Baffled by reports (and some guessed solutions)

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Baffled by reports (and some guessed solutions)

Ross Boylan-2
I just upgraded to gnucash 2.0.1-2 on Debian, and am having trouble
getting expense reports.  I do not recall having this problem before.
Some of the accounts seem to be left out.

My goal is to get all expenses for each subaccount in expenses for the
calendar year.

I think I finally figured out how to get the values I wanted.  For a
cashflow report I selected the Assets and Liabilities accounts and
then checked "include subaccounts".  This seems to produce the values
I need.  Some of them were being missed because some expense
categories were "paid" by creating a liability (accounts payable).

This is rather indirect, because it's not really a cashflow report I
want (I think); I just want the total expenses.  

The rest of what follows was written before I figured the above out.
Aside from hoping my remaining confusions might be cleared up, I hope
this might be useful in future development:
------------------------------------------------------------

I've been using Reports | Income and Expense | Cash Flow.  It does
not, for example, show the item for the account
   Expenses:Medical Expenses:Rx,
though it does show items for doctor and nurse.  I've
tried selecting by hand, selecting by hitting the default button, and
selecting by hitting select all.  I've fiddled with the subaccount and
depth options.  I've tried check and repair on the account.  Nothing
works.

Perhaps this is a reflection of the indirect nature of payments I've
made related to this account.  While some of the other accounts
reflect checks written, all these items were "paid" for by incurring a
liability in an account payable.

I would say cash flow is not really what I'm looking for: I just want
total expenses by expense category.  This sounds as if the first
choice, Reports | Income and Expenses | Budget is what I need.
However, this gets me a page that says I need to customize the report,
and no matter what I do that's all I see.  My guess was that this
feature relates to the new budgeting facility, which I'm not using.

Other reports produce graphical displays; I need numbers.

In general, I've found the interface somewhat cryptic, and the
documentation missing or unhelpful.  Here are some specifics, in hopes
they may help future development.

1. As mentioned, the intent of the reports is not always clear from
the name.  I would have guessed that "budget" was what I wanted, not
cash flow, but that doesn't seem to have worked out.

2. The meaning of the customization tab for accounts are hard to make out.
  a) The account selection widget shows items with white, grey, and
  dark backgrounds.  Initially I thought the dark meant selected
  (which I still do), but I started wondering if the grey meant
  selected and white meant not selected, which might explain why some
  accounts were missing.
  b) does selecting a high-level account select all lower-level
  accounts under it?
  c) Do the settings for "account display depth" and "always show
  subaccounts" refer to the selection widget, the reports that are
  generated, or both?
  d) What are the defaults?
  e) How does "select default" differ from "default"?  (oh.. just
  realized the latter might mean "set defaults using current
  selections).
  f) clicking the help button produces a short message that answers
  none of these questions.
[In all above, I assumed I was selecting expense accounts to get a
report on.  That seems not to be the actual significance of this tab,
which identifies accounts for which flows in/out will be analyzed.]

3. The meaning of default for the "General" customization tab is
similarly unclear.

4. The general help that comes with the program contains a reference
to a chapter on reports, but doesn't seem to have such a chapter.

5. Interpretation of the resulting reports is also unclear.  The page
begins with a section entitled "Selected Accounts" with links to those
accounts.  This list differs from the accounts actually shown below
(oh... maybe cash flow reports flows in and out of the "selected
accounts" at the top?).  I thought maybe clicking on one of these
account links would produce another report, but it seems to go to a
register.  In the case of an aggregate level account, the register
doesn't include the subaccounts (maybe what one of those options above
affects?).

6. The graphical reports are also cryptic.  "Expense Barchart" shows
dates at the bottom.  How do they relate to the bars?  For example,
the first bar has 01/01/2006 under it.  Then there's an unlabelled
bar, then 03/01/2006.  I'm guessing the first bar is the month of Jan,
the second for Feb, etc.  However, initially I missed the blank label,
and thought the periods were maybe 1/1 - 3/1, being unsure of whether
the dates referred to the start or end, whether the first bar included
expenses before 1/1/2006.  By the way, it's a pretty nice graph apart
from that.

