Review: iBank and CheckBook Pro Compared

iBank vs. CheckBook Pro to replace Quicken for Mac. (August 30th, 2011)

We take a look at iBank and CheckBook Pro as a replacement for Quicken for Mac. Both programs work well, within reason, but they offer different options. iBank has more features for complex accounts and handles investments. CheckBook Pro offers simpler accounting for less complex transactions.

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: IGG Software and Splasm Software

Price: $59.99 US & $19.99 US

The Good

  • iBank 4: Good functionality. Easy to use.
  • CheckBook Pro: Simple. Inexpensive.

The Bad

  • iBank 4: Poor Quicken conversion. Annoying methods for doing some tasks.
  • CheckBook Pro: Very basic. No transaction reports.

Many of us have used Quicken for a number of years. I used it even after Intuit stopped updating the Mac version, out of inertia and the fact that it worked well enough. OS X Lion, however, is pushing all of us out of our comfort zone.

Below I compare two very different financial tracking programs, to see if they can fill the hole left by Intuit's abandonment of Quicken for Macintosh. iBank is a complete financial package that helps you keep track of and analyze a wide variety of financial situations. Checkbook Pro is much less complex. It does not have all the functionality of iBank, but if it does everything you need it may be a fine option for notably less money.

iBank 4

Igg Software

iBank has a nice main window that allows you to select the data with which you want to work , the type of work you want to do and work with the actual data. You can also open any set of data such as an account in a separate window. I found the interface easy to work with, once I figured out the hide and show options.

Main Window With Account Data

Main Window With Account Data

iBank 4 Import from Quicken

The technique for importing data from Quicken sounds very easy. Just create a QIF file in Quicken and read the file into iBank. iBank imports the accounts, transactions, securities, categories, and investments from your Quicken file. Scheduled transactions, memorized transactions, budgets, and reports cannot be imported. The first obvious problem was that two-thirds of my accounts did not have the same balance as in Quicken, including all my investment accounts. Transactions that reinvest dividends and capital gains do not import correctly and need to be corrected manually. iBank appears to be aware of this problem and are working on a solution. Over the years I have removed non-investment data from Quicken to archive. My bank account transactions cover different years from my investment account transactions, which caused problems with the bank accounts. Once I correct these issues, I expect to find other problems. Producing a data set that I trust will be an immense amount of work.

Quicken's categories and subcategories transferred nicely, but iBank does not have classes. Every category/class combination that I used became separate categories. iBank has an easy way to merge categories, so this shouldn't be difficult to clean up, just tedious. I think the lack of classes is very unfortunate and limits the program's flexibility.

iBank 4 Accounts and Standard Transactions

iBank has a number of different account types and investment accounts have different transaction records than the other accounts. You can also create smart accounts, which allow you to group transactions into one account that you can display, search, or use to create reports. Along with smart accounts you can also make account groups, where each account group can be displayed, searched or used for reports. You can only create transactions in the original account. You can search the data in each account from the toolbar or use it to create reports.

Main Window With Account Data

Another Main Window With Account Data Courtesy of IGG Software

Transactions in iBank have some annoying features. You have to create each transaction by clicking on the plus button or using the keyboard shortcut and save each transaction by clicking the save button. When you create a split transaction you have to explicitly add each line of the split. This gets tiresome when you have a lot of data to enter. It is easy to create and edit transaction templates that should make your life much easier. A classic transaction template would be for a paycheck with all the different deductions that are taken out.

Transactions also have some interesting additional characteristics. You can attach pictures and files to transactions, so you can see a picture of what you bought, or scan the receipt, or add a link to a contract, which is useful information to attach to some transactions. iBank lets you assign images and colors to each category, making it easier to distinguish different types of transactions.

iBank Investment Transactions and Securities List

Investment transactions also have their quirks. iBank handles reinvesting dividends or capital gains. but the method is a little obscure. It is not set up to handle transactions in which the amount to be invested is fixed, such as 401K deposits. There is no explicit way to handle this in the program; however, you can enter amount fields as a mathematical equations as well as a direct number. You can enter the total amount divided by the number of shares. If there is ever a rounding error you should be able to use the commission to adjust it. It's a bit kludgy, but it works when I tested it. I asked iBank about this, but they have not yet replied to my email.

Tracking stock options does not work. iBank treats stock options as call options. If you try to enter stock options, iBank values the options at the stock price rather than the stock price minus the purchase price. Stock options are also given alternate symbols rather than the ones that Yahoo uses for the stock, so downloading the stock price does not work correctly. There are a few topics about this on IGG Software's User Forum so the developer is aware of the problem.

The securities list is also somewhat annoying. Every security that you have ever used is listed in alphabetical order. I could delete securities that I no longer use, but this means that the transactions associated with the security are altered so that they are not associated with a security. I would like to be able to group securities in a way that makes sense to me.

You can download current security prices and hopefully a price history for the securities on your list. If you want to enter data manually, say to make sure the prices you have match your end of the month statements, you have to select each security separately, select the change button, set the date and then set the price data. This could get really old, really fast.

Securities List

Securities List

iBank 4 Statement Downloads

iBank supports direct download of transactions from within an institution's web site. Different institutions allow different methods and some institutions that allow direct download may charge a fee.

