Review: iBank 4 Makes Quicken Essential No More


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, 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.

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