Linux has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Many companies are now thinking about making the move to Linux, but the lack of compatible software is still proving a barrier. But is it really all that difficult? For example, what kinds of solutions exist for accounting on Linux?
GNUCash. Offered free of charge and open-source, GNUCash is the premier accounting software available for all manner of Linux distributions. There are even cross-compatible versions for Windows and OS X. The only thing missing is mobile versions. GNUCash includes useful and natty features such as Double Entry, which balances account debits and credits to make sure the sums add up, and Scheduled Transactions, which allow recurring or future transactions to take place automatically.
GNUCash also supports multiple currencies and a host of advanced features that make it suitable for small business use. Invoicing is a breeze, and check printing is available in a range of official check types.
A quick note here: if you are printing large amounts of invoices or checks, it’s worth paying close consideration to the kind of printer you’ll be using. Evidently, checks and invoices only need to be printed in monochrome, and large numbers of prints necessitate the use of a laser printer - which uses efficient toner instead of ink - to keep costs down. A high-quality mono laser printer fits the bill perfectly and is available from almost all office stockists as well as direct from manufacturers online.
If you're still concerned about GNUCash's utility as a replacement for, say, Quicken, there is extensive documentation to support deployment. From user manuals to walkthrough guides, the documentation has few omissions. For those that are left pondering a very specific quandary, there are the traditionally well-attended and expertise-rich forums moderated by users that can answer almost any question in a pinch.
So who is GNUCash for? Well, it's pitched as being for 'personal' as well as 'small business' use, and that (to my mind) limits it to accounting for around 30 people. There is – at current – no real accounting alternative for larger businesses, which perhaps contributes to slow adoption. However, for small businesses as well as individuals, it's a great package.
If there's one thing that GNUCash falls down on, it is simplicity. The user interface (UI) is hardly pretty, and it's also a bit overwhelming for the novice user. While the documentation is happy to walk you through the various functions available, there are clearly improvements that can be made to create a more accessible program.
GNUCash is not the only accounting software available for Linux, but it is the most widely used and the most fully-featured. That's doubly important when using the open-source OS: not only does widespread usage typically yield better support and updates through official channels, it also expands the number of forum users who can offer a more informal route to seeking advice.
In the Linux world, that's a big deal: users tend to be savvy and well-educated, and genuinely interested in the welfare of other Linux users. That's something you can't necessarily get on the commercial OSes - that 'club' feeling, and people who are happy to look after you. It's that - the body of people willing to devote time and energy to an ideal - that defines the Linux community, and makes accounting on Linux a viable, cost-effective and ethical alternative for your home or business.
Joanna Stevenson studied mechanical engineering in London, and currently works for an energy research and consulting firm. She enjoys writing tech and business articles in her free time. She aspires to be an intrepid tech and gaming enthusiast with the exploratory spirit and witty prose of her favourite author of Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island for the tech world.