iBank 5 was released last month as the latest entry into the Mac personal finance software world. iBank 5 is a strong follow up to the previous versions, and with a companion iPad app, is a mature, stable money-management platform for any Mac and iPad user.
iBank had its beginnings in a post-Mac OS Classic world in which Quicken had all but become abandonware on the Mac, with Intuit leaving the market wide open for a bright newcomer to move in. IGG rose to the occasion and with each successive release of iBank has gotten only better. iBank 5 builds on its past successes (including an Apple Design Award) and offers features that allow it to breeze past its competition.
If you are a current iBank user, iBank 5 adds a number of compelling features to complete your experience. If you are using Quicken Essentials, iBank 5 is such a huge leap ahead in functions and features, you'll hardly believe it. Upgrades from version 4 are half-price ($30, purchased through the software itself), a nice reward for faithful iBank users, but even at full price of $60, it’s a great deal. Now, all inside one window and one app, you can manage your checkbook, investment accounts, credit cards, download banking statements and data, and pay bills online, while also offering check printing capabilities. If you connect to your bank by OFX, you can pay your bills directly from within iBank 5, which is very cool!
Other new features include improved handling of scheduled transactions, with reminders to help you never miss a payment. Back in the “old days” I used to write a bunch of checks and keep them, along with addressed envelopes, in a folder and mark on my calendar when to mail each one of them. iBank 5 allows me to use the same concept by allowing me to schedule payments in advance, and then remind me in time to send them (either by sending online or printing the check) and enter them. As a big fan of organization and planning ahead, this feature suits me well.
Many folks have lately adopted the envelope method of budgeting that has been promoted by financial gurus in recent years. Envelope budgeting has long been my favored method. Envelope budgeting is used by first setting up a budget through iBank’s setup assistant and creating categories that correspond to envelopes of your choice, then creating virtual envelopes and funding them with existing cash or scheduled deposits from future paychecks. Then, when you get paid, money will automatically go into your virtual envelopes, and when you spend money and enter the transactions with the appropriate category information, money is automatically removed from the corresponding envelope. You can see, through detailed bar graphs, how much of your money is left and how much has been spent from your envelopes. iBank has incorporated envelope budgeting in an easy to use manner, which very much replicates the simplicity and visual appeal of the envelope method of budgeting.
If you’re the sort who loves to keep data synced across your Mac and iPad, the combo of iBank 5 and iBank for iPad along with IGG’s Direct Access service (by subscription) keeps all your banks’ downloads updated constantly and across all devices (fixing what I found to be a shortcoming in the former version when I reviewed iBank for iPad last year). If your bank is one of the very few that doesn’t support Direct Access or OFX—or if you just prefer to do it manually and not pay for the Direct Access service—you can use the integrated browser to download your banking data directly into your account files. This simplifies the process, which previously would involve going into your web browser, downloading the file, finding the file in your downloads folder, and importing it into your finance app. iBank simplifies that substantially.
Part of any serious financial management is reporting and analyzing data to find trends, spot problems, and plan better for the future. iBank’s reporting tools are capable and I appreciate how reports are generated in a format that prints easy, yet also is viewed within the app window. Building a budget is an easy process, which iBank conveniently walks you through, setting up the different income schedules you might have, recurring bills, and also allowing budgeting for one-time or sporadic expenses.
Aside from these new or improved features, all the usual needs are met in a finance app as well: a familiar register view, which allows for categorization and subcategorization of expenses, split transactions, and account reconciliation. I’ve not started on my taxes yet, but iBank very easily prepared a report with all my taxable transactions and deductible expenses. TurboTax export is also available for fans of that software.
Though I do love iBank 5 and its new features, I was sorry to see that the new design aesthetic in iBank 5 has removed almost all color from the majority of the interface. I was also disappointed when Apple went to monochromatic Finder sidebar and Home folder icons, as well. I realize that iBank has just followed Apple’s own lead to smooth out and flatten the interface a bit, but I really liked the colorful icons in iBank of old. I also miss the coverflow view of transactions (yes, I also complained when iTunes got rid of coverflow). I’d love it if iBank could provide an option for colored icons in the source list (accounts, reports, etc.). Oh well. The individual transaction icons are still colorful, even if not cover-flowable anymore. In the end though, these are minor details, that don’t really detract from the functions and usefulness.
For anyone who wants to manage their personal finances, including cash, bank accounts, credit cards, investment accounts, and budgets, iBank is a solid choice, and one that I can easily and happily recommend. The video tutorials and user guide available provide a level of support that a lot of software developers have forgone in recent years, which is a nice touch, and adds to the user’s confidence that iBank will be around for a while and that its developers care about the software and its user base.
Get it here:
iBank for iPad
Ronald C. Schoedel III is an attorney, former broadcaster, student of Welsh, and Sinophile. He has lived in Alaska, Wales, and China (Hong Kong specifically), and presently calls Utah home. He has been teaching and training Mac users for nearly a decade, and started blogging as a software reviewer in 2004.