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View Full Version : StarFinance 2005 Review

Don Tolson
02-23-2005, 06:00 PM
<img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-logo.jpg" /><br /><br /><b>Product Category:</b> Personal Finance Software<br /><b>Manufacturer:</b> <A HREF = "http://www.xphir.com/" target = "blank"> Xphir Software</A><br /><b>Where to Buy:</b> <A HREF = "http://www.handango.com/brainstore/PlatformProductDetail.jsp?siteId=311&productId=146486" target = "blank">Handango</A> (affiliate link)<br /><b>Price:</b> $6.50 USD (A fully functional demo is available)<br /><b>System Requirements:</b> Requires PocketPC 2000/2002/2003/2003SE and 270K of Available RAM (An additional 150K of RAM is required for SQLCE)<br /><b>Specifications:</b> For PocketPC / PocketPC 2002: MS Compact Framework 1.0 SP2; MS SQLCE 2.0 (included in installation file); 268K of RAM for Xphir StarFinance2005. For Windows Mobile 2003: MS SQLCE 2.0 (included in installation file); 268K of RAM for Xphir StarFinance2005. StarFinance 2005 is highly recommended to be installed to main memory (not a storage card) to avoid slow performance and/or incorrect performance.<br /><br /><b>Pros:</b><li>Small, compact;<br /><li>Simple, uncomplicated interface;<br /><li>Fully functional demo version, but limited to 2 accounts and 15 transactions;<br /><li>Ability to add categories for transactions.<b>Cons:</b><li>Other products (such as MS Money for Pocket PC) are available for less money, with more features;<br /><li>No integration/synch/download capability from popular PC-based financial management programs (e.g. Quicken, MS Money, etc.)<b>Summary:</b> While not as sophisticated or feature-rich as Spb Finance, Pocket Quicken, or MS Money for Pocket PC, StarFinance 2005 is a good, basic starter package at a reasonable price, for those who are looking to do some simple financial account management on their Pocket PC.<br /><br />Read On for the full review!<!><br /><PAGEBREAK><br /><span><b>Introduction</b></span><br />StarFinance 2005 from Xphir Software provides the basics for managing your personal finances on the Pocket PC. Using SQLCE as its database engine, it provides a simple, two-level structure for recording transactions within multiple accounts. The interface is uncomplicated and well designed so that most users will be able to 'get functional' quickly, without having to read the User Guide.<br /><br /><span><b>Installation</b></span><br />Installation of StarFinance 2005 is simple and straightforward. Once the file is downloaded to your PC, you connect up your Pocket PC via ActiveSync and double-click the file on the PC. From there, it installs MS SQLCE 2.0 and then StarFinance 2005. As mentioned in the specifications, Xphir Software recommends that both SQLCE and StarFinance be loaded to main memory for best performance. Since SQLCE is a library of database functions, I think you pretty well <i>have</i> to install it to main memory to work. I tried installing StarFinance 2005 to my CF card and didnít discover any difficulties nor any significant reduction in response time.<br /><br /><span><b>Getting Set Up</b></span><br />Once you have the software installed, an icon is provided in the Start/Programs directory from which you launch the application. On my iPAQ 2215, start-up time was about 5 seconds, as I imagine it needed to initialize the SQLCE library.<br /><br />The first step is to set up your accounts. Unfortunately, StarFinance 2005 does not include any ability to download or import information from popular PC-based financial management software, such as MS Money or Quicken, so you pretty well have to do everything manually.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-1stscreen.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 1: Opening screen of StarFinance 2005.</i><br /><br />By tapping the Add button, you are presented with a screen to create a new account.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-addacct.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 2: Creating a new account.</i><br /><br />Account names are limited to 20 characters, which I found a bit tight, as I was trying to use StarFinance 2005 to keep track of expenses while on a business trip. There is also no ability to identify Ďtypesí of accounts, such as checking (debit) account, credit card, asset, etc., so itís not quite ready to handle all my household finances yet!<br /><br />Each account can be protected with its own password, though Iím not exactly sure why you would do this, unless more than one person was using the software on your Pocket PC. Passwords are also limited to 20 characters.<br /><br />Once youíve created an account, you then open it to start entering transactions within it.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-newaccount.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 3: Looking at a brand new account.</i><br /> <PAGEBREAK> <br />To add a transaction, you move to the Add tab at the bottom of the screen.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-additem.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 4: Adding a new transaction.</i><br /><br />Each transaction must be placed within a category. Categories provide a description of the type of transaction, or a way of grouping similar transactions together. StarFinance 2005 comes with a pre-loaded list of 5 categories that are available from the drop down box. By tapping on the + button beside the selection, you can add, modify or delete these categories.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-addcat.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 5: Managing the Categories.</i><br /><br />Although it wonít accept a category name of null (i.e. no characters), it did accept one with a space, so if you donít really want to categorize your transactions, you get around it by assigning them all to this blank default.<br /><br />Back at the transaction entry, descriptions are limited to 40 characters, and values are limited to 10 digits, including the decimal point. Only positive values (no negative signs) are accepted. Selection of the Income or Expense buttons controls whether the transaction is stored as a positive (Income) or negative (Expense) amount. The date of the transaction can be either typed in, using the default Regional format, or selected from a Calendar gadget.<br /><br />When moving around in StarFinance 2005, itís better to use the Back option in the menus, rather than the OK button at the top right. The OK button will take you back to the account selection screen, rather than to the previously viewed screen, as you might expect.<br /><br />As transactions are added, the account View screen is updated with a list of the saved transactions.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-trxs.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 6: List of transactions.</i><br /><br />The list of transactions can be sorted by any of the major headings, using the dropdown list at the top of the screen.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-sortopts.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 7: Options for sorting transactions.</i><br /><br />Unfortunately, the same is not true of the Filter menu at the bottom of the screen. The only option available is Date, but there are a couple of ways in which the date filter can be configured.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-datefilters.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 8: Configuring the Date filter.</i><br /> <PAGEBREAK> <br /><span><b>Reports</b></span><br />This is another area where StarFinance is a bit weak, compared to programs like MS Money for Pocket PC, Spb Finance or Pocket Quicken. Reporting basically consists of a Statistics screen which compares Income and Expenses.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-stats2.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 9: StarFinance Statistics screen.</i><br /><br />StarFinance 2005 does provide a good selection of export options for your data. The contents of each account can be output to HTML (for viewing on a browser), Excel XML format, or .CSV format.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-export.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 10: Export screen.</i><br /><br /><img src="http://www.pocketpcthoughts.com/images/web/2003/don-feb05-sfinance-iexport.gif" /><br /><i>Figure 11: Account output to HTML.</i><br /><br /><span><b>Documentation</b></span><br />The user interface for StarFinance 2005 is simple and easy to understand, hence I didnít really need any assistance to perform most of the functions. There isnít a Help file attached to the application itself, but Xphir Software provides a 30-page User Guide on its <A HREF = "http://www.xphir.com/starfin/index.php" target = "blank"> web site</A>. The guide is well written and covers all the functions available within StarFinance 2005.<br /><br /><span><b>Conclusions</b></span><br />StarFinance is a good starting package for those who are just starting in personal finance management, and the price is certainly reasonable (compared to $19.95 USD for Spb Finance or $34.95 USD for Pocket Quicken). But itís going to need some upgrades Ė especially in the areas of reporting and integration with PC-based financial packages Ė before it can compete with the Ďbig boysí like Pocket Quicken, MS Money, and Spb Finance.