Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Derek Atkins-3
Hi James,

Just for the record, I've got transactional data going back to 2005 and
2007 for my business and personal accounts.

-derek

James Thorpe <[hidden email]> writes:

> In another discussion "How to set a customer opening balance for the
> Customer Report" which has been satisfactorily resolved, Derek Atkins
> asked why I am creating a new data file. I did pose the original
> question as if moving from a different system so as to avoid the
> discussion of why I'm creating a new data file but since Derek asked,
> I do in fact create a new data file in GnuCash for each financial year
> for the following reasons-
>
> a) Fear of corrupting previous year's transactions
>
> Once my financials are done for the year and reported on, I do not
> wish to inadvertently enter or modify a historical transaction that
> will result in the same reports producing different results. It is
> easy in GnuCash to enter a transaction with a date for a previous
> financial year or, mistakenly change the date of an existing
> transaction without noticing it.
>
> I enjoy the fact that I have the power to do this but fear making a
> change by mistake
>
> A way to combat this could be to just make a copy of the file at the
> end of each FY as an "archive" file that I use for reporting and/ or
> checking the current file in case there are historical corruptions. In
> combination, I could perhaps also enter a "closing balance" entry on
> all accounts at year end that records the closing balance in the
> description that could then be checked from time to time to ensure all
> is in order.
>
> b) Size of file / speed of access
>
> I know there have been discussions regarding this but I am concerned
> that with 10+ years of data things will slow down, especially if the
> entire file is read into memory. I like being able to access gnucash
> from low powered machines.
>
> c) Complexities with reports that don't look at date ranges (eg. Trial
> Balance)
>
> Certain reports just look at the final balance in the account -
> eg. the Trial Balance report. This means that if I draw a TB the
> expenses, income etc will report the total for the entire period for
> which I've been using GnuCash. What my accountant wants in my Trail
> Balance report is my total expenses for the year, not forever. I
> gather that the "Close books" function may be able to resolve these
> issues but have not looked into this further.
>
> d) Refinement of my accounting process
>
> Being a complete noob to accounting, I've been slowly improving
> (hopefully) the way I do things from year to year as I learn. As a
> result I may create new accounts and delete others from year to year
> and starting a fresh file each year allows me to have the chart of
> accounts better reflect my latest process. In addition, the entries
> will be more consistent in each file - representing the way I
> currently process transactions.
>
> Having said all of this - there are certainly downsides to creating a
> new file each year as the previous question highlighted. Firstly, the
> business features don't translate well year to year and then, of
> course, it's a labour intensive manual process to set up a new file
> and get all the opening account balances right, re-create the
> customers, re-set up the business information and counters etc.
>
> Hope that sheds some light on my choice and is helpful to others
>
> James
>
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--
       Derek Atkins                 617-623-3745
       [hidden email]             www.ihtfp.com
       Computer and Internet Security Consultant
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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Stan Brown
On 2019-10-21 09:40, Derek Atkins wrote:

> James Thorpe <[hidden email]> writes:
>>
>> a) Fear of corrupting previous year's transactions
>>
>> Once my financials are done for the year and reported on, I do not
>> wish to inadvertently enter or modify a historical transaction that
>> will result in the same reports producing different results. It is
>> easy in GnuCash to enter a transaction with a date for a previous
>> financial year or, mistakenly change the date of an existing
>> transaction without noticing it.

You can avoid that by File » Properties.

Unfortunately, you have to update that property every ... single ...
day, because "day threshold for read-only transactions" doesn't let you
enter a date, only a number of days offset. So if you calculate that
today is the 294th day of the year, and set the threshold to 294 so that
none of last year's transactions can be altered, when you open your GC
file tomorrow it will allow alterations of Jan. 1 this year; the next
day Jan. 1 and 2; and so on.

That rather odd design choice is in 2.6.x; I don't know whether it's in 3.x.


--
Regards,
Stan Brown
Tompkins County, New York, USA
https://BrownMath.com
http://OakRoadSystems.com
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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Adrien Monteleone-2
Still there.

A date entry would indeed be so much more useful.

