Review: Inesoft Cash Organizer 2007 Premium

When you’re looking for a piece of software to organize your finances, you’ll want to have a decent and stabile program. There are several software titles that deal with your (personal) finance, but after browsing through some forums, my conclusion was that the most popular programs among the forum users were Spb Finance and Inesoft Cash Organizer 2007 Premium, where the latter is more feature-rich. (For the rest of this review, when I say “Cash Organizer” or “CO” I will mean Inesoft Cash Organizer 2007 Premium). I’ve downloaded the trial of CO and gave it a try. I didn’t really know what to expect, since it was the first time ever I looked into this kind of software, but I was well surprised with how capable a PPC turns out to be when it comes to managing my financial transactions.

Quickly read on!

Since Cash Organizer is a pretty big application, I’d like to first make clear in what order things will be discussed.
* First we will look at the installation process and trial limitations
* Then I’ll give some initial notes to consider when reading this review
* Beginning the actual review, we’ll first figure out how we need to set up our first account
* Then we take a look at the basic elements of the Cash Organizer display
* Next we’ll discuss the Options section, including the Today screen plugin
* Then all tabs are covered, from Account to Category
* After that Cash Organizer Express is shortly dealth with
* And finally we’ll move on to the conclusion

Installation and trial 

A 25 day, fully functional, trial can be downloaded in different file formats (.exe, .cab) from the Inesoft Download Center. When you install through .exe, you are asked if you also want to install the Synchronizer, which will install parts on the PC and the PPC, and allows you to continuously sync with Microsoft Money. Since I don’t have/use Microsoft Money, I didn’t install the Synchronizer. With the .exe installer you are also asked if you want to download a trial of Inesoft Adress Book; I unchecked this box too. After the Windows installation, you can immediately view the user manual in PDF on your PC.

CO can be installed on a Storage Card, but it will still place 1 MB of files on your device storage. This is okay with me, I appreciate it if the necessary elements of a software are on the device itself, and the other parts can be on a Storage Card.

Notes before the review

First, I will need to tell you a little about my situation so you can understand what I will be expecting from this software, and how ‘heavy’ my use will be.
I’m a student without creditcard, I just have my cash and my bank account for payments, and a savings account. I recieve monthly paper bank account statements, and keep track of my finances using an Excel spreadsheet.
In the spreadsheet, I have different columns for my college payments, clothes, etc, so I can see , for example, how much money I still have left to spend on clothes and how much I’ve saved for study books. These columns are also added together so that I can see how much money I have reserved for these goals, and how much money I can spend freely (in CO, I use “projects” for this).

Since I use my Excel spreadsheet and don’t have Microsoft Money or Intuit Quicken, I can’t review the syncing support of CO. I’m not a business man so I won’t be needing CO for heavy use. Therefore this review will be mostly aimed at the ‘casual user’.
Finally, to protect my privacy and in order to not bother you with too many Dutch words (I’m from the Netherland so I use mostly Dutch words), I’ve created fake transactions etc. for this review. While you may see Dutch words on some screenshots, the English terms should give you enough clues to understand the big picture.

First starting Cash Organizer

After installation, two items are added to your Programs list: Cash Organizer and Cash Organizer Express. We will deal with Cash Organizer Express later, so for your first use of the program you will want to start Cash Organizer. If you never used CO before, you will want to create your first account. Otherwise you can also backup from a previous CO backup file. When you create a new account, you can specify the name description (my real accounts reflect my Cash, Bank and Savings account).

Then you can specify the currency, from a really long list of currencies. Even the Dutch Guilder, which stopped excisting when the Euro was introduced. You may have old transactions, or just transactions in another currency, which you also want to enter. This is possible! Just insert the exchange rate in the CO Options and transactions in various currencies can be entered in your account.
The Opening balance specifies how much money your account starts with, and – just like the Minimum balance and other fields where you have to specify an amount – you can insert numbers with a little calculator. This calculator can help you with some simple sums, as well as change the +/- sign to indicate a positive amount (income) or a negative amount (expense). Finally, a little note can be added to the account.

 

One of the possible problems with getting to know a new program, is the terminology that is used. For example, you might not know the defenition of (and differences between) “Project”, “Budget” or “Category”, which will make it a bit difficult to set up your new account. Therefore it is best to take some time to play with these different items and see what they do, before you start to set up your actual real accounts.

