Petter Reinholdtsen

Ledger - double-entry accounting using text based storage format
18th December 2012

A few days ago I came across a blog post from Joey Hess describing ledger and hledger, a text based system for double-entry accounting. I found it interesting, as I am involved with several organizations where accounting is an issue, and I have not really become too friendly with the different web based systems we use. I find it hard to find what I look for in the menus and even harder try to get sensible data out of the systems. Ledger seem different. The accounting data is kept in text files that can be stored in a version control system, and there are at least five different implementations able to read the format. An example entry look like this, and is simple enough that it will be trivial to generate entries based on CVS files fetched from the bank:

2004-05-27 Book Store
      Expenses:Books                 $20.00

The concept seemed interesting enough for me to check it out and look for others using it. I found blog posts from Christine Spang, Pete Keen, Andrew Cantino and Ronald Ip describing how they use it, as well as a post from Bradley M. Kuhn at the Software Freedom Conservancy. All seemed like good recommendations fitting my need.

The ledger package is available in Debian Squeeze, while the hledger package only is available in Debian Sid. As I use Squeeze, ledger seemed the best choice to get started.

To get some real data to test on, I wrote a web scraper for LODO, the accounting system used by the NUUG association, and started to play with the data set. I'm not really deeply into accounting, but I am able to get a simple balance and accounting status for example using the "ledger balance" command. But I will have to gather more experience before I know if the ledger way is a good fit for the organisations I am involved in.

Tags: debian edu, english, nuug.

Created by Chronicle v4.6