Regards,
Adrien


> On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 9:01 AM, Stan Brown <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> On 2019-10-21 09:40, Derek Atkins wrote:
>> James Thorpe <[hidden email]> writes:
>>>
>>> a) Fear of corrupting previous year's transactions
>>>
>>> Once my financials are done for the year and reported on, I do not
>>> wish to inadvertently enter or modify a historical transaction that
>>> will result in the same reports producing different results. It is
>>> easy in GnuCash to enter a transaction with a date for a previous
>>> financial year or, mistakenly change the date of an existing
>>> transaction without noticing it.
>
> You can avoid that by File » Properties.
>
> Unfortunately, you have to update that property every ... single ...
> day, because "day threshold for read-only transactions" doesn't let you
> enter a date, only a number of days offset. So if you calculate that
> today is the 294th day of the year, and set the threshold to 294 so that
> none of last year's transactions can be altered, when you open your GC
> file tomorrow it will allow alterations of Jan. 1 this year; the next
> day Jan. 1 and 2; and so on.
>
> That rather odd design choice is in 2.6.x; I don't know whether it's in 3.x.
>
>
> --
> Regards,
> Stan Brown

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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Adrien Monteleone-2
In reply to this post by Derek Atkins-3
Certainly, to each their own. I enjoy reading of other’s process and workflows and why they make certain decisions. Thanks for offering yours.

My own experiences are in-line:

> On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 2:15 AM, James Thorpe <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> In another discussion "How to set a customer opening balance for the Customer Report" which has been satisfactorily resolved, Derek Atkins asked why I am creating a new data file. I did pose the original question as if moving from a different system so as to avoid the discussion of why I'm creating a new data file but since Derek asked, I do in fact create a new data file in GnuCash for each financial year for the following reasons-
>
> a) Fear of corrupting previous year's transactions
>
> Once my financials are done for the year and reported on, I do not wish to inadvertently enter or modify a historical transaction that will result in the same reports producing different results. It is easy in GnuCash to enter a transaction with a date for a previous financial year or, mistakenly change the date of an existing transaction without noticing it.
>
> I enjoy the fact that I have the power to do this but fear making a change by mistake
>
> A way to combat this could be to just make a copy of the file at the end of each FY as an "archive" file that I use for reporting and/ or checking the current file in case there are historical corruptions. In combination, I could perhaps also enter a "closing balance" entry on all accounts at year end that records the closing balance in the description that could then be checked from time to time to ensure all is in order.

As Stan noted, the read-only threshold setting could be used here, and as I replied, this would be much more useful as a date entry rather than a ‘days old’ entry.

But your suggestion of an archive file is something others have discussed here before. They keep one file, but archive it at year end along with all of their formal reports. If they ever need to run a different report again ‘officially’ they do so from that archived copy.

Some benefits to keeping that single ongoing file are below.
>
> b) Size of file / speed of access
>
> I know there have been discussions regarding this but I am concerned that with 10+ years of data things will slow down, especially if the entire file is read into memory. I like being able to access gnucash from low powered machines.

I think that tends to be more of a problem with reports left open than data file size. If you leave a report tab open when closing GnuCash, it will dutifully restore all of your tabs when you re-open. Some reports, like the Average Balance report need some speed optimization. (it has been known to take many minutes to complete) The larger the data file, the longer that report takes to finish. Thus it looks like GnuCash is choking on a large data file. The real culprit is just that one report. (though there may be others)

Two possible solutions are:

1) close all report tabs when exiting. Registers are fine.

2) don’t close GnuCash unless you really have to. This is what I do. I’m on an OS that has virtual desktop spaces (not sure if Win ever implemented this) but even with it minimized this would still work fine. I have accounting entries to make on nearly a daily basis, so it makes sense for me. (and I’m lucky enough to have plenty of RAM not to worry) So this likely wouldn’t work with low powered machines, but option 1 certainly would work fine.

>
> c) Complexities with reports that don't look at date ranges (eg. Trial Balance)
>
> Certain reports just look at the final balance in the account - eg. the Trial Balance report. This means that if I draw a TB the expenses, income etc will report the total for the entire period for which I've been using GnuCash. What my accountant wants in my Trail Balance report is my total expenses for the year, not forever. I gather that the "Close books" function may be able to resolve these issues but have not looked into this further.

I don’t close books, but I also don’t use that report. So I can’t speak from experience, but even with closing the books, I think the report will still look at all transactions. The Close Books procedure simply makes two multi-split transactions, which zero all expenses and income accounts to Equity:Retained Earnings. Your assets (including AR), liabilities (including AP), and other Equity accounts are unaffected.

The historical transactions are still there with amounts. The report will just get to the closing transactions and subtract them all out again.

Perhaps this would be a good RFE for that report to allow specifying a date range.

>
> d) Refinement of my accounting process
>
> Being a complete noob to accounting, I've been slowly improving (hopefully) the way I do things from year to year as I learn. As a result I may create new accounts and delete others from year to year and starting a fresh file each year allows me to have the chart of accounts better reflect my latest process. In addition, the entries will be more consistent in each file - representing the way I currently process transactions.

I refactored my account tree quite a bit during my first 6-9 months of GnuCash. (I had used Quicken years before, but was never very diligent, and didn’t even bother importing, I just started fresh.)