Cash Organizer, main layout and menu’s

After setting up your account, you will see the starting screen of CO which is the Accounts center. At the top, several tabs (“centers”) will be visible:
Account, where your accounts are listed
Register, where your transactions are listed
Project, where you can keep track of your projects and see their balance
Planner, where you can schedule future transactions
Budget, where you can assign budgets for various purposes
Report, where your Net Worth, Account balances, Project reports, etc. are all displayed in a nice graph
Payee (after the arrow), where your Payees are saved and you can edit these ‘templates’
Category, where you can organize your categories.

Then there is the “All Accounts” text with the arrow. Here you determine the view for the current screen. For example, on the Account tab this item lets you hide/show the accounts that are marked as Closed, and create Groups. If you’ve created a group, you can select this group after tapping the arrow, and only accounts in that group will be displayed. Groups work like a filter.

Then, in this screen, the accounts are listed. I’d like to describe this section as the ‘content’ section, since – depening on which tab is selected – here you see your accounts, transactions, projects, budgets, categories, etc.

The “Total:” item is not visible on all screens, but when this item (or something similar) is visible, this shows the total of whatever information is in the ‘content’ section of the screen. If you tap the arrow next to it, more detailed information is displayed in a popup screen. For example, on the Register tab, if you tap the “Total Balance” arrow, you see not only the total amount of money on the current account, but also the name is displayed, as well as the starting money, amount of transactions, and which transactions have been cleared, reconsiled, and unreconsiled. You could say that this popup screen is a more detailed summary of what’s visible on a tab.

Next is the Property section. This is the black bar which says “Account property” and the section below it. You can toggle the Property section by tapping the first icon in the bottom menu bar. The displayed info depends on the tab that is currently selected.

What’s left to discuss in this chapter is the bottom menu bar. The “New” item is different for the different tabs. On the Register page you can create a new transaction, on the Project tab you can create a new project, etc.

The “Tools” menu is the same for all screens. Here you can register the application after purchasing a registration key. You can also search items on the screen using the Find item, or calculate the total costs of a loan. Just insert the amount, the number of months, interest percentage, etc. and CO will calculate your monthly payment and the total cost of the loan. You can even create a schedule right from this screen to plan these payments. Under “File” you backup and restore your Cash Organizer data, or import/export it to various file formats (import: QIF, OFX/QFX; export: QIF/Excel/TXT).
Finally there are the Options, a little Help document (the desktop PC .pdf manual is much more in-depth) and an item to close CO.

In the “Actions” menu, you’ll find tab-specific management items, such as the ability to edit, duplicate, or delete items; move transactions to other accounts, create new schedule groups or schedules, or remove your old transactions in order to clean up your database.

Then there is the Properties icon which opens a small window in the bottom of the screen with some additional info about the selected account, transaction, etc. Finally there is a Find icon; this is the same as the Find… item from the Tools menu.

Options

From the Tools – Options menu, the Options screen is available. The Options screen has four tabs: Views, Currencies, Today, and Password – all are displayed below.

The View tabs lets you set up your Cash Organizer view. By default, the font is set to Small, so if you think that in the screenshots displayed in this review the text is rather small, be aware that you can increase the font. I like this option, since I can imagine that some people prefer better readability and some scrolling over having a maximum amount of information on the screen.
Then the columns can be adjusted. You can hide the column headers to free an extra line on which information can be displayed, and change the default Two Line display (as can be seen on the Register tab) to a One line display, where you can choose which properties you want to be visible.
On the Currencies tab you can add currencies and change the symbol. For example, the default for Euro is “eu” but I changed it to the Euro sign with a space after it, so that I’d have a space between the Euro sign and the money amounts. If you work with multiple currencies, you can set the exchange rate for them. This exchange rate will be used in transactions with the non-default currency, but you can change it for each transaction. It just is convenient to have the exchange rate filled in already in case you don’t have to change it.

The Today screen plugin options allow you to choose for which accounts (or acocunt groups) and budgets information should be shown on the Today screen. The Today plugin itself only displays the amount of account alerts and scheduled transactions, and when you tap the Today screen plugin a more detailed screen about your account balances, budgets, and scheduled transactions is displayed. I would have preferred to have this kind of information visible on the Today screen immediately. Now, I have to tap a otherwise not very useful Today screen plugin, and enter my password (which is a good thing actually) in order to view these details. The Today screen plugin does have a button that you can tap on in order to start entering a new transaction quickly, though.

