Update 22/06/2015: GnuCash Android now supports directly importing accounts and transactions from GnuCash XML files. No need to export account structure first.
GnuCash Android has had the ability to import your account structure from the desktop version since version 1.2.0. This feature makes it really easy for your transactions on mobile to be entered into the matching accounts from the desktop. However, there is a lot of misunderstanding of how this feature works. Consequently, there are many people struggling with account import functionality and getting really frustrated.
I have now decided to have the explanation of the feature in one place which I can point folks to whenever necessary. The point of this blog post is to clearly outline what works and what doesn’t, when it comes to importing GnuCash account structure from the desktop.
- GnuCash Android only imports the exported account structure file – Many people try to import their whole GnuCash file into the Android app. This will not work (at least as of this moment). The app only accepts the account structure file which is gotten by going to File -> Export -> Export Accounts. Save the output and then use it in the Android app. Again, your normal GnuCash file will not work!
- GnuCash Android needs a third-party app to read the file – You need another application which can provide the file to GnuCash Android. Granted most people already have some sort of Google Drive, OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), or DropBox setup on the devices and can use those to read the file. There is also the possibility of putting the file on your SD card and reading it from there. There was a limitation in pre-1.3.0 versions of the app which limited the file selection for some mobile devices. But as from version 1.3.0, you should be able to use any decent file provider to select your file. If you have no file provider, then the OI File Manager is recommended for reading the files from your SD card and providing them to GnuCash.
- Account structure import only works with XML – No CSV, no SQL, no compressed XML! I didn’t even think of mentioning when explaining the feature. But there are still a lot of people out there who use SQL database on desktop GnuCash. You need to make sure that output of the account export has XML content. The default account export exports XML, but if unsure, you can verify this by simply opening the file in your favorite text editor to see its contents.
- GnuCash Android can create a default account structure – This feature is available in version 1.3.0 for all devices running Android 3.0 and above (all devices are offered the option upon first run of the application). Visit Settings -> Accounts -> Create Default Accounts to create a list of commonly used accounts in GnuCash directly from within the app itself. Unless you want your own specific accounts, you do not need to import anything. This should work fine for most people.
There you have it, the GnuCash Android account import guide. If you are still having problems with importing your account structure, do not hesitate to contact me. If your account structure does not have any sensitive account names, it would also be nice if you send me the file so that I can investigate what is going on.
One more thing: Once you have your account structure setup, it is a lot easier to export/import transactions with QIF. OFX has limited support for double-entry transactions and account matching. GnuCash desktop works very well with QIF when the account structures match.