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Spb Finance 2.7.0 for Windows Mobile

Review posted March 2007 by Jacob Spindel

Sometimes it feels like there are so many electronic checkbook programs available that you would need another program just to keep track of all the programs. Some of them obscure their main functionality by bombarding you with flashy features that you probably don’t even want, while others sometimes have that “Bob’s First C++ Program” feel. However, I’m happy to report that at least one program has finally found the middle ground between these two extremes: Spb Software House’s Finance. The program includes some niceties that are actually useful while keeping the focus on the basics, making it an efficient way to track your finances.

Got Money?

Spb Finance provides a variety of money management tools for Windows Mobile devices (PocketPC 2002 or newer). If you use your Windows Mobile device with a Windows PC and ActiveSync, Spb has included the the ability to synchronize directly with Microsoft Money (versions 2002-2007) and Intuit Quicken (versions 2003-2006). These desktop programs are, of course, separate purchases.

The main window of Spb Finance presents you with four tabs: an Account tab, which lets you create and manage accounts in any of the available types (Cash, Bank, Credit Card, Asset, Liability), and the Register, Budgets, and Reports tabs, which I will now discuss in greater detail.

Register

Although the register is probably the most basic and familiar tab, it is likely also the one where you will spend the most time. At the bottom of the tab, the current balance of the current account is displayed, and the rest of the screen displays a list of transactions. Clicking the New button allows you to set up a new entry, which you can specify as a payment or deposit. You can also optionally specify a category, class, memo, date, and of course a dollar amount, as well as a check mark to indicate whether the transaction has cleared. You can choose to view your register with one line for each transaction or two lines, and transactions that subtract from your balance can optionally be displayed in red.

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The New Transaction screen includes an auto-complete feature that fills in names of transactions before you finish writing them, based on your previous transactions. Most desktop finance programs include this handy convenience as well, but it is pleasantly surprising to see auto-complete on a PDA. Even more exciting is that the new Transaction screen has a built-in calculator, so you can enter the amount as an expression rather than figuring out the amount yourself (for example, if you know you wrote a check for $26.32 + $50.96, but you don’t remember the total amount, and you don’t want to do the math in your head). The calculator also doubles as a numeric keypad so you can enter the amount easily without worrying about whether you need to switch to Transcriber, Keyboard, or some other input method. The keypad/calculator feature is incredibly convenient and simple, and, dare I say it, ingenious.

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You can also schedule repeating transactions, using a flexible system that allows you to define almost every possible type of repeating pattern you could possibly want. Repeating transactions can be configured to pop up a reminder when you need to enter them, or to enter themselves into your register automatically without requiring any user interaction.

You can search and filter your register entries, but there isn’t any feature specifically designed to help you reconcile your checkbook against your bank statement. Reconcilement essentially refers to accounting for discrepancies between your checkbook and your bank’s records, which are generally caused by delays in processing and mailing that can make your statement out of date before you even receive it. Thus, for modern users who pay with credit cards or other electronic methods, and read their bank info online, these delays are often eliminated almost entirely, which makes reconciling your checkbook against your bank statement a trivial task - just make sure they are the same. Nonetheless, some sort of reconcilement tab or wizard would’ve been nice.

 

Budgets

The Budgets tab allows you to create an unlimited number of costs and expenses that you regularly incur, which you can file into any of the numerous available categories. Using the calculator keypad once again, you can set limits for each expense, representing the maximum amount you intend to spend on that particular item within a particular time frame (you can choose monthly, quarterly, annually, or other options). Based on your register entries, your actual spending will be shown alongside your budgeted spending to help you figure out where you are spending too much, and where you may need to change your budget. Although some people probably feel that they can handle their budgets without having to go through the extra work of formalizing it in a computer program, people who can’t handle their budgets on their own could greatly benefit from this section of Finance.

Reports

Under the reports tab, you can see graphs and charts of various statistics, including your account balances, spending by category, net worth, profit and loss, among others. Although they are not the most complex or powerful features of the program, the graphs are easy to read and can help you visualize overall trends with your finances.

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Extras

Additional features of Spb Finance include the ability to password protect your information to keep it confidential, as well as a handy Today screen plugin that can be configured to display your balances, scheduled transactions, budgets, or any combination of the three. You can also choose to have your information automatically backed up to a file (you choose where the file is stored).

However, the most impressive extra, in my opinion, is that Spb Finance can export files to QIF, CSV, Microsoft Excel, and OFX formats, and it can import files that are in the QIF, MS Money for PPC, or OFX formats. These are all common file standards for banking programs across most platforms, so this opens up options for transferring data between the program and a desktop finance program for which Finance doesn’t have built-in syncing support. The only let-down is that this feature cannot be combined with the automatic backup feature, which would have allowed you to automatically have a copy of your information saved to a second format. Although this would’ve expanded the possibilities for integrating the program with your existing setup even further, overall, Import/Export is another feature that tends make the user exclaim, “Wow, I thought only desktop computers could do that.”

Chuck Your Checkbook!

With the tremendous variety of financial programs available, using a paper checkbook nowadays can sometimes make you quite primitive. If you’re looking for a program for your Windows Mobile device that can keep track of your checkbook and help with your financial planning while still remaining easy to use, then it is almost certainly worth entering one more debit into your checkbook to cover the registration of Spb Finance.

Pros: Supports auto-complete; excellent calculator/keypad built into transaction entry screen; imports and exports common desktop file formats; convenient Today screen plugin; automatic backup feature.

Cons: Exporting to another file format cannot be combined with automatic backup feature; no reconcilement feature.

Web site: Spb Software House

Price: $24.95

Spb Finance, $24.95

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