The password I just mentioned can be set in the last tab of the Options section, and you can even set a screen saver time-out after which you will also be asked to enter your password if you’ve done nothing for a certain period of time while CO was active. This is very important, since you’ll want to protect your personal data.

The ideal configuration for me would be to have a Today screen plugin that immediately displays the total balance for each account without having to enter a password.

The Cash Organizer tabs

The first tab is the Accounts tab. Here all your accounts are displayed. You can group them together so that you can filter which groups are being displayed, and you can also mark accounts as “closed” and decide to hide or show these accounts. From this view you can doubletap an account to move to the Register tab with this account selected, or tap anywhere in the Account Property field (which is opened by the first icon in the bottom menu bar) to edit the account’s properties. Tapping the last bottom menu bar icon, a graph is displayed, showing you the account balance over a period of time. You can completely configure what information should be taken into account, and you can even save the graph to a file.
The “New” item creates a new transaction, while you need to be in the “Actions” menu to create a new account. This was a little confusing to me at first.

The next tab is the Register tab. This shows your transactions and their details. Since I named the Payee “Payee 1”, the category “Category1”, etc., most info in this screen below speaks for itself. What’s important is that when you create a new transaction (screen on the right), you can set the transaction to Clear, Reconciled, Unreconsiled, or Void (to exclude it from your account balance). This will reflect in the left column, which has a little letter in the bottom right corner of the V icon. you can tap this icon to turn a unreconsiled transaction to a reconsiled transaction. In the right column, expenses are marked in red, and incomes are marked black. Under each amount you’ll see (in grey) what the account balance was after that transaction.
The “Job payment” is “< Split >”; this is also indicated with the letter S in the icon on the left. Splitting a transaction means that you assign different categories or projects to it, and devide the amount of your transaction over these categories/projects. For example, you can assign a certain amount of your paycheck to shopping, an amount to the rent of your house, and leave the other part unassigned.
Tapping the arrow next to the Total Balance amount shows you a little popup with additional info, such as balances for reconsiled, cleared, and unreconsiled accounts.
This view can also display scheduled transactions by date, so that you can easily convert them into completed transactions.

The New Transaction screen speaks pretty much for itself. You can enter the details for a transaction in the Property tab. Chosing one of the existing Payees which the program remembers fills in the details for you, or you can  ‘copy’ an older transaction by double tapping it in the bottom. You can split the amount of the transaction in the Split tab.

The next tab is the Project tab. Projects are an easy way to keep track of projects for which you have to manage several smaller projects. For example, you can create a “Business trips” project, and have sub-items for the actual trips.
You can assign a project to each transaction, so if you spend money on your business trip and assign several categories to these expenditures, you can still find them under the Business Trips project.
You can see the balance for each sub-project as well as for the main project. By double-tapping a sub-project you can view all the transactions that are related to that project.

The next tab is the Planner tab. Scheduling transactions can be a very important part of your financial life, so it’s important to be able to create a transaction that is scheduled to appear in the future, or even a periodical transaction. Cash Organizer can do this, and it displays all these transactions conveniently on a dedicated tab (Note that you can also display the coming transactions on the Register tab for the current day, week, or month). A new scheduled transaction is entered from the New menu, and works the same as entering a new transaction. The difference is that you can set the transaction to repeat at certain intervals, on the Repeat tab. You can also let CO create Outlook Tasks for you to remind you of the payments you have to make, and remind you in advance. Scheduled transactions can be grouped together and filtered, so you can choose to only view scheduled transactions for your job, or monthly personal expenses.

The next tab is the Budget tab. I had some difficulties understanding how to set up budgets, and I find myself not using them in real life. I did set up a little budget though: I created a 200 euro budget, and assigned 75 euros of that budget to books (a sub-budget, which can be chosen from your category list). After a 50 euros expense on the Books budget, I see that I still have 25 euros left (last column) and that I’ve spend 66% of the Books budget already, which is 25% of the total Personal budget, for which I still have 150 euros left. The confusing part for me is that I see a negative budget (-200). Now, when I have a 50 euro expense, that also gets a ‘-‘ sign in the Personal row, but is displayed as a positive amount in the Books row. I would expect to see a budget of 200 (positive amount), my expense of 50 (negative amount), and a result of 150 (positive amount).
However, the way I keep track of my budgets is perfectly covered by the Projects functionality. For the people that do need to work with Budgets, the manual explains how to work with budgets and I’m sure that once you get used to the view, you’ll be able to use this to your advantage. Cash Organizer is a piece of software with many possibilities, and I know that I don’t use it to it’s full extent and that I can still discover many new things in this software. Working with budgets can be one of them.

