A few months ago I started my quest to replace Cha-Ching because of how bad my experience with their 2.0 beta was, and how poor their support response was (I got no response at all). I outlined the choices I’d been considering at that stage in part 1 of this article. Since that post there’s been a few developments, and as of this afternoon, I think my quest is at an end.

Initially I had tried four apps (MoneyWell, Moneydance, Squirrel, and iBank), since then Connor P suggested a fifth to me, Money 3 from Jumsoft. A sixth major contender also came onto the market in the form of Quicken Essentials, but since they don’t offer a free trial, they were not even considered. To me, the lack of a free trial speaks volumes about a company’s faith in their own product. If you won’t let me try before you expect me to buy, you’re not in the running for my hard-eared cash!

I spent all day yesterday going through the options again, and went so far as to enter about 25 test transactions spread over two accounts into my two favourite choices, Squirrel and Money. I really love tags, so Squirrel nosed ahead because of its support for tagging, and because it was the most competitively priced. Late in the afternoon I made my choice and paid for Squirrel.

Happy with my new purchase I set to work adding in all my transactions for July, and within minutes realised I’d made a terrible mistake. Squirrel is buggy. Not just a little buggy, unusably buggy! The phrase “Register365” got stuck in the auto-complete buffer, so no matter what I typed, in ANY field, what came out was all or part of “Register365”, even when I tried to type numbers to enter the amount of transactions! I’d type “410” and Squirrel would enter “reg” into the input box! To say I swore loudly is putting it mildly. A total failure to take keyboard input is one hell of a serious bug! I wrote an email to support explaining the bug, and how infuriated I was, and waited for a reply. Later that same evening I got one, it was from the developer, Axel, and it was very friendly. Axel said he was familiar with the bug, and that it was fixed in the next version of the product. I replied asking for an estimated shipping time for the update, and was told it would probably be around September. I had also inquired about a refund, and Axel had said he would process one for me if I couldn’t wait for the update.

Since Axel was responsive, helpful, and friendly, I decided to have another go and try add a few more transactions to Squirrel. The bug could be gotten around by restarting the app, and if it didn’t happen too often, perhaps I could last until September. After-all, the app has the perfect feature-set for me, and a very nice interface too. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well. Not only did the first bug re-occour within a few transactions, a new bug also raised it’s ugly head. Each time I’d edit the description of one transaction, TWO transactions would get that new description, the one I wanted, and another one nearby! What was worse, when you combine the two bugs together, you get every error being multiplied. In just a few minutes, about half of my transactions had garbage descriptions as I tried desperately to fix all the errors the auto-complete bug was generating. At this stage I’d had enough. I emailed Axel again, described the second bug, and asked for a refund. Axel again replied that he was aware of this bug, and that it too would be fixed in the next version. To Axel’s credit, he processed my refund very quickly.

I’m very torn about my experience with Squirrel. On the one hand, the app shows great promise. It’s well designed, does everything I need, and has a nice mac-like interface. I also get the impression this app is made by a very small company, possibly just Axel himself, and as a general rule, I like to support indie developers. I also get the impression that Axel is very passionate about Squirrel, and is working very hard to make it a great product in the future. However, none of that excuses shipping, and charging people money for, a product that’s so buggy it’s unusable. Axel knows about these bugs, yet he keeps taking people’s money, I just don’t find that acceptable at all. In fact, if I’m honest, I find it deeply immoral. As I see it, Axel either needs to issue a bug-fix update for the current version of the app immediately, or stop selling it until the next version is ready to ship. I can end on a some-what positive note though. The fact remains, I got my money back promptly without any hassle or any argument. That also says a lot.

Since Squirrel turned out to be a bust, how has my quest ended? It’s ended with Money 3. I just bought my license this afternoon, and I really do feel like I’ve gotten a good deal this time. I’ve entered many transactions, spread over 4 accounts, and not a bug in sight! *touches wood* The interface is nice and mac-like, the feature set is a good fit for me, and it works. It’s not perfect though, for a start, it doesn’t support tags, but I can do everything I need, and I’ve hardly had to change my workflow at all from Cha-Ching. At about &euo;40 (inc. VAT), the price is descent too.

For now, I’m happy that I’ve found a good, reasonably-priced personal finance app for the Mac – Money 3 from Jumsoft.