Some clarifications about Skrooge

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I was pointed by Thomas, of KMyMoney fame, to an LWN article talking about Skrooge. While it is great to see some blog posts about a tool that is, after all, not so well known, this one contains a few incorrect statements. To the author's credit, I must admit that Skrooge's User Interface is maybe a bit too packed to allow discovering these functions easily... Until we find a way to propose something slickier, I will try to provide some clarifications here.

Fast Edition

Your editor found that entry of transactions was a slow process. Skrooge does not remember transactions the way GnuCash does, so every payment to the same vendor requires specifying the amount and category

This is not correct, or rather, we do not do it like GnuCash or others do. Skrooge proposes a fast edition function, that will autocomplete all fields based on the content of the current field. For example, if you just entered "ACME" as a payee, and trigger fast edition (either by clicking on the icon, or by pressing F10), the fields Category, Comment, and Amount will be filled by reusing values from the previous operation registered for the payee "ACME". This is more or less the function that is described by the article author.
But Skrooge goes beyond that.
If you click the icon again, or press F10 again, Skrooge will go back one step more, and fill values with values from the N-2 operation. Press again, and you get values from N-3. And so on... So you can loop through all operations with this payee until you find the one that fits.
But even that advanced mode was not enough. I frequently faced the issue where I had the amount already entered, entered the payee, and want Skrooge to fill for me the Category and Comment fields, without touching the Amount that I had just entered. Well the fast edition mode will ignore all fields that you have already edited. Those fields are marked with this small flake icon, as a allusion to the fact that the field is "frozen".
Last, but not least, fast edition works not only for the Payee field, but also for category, comment, or even amount. Just select the field you need, and activate fast edition from there.

Operation signs

Payments and deposits are not separated, so payments must be entered explicitly as negative numbers

This is true. However, if you do not specify any sign when entering the amount, Skrooge will deduce it from the category. If the category is mostly used for payments, it will add the minus sign for you. You can of course force the sign of the operation by adding a + or a - before the amount. Overall, we feel that one field for the amount, be it a payment or a deposit, is more effective than two distinct fields. It's possibly a matter of personal taste, though :).

Automatic Check Numbers

The handy shortcut of hitting "+" to get the next check number does not work

This is also true. Again we are doing things differently, and I admit that hitting "+" to get the next check number is a good idea. It has, however one drawback: what happens if you own several checkbooks for the same account ? My wife and I have our own checkbooks for the same shared account... To work around this, Skrooge will automatically propose the next check number after you entered the first check numbers. But I like the author's idea better. Maybe when pressing "+" a drop down list with all possible numbers for checkbooks could appear ?

 

 

Keyboard only mode

It does not appear to be possible to enter a transaction without using the mouse

This is not correct. Use Tab to navigate through the fields, and press Ctrl+Enter to enter as a new operation, or Shift+Enter to update an existing operation.

Performances

There are also performance issues: when run on data imported from a multi-year GnuCash file, Skrooge required a few seconds to actually enter each transaction. For those with a lot of transactions to enter (all payments, alas, in your editor's case), this all adds up to a slower, less pleasant process.

This is a bit surprising for us, as our testing (admittedly incomplete) shows good performance. It is true that displaying the balance for each operation, as the author did as per the screenshot, does slow Skrooge a little bit. Point taken, I will check with Stéphane if there are some optimizations to be done (even though he did a lot in the latest versions).

Import

Some other details are missing as well. For example, when importing transactions, Skrooge is unable to detect duplicates - though it does have a facility for manually merging duplicates after the fact

Yes, we could maybe propose to automatically detect duplicates after import. I will submit the idea to Stéphane.
Edit: Idea accepted by Stéphane

Tooltips

It also suffers from the scourge of "tooltipitis" - it can be difficult to actually see what is going on in the window because there are always tooltips in the way.

I actually never thought of this, but this is a valid point. We might remove some of the less useful tooltips. 

Conclusions, and a call for help

In summary, Skrooge just doesn't seem to have benefited from years of optimization for everyday use like some other programs have. That said, it seems to be a capable tool that will be more than adequate for the needs of a large group of users. Once upon a time, Linux users had no real choice when it came to capable personal finance managers; at this point, there are several entirely acceptable options. At this level, at least, free software developers have managed to scratch this itch in an entirely satisfying way.

All this is of course correct, even though I do think that Skrooge is a bit more advanced than the author thinks. Again, we should take this as an indication that Skrooge's power remains largely unknown due to UI issues. I have a long standing action to sit with Björn and discuss usability. This article shows us where some improvements can be found.

One other thing that prevents Skrooge's adoption is that the documentation is very outdated. We need to spend some time refreshing screenshots, adding new functions, and so on... Does anyone feel like helping ? If yes, contact us !

I would like to thank the author, Jonathan, for taking the time to review Skrooge, and for providing us with some improvement ideas. This kind of constructive feedback is always useful for us :)

Comments

Difficulty with keyboard data entry

I have read through the tips above, but still find the interface for adding transactions clumsy. Maybe I am missing something. I enter the information (not wishing to use the mouse), I tab between fields and hit Ctrl-Enter to add the transaction. This leaves me sitting on the Tracker field to start a new transaction. I would expect to be sitting at the first field for the next item. Is this possible?