For years and years, I complained about Quicken. The Mac products were not up to snuff, to the extent that I was running the Windows version in a VM (after briefly trying the now defunct Quicken for Mac). The user interface was terrible. The report options sometimes didn’t work as expected. And to top it off the software was relatively expensive, and Intuit worked hard to push upgrades (sunsetting old versions and support for their online services relatively quickly) and to upsell an array of additional products and services (checks, credit cards, backup, etc.).
But I had tried unsuccessfully to get out from under the Quicken thumb for several years. I had played with several of the indie offerings for Mac, and I had also looked at the online alternatives. At one point, I convinced myself that I could make do with Mint and a spreadsheet, a delusion that lasted for perhaps a few hours. (And, yes, Mint was later purchased by Intuit, which would have been uncomfortable, to say the least.)
But late last summer, iBank came to my attention. And, on a glance, it looked like it might actually meet my needs. So, last September I made the leap. I fully expected that I might have to switch back, but nearly a year later, I’m still with iBank. And with any luck at all, I’ll never send Intuit another cent. (I also switched my taxes this year from TurboTax to an online product called TaxAct.)
First, the good. And, frankly, in and of itself this is great: iBank is a perfectly serviceable Quicken alternative for me. I can’t speak for the small business features available in some flavors of Quicken, like invoicing, because I’ve never used them. But I use quite a few personal finance features: I have a mortgage, regular investment accounts, retirement accounts, educational savings accounts for my children, and a small consulting business. And iBank let’s me do most everything that Quicken could do. I can download transactions for the same credit card and bank accounts as before. I can generate the reports that I need to keep my budget in order. (I never used Quicken’s budgeting feature, and I haven’t tried iBank’s. I keep my budget in a separate spreadsheet.) I have access to my full transaction history (more on that in a moment).
But, I do have a few complaints:
Generally, the UI is not as polished as I’ve come to expect from native Mac applications. Lots of things are awkward or require more clicks than should be necessary. It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly the problem(s)—I’m no UI designer. But the whole thing is just more cluttered and clunky than I think it could be. On the other hand, it’s certainly better than either Quicken for Mac or Quicken for Windows. And the more polished Mac financial apps, which I won’t name here, were massively underpowered. So there you go.
One area that is particularly lacking is updating retirement accounts. Some retirement accounts send me quarterly statements. I have no desire to enter transactions on these accounts, as there are 30+ transactions a month (5 securities × 3 accounts × 2 pay periods). Quicken would let you enter a few figures off the monthly statement and then generate appropriate transactions to fix things up. As far as I can tell, iBank has no such feature. So, I wind up just entering appropriate “fix up” transactions manually, following Quicken’s lead. It’s still an order of magnitude simpler than entering all the transactions, but it takes me about 30–45 minutes per quarter. (Basically, you enter a transaction for your total employer contribution for the quarter, where appropriate. Then a transfer to nowhere that empties the cash out of the account. Then incoming transfers of shares from nowhere to account for purchases.)
The import process was painful. It involved exporting all of my old data in QIF format and then importing it. And the import process duplicated some, but not all, transfers between accounts. So, after the import one had to go through each account and track down the duplicate transfers until things were balanced. To be fair, though, this is exactly the same process that was required to move from Quicken for Windows to Quicken for Mac and back. Plus, I’ve heard that the ability to import from Quicken has been improved recently, although I have no personal experience with that.
In short, I recommend iBank with only a few minor reservations. Of course, your mileage may vary, particularly if your needs are dramatically different from mine. I’m pretty happy to have finally escaped the Intuit-industrial complex myself, though.