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WHY?

There are a bunch of legit accounting packages out there. No need to re-invent the wheel or (in this case) clean the parade ground with a toothbrush. Off the shelf SME accounting package or if you really need it a proper ERP. Anything else is likely to end in tears.

Unless its for your one man show...in which case go wild with the CLI / Excel custom rolled solutions & sundry DIYs.

Source: Accountant




Comparing ledger to cleaning the parade ground with a toothbrush is misunderstanding the feature set. Similar to comparing it to Excel custom rolled solutions. This is a true double-entry accounting system that happens to have a CLI.

It definitely does not have the feature set of a proper ERP, but it can effectively be used in place of an SME accounting package.

Out of curiosity, what makes an accounting package "legit" in your eyes?

[edit] I see that 3 other comments asked a variation on the "legit" question. At least in my case this is not intended as an attack, but rather actual curiosity about what a professional SME accounting package can do that ledger can't; as far as open-source accounting packages go, ledger has a reputation for being able to produce reports that others can't.


>not intended as an attack

Don't worry. I knew I'd catch grief. I know HN is strong on CLI love and thin on actual accounting experience. ;)

>This is a true double-entry accounting system that happens to have a CLI.

Double entry has existed in paper format since before the dawn of time. Its not particularly revolutionary (CLI or not) in fact its bare minimum for sanity. Hence my comment that this is barely a step above Excel.

>actual curiosity about what a professional SME accounting package

Copy paste from other questions:

Is it widely used? Can you get staff with a couple years experience using ledger? Will accounting staff be productive using the interface? Does it cope well with multiple simultaneous users? Is it compatible with other software? Can you get local support? Can you export/import to other packages? Are the fringe case glitches known?

All these things matter with finance software, even for fairly small operations.

>as far as open-source accounting packages go

To be honest I wouldn't go for an open source one (as much as I like FOSS etc). Accounting software is really an area where you want to follow the herd (unlike usual HN mindset). Straying from the herd has terrible risk/reward. e.g. Yes you might save $100 on the software by using FOSS, but when the auditors show they take twice as long to deal with the unfamiliar stuff and charge you an extra $2000. Or worse they find a glitch that is new. In the IT world you file a ticket for that. In the accounting world you end up with a massive bill to get outside help to salvage the accounting records. Followed by another massive bill from the auditors attempting to audit said salvaged records. But yeah...you totally saved that $100 on the initial purchase. (Exaggeration obviously, but you get my point).

>it can effectively be used in place of an SME accounting package.

I'd not attempt it, as per above. Seen way to many horror shows.


I have actual accounting experience so by your first point I am qualified to comment.

I doubt CLI snobbery is a factor; that would be infantile. I suspect others downvoted you for taking the default position that the status quo is the best prospect - hardly a hacker's point of view and certainly not in keeping with the startup community.

Had Rod Drury agreed with you, he might never have started Xero.

My finding is that once one is trained in the basics of double-entry book-keeping, accounting standards, finance and taxation, then any package that keeps appropriate records and generates the right reports will do. To which end, Ledger seems a perfectly reasonable choice for a micro business or self-bootstrapped lean startup. Comparing it to an ERP platform is a non sequitur. A better discussion might be around the transition triggers.

Moreover, Ledger could serve as the accounting module of a larger system that benefits from double-entry book-keeping, such as a trading platform or two-sided network business. I say that with confidence because I'm building one.

By the way, a little historical research: double-entry was invented in the fifteenth century; hardly the dawn of time.


>I suspect others downvoted you for taking the default position that the status quo is the best prospect

In my line of work I get to see a variety of approaches to accounting. This is not a game where the bleeding edge wins. In fact those do a lot of bleeding and zero winning.

>Comparing it to an ERP platform is a non sequitur.

Oh come one dude. I specifically said people should get a proper ERP if its need in my opening post. At no point did I compare this to an ERP. So please...chill with the latin, especially the false kind.

As for your other points. You list the "trading platform" as an example of this being successful. Sure. You could use this to effectively run a kitchen pantry too. Its still no good as a commercially accounting package for day to day use though.


My philosophy on this is, if/when my business grows to the point where I can't handle the bookkeeping anymore, I'll switch to something that I can hire out. And if that means paying someone to hand-jam in a year of transactions from my ledger files, so be it, but likely I'll write some translation software to make it happen.

Until that point, I'll keep doing my books myself with ledger :)


One small caveat as someone in the same boat. If you have to declare capital gains on transactions from multiple currencies, the "currency account" system that ledger uses is a bit strange for some accountants. I do my own book keeping, but I have an accountant who deals with the government ;-) He calculates capital gains in a way that I would say is arguably wrong. However, I trust that his way will be accepted by the government, which is all that matters ;-)


> Is it widely used? Can you get staff with a couple years experience using ledger? Will accounting staff be productive using the interface? Does it cope well with multiple simultaneous users? Is it compatible with other software? Can you get local support? Can you export/import to other packages? Are the fringe case glitches known?

