting and reporting is terrible! I miss Microsoft Money!

  6. A lot of our Mac customers are choosing YNAB 3. It’s a great alternative for those who are serious about budgeting and reducing debt. It won’t help you track investments, but it will teach you a different way of managing your money and that can help lot of people who are struggling with debt at the moment.

  7. I am another one of those Mac users who runs Windows only for specific programs — in my case two, Quicken (still 2008) and Family Tree Maker. I recently ditched Family Tree Maker and replaced it with MacFamilyTree, which is great. I read decent reviews of iBank, and waited until 4.0 came out before giving it a shot. Just spent the past few hours fixing the errors that occurred importing my QIF file (which has 17 years of transaction). I was fine with that, but now that I’m playing with the program I wish I hadn’t wasted my time. I don’t need much in the way of reporting, but this reporting is terrible. Where is investment performance by category? By security? As toddt said, the drill-down procedure is a joke. Also, I miss having “classes” as well as “categories”. Maybe I’ll check out the finance program made by the same company that makes MacFamilyTree. The program is called iFinance — anybody have experience with it?

  8. While I am pissed about Quicken. This program is no alternative.

    The QIF import is broken, IE the imports are all wrong on the account transactions. I have found many of the problems and have emailed them specific QIF errors with examples. NO REPLY!

    The message boards are full of people with various issues NO REPLY!

    Before I put down $ I expect: 1) for the product to work as advertised and 2) if you do have a problem a response from the company that A) they are working on it and or B) a resolution to the problem.

    Maybe one day there will be a good alternative to Quicken (as I hate it), but for now, I will limp along with Quicken 2007……

    • Chet Wilkinson

      I’m sorry you are having problems. I’ve been using iBank 4’s 30 day free trial and so far have had no problem. When I converted from Quicken for Windows to Quicken for Mac 2007, it was an absolute nightmare and I essentially had to restart. This time, when I use the QIF file to move from Quicken for Mac 2007 to iBank 4, it was errorless. The only thing that didn’t move over was Bills and that was simple to add.

  9. Robert Zabielski

    I just moved from PC to MAC and continue to use my old but reliable Quicken (2000) through Parallels 5/6; don’t laugh-it fits my needs. Will iBank 4 import my old PC Quicken files (QDF, QEL, QSD, Q3.DIr). Regards, Bob

  10. Quicken 2007 still works great for me. It does everything I want. Nevertheless, wanting to upgrade to something more modern and in line with Apple’s Cocoa interface, I finally converted to iBank 4.

    I have been very pleasantly surprised with how well it works and plan to stick with it. I love the top level reports it provides, and importing over 18 years of Quicken data went without a hitch. The interface is simple and elegant, and after a couple of hours of learning my way around (watch the online tutorials), I found it very well organized and easy to use. However, there are a number of small things that I would like to see improved:

    1. Quick search across all accounts. It’s stupid to have a search function for just the current account. The reason I’m searching for something is because I don’t know where it is – which means it might be in a different account altogether!

    2. It’s easy to forget which account you are looking at because the window title does not change (not even when you open a separate window for a different account!). It would be useful to have different colored backgrounds for different accounts so that you know immediately whether you are staring at your checking account, or a credit card account.

    3. Show the search bar within separate account windows.

    4. An option for viewing deposits and withdrawals as different colors.

    One last thing, I thought initially having icons for categories was just being too cute. But I really like it and it makes it easier for me to quickly scan for a certain transaction. But you will have to take the time to setup icons for the categories that are without a default icon (an easy way to find nice icons is Google Images – just google for “xxxx icon png”).

    Overall I would highly recommend iBank 4. I will miss BillPay in Quicken, and the ability for much more control over reports and their content, but I like what is there already, and I am hoping that a small hungry startup like IGG Software will be quick to fix the minor shortcomings.

  11. First of all, this this was a great article. I really enjoyed it, especially the sarcastic rants on QEM.

    Personal finance software for the Mac continues to be a disappointment. I was ready to try iBank after reading this review because I feel like Intuit hoodwinked me again. I’m ready to ditch Quicken Essentials. Then, I discovered that you can’t even export a QIF file. So I’m stuck. Who knows if Intuit will do anything with QEM when their focus is clearly now.

    Quicken is like the Microsoft or AOL of personal finance software. They try desperately to lock you into their product because they know it’s not that great.

    I used to use Quicken for Windows. I’ve basically abandoned Windows entirely, and I was happy to leave that bloated version of Quicken behind. However, I’m now at the other end of the spectrum. QEM is basically a check register than can talk to the internet. The reporting functionality is an embarrassment. It’s difficult to imagine that they actually paid someone to create the “spending cloud.” All I want to see is a simple income vs expense report. But to do that, I have to export to CSV and write a spreadsheet.

    And yes, I’ve tried to make work too. But it repeatedly had problems with a few of my (major Bank) credit cards. It would skip entire months.

    I just don’t get how personal finance software can be so lacking. 1) Everybody has at least some money and 2) everyone owns a computer. Why can’t someone create a decent app?

  12. 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!

  13. Sandman619

    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 !

    • Curmudgeon Geographer

      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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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…

    • Chet Wilkinson

      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.

  17. 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.

    • 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.

  18. 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 and never looked back. iBank is a complete fail.

    I found that works MUCH better. It talks to yo

  19. 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?

    • 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.

  20. 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