I refactored again about a year or two later as I started using the budget module and running comparison transaction reports. Thankfully, during my first refactoring, I learned that I need to put as much detail and breakdown receipt line items rather than consolidate them. I still have a few transactions I have to leave as ‘generic’ expenses, but for the most part I now have a better grasp on where, what and why I’m spending.

I’m in the middle of refactoring some accounts again as I’m refining some newer types of expenses.

If I had started a new book each year, and I wanted to compare spending across periods apples:apples, I wouldn’t be able to do so without refactoring EACH file. By having everything in one file, each refactor happens only once. If I move transactions from one account to another, they all move - not just the current year.

It doesn’t bother me that now last year’s expenses look different then it did on Jan 1. It is just my organization that changed, the money spent did not. And if I did make an error with a transaction in how it was recorded, I’d rather it be fixed. Any need for ‘official’ numbers that were tied to any ‘official’ filings can be preserved in an archived pdf version of said reports. Otherwise, if I want to change my apples to oranges, I need that to happen across the board so period comparisons are meaningful and don’t require additional mental gymnastics, or trying to remember old ways of organization in my chart that I haven’t used for years.

These period comparisons are another reason I don’t close my books even with the same file. I’d lose some of that reporting ability because the closing transactions would interfere with them.


>
> Having said all of this - there are certainly downsides to creating a new file each year as the previous question highlighted. Firstly, the business features don't translate well year to year and then, of course, it's a labour intensive manual process to set up a new file and get all the opening account balances right, re-create the customers, re-set up the business information and counters etc.

Yup. GnuCash was designed to keep one file forever. Closing Books was a requirement based on the limitations of paper volumes. Computers have no real limit here, at least not one most people are going to encounter.

Some features have been added to accommodate those who still prefer the old paper processes, but as you’ve found, this is a bit incomplete.


Regards,
Adrien

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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

GnuCash - User mailing list
In reply to this post by Derek Atkins-3


On October 21, 2019, at 10:40 PM, Adrien Monteleone <[hidden email]> wrote:

>Certainly, to each their own. I enjoy reading of other’s process and workflows and why they make certain decisions. Thanks for offering yours.
>My own experiences are in-line:
>> On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 2:15 AM, James Thorpe <[hidden email]> wrote:
>>

>> c) Complexities with reports that don't look at date ranges (eg. Trial Balance)
>>
>> Certain reports just look at the final balance in the account - eg. the Trial Balance report. This means that if I draw a TB the expenses, income etc will report the total for the entire period for which I've been using GnuCash. What my accountant wants in my Trail Balance report is my total expenses for the year, not forever. I gather that the "Close books" function may be able to resolve these issues but have not looked into this further.
>I don’t close books, but I also don’t use that report. So I can’t speak from experience, but even with closing the books, I think the report will still look at all transactions. The Close Books procedure simply makes two multi-split transactions, which zero all expenses and income accounts to Equity:Retained Earnings. Your assets (including AR), liabilities (including AP), and other Equity accounts are unaffected.
>The historical transactions are still there with amounts. The report will just get to the closing transactions and subtract them all out again.
>Perhaps this would be a good RFE for that report to allow specifying a date range.

Um, the dictionary definition of a "trial balance" is "a statement of all debits and credits in a double-entry account book, with any disagreement indicating an error." It is, by definition, a report "as of" a given time that includes all transactions up to that date.

For the OP, I'll note that you aren't achieving any different results by starting a new file; you're just converting all your earlier transactions into a single "Opening balance" entry.

I am pretty sure that you would in fact be looking for the "Income Statement," which allows the user to define a set time period. This is also known as a "Profit and Loss" report.

David
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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Adrien Monteleone-2


> On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 12:40 PM, D <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>
> Um, the dictionary definition of a "trial balance" is "a statement of all debits and credits in a double-entry account book, with any disagreement indicating an error." It is, by definition, a report "as of" a given time that includes all transactions up to that date.

I’m well aware of that. But if you’ve already determined those transactions balanced from a previous year/period, there is little use to having GnuCash burn through cycles computing that fact all over again for the current period. (I’m not saying there isn’t *any* use, just not one that most users are going to need) Even with pen and paper, you’re starting with the historical periods being summarized in an aggregated transaction. You don’t go back and compute them all over again. And with respect to Income and Expenses, you don’t even factor the past in at all with manual methods because those got closed to Equity. Why should GnuCash? (maybe such an enhancement would only be paired with a date-based read-only preference, or when the Close Books procedure is used.)

The Balance Sheet is a similar type report.

Maybe the problem is the Trial Balance report code as Balance sheets don’t seem to take long. I just ran each one on a book that goes back to 2016, with hundreds if not a thousand or so transactions. (is there a way to get a count?)

