Sad but true – I enjoy keeping track of my finances. Currently, I use iBank to do this and love it but I was asked by Mactropolis to try a new financial application called Horizon. Horizon is a $30 app that aims to make monitoring of personal finances simple by using a calendar approach. You […]
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Software Review: Horizon 1.4 from Lucerne Systems

Sad but true – I enjoy keeping track of my finances. Currently, I use iBank to do this and love it but I was asked by Mactropolis to try a new financial application called Horizon.

Horizon is a $30 app that aims to make monitoring of personal finances simple by using a calendar approach.

Horizon 1.4 from Lucerne Systems

You create categories and then select the date in which the category happens. For instance, if you are paid on the last day of the month, you put a positive number in the last day of the month. Costs go in as negatives numbers such as -12.00.

A good feature of Horizon is that it defaults to taking your Mac’s current currency setting as its own. So, for instance, my currency was £GBP and not the usual default of $USD that I’ve seen in other financial applications.

Horizon allows you to repeat your transactions by daily, weekly, monthly, etc. However, Horizon appears to be missing the option of making a transaction repeat indefinitely.

Horizon also boasts that if you change any value, all related values update automatically. While that is true for formulas that are dependent on that particular value, a limitation of the current version (v 1.4) is that if you change a value in one month of a recurring transaction, all future amounts do not alter. iBank allows for this by having a recurring transaction list and I feel that Horizon is missing an important feature by not having a similar list.

Horizon allows for you to use formulas to add numbers from one day to another. This feature is not something I personally have use for as my transactions are either one-off or recurring and are not dependent on a prior occurrence. I did try using the formula feature but in my tests I found it very difficult to use.

Quite a useful feature of Horizon is the ability to check and uncheck different categories so that you can focus on different aspects of your finances in the Summary pane.

The Summary Pane in Horizon 1.4

However, I prefer the approach of having category groups and then being able to drill down into them to see what the transactions were. Again, this is something an application like iBank provides.

The advantage of a calendar method for viewing transactions is that it provides the ability to move back and forward through the calendar to see what has happened or what is expected to occur in future weeks or months.

However, I feel that more important to personal finances is knowing where one stands in terms of a current bank balance and whether one has enough money after all projected outgoings to go out for dinner, a movie, etc. Unless Horizon adds accounts and balances, it is missing an important feature for keeping someone abreast of their current situation and being able to plan for the future.

As this application appears to be quite new I wasn’t too surprised that there are bugs and I must report that Horizon did crash on me when I was trying to drag a category into what Horizon calls a “category group”.

The dragging of categories is also illustrative of where this app is not the most intuitive. For instance, if you wish to drag a category such as Gym into the category group of Health & Fitness, you can only drag the item if you select to the left of the check box next to Gym. If you try to select and hold down the mouse anywhere else, the category will not move.

Also, deleting things from a particular date can be awkward. I would expect to be able to click on a transaction and then Command-Delete to remove it but that doesn’t always work because you can be left in an edit mode from working on a previous transaction. You have to remember to Command-Click on the cell you have finished editing/deleting before moving to another.

As for categories, Horizon could benefit from having some standard income and expense categories inbuilt as default rather than requiring you to create everything yourself. My basic model took more time to build than I would have liked.

It would also be of benefit to have income and expenses as two main category types so that if one enters an expense category, the app would automatically default to making the amount a negative number. You could also then add a feature of grouping by income and expenses.

In addition, I am probably not alone in having a lot of expenses leaving my bank on the first day of the month. In the monthly calendar view, you can only see a few transactions and because of the use of colour coding rather than lists, it is not easy to see what costs are coming out on Day 1 of the month. A list view as used by other applications is probably a better method once you go beyond a few transaction types.

Horizon 1.4

 

Horizon 1.4 from Lucerne Systems

While I do quite like the Summary pane in Horizon, the use of the pie chart supplied by iBank is more useful to me, especially as I can drill down on a particular pie chart segment to get a list of all the transactions that make up that segment.

However, it is not all negative. Horizon is probably fine for those people who only have a few transactions a month that they wish to track. Also, some people may find the method of using a calendar more suitable to their way of thinking.

Finally, it is good to see that, judging by the Horizon forum, the developer seems open to making changes and improvements. This is only version 1.4 of the product and I’d be interested in seeing what changes are made to Horizon by version 2.0. However, for the moment, I’ll be sticking with iBank.

For more info, and to pick up a copy of Horizon 1.4 for $29.95, visit Lucerne Systems. (A 30-day trial is available, simply download the horizon.dmg file and you’ll have 30 days to test it out!)

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