Ross Boylan
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Re: Baffled by reports (and some guessed solutions)

Derek Atkins
Hi,

Quoting Ross Boylan <[hidden email]>:

> My goal is to get all expenses for each subaccount in expenses for the
> calendar year.
>
> I think I finally figured out how to get the values I wanted.  For a
> cashflow report I selected the Assets and Liabilities accounts and
> then checked "include subaccounts".  This seems to produce the values
> I need.  Some of them were being missed because some expense
> categories were "paid" by creating a liability (accounts payable).

Have you tried the "Income Statement"?  This is what used to be called
the Profit and Loss report.  It was renamed to be more "accountant
friendly" but it's really the same thing.  You might want to try it.

> Perhaps this is a reflection of the indirect nature of payments I've
> made related to this account.  While some of the other accounts
> reflect checks written, all these items were "paid" for by incurring a
> liability in an account payable.

Yep, the Cash flow doesn't show indirect transactions like this..  (see
below).

> I would say cash flow is not really what I'm looking for: I just want
> total expenses by expense category.  This sounds as if the first
> choice, Reports | Income and Expenses | Budget is what I need.
> However, this gets me a page that says I need to customize the report,
> and no matter what I do that's all I see.  My guess was that this
> feature relates to the new budgeting facility, which I'm not using.

Try the "Income Statement" report.

> 1. As mentioned, the intent of the reports is not always clear from
> the name.  I would have guessed that "budget" was what I wanted, not
> cash flow, but that doesn't seem to have worked out.

The "Budget" report has to do with..... Tada!  Budgets.  It's not cryptic
at all!

> 2. The meaning of the customization tab for accounts are hard to make out.
>  a) The account selection widget shows items with white, grey, and
>  dark backgrounds.  Initially I thought the dark meant selected
>  (which I still do), but I started wondering if the grey meant
>  selected and white meant not selected, which might explain why some
>  accounts were missing.

I'm not sure..

>  b) does selecting a high-level account select all lower-level
>  accounts under it?

Only if you turn on "select subaccounts"

>  c) Do the settings for "account display depth" and "always show
>  subaccounts" refer to the selection widget, the reports that are
>  generated, or both?

The 'depth' is for the report.  The "always show subacounts" is
both.

>  d) What are the defaults?

Varies from report to report..

>  e) How does "select default" differ from "default"?  (oh.. just
>  realized the latter might mean "set defaults using current
>  selections).

Yep.

>  f) clicking the help button produces a short message that answers
>  none of these questions.
> [In all above, I assumed I was selecting expense accounts to get a
> report on.  That seems not to be the actual significance of this tab,
> which identifies accounts for which flows in/out will be analyzed.]

Please see previous discussions about the Cash Flow report.  You assumed
incorrectly.

> 3. The meaning of default for the "General" customization tab is
> similarly unclear.

Like all things, the "Default" button means return the report to the
hard-coded defaults.

> 4. The general help that comes with the program contains a reference
> to a chapter on reports, but doesn't seem to have such a chapter.

Reference?  Please use http://cvs.gnucash.org/docs/HEAD/ as the leader
for the reference...

> 5. Interpretation of the resulting reports is also unclear.  The page
> begins with a section entitled "Selected Accounts" with links to those
> accounts.  This list differs from the accounts actually shown below
> (oh... maybe cash flow reports flows in and out of the "selected
> accounts" at the top?).  I thought maybe clicking on one of these
> account links would produce another report, but it seems to go to a
> register.  In the case of an aggregate level account, the register
> doesn't include the subaccounts (maybe what one of those options above
> affects?).

*BING!*  Yes, the Cash Flow report shows the Cash Flow into and out of
the reports you select.