I know that Accountants are conservative, but there will never be any new accounting software if all accounting software used needs to meet these requirements.

Lastly, I think a lot of people thought "one man show" meant a business with only one employee, while it is clear after your response that you meant one book-keeper. Ledger will not be used at any company with "Accounting staff" (plural). The largest organization I'm aware of that uses it is a free software non-profit that has moral reasons for avoiding proprietary software.


> There are a bunch of legit accounting packages out there.

How are they more "legit" than ledger?

> No need to re-invent the wheel or (in this case) clean the parade ground with a toothbrush.

Ledger's been around for a while. Using it is no more "reinventing the wheel" than using any other accounting package.


>How are they more "legit" than ledger?

Is it widely used? Can you get staff with a couple years experience using ledger? Will accounting staff be productive using the interface? Does it cope well with multiple simultaneous users? Is it compatible with other software? Can you get local support? Can you export/import to other packages? Are the fringe case glitches known?

All these things matter with finance software, even for fairly small operations.


To add to dragonwriter's answers:

> Can you export/import to other packages?

Ledger only reads data you stored in text files. You can't really get much more flexible than that. Give me another package's installation and a weekend, and I'll throw you a compatibility layer. Can you say the same about those other packages?


>I'll throw you a compatibility layer.

Cool. Now do the same in a commercial context without a HN hacker on standby? Say with a mediocre skill unmotivated IT department. Sane management takes one look at it and rather pays the 100 USD for a commercial package than dealing with their mediocre IT implementing some ledger/VCS/HN special edition. Thats 100 USD very well spent...


> Is it widely used?

Seems to be fairly popular.

> Can you get staff with a couple years experience using ledger?

It mostly (from the anecdotes I've seen) seems to be used by people who don't have dedicated accounting staff.

> Will accounting staff be productive using the interface?

See previous answer; the "accounting staff" using it are usually programmers, either independent business persons keeping their own books or using it for personal accounts.

They're probably more productive using text-editor + source control + CLI than they would be with a traditional GUI.

> Does it cope well with multiple simultaneous users?

That's an issue mostly offloaded to the VCS, where needed.

> Are the fringe case glitches known?

In quality software, known glitches are fixed.


>either independent business persons keeping their own books or using it for personal accounts.

Hence my comment in the initial post that its fine for one man shows. Those can carve their records on stone tablets if they like. Their tax accounting might charge them double for having to deal with the results but thats their problem.

>In quality software, known glitches are fixed.

Except when you're deal with companies using accounting software. There you frequently see outdated software. At least the commercial packages come with forced updates. Which are a god-send because you sure as hell don't want accounting staff trying to do IT updates...much like ahem you don't want IT staff attempts accounting stuff...like here.


This same line of reasoning can be used to argue against going against the grain of anything.

Nobody's twisting your arm to switch. If it provides utility greater than what you perceive to be its disadvantages, use it. If not, don't.


>Nobody's twisting your arm to switch.

Actually I'm an auditor. Meaning 1) I've see a lot of accounting packages and 2) I need to deal with whatever is in place.

On a good day thats a standard package. On a bad day its IT people attempting to play accountants which works about as well as heart surgeons flying jetliners. Nothing against heart surgeons...they just have no business flying jetliners.

Sad part is that I can program too, so I can usually see why the programmer did something & it makes sense from an IT mindset. :/

>can be used to argue against going against the grain of anything.

Accounting software is particularly conservative. Straying from the herd has terrible risk/reward.


> Off the shelf SME accounting package

Isn't that what this is? For those of us who haven't used this, what makes it less "legit" than competing options?


Copy and paste answer (got the same question 4x):

Is it widely used? Can you get staff with a couple years experience using ledger? Will accounting staff be productive using the interface? Does it cope well with multiple simultaneous users? Is it compatible with other software? Can you get local support? Can you export/import to other packages? Are the fringe case glitches known?

All these things matter with finance software, even for fairly small operations.


With the caveat that I'm not a user of this software (yet), but:

> Does it cope well with multiple simultaneous users?

If you know of any other software that copes better with simultaneous users than git/modern dvcs+text files I'd be very surprised?


Again - thats IT/HN mindset. Who is going to train the accountants to deal with git conflicts? Or are you just going to employ and IT guy that babysits the VCS when you could just spend $100 more to get an accounting package with built in networking? This is all about how this will be practically done in a business context, not whether a hn hacker can throw together a clever hacked solution.


> There are a bunch of legit accounting packages out there

What makes ledger not 'legit'?


Copy & paste (got the same question 3x)

Is it widely used? Can you get staff with a couple years experience using ledger? Will accounting staff be productive using the interface? Does it cope well with multiple simultaneous users? Is it compatible with other software? Can you get local support? Can you export/import to other packages? Are the fringe case glitches known?

All these things matter with finance software, even for fairly small operations.


Because if you just spent $50 instead of inventing your own accounting software you might have more than one person working at your business.




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