Friday, September 5, 2003
Watch the Pennies with Spb Finance 1.0
Posted by Philip Colmer in "SOFTWARE" @ 09:30 AM
The design of Spb Finance is certainly ambitious - a multi-tier platform consisting of the Spb Finance Database, the Spb Finance Data Object Model and an interface for add-ons. There will be three editions of Spb Finance - the stand-alone edition, an edition that synchronises with Quicken and one that synchronises with Microsoft Money. In addition, the planned add-ons (shopping list, loan analyser, travel expenses manager and portfolio manager) will certainly put Spb Finance head-to-head against the sort of financial planning systems you'd normally expect to run on a desktop computer. The rest of this review will look at what the stand-alone edition delivers.
Setting up Spb Finance is pretty much like starting to use any other financial package, involving one-off activities like defining additional currencies you might use and specifying the accounts you have.
Figure 1: Currencies in Spb Finance
By default, Spb Finance comes with the US dollar defined as the sole currency. If you don't live in the US, it is likely that you'll want to change this to reflect your own home currency.
Figure 2: Editing the home currency
If you want to add further currencies, useful if you travel abroad and want to keep track of how much you've spent in "real money", you have to specify the name and symbol for the currency plus the exchange rate against your home currency. What I like about the currency interface is that you can enter either rate (i.e. $ per £ or £ per $) and Spb Finance automatically fills in the other value. A nice touch.
You might have your own favourite source of exchange rate information but, if you don't, I like the OANDA currency converter.
Figure 3: Adding a new currency
One of the downsides of currencies, though, is that they apply to an entire account, which is OK if you've got multiple accounts in foreign countries, but not very useful if you have occasional transactions in a foreign currency. For example, with Spb Finance at the moment, it isn't possible to go on holiday to a different country and enter charges to your credit card in the local currency and have the product show you how much you've spent in your home currency.
When you are done with the currencies, it is time to create your accounts. Spb Finance supports five different sorts of account - cash, bank, credit card, asset and liability. The PDF manual doesn't provide any explanation as to when you might want to use each sort of account, but the names are fairly logical.
Figure 4: Defining a new account