THe week before last I posted a description of the final stages of my quest for a new personal finance app, and explained how I came to choose Money3 from Jumsoft, what I didn’t do was actually review the product though, so I thought I’d do that now. On the one hand I’ve only been using this product for a week and a half, but on the other I’ve been using it a LOT during that week and a half. In that time I’ve entered all the transactions for 2010 on six accounts covering all my personal and business transactions so far this year. That’s a lot of time using the software, so I think I’ve got a good flavour of what it’s like to really use it.

On the whole the app behaves and looks like a true-blue Mc App, and more importantly, it works well, and for the price, I’m really happy with the functionality it offers. My previous app was Cha-Ching 1.X, and there’s no doubt that Money is a lot less playful an app, and that it feels a lot more business-like. To be honest though, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Cha-Ching sometimes felt like a toy app, this feels like a grown-up mature app. Money is not cluttered or intimidating though, but it definitely feels more utilitarian. You also get the impression this app has been the beneficiary of a few more development cycles than Cha-Ching. It feels a lot more polished and fine-tined than the nascent Cha-Ching.

Before I get stuck into some of the things I really like about Money, I should also point out some of it’s foibles. In my mind the most glaring omission is a lack of support for tagging/keywording. I’ve become very fond of tags/keywords, and I really miss them in organisational apps like Money (and iTunes). In Cha-Ching I had set up quite a few Smart Accounts which were triggered by keywords or combinations of keywords, and these had become an important part of my workflow. Thankfully I was able to re-create these same Smart Accounts in Money, but not as elegantly. I had to basically simulate tags/keywords by adding words or phrases in the description field, and then searching for those in my Smart Accounts. This mean you don’t get auto-complete on your ‘tags’, and it’s also much more prone to typos. I have a working solution, but this is the one area where I find Money inferior to Cha-Ching.

My only other complaint is a minor one, but it was initially very frustrating. When you enter a transaction you do so in an overlay that pops up over your list of transactions, and as you create your transaction you tab through it from field to field. That is until you come to the drop-down for choosing the transaction’s Category. One nice thing about this drop-down menu is that you can type in it and it begins to auto-fill and scroll the list for you. The problem comes when you want to select an item in the list after you’ve expanded it by hitting the down-arrow. My reflexive action for selecting the value and collapsing the menu was to hit return. This is the WRONG thing to do! It commits the transaction as-is, and at this point in the proceedings you haven’t entered an amount, a payee or a description yet! The correct way to select a value an collapse the list is to click on it or to hit tab, which I find counter-intuitive. It took me a fair few empty transactions to get over my reflex to hit enter and learn to hit tab instead, but after a few hundred transactions I think I have it down now 🙂

So, what do I like? Since the only other personal finance app I’ve ever used extensively was Cha-Ching 1.x, I can’t avoid drawing comparisons to it when describing Money. The biggest change is that the display of transactions is much more compact and hence easier to scan through in Money. Each transaction is just one line, so it looks much more like a spreadsheet. I can easily see fifty or more transactions on a page with Money, while you’d be lucky to get twenty with Cha-Ching!

Another fantastic improvement is a running total column next to the amount column. This sounds so trivial and so obvious, but Cha-Ching was totally lacking it. It makes accounts much easier to reconcile, and mistakes much easier to find.

The biggest advantage for me though is robust transfer support. In Cha-ching you could not easily transfer money between your own accounts. You had to do it as two completely independent transactions, a withdrawal from one account, and a deposit into the other. This made editing a transfer a nightmare, because you had to find the two un-linked parts and edit them individually. In Money the transactions are linked so you only need to edit the details in one place. Additionally, Money makes it easy to jump from one half of a transfer to another by adding an in or out arrow next to the amount in the amount column that acts as a link to the other half of the transaction in the other account. I transfer around a lot of money between my personal account, my credit card, and my business account as I buy business stuff on my personal credit card and then pay myself back from my business account, so good transfer support is a big deal for me.

Another nice feature is the ability to program in recurring bills. It’s great to be able to see what bills are due out of what account when. This makes it easy to ensure there’s always enough money in the right place at the right time to avoid referral charges and un-necessary overdraft interest charges. I should point out that this is a feature Cha-Ching has too, and to be fair, I found their interface for it marginally easier to use than Money’s, but just marginally.

It’s hard to get excited about a personal finance app, so it’s no surprise that I don’t crave for time using Money, but I will say it’s made an otherwise painful task a little less unpleasant, which I quite high praise for personal finance software in my book!