For our March “Community Choice” Project of the Month, the community elected GnuCash, an easy-to-use personal and small-business finance manager with a checkbook like appearance. The GnuCash team shared their thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.
SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the GnuCash project please.
GnuCash Team: GnuCash is a personal and small-business, single-user, double-entry bookkeeping software application based on standard accounting principles, with a wide variety of financial and accounting reports to help you get a clear picture of your finances. GnuCash is a mature project with almost twenty years of development and is also a part of the GNU project to build a free software operating system.
SF: What made you start this?
GnuCash Team: GnuCash started as a port of the older X-Accountant software package, with a modern Gtk+ GUI toolkit that runs on GNU/Linux (and others). At the time, a free software accounting program was considered essential to the GNU project.
SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
GnuCash Team: Yes, the original vision was to support single users’ accounting needs and this has been achieved.
SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
GnuCash Team: Anyone who needs to keep track of their finances, whether it’s a single user, a small business, a charity fundraiser, or anyone that prefers to use a free software solution instead of a commercial or closed-source solution.
SF: What is the need for this personal and small-business -accounting software?
GnuCash Team: If you’ve ever paid taxes, you’ve keenly felt the need for good financial record keeping. If you’ve run a small business, you’ve had to keep detailed records of your business transactions such as invoices, vendors, customers, budgets, etc. GnuCash can help with both personal and small business accounting needs.
SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using GnuCash?
GnuCash Team: The best way to get the most out of GnuCash is to use it according to the double-entry bookkeeping principles it has been designed for by using the five basic types of accounts, and debits and credits between them, as the building blocks of your financial record-keeping. GnuCash uses your accounting transaction records to build detailed reports of your accounts.
To that end, we have an excellent concept-based guide that walks you through all the accounting activities you can do using GnuCash.
SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
GnuCash Team: Our project has a very active user mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org) where both new and experienced users ask questions, swap tips, and help each other. We also have an active developer mailing list (email@example.com) where GnuCash developers collaborate on making improvements to GnuCash. Last year the developers migrated the project repository to the Git version control system to try to lower barriers to entry for potential contributors.
SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
GnuCash Team: In our case we have found that stability is important to our community. We ship new features in minor releases about once every three years and bug fixes in micro releases every few months.
SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
GnuCash Team: The first big thing probably was the port to Gtk+. There was a lot of excitement at the time. GnuCash was also one of the earliest projects on SourceForge, within the first 150 registered or something like that. The number would have been even lower but we dawdled for a month or two before completing the process.
The port to GTK/Gnome was also when the project name changed based on a popularity poll. Some excellent names were suggested, along with some clunkers like GnoMoney. Somehow GnuCash came out on top. This was circa 1997, meaning SourceForge and GnuCash go back a long way together!
SF: What helped make that happen?
GnuCash Team: The GnuCash team realized that one of the big requirements of a free software desktop, like the emerging GNU/Linux desktop, was a free software accounting package and they helped to bring that vision into reality.
SF: What was the net result for that event?
GnuCash Team: The net result is that anyone looking for a way to manage their finances on free desktop software can now succeed in doing so.
SF: What is the next big thing for GnuCash?
GnuCash Team: The next big step for us is to move to a multi-user architecture so that several people may be able to enter transactions into the same book of accounts simultaneously. This should help small businesses and folks looking to scale up their operations with a free software solution.
SF: How long do you think that will take?
GnuCash Team: The time frame for this is the next several years.
SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
GnuCash Team: We have an excellent team of developers who know the code base inside and out but we would love to extend a welcome to new contributors on the project.
SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for GnuCash?
GnuCash Team: We would not have used the Gtk+ toolkit’s GObject library for writing ‘object-oriented’ code in C.
GnuCash Team: It ties the internals of GnuCash to the GObject library, which hinders portability.
SF: Any reason you can’t do that now?
GnuCash Team: We are trying to do it now as part of our multi-user architecture effort, but it is a large undertaking and will take time to get right.
SF: Is there anything else we should know?
GnuCash Team: Yes, if you use an Android mobile device, you can record your transactions on the go and import them into GnuCash later. Check out our website to learn more about GnuCash and GnuCash for Android, which is separate from the GnuCash project.
And a big Thank You to SourceForge for continuing to be an indispensable resource for free software projects around the world.
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