> 6. The graphical reports are also cryptic.  "Expense Barchart" shows
> dates at the bottom.  How do they relate to the bars?  For example,
> the first bar has 01/01/2006 under it.  Then there's an unlabelled
> bar, then 03/01/2006.  I'm guessing the first bar is the month of Jan,
> the second for Feb, etc.  However, initially I missed the blank label,
> and thought the periods were maybe 1/1 - 3/1, being unsure of whether
> the dates referred to the start or end, whether the first bar included
> expenses before 1/1/2006.  By the way, it's a pretty nice graph apart
> from that.

depends on your selctions.

> Ross Boylan

-derek

> Please remember to CC this list on all your replies.
> You can do this by using Reply-To-List or Reply-All.

--
       Derek Atkins, SB '93 MIT EE, SM '95 MIT Media Laboratory
       Member, MIT Student Information Processing Board  (SIPB)
       URL: http://web.mit.edu/warlord/    PP-ASEL-IA     N1NWH
       [hidden email]                        PGP key available

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Re: Baffled by reports (and some guessed solutions)

Ross Boylan-2
On Sun, Sep 24, 2006 at 09:01:34PM -0400, Derek Atkins wrote:

> Hi,
>
> Quoting Ross Boylan <[hidden email]>:
>
> >My goal is to get all expenses for each subaccount in expenses for the
> >calendar year.
> >
> >I think I finally figured out how to get the values I wanted.  For a
> >cashflow report I selected the Assets and Liabilities accounts and
> >then checked "include subaccounts".  This seems to produce the values
> >I need.  Some of them were being missed because some expense
> >categories were "paid" by creating a liability (accounts payable).
>
> Have you tried the "Income Statement"?  This is what used to be called
> the Profit and Loss report.  It was renamed to be more "accountant
> friendly" but it's really the same thing.  You might want to try it.

That looks like exactly what I need.

Maybe "Income and Expense Statement" would be clearer to the
non-accountant.

...

> >1. As mentioned, the intent of the reports is not always clear from
> >the name.  I would have guessed that "budget" was what I wanted, not
> >cash flow, but that doesn't seem to have worked out.
>
> The "Budget" report has to do with..... Tada!  Budgets.  It's not cryptic
> at all!

This confused me for 2 reasons: I was looking for the name of a
particular kind of report, and, finding nothing that looked quite
right, grasped at this.  Second, I'm used to Managing Your Money, in
which going into the "Budget" menu item at various points also gets
you the material I was looking for (i.e., how your expenses are
distributed across your budget categories, which is MYM-speak for what
are "expense accounts" in gnucash).

The "cashflow" report made me wonder exactly what flows were being
counted.  I think I understand now.

>
> >2. The meaning of the customization tab for accounts are hard to make out.
> > a) The account selection widget shows items with white, grey, and
> > dark backgrounds.  Initially I thought the dark meant selected
> > (which I still do), but I started wondering if the grey meant
> > selected and white meant not selected, which might explain why some
> > accounts were missing.
>
> I'm not sure..

I think the dark background is selected, the grey and white is just
alternating lines.

>
> > b) does selecting a high-level account select all lower-level
> > accounts under it?
>
> Only if you turn on "select subaccounts"
>
> > c) Do the settings for "account display depth" and "always show
> > subaccounts" refer to the selection widget, the reports that are
> > generated, or both?
>
> The 'depth' is for the report.  The "always show subacounts" is
> both.

This variation in meaning is a bit confusing.

>
> > d) What are the defaults?
>
> Varies from report to report..
>
> > e) How does "select default" differ from "default"?  (oh.. just
> > realized the latter might mean "set defaults using current
> > selections).
>
> Yep.
Maybe "set default" and "get default" or "reset defaults to display"
would be clearer (yeah, I know, the last is long for a button.  But
perhaps it could be help when you hover over the button).

...

> >3. The meaning of default for the "General" customization tab is
> >similarly unclear.
>
> Like all things, the "Default" button means return the report to the
> hard-coded defaults.