The next tab is the Report tab. Cash Organizer does a great job visualizing your account details. You can pick from a long list of predesigned reports, and after creating one of these reports you can customize and save your own reports. Some reports can be displayed in several ways, such as: Text report, Pie graph, Chart graph or Line graph, by tapping the buttons in the bottom. Customizing, saving or copying a chart can be done in the Tools menu. The example below is very basic, but the Report center can help you a lot if you have to make a visual representation of your personal financial situation just for fun, or because you need to make a presentation or report on your business activities.

The next tab is the Payee tab. Every time you create a new transaction with a new Payee name, the details of that transaction are saved in the Payee center. Here you can see the Payees as templates, which can be used to easily input a new transaction in the future. Therefore it is useful to have them all organized in one place. You can edit the memorized transaction details, or remove the payee. If you do the latter, you can re-assign the corresponding transactions to a new payee, otherwise the transactions will have no payee. So while the Payee center works like templates, they are also connected to the actual transaction database. You can’t just remove a payee from the Payee Center while keeping the payee in your transactions. You can hide the payees in the payee properties screen though, if you don’t want to have them appear in the list!

The last tab is the Category tab. Categories as the easiest way to assign your transactions into a group or subgroup without immediately having balances for each category. You can of course use the Find option to search for your category name in order to filter your transactions. Categories can be created, deleted, and grouped, and by tapping the Properties icon you can also see if your category is part of a budget. (Assigning categories to a budget is done in the Budget center).
It’s too bad you can’t create a category for both expenses and incomes. You have to set each category to one of these types, and you can’t create another one with the same name. I think that this is related to the logical structure of the program though, since categories are also used in the Budget functionality. If you want more advanced functionality, you will want to work with Projects. The categories are nice to see how much you spent on your train tickets or clothing though, so I assign a category to almost all my transactions.

Cash Organizer Express

Cash Organizer Express is a seperate application that can be launched from the Start menu. I also have a faster link to CO Express on one of the softkeys on my Today screen. Using Cash Organizer Express you can quickly enter a new transaction based on already existing payees, categories and projects. The buttons are large to make one handed navigation really easy, and you won’t need to enter a password to start Cash Organizer Express since you can’t view your other transactions or account details through this little tool.
First you select a payee, either by using the up/down arrows, or tapping the keys at the bottom. They use a T9 system, so for “Orange” you can just tap 67263.
After selecting the payee you can edit the other details, such as the date, amount, and category. Then you can save the transaction to the specified account. If you picked Save, CO Express is closed again after saving the transaction; if you picked Save & New you can enter a new transaction.

Conclusion

Cash Organizer 2007 Premium has LOTS of detailed features to make it possible to keep track of your financial life on your device. Critical remarks would be about the Today screen plugin which doesn’t really answer to what I’d need in a Today screen plugin, and the fact that it’s not really easy to setup your database (Budgets, mainly) when you first start using Cash Organizer. However, this is a problem that is unavoidable when setting up a new system. When I first started to use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my transactions I also had to change it quite some times before I liked the way it was configured. So we can’t really blame Cash Organizer for it – it’s a result of the many features that are spread over the various tabs in Cash Organizer 2007 Premium. And, if you have a QIF or OFX/QFX file, you can just import this and start working with CO right away. Also, the detailed user manual is a great help here.

So, after taking the time to set up Cash Organizer 2007 Premium the way I want to use it, I now find myself entering new transactions with ease! I can see my balances in many ways – even in pie or line graphs. Being able to update your financial database immediately after making a transaction (even after shopping for groceries!) because you always have your device with you, is a great step forward in the current time where everything moves as fast as it does. You will want to have an accurate, professional, stabile, and detailed way to keep track of your financial situation, and Cash Organizer 2007 Premium is a great way to do that.

Name: Cash Organizer 2007 Premium
Version: 7.23, Build 2007.04.23
By: Inesoft
Platform: PPC 2000-2003, WM5, WM6
Requirements: 5 MB installation and 5 MB memory space
Synchronizes through ActiveSync with: Microsoft Money 2005-2007. Intuit Quicken 2003-2007
Price/purchase: $ 29.95, here, second item
Trial: here, second item
An excellent user manual (direct PDF link) is available here:

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