The Balance sheet showed up in less than a second.

The Trial Balance took 21 seconds. (I didn’t use a stop watch, I just watched my desktop clock tick by, so not very scientific, but enough of a spread to be an issue)

Both tally everything from all transactions and then present various aggregate organizations.

Why is one so quick and the other 21+ times slower?

Regards,
Adrien
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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

David Cousens
In reply to this post by GnuCash - User mailing list
To me the main driver of a single data file approach is the ability to create
reports with multi-period comparisons of the data. To be able to do this in
a year by year with separate file approach GnuCash would have to have the
ability to either keep multiple sets of books open simultaneously or
sequentially access the separate files to extract the required data to
construct such a report. Clearly not impossible but much easier on the
programming side with a multi year file where all the data is accessible.

The good thing is that GnuCash can be operated in whatever manner suits the
user, a flexibility many other programs don't have



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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Christopher Lam
In reply to this post by Adrien Monteleone-2
On Mon, 21 Oct 2019 at 20:12, Adrien Monteleone <
[hidden email]> wrote:

> The Trial Balance took 21 seconds. (I didn’t use a stop watch, I just
> watched my desktop clock tick by, so not very scientific, but enough of a
> spread to be an issue)
>
> Both tally everything from all transactions and then present various
> aggregate organizations.
>
> Why is one so quick and the other 21+ times slower?
>
>
Chris wants to see that datafile :)
(https://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/ObfuscateScript is fine)
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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Adrien Monteleone-2
Where should I post it? A bug report?

> On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 4:48 PM, Christopher Lam <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>
>
> On Mon, 21 Oct 2019 at 20:12, Adrien Monteleone <[hidden email]> wrote:
> The Trial Balance took 21 seconds. (I didn’t use a stop watch, I just watched my desktop clock tick by, so not very scientific, but enough of a spread to be an issue)
>
> Both tally everything from all transactions and then present various aggregate organizations.
>
> Why is one so quick and the other 21+ times slower?
>
>
> Chris wants to see that datafile :)
> (https://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/ObfuscateScript is fine)


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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Christopher Lam
Actually, try the trial balance again in a recent maint. A major speedup
was merged in last month:
https://github.com/Gnucash/gnucash/commit/0ec82872b -- I think you'll find
it's now much faster. Come back with benchmarks :) and confirmation amounts
are still correct.
Otherwise bugzilla is perfect (component Reports).

On Mon, 21 Oct 2019 at 22:00, Adrien Monteleone <
[hidden email]> wrote:

> Where should I post it? A bug report?
>
> > On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 4:48 PM, Christopher Lam <
> [hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > On Mon, 21 Oct 2019 at 20:12, Adrien Monteleone <
> [hidden email]> wrote:
> > The Trial Balance took 21 seconds. (I didn’t use a stop watch, I just
> watched my desktop clock tick by, so not very scientific, but enough of a
> spread to be an issue)
> >
> > Both tally everything from all transactions and then present various
> aggregate organizations.
> >
> > Why is one so quick and the other 21+ times slower?
> >
> >
> > Chris wants to see that datafile :)
> > (https://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/ObfuscateScript is fine)
>
>
> _______________________________________________
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Re: [GNC] Why I create a new datafile each year for GnuCash

Adrien Monteleone-2
Will do. Also of note, I normally use the sqlite backend so not sure if that has an impact. I’ll try it also with XML since the script only works on that anyway. I might not get done with testing till tomorrow though.

Regards,
Adrien

> On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 5:03 PM, Christopher Lam <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> Actually, try the trial balance again in a recent maint. A major speedup was merged in last month: https://github.com/Gnucash/gnucash/commit/0ec82872b -- I think you'll find it's now much faster. Come back with benchmarks :) and confirmation amounts are still correct.
> Otherwise bugzilla is perfect (component Reports).
>
> On Mon, 21 Oct 2019 at 22:00, Adrien Monteleone <[hidden email]> wrote:
> Where should I post it? A bug report?
>
> > On Oct 21, 2019 w43d294, at 4:48 PM, Christopher Lam <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > On Mon, 21 Oct 2019 at 20:12, Adrien Monteleone <[hidden email]> wrote:
> > The Trial Balance took 21 seconds. (I didn’t use a stop watch, I just watched my desktop clock tick by, so not very scientific, but enough of a spread to be an issue)
> >
> > Both tally everything from all transactions and then present various aggregate organizations.
> >
> > Why is one so quick and the other 21+ times slower?
> >
> >
> > Chris wants to see that datafile :)
> > (https://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/ObfuscateScript is fine)

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