There are many default related operations; "default" alone isn't much
of a clue.  Defaults can be set or used.  Defaults may be for a
session, a user, or all users (in addition to having various scopes,
e.g., all reports, just this one, all reports of this type).
Sometimes there are "factory" defaults and user-settable defaults.
Sometimes you can reset the "factory" defaults (that is, change their
values).

>
> >4. The general help that comes with the program contains a reference
> >to a chapter on reports, but doesn't seem to have such a chapter.
>
> Reference?  Please use http://cvs.gnucash.org/docs/HEAD/ as the leader
> for the reference...
This was from the program menu, Help | Tutorial and Concepts Guide.
Section 4.7.5 says, in a note section, "More details on the reports
will be presented in the Report chapter."  There is no such chapter.

I see Help | Contents gets you something different; section 3.4 there
talks about reports.  The version I have seems a little behind the
program, since 3.4.1.3 doesn't include "Income Statement" or "Budget
Report".

>
> -derek
>

Thanks for your really fast and helpful response.

One of the reasons I've held off going to gnucash for my own stuff is
that it lacked budgeting.  I'm glad to see it's been added.  Thanks to
everyone who worked on it.

Ross

P.S. Gnucash 2.0 also looks a lot better, thanks to Gtk2 I assume.
The previous version's fonts were not only a bit ugly (as configured
on my system), but it had a very annoying way of opening up the
register so that all the characters in the numbers were not visible
without scrolling.

Final question: When entering a split transaction, I've always wanted
an "assign balance to this split" shortcut.  Is there such a thing?
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Re: Baffled by reports (and some guessed solutions)

Derek Atkins
Ross Boylan <[hidden email]> writes:

>> Have you tried the "Income Statement"?  This is what used to be called
>> the Profit and Loss report.  It was renamed to be more "accountant
>> friendly" but it's really the same thing.  You might want to try it.
>
> That looks like exactly what I need.
>
> Maybe "Income and Expense Statement" would be clearer to the
> non-accountant.

Maybe..  But renaming reports is... hard.  It breaks all existing
configurations so it's not something to be done lightly.  The time to
have commented on this was during the 1.9 test series.  At this point,
I'm afraid it just can't be re-renamed.   Personally I liked it
being called "Profit & Loss" myself.   *shrugs*

>> >2. The meaning of the customization tab for accounts are hard to make out.
>> > a) The account selection widget shows items with white, grey, and
>> > dark backgrounds.  Initially I thought the dark meant selected
>> > (which I still do), but I started wondering if the grey meant
>> > selected and white meant not selected, which might explain why some
>> > accounts were missing.
>>
>> I'm not sure..
>
> I think the dark background is selected, the grey and white is just
> alternating lines.

I think I'd need to see a screen shot to see what you mean by this.

>> >4. The general help that comes with the program contains a reference
>> >to a chapter on reports, but doesn't seem to have such a chapter.
>>
>> Reference?  Please use http://cvs.gnucash.org/docs/HEAD/ as the leader
>> for the reference...
> This was from the program menu, Help | Tutorial and Concepts Guide.
> Section 4.7.5 says, in a note section, "More details on the reports
> will be presented in the Report chapter."  There is no such chapter.
>
> I see Help | Contents gets you something different; section 3.4 there
> talks about reports.  The version I have seems a little behind the
> program, since 3.4.1.3 doesn't include "Income Statement" or "Budget
> Report".

What version of gnucash-docs do you have?   This is why I suggested
that URL, as it has the most recent version of the DOCS.

> Final question: When entering a split transaction, I've always wanted
> an "assign balance to this split" shortcut.  Is there such a thing?

I don't understand..  While you're entering a split transaction, the
remaining balance should always be on the 'blank split'.  So it should
be very easy for you.  Are you finding that the register isn't putting
the remaining balance onto the open split?

