GnuCash Review: Pricing, Features & Alternatives
This article is part of a larger series on Accounting Software.
GnuCash is an open-source personal finance and small business accounting software that helps you manage and track your bank accounts, stocks, income, and expenses. Its features include statement reconciliation, scheduled transactions, double-entry accounting, and a checkbook-style register for tracking cash flow. It’s available for free and can be downloaded to multiple platforms.
What We Like
- Double-entry accounting
- Completely free open-source software that can be customized by programmers
- Doesn’t require an internet connection after installation
- Can be installed on multiple platforms
- Requires programming expertise to modify source code
- Very limited customer support options
- Can’t access remotely
- Single-user system
- Small businesses looking for free desktop accounting software: It’s available for free, making it an ideal option for startups and small businesses with tight budgets.
- Experienced bookkeepers: The initial setup process is tricky, and you need to spend some time mastering its features and functionality. However, GnuCash can be a powerful accounting tool once you get the hang of it.
- Open-source programming: Its source code is available to anyone who wishes to modify it. Programmers can tweak the source code if they want specific accounting transaction flows or functions. They can also enhance the source code to protect data and financial information.
- Tracking cash flow: It offers an excellent cash management module that lets you track income and expenses and reconcile checking accounts easily.
- Amortizing loans: It can prepare an amortization schedule for your long-term loan obligations. It also separates your payments into interest and principal so that you’ll see how much interest you’ve paid and how much is deducted from your principal.
- Users who want easy-to-use accounting software: It is hard to use, overwhelming, and unsuitable for do-it-yourself (DIY) accounting. Instead, we recommend Lendio Accounting because it’s easy to use even for first-timers. You can also read our guide to the best free accounting software for more alternatives.
- Bookkeepers who need remote access to their data: It is an on-premises software application. This means you can’t remotely access your files, and it’s difficult to synchronize changes if GnuCash is installed on different devices and managed by other users. QuickBooks Online is our best small business accounting software and is the best app for sharing accounting data with an external accountant.
- Inventory: It doesn’t have any inventory accounting features. We recommend choosing QuickBooks Desktop if you prefer desktop software with inventory management.
- Project accounting: The built-in job accounting in GnuCash is confusing and ineffective for tracking income and expenses by project. Zoho Books offers great project accounting features that can help you monitor project performance.
Are you looking for something different? Read our guide to the best small business accounting software.
GnuCash Deciding Factors
Supported Business Types
Small businesses looking to modify GnuCash’s source code for a more personalized accounting system.
GnuCash is free to download for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
GnuCash is free forever.
Built within the app
GnuCash Accounting Software Alternatives
Best for: Businesses looking for a free software that is easy to use
Best for: Businesses that want desktop accounting and need inventory or project accounting features
Best for: Businesses looking for a comprehensive web-based accounting software
Starts at: Always free for unlimited users
Starts at: $799 per year for one user
Starts at: $85 per month for five users
Fit Small Business Case Study
We used the case study method to evaluate GnuCash’s features across 11 key areas that are essential for small business accounting software. Here are the results of our study:
GnuCash vs Competitors FSB Case Study
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QuickBooks Online: Starting at $30/month; $85 as tested
GnuCash and Lendio Accounting are both free—GnuCash is a desktop software while Lendio Accounting is web-based. However, GnuCash falls short in inventory, project accounting, ease of use, and mobile app.
Moreover, we’d like to give emphasis on its ease of use. The software is hard to use, and it’s even harder than QuickBooks Online. Most first-time users of QuickBooks Online find it overwhelming—but wait until you see GnuCash’s interface.
We placed QuickBooks Online as a third software in the comparison so that you’ll see how GnuCash stacks with paid software products, and it compares well in terms of banking, A/P, and A/R areas. Though it isn’t as good as Lendio and QuickBooks Online, we still believe that GnuCash, being an open-source accounting software, presents a lot of opportunities for a very niche group of users.
GnuCash is completely free, but its team of volunteers created a donation page for those wanting to contribute to the open-source community. It’s available to download for Linux, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS X devices.
Despite being free software, GnuCash offers an extensive list of features designed to simplify small business accounting functions. Below is an overview of some of its most notable features.
After installing the software, you’ll see a blank white screen. When you open GnuCash for the first time, you’ll have to set up your company’s books manually, and there’s no setup wizard to guide you. Once you set up your chart of accounts, all accounts and their balances will appear on the top left portion of the screen. Overall, GnuCash is complex software to use if you’re not an accountant.
GnuCash has a traditional interface, and the interface and user experience aren’t ideal. It’s quite outdated and could use a visual revamp. The small font size can also be a problem for some users. However, despite being difficult to use, GnuCash has good general features, like the ability to import and customize a chart of accounts, record adjusting journal entries (AJEs), and close prior accounting periods so that changes can’t be made.
Some of the general features we like to see that are missing from GnuCash are the ability to invite additional users and a method to share your books easily with an external accountant. Also, it doesn’t have an autosave feature, so if you find yourself entering hundreds of lines of accounting data, don’t forget to hit the save button often. But if you know how to program, you could tweak the source code to autosave your work.
To access the accounts payable (A/P) module, go to the vendor overview under the Business menu. GnuCash’s A/P module isn’t the most visually appealing as it utilizes a lot of windows when creating vendors, editing vendors, creating payment terms, and entering billing:
When using the A/P module, ensure that you have entered all jobs, items, and vendors before creating a bill—it would be tedious to do it all as you’re creating the bill. GnuCash also doesn’t have an auto-record function, so the software won’t record a new vendor automatically just by entering the vendor’s name in the field. Overall, we find the A/P module challenging to use, even for certified public accountants (CPAs). The navigational flow isn’t as streamlined as other accounting software programs we’ve reviewed.