You can also use iBank's built-in web browser to download transactions. You can attach a URL to each of your accounts and iBank's data window acts as a web browser. You select web download in an account, which takes you to the institution's site, where you log in and use the site's download functions. iBank lets you create import rules so that the transactions from places like banks and credit card companies are more likely to have the payee and category data that you want. It is relatively easy.

iBank 4 Reports

The reports you can generate with iBank are good, but also disappointing. I like to generate a wide variety of reports with any permutation of the data available in my financial files. iBank provides a reasonable selection of basic reports and each report produces a well-designed output but I cannot specify all the possible inputs into the reports or change how the data is displayed. In particular, I cannot specify any date range that I choose. They seem to cover all the basics; especially given that iBank does not have classes.

Securities List

Net Worth Report

One nice feature of iBank's reports is that you can click on any part of the report and it digs deeper into the data. As an example, the net worth report has a pie chart of assets by account type. When I double-click on the investment asset type in the pie chart, it gives me a list of all my investment accounts and their dollar (or other currency) value. When I double-click on an investment account, it shows me all the transactions in the account. This ability to dig deeper is useful and increases the flexibility of the report information.

iBank 4 Budgets

iBank has useful budgeting capabilities. You can have multiple budgets and each budget draws data from multiple accounts and tracks selected categories. There are two different ways to view budgets. You can look at income and expense categories to track your financial progress compared to the budget over a particular time period. It also allows you to set up the envelope method of budgeting, which many people find intuitive and allows you to carry over extra money between periods. You can switch between the two views but need to give the program some additional information if you wish to use the envelope method. The category view includes the basic numbers and progress bars for each category to give you a visual on how your budget is doing over the current period. The second view, the envelope view shows the different envelopes with the flap open if there is still money in the envelope. You can spend more than the envelope contains in which case the content amounts turn a bright red. Both views require time to set up, but let you see how well you are following your budget.

iBank also has an app, iBankMobile that allows you to sync with your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. An update to this app is due out soon.

CheckBook Pro 2.3

Splasm Software

CheckBook Pro is a simpler program, without all the functionality of iBank. It allows you to manage a set of bank and credit card accounts. It does not handle any assets, such as stocks or real estate. There is no investment functionality or budgeting and very little report generation. It also costs a lot less and is worth looking at if basic account management is what you need.

CheckBook Pro's screen is the register for an account with a list of the available accounts at the side. The list shows all the accounts that you create and an "All Accounts" option that lets you perform searches, create filters, or summaries for all your accounts together.

Sample Account

Sample Account

You can use a QIF file created in Quicken to move data into CheckBook Pro. You have to create each account that you want moved and import the data for that account from your Quicken QIF file. The checking accounts, savings accounts and credit card account that I transferred had all the correct balances, unlike iBank. The only problem was that transfers between accounts were not linked and the old account names became categories. CheckBook Pro does not have classes, but my categories and subcategories came across correctly. The one investment account that I tried to import became an empty account.

CheckBook Pro Enter Transactions

Although it's straightforward to enter transactions into an account, you do have to click a button or use a keyboard short cut to start every new transaction. When you enter split data you have to click a button for each new line in the split. You can create scheduled transactions for items such as paychecks, which saves you from making the whole split transaction every time.

CheckBook Pro does not have transaction reports but it does have ways of filtering the transactions you see in the main window. The quick filter at the top of the register window lets you search for transactions in the account shown (which could be the all accounts option) based on text in the transactions, dates, taxable vs. nontaxable, resolved vs. unresolved. The running balance at the bottom can be set to show the total of the filtered transactions. You can also set up smart folders with these same criteria. Smart folders support multiple criteria but transactions must match all the criteria to become part of the folder, not any. If you want multiple categories in the same filter you must remove every other category, one by one. You can only filter a single account or all accounts. You cannot filter for a range of amounts. Filtering and smart folders only give you very basic functionality.

CheckBook Pro Reports

The one report that CheckBook Pro produces is a summary page. For each month in the selected period, the page shows the summary of each of the descriptions, each of the transfer paths, and each of the categories. This is followed by the same summary of the data over the total period.

Account Summary Report

Account Summary Report

iBank vs. CheckBook Pro Summary

iBank and CheckBook Pro work on completely different levels. Anyone who needs most of the functionality in iBank will find CheckBook Pro useless, and anyone who finds CheckBook Pro satisfactory will think that iBank is massive overkill. CheckBook Pro is very easy to use and works if you have simple needs. iBank is a better program to replace Quicken, based on its functionality. It does the things I need, with some new great features, such as adding attachments to transactions. On the other hand, some functions such as dealing with the securities list or entering multiple transactions are annoying. Unfortunately, the time involved in cleaning up the data transfer may be enormous. I could end up checking every transaction for the last 20 years, because I need to make sure every investment transaction is correct. If I choose to use iBank, I will have a horrendous project ahead of me, but a program that provides what I need when I am finished.

I plan to look at more financial programs for similar functionality with fewer annoyances and an easier data transfer. iBank and CheckBook Pro can be purchased from the web sites or in the App Store. iBank costs $59.95 and a 30-day trial is available on the site and CheckBook Pro is $19.95. Based on program functionality, ability to replace Quicken, and price, I give iBank 4, 4 out of 5 stars. CheckBook Pro doesn't meet my needs, but it may meet yours, and I give it 4 out of 5 stars as a useful accounting program.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Lauren Clow


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