Personal finance programs are never going to be much fun. Thus, in order to attract customers and then keep them using the product, they have to get the basics right up front and be easy to use after that. Anyone who’s waded through the overblown, detail-obsessed setups required by some home finance programs will know exactly what we mean.
In contrast, it’s remarkably simple to get going with Fortora Fresh Finance, whether you’re using a Mac or a Windows PC. The Setup Assistant says it’ll walk you through setting up your personal finances in five easy steps, and it’s not kidding. Set up your accounts with a few basic details and a balance, add a few reminders – things like regular payments – then set a budget or budgets and then you’re done.
We set up three accounts in about ten minutes and added a fourth by downloading a credit card statement in QIF format and importing it into Fortora. Had we not been so depressed about the stock market we could also have added our investment accounts. The result? A nice Outlook-style overview of our home accounts, upcoming reminders and cash flow for the current month.
Although the interface feels slightly clunky – all that green is definitely more Windows than Mac – it’s very clear, the icons are easy to understand and the text labels large and readable; these are small details but important ones. The Home screen overview is succinct and well laid out with bills and other payments due displayed in red, and current balances and money in displayed in blue.
It’s easy to switch between accounts, open them for a more detailed view, add individual items as money moves in and out and then reconcile the balance. Fortora uses the Direct Connect system to access online account information from within the program. Unfortunately none of the banks we use were supported; indeed, it doesn’t support major banks like Barclays, Lloyds TSB or HSBC, thus limiting the appeal of this useful looking feature. It also means that although you can download statements and import them into Fortora, you have to do everything else manually.
Although set up to do most home finance jobs straight out of the box (except there’s actually no real box) it’s easy to remove or add expense and income categories, define new sub-categories or edit existing ones; and deposits and withdrawals can be split between multiple items. There are reporting tools as well and, although these are visually pretty primitive, once you get the hang of them – initially it looks as though categories are included automatically when they aren’t – they offer useful ways to analyse spending, look at budget versus income and so on. The results can also be also be copied to a spreadsheet like Excel for further analysis.