However, what we like in billing is that you can assign billable expenses to customers to add them to the customer’s invoice at a later time. This feature is often present in paid accounting software programs but is a rarity in free software. Though the billing function doesn’t have the best form design, we’re still giving it credit for its advanced features.
Once you’re done with the bill, you can view billing details under the Entries section of the billing module. If you have recurring expenses, you can set recurring billing for that expense, and GnuCash will include it in its scheduled transactions tab.
Just like the A/P module, we’re giving the accounts receivable (A/R) module a low score in subjective ease of use. During testing, we found it challenging to use GnuCash. It has a steep learning curve, and it takes time to master the software, so we can’t recommend this for DIY business owners.
The A/R module is in the “customers” overview. You can manage your customers here, add new ones, and view their information. The dashboard only shows customer information. Outstanding balances aren’t readily available in the A/R module dashboard.
The invoice form is similar to the billing form. Once the invoice is created, you can view invoice details in a separate tab. You can change the income account affected, quantity, price, applicable discounts, and taxes. After posting the invoice, you can print the invoice. Its design is traditional, and it has no attractive template or colors.
We can’t recommend GnuCash for invoicing because it doesn’t provide customization features. Instead, check out Zoho Books for its excellent invoicing functionality like adding logos, changing colors, and modifying font styles.
Even though it’s free desktop software, you can connect your bank account in GnuCash, and there’s a setup wizard to help you do so. Overall, we’re pleasantly surprised with GnuCash’s cash management features and consider it the main strength of the software.
For a free program, cash accounting in GnuCash is impressive. The reconciliation feature is excellent as it presents cash receipts and disbursements side-by-side. You can tick the box if the records match the items listed in your bank statement:
If items that haven’t been recorded appear on the bank statement, you can exit the reconciliation window and create an expense entry for bank service charges. Don’t worry, because GnuCash will remember the items you’ve ticked, and you’ll also see recent transactions added. After you reconcile accounts, GnuCash won’t generate a bank reconciliation statement automatically—you’ll have to go to Reports to create one.
GnuCash doesn’t have project accounting features. Though you can add service items, it’s still not enough for project accounting—we want to see features that can track project progress and costs. We recommend Zoho Books for project accounting. In Zoho Books, you can create projects, allocate costs to projects, and create budget-to-actual comparisons.
Unfortunately, GnuCash skips inventory features. This is quite disappointing because inventory is an essential component of an accounting system, especially for retail businesses. If you need inventory features, we recommend QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop.
QuickBooks Online is ideal for cloud-based inventory tracking. But if you prefer desktop software, QuickBooks Desktop has excellent inventory tracking features that can help you manage inventory stock levels and costs.
Adding sales taxes to invoices is convenient in GnuCash, and taxes are presented in the printable invoice. The only struggle here is that it’s hard to view sales tax liability in detail. We prefer seeing detailed sales tax liability so that users can see all transactions with sales tax plus sales tax adjustments from credit memos.
Reporting isn’t one of GnuCash’s noteworthy features. It can generate basic financial reports, but we didn’t find it useful enough for small business reporting.
GnuCash is hard to use for small businesses that wish to DIY bookkeeping. The only help available is to check the self-help information online. There’s no way to contact GnuCash by phone, email, and live chat. In addition, you’ll struggle to find third-party accountants who are familiar with GnuCash and able to assist you. Zoho Books is an excellent alternative software if you want better customer service.
GnuCash doesn’t have a reliable mobile app. While coders have introduced GnuCash apps for both iOS and Android, the apps don’t communicate with GnuCash on your computer and don’t contain all of the features, so we’re giving GnuCash zero points in this area.
There are limited GnuCash reviews from users. However, niche users have found it to be a great accounting software because it’s free and open source. Most reviewers recommend it for freelancers.
Here are the ratings of GnuCash on popular review sites:
- SoftwareAdvice: 4.49 out of 5 stars based on around 40 reviews
- SourceForge: 4.5 out of 5 stars based on about 110 reviews
Assisted Bookkeeping Options
We haven’t seen any bookkeeping service catering to GnuCash users in our research. Also, GnuCash doesn’t offer bookkeeping assistance of any kind on its website.
There are no direct integrations with GnuCash based on its support page. However, we think that integration is possible since GnuCash is open-source software.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long has GnuCash been around?
GnuCash has been around since 1998, mainly for personal finance. In 2001, it added small business accounting.
Is GnuCash really free?
Yes, GnuCash is totally free with no hidden charges, ads, and in-app purchases. When you download and install it, you can use all its features. It’s perfect for startups and small businesses that can’t afford paid accounting software.
Is GnuCash secure?
GnuCash is a desktop application, not cloud-based software. It stores data where you choose like in your desktop’s hard drive, so if your hard drive gets destroyed physically or by a virus, then you’ll lose all data.
GnuCash is a free software product that doesn’t have hidden charges or credit card requirements. Like most open-source software, it’s difficult to use. The interface is old-school, and even experienced bookkeepers will need time to learn the program.
If you have plans to modify the source code to enhance GnuCash, we recommend speaking with a programmer. Overall, if you’re looking for software that can be used “out of the box,” there are better free options available, like Lendio Accounting.