-derek

--
       Derek Atkins, SB '93 MIT EE, SM '95 MIT Media Laboratory
       Member, MIT Student Information Processing Board  (SIPB)
       URL: http://web.mit.edu/warlord/    PP-ASEL-IA     N1NWH
       [hidden email]                        PGP key available
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Re: Baffled by reports (and some guessed solutions)

Ross Boylan-2
On Mon, Sep 25, 2006 at 08:42:03AM -0400, Derek Atkins wrote:
> Ross Boylan <[hidden email]> writes:
>
...

> >> >2. The meaning of the customization tab for accounts are hard to make out.
> >> > a) The account selection widget shows items with white, grey, and
> >> > dark backgrounds.  Initially I thought the dark meant selected
> >> > (which I still do), but I started wondering if the grey meant
> >> > selected and white meant not selected, which might explain why some
> >> > accounts were missing.
> >>
> >> I'm not sure..
> >
> > I think the dark background is selected, the grey and white is just
> > alternating lines.
>
> I think I'd need to see a screen shot to see what you mean by this.
See attached screenshot.  "Assets" has a white background, "Equity"
grey, and the others are dark.

>
> >> >4. The general help that comes with the program contains a reference
> >> >to a chapter on reports, but doesn't seem to have such a chapter.
> >>
> >> Reference?  Please use http://cvs.gnucash.org/docs/HEAD/ as the leader
> >> for the reference...
> > This was from the program menu, Help | Tutorial and Concepts Guide.
> > Section 4.7.5 says, in a note section, "More details on the reports
> > will be presented in the Report chapter."  There is no such chapter.
> >
> > I see Help | Contents gets you something different; section 3.4 there
> > talks about reports.  The version I have seems a little behind the
> > program, since 3.4.1.3 doesn't include "Income Statement" or "Budget
> > Report".
>
> What version of gnucash-docs do you have?
2.0.0-1 (Debian package)

>   This is why I suggested
> that URL, as it has the most recent version of the DOCS.
>
> > Final question: When entering a split transaction, I've always wanted
> > an "assign balance to this split" shortcut.  Is there such a thing?
>
> I don't understand..  While you're entering a split transaction, the
> remaining balance should always be on the 'blank split'.  So it should
> be very easy for you.  Are you finding that the register isn't putting
> the remaining balance onto the open split?
Ah, I didn't think to modify the blank split directly.  The remaining
balance is going there.  However, there are some scenarios where this
is a bit awkward.  For example, if I have a transaction that is like a
previous one, the material from the previous one gets copied (which is
good).  What I'd like to do is modify some of the splits, point at the
last one, and hit a shortcut to have it adjusted automatically.  (This
is another Managing Your Money habit: you can hit F8 to assign the
remaining balance in that program).  I see now I could delete that
category and then modify they open split, which is not too bad.

Ross

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Re: Baffled by reports (and some guessed solutions)

Derek Atkins
Quoting Ross Boylan <[hidden email]>:

>> >> >2. The meaning of the customization tab for accounts are hard to
>> make out.
>> >> > a) The account selection widget shows items with white, grey, and
>> >> > dark backgrounds.  Initially I thought the dark meant selected
>> >> > (which I still do), but I started wondering if the grey meant
>> >> > selected and white meant not selected, which might explain why some
>> >> > accounts were missing.
>> >>
>> >> I'm not sure..
>> >
>> > I think the dark background is selected, the grey and white is just
>> > alternating lines.
>>
>> I think I'd need to see a screen shot to see what you mean by this.
>
> See attached screenshot.  "Assets" has a white background, "Equity"
> grey, and the others are dark.

Right..  This is just the standard "every other line is greyed" UI feature.
Click on "clear all" and you'll see what I mean.  It's just a visual artifact
to let your eyes easily see across the line.  Grey means the same thing
as white:  unselected.

-derek

--
       Derek Atkins, SB '93 MIT EE, SM '95 MIT Media Laboratory
       Member, MIT Student Information Processing Board  (SIPB)
       URL: http://web.mit.edu/warlord/    PP-ASEL-IA     N1NWH
       [hidden email]                        PGP key available

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