Buddi is a finance managing program that's poised with potential. Open source and free, it offers an extensible experience for both Windows and Mac users that's wrapped up in a simple tabbed interface. As they say in the money biz, it looks great on paper.

Buddi easily handles multiple accounts. (Credit: Wyatt Olson)

The application can create new accounts from four credit types--cash, checking, investment, and savings--and five debit types--credit card, liability, line of credit, loan, and prepaid account. Users can create their own account types, too, and take brief notes on an account. Strangely, the notes don't seem to surface anywhere besides the window where you enter them.

Under the My Budget tab, you can add transactions under different default categories such as Salary, Auto, and Miscellaneous Expenses, or again you can create your own. To enter a new transaction, double-click on the account or budget category under which it has occurred. From there, pre-existing accounts and transaction titles have automatically been added to the drop-down menus to accelerate the new transaction creation process. Buddi generates reports and pie charts on command by income, average income, expenses, and net worth. You can encrypt your data, too, although I couldn't find documentation on the encryption method used.

The notes feature only surfaces in one location--where you type it. (Credit: Wyatt Olson)

This is a good start in terms of features, but the execution leaves much room for improvement. There's no context menu support, no drag-and-drop support, and the forced need to jump between tabs to see how expenses and income relates to specific accounts feels antiquated compared with newer financial management programs and Web sites.

Plug-ins, as always, immeasurably extend the potential of a program, and Buddi is potentially no different. The plug-ins that I tested included QIF and CSV import, export, and skins, and generally worked well. There were issues with QIF file recognition--the plug-in would only see QIF files when All Files was selected, and even then, I sometimes had to move up a folder level and then back again to get them to appear. Once imported, though, there were no problems.

Although I don't think skinning is essential, I'd argue that being able to import your financial database from a previous program is a must, so I'd like to see the extension rolled into the program at some point. The most obvious feature-deficiency is that there's no account synchronization available. This means that you must enter all new transactions by hand, which can be an enormous time-waster. Even though there's a plug-in that lets you synchronize with the financial management Web site Perfitrak, it doesn't replace the benefit of having native syncing.

Buddi also generates charts based on multiple variables. (Credit: Wyatt Olson)

Buddi's interface doesn't facilitate an intuitive-enough work flow to cut down on the immense effort that the lack of syncing will mandate from users, so for now I'd only recommend it to people looking for free financial management software or developers who want to improve it.