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A few notes on ledger

A few notes on ledger

Posted May 9, 2012 0:16 UTC (Wed) by cworth (guest, #27653)
In reply to: Accounting systems: a rant and a quest by djc
Parent article: Accounting systems: a rant and a quest

I've been using ledger for my personal finances for quite some time.

I love that it has a plain-text input syntax, (so I manage all of my
ledger data files with git, and use the One True Editor as the primary
interface for data input).

The simple command-line interface has always proved sufficient to me
for quickly looping over the data file and generating whatever balance
or register reports I've needed.

That said, I don't have any visibility into what the detailed needs of
small businesses are which our esteemed editor can't seem to find in
the various "basic accounting" packages. Two things mentioned in the
article are to "generate tax forms" and "interface with an
accountant". I don't know that ledger has much in the way of specific
support for either task.

So I would guess that ledger in its current form might fall short like
many other software programs. But the fact that ledger has a real
"Unix way" about it, (focusing on the small task of defining a
human-readable data syntax, and generating reports from it), might
just make a great basis on which to build more sophisticated
data-entry and reporting interfaces.

Presumably SFLC, (unlike me), actually deals with interfacing their
ledger data with professional accountants. So those folks might have
some useful insight.

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A few notes on ledger

Posted May 9, 2012 11:55 UTC (Wed) by emk (subscriber, #1128) [Link]

There's several "Ledger" pacakges floating around. This is the text-based one:

I actually use Ledger for a consulting business, together with Emacs ledger-mode and FreshBooks for invoicing. For taxes, I just make sure that my expense categories correspond to those used by the IRS, run a report, and copy about 20 numbers over to the tax forms.

If I want to review something with my accountant, I just sit down and read the text file with him. Of course, everything is kept in version control, and I can add comments in the main ledger file.

The Ruby scripts download CSV data from my bank and Freshbooks, and convert it into raw ledger files.

Curiously, the whole system is actually pretty quick and painless — I spend a few hours each quarter on bookkeeping, and I can automate any annoyances with a 20-line script that munges text files. You'd think a GUI would be easier, but really, there's a lot to be said for plain text once you want to automate something. And it's nice to have a big comment at the top of the ledger explaining the relevant IRS rules.

So +1 for Ledger, despite the retro approach.

A few notes on ledger

Posted May 11, 2012 18:37 UTC (Fri) by daglwn (guest, #65432) [Link]

ledger-mode? I'm sold! Thanks to all of you for making us aware of ledger!

A few notes on ledger

Posted May 17, 2012 0:24 UTC (Thu) by dmarti (subscriber, #11625) [Link]

+1 Insightful.

A web developer and designer could probably get 200 grand from Kickstarter to develop a robust open source small-business accounting system, then put a slick web API and front end on ledger and git and make the best accounting software in the world. (Not that the competition is great or anything.)

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