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Ledger: Command-Line Accounting

Ledger is a powerful, double-entry accounting system that is accessed from the UNIX command-line. This may put off some users, since there is no flashy UI, but for those who want unparalleled reporting access to their data there are few alternatives.

Ledger uses text files for input. It reads the files and generates reports; there is no other database or stored state. To use Ledger, you create a file of your account names and transactions, run from the command line with some options to specify input and requested reports, and get output. The output is generally plain text, though you could generate a graph or html instead. Ledger is simple in concept, surprisingly rich in ability, and easy to use.

For the Impatient

I know, you just want to build and play. If you have all the dependencies installed, then simply do this:

$ git clone
$ cd ledger && ./acprep update  # Update to the latest, configure, make

Now try your first ledger command:

$ ./ledger -f test/input/sample.dat reg

For help on keeping your journal have a look at the documentation, the wiki, and the Resources section at the end of this file. An Emacs mode for Ledger files can be found in the ledger/ledger-mode repository and a vim plugin is located in the ledger/vim-ledger repository.

Docker version

If you have Docker installed on your computer or server, you can use a Docker version of this software, without installing any further dependencies:

$ docker run --rm -v "$PWD"/test/input:/data dcycle/ledger:1 -f /data/sample.dat reg


If you wish to proceed in this venture, you'll need a few dependencies. Note that some features, e.g. --import require building Ledger with Python support. The easiest way to get them for your platform is to run this handy Python script:

$ ./acprep dependencies

If that doesn't completely work, here are the dependencies for building the current master branch:

Dependency Version (or greater)
CMake 3.16.2
Boost 1.72
Gmp 6.1.2
Mpfr 4.0.2
utfcpp 3.2.3
ICU 63 optional
gettext 0.17 optional
libedit 20090111-3.0 optional
Python 3.9 optional
Gpgmepp 1.13.1 optional
doxygen 1.9.5 optional, for make docs
graphviz 2.20.3 optional, for make docs
texinfo 4.13 optional, for make docs
lcov 1.6 optional, for make report, used with ./acprep gcov
sloccount 2.26 optional, for make sloc


You can use Homebrew or MacPorts to install build dependencies for Ledger easily on macOS.

1. Homebrew

If you use Homebrew, to install the dependencies you would run:

$ brew install cmake boost boost-python3 gmp mpfr

2. MacPorts

If you build stuff using MacPorts on macOS, as I do, here is what you would run:

$ sudo port install -f cmake python37 \
     libiconv zlib gmp \
     mpfr ncurses ncursesw \
     gettext libedit boost-jam \
     boost +st+python37+icu texlive doxygen graphviz \
     texinfo lcov sloccount


The dependencies for building Ledger are available from conda-forge on certain platforms (for example, linux-64), which can be used with Conda or mamba.

With Conda you could run:

$ conda install -c conda-forge python=3 cmake boost gmp mpfr \
     gettext libedit texinfo doxygen graphviz


If you're going to build on Ubuntu, sudo apt-get install ... the following packages (current as of Ubuntu 18.04):

$ sudo apt-get install build-essential cmake doxygen \
     libboost-system-dev libboost-dev python3-dev gettext git \
     libboost-date-time-dev libboost-filesystem-dev \
     libboost-iostreams-dev libboost-python-dev libboost-regex-dev \
     libboost-test-dev libedit-dev libgmp3-dev libmpfr-dev texinfo tzdata


Debian 10 (bullseye), Debian 11 ("bullseye"), Debian testing and Debian unstable (sid) contain all components needed to build ledger. You can install all required build dependencies using the following command:

$ sudo apt-get install build-essential cmake autopoint texinfo python3-dev \
     zlib1g-dev libbz2-dev libgmp3-dev gettext libmpfr-dev \
     libboost-date-time-dev libboost-filesystem-dev \
     libboost-graph-dev libboost-iostreams-dev \
     libboost-python-dev libboost-regex-dev libboost-test-dev


You can install all required build dependencies under Fedora using the following command (tested with Fedora 32):

$ sudo dnf install boost-date-time boost-devel boost-filesystem \
    boost-iostreams boost-python3-devel boost-regex boost-system \
    boost-test cmake doxygen gettext git gmp-devel libedit-devel \
    mpfr-devel python3-devel texinfo tzdata


The next step is preparing your environment for building. While you can use cmake . and make, I've prepared a script that does a lot more of the footwork for you:

$ ./acprep update
# or, if you want to use the Boost libraries with suffix -mt, install in
# $HOME/local and build with 2 processes in parallel
$ ./acprep update --boost-suffix=-mt --prefix=$HOME/local -j2

Please read the contents of CMakeFiles/CMakeOutput.log and CMakeFiles/CMakeError.log if the configure step fails. Also, see the help subcommand to acprep, which explains some of its many options. It's pretty much the only command I run for configuring, building and testing Ledger.

You can run make check to confirm the result, and make install to install.


Now that you're up and running, here are a few resources to keep in mind:

If you have ideas you'd like to share, the best way is either to e-mail me a patch (I prefer attachments over pasted text), or to get an account on GitHub. Once you do, fork the Ledger project, hack as much as you like, then open a pull request on GitHub.