Stacks is pretty good. Eventually it will be great – I’m working on it. One of the harder things to do is to diligently enter your transactions to keep it up to date. Entering them manually acts as a great reminder to stick to your budget. But not having your budget with you on the go makes it harder to follow and entering your transactions at the end of the day or week doesn’t give you the real-time feedback that will help you stay on budget.
So, Stacks will have a mobile app that you can use to enter transactions and check how much money you have left in each category for the month. The first step to using the mobile app is to save your budget in your Dropbox account (the second step is for me to finish the app but let’s not get ahead of ourselves). Stacks uses the latest version of the Dropbox API to sync your budget.
When you link Stacks to your Dropbox account Stacks will only have access to its own folder within your Dropbox. None of your financial information is ever transmitted anywhere except to your Dropbox – it all remains under your control.
The first step to linking Stacks is to have a Dropbox account. They’re free, easy to setup, and currently come with 2GB of space. That’s enough for decades of transactions or hundreds of budgets or too many pictures of cats.
The next step is to click on Settings and select Dropbox. You’ll be greeted with this dialog:
Clicking the link should open up a browser window where you can authorize Stacks to access a folder named dbdollar inside the Apps section of your Dropbox account. Once you enter your Dropbox password then Dropbox should give you an authorization code that you can cut-n-paste into the field for Step 3. Click Connect once you’re finished.
The next step is to initialize your budget in Dropbox. Click File and select “Init Dropbox db” like this:
Another dialog box will appear where you can enter a name for your budget. If you want to automatically load this budget every time you start Stacks then click the checkbox.
Click Save and you’re done.
Using Dropbox to store your budget also comes with an extra perk. Namely, your budget is auto-saved while you work. No more forgetting to Save before you exit.
Also, should the unthinkable happen and Stacks BETA doesn’t work precisely perfectly, linking your Dropbox has another benefit. Each time Stacks starts and you load a budget from Dropbox using either the Auto-load feature or the “Load Dropbox db” under the File menu, there is a backup of your budget stored. If you navigate to your Dropbox account in File Explorer you’ll see a directory structure like this when you click on the budget you created:
The Backups folder contains .db files that can be loaded into Stacks. The date stamp is part of the filename – you’ll figure out which one you want to load.
If Stacks really messes up and won’t load the easiest way to reset it is to delete the file named “stacks_config.json” in your <Username>/Documents/Stacks directory. This will reset the Dropbox connection completely. You will need to re-link Dropbox and I suggest you open one of your backup budgets and initialize a new Dropbox budget.
WARNING: Altering with the files in the dbdollar folder inside your Dropbox or the DropboxOutage folder in your <Username>/Documents/Stacks folder will likely result in you having to reset Stacks as outlined above.
That’s all for now. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have problems with Dropbox support or any questions about Stacks.
UPDATE: Stacks v0.9.2 is now available with improved Dropbox performance (and a bugfix for the scenario where a user is switching between 2 different budgets stored in their Dropbox). Grab it now.