hledger

This is the command-line interface (CLI) for the hledger accounting tool. Here we also describe hledger's concepts and file formats. This manual is for hledger 1.20.99.

hledger

hledger [-f FILE] COMMAND [OPTIONS] [ARGS]

hledger [-f FILE] ADDONCMD -- [OPTIONS] [ARGS]

hledger is a reliable, cross-platform set of programs for tracking money, time, or any other commodity, using double-entry accounting and a simple, editable file format. hledger is inspired by and largely compatible with ledger(1).

The basic function of the hledger CLI is to read a plain text file describing financial transactions (in accounting terms, a general journal) and print useful reports on standard output, or export them as CSV. hledger can also read some other file formats such as CSV files, translating them to journal format. Additionally, hledger lists other hledger-* executables found in the user’s $PATH and can invoke them as subcommands.

hledger reads data from one or more files in hledger journal, timeclock, timedot, or CSV format specified with -f, or $LEDGER_FILE, or $HOME/.hledger.journal (on windows, perhaps C:/Users/USER/.hledger.journal). If using $LEDGER_FILE, note this must be a real environment variable, not a shell variable. You can specify standard input with -f-.

Transactions are dated movements of money between two (or more) named accounts, and are recorded with journal entries like this:

2015/10/16 bought food
 expenses:food          $10
 assets:cash

For more about this format, see hledger_journal(5).

Most users use a text editor to edit the journal, usually with an editor mode such as ledger-mode for added convenience. hledger’s interactive add command is another way to record new transactions. hledger never changes existing transactions.

To get started, you can either save some entries like the above in ~/.hledger.journal, or run hledger add and follow the prompts. Then try some commands like hledger print or hledger balance. Run hledger with no arguments for a list of commands.

OPTIONS

General options

To see general usage help, including general options which are supported by most hledger commands, run hledger -h.

General help options:

-h --help : show general or COMMAND help

--man : show general or COMMAND user manual with man

--info : show general or COMMAND user manual with info

--version : show general or ADDONCMD version

--debug[=N] : show debug output (levels 1-9, default: 1)

General input options:

-f FILE --file=FILE : use a different input file. For stdin, use - (default: $LEDGER_FILE or $HOME/.hledger.journal)

--rules-file=RULESFILE : Conversion rules file to use when reading CSV (default: FILE.rules)

--separator=CHAR : Field separator to expect when reading CSV (default: ',')

--alias=OLD=NEW : rename accounts named OLD to NEW

--anon : anonymize accounts and payees

--pivot FIELDNAME : use some other field or tag for the account name

-I --ignore-assertions : disable balance assertion checks (note: does not disable balance assignments)

-s --strict : do extra error checking (check that all posted accounts are declared)

General reporting options:

-b --begin=DATE : include postings/txns on or after this date

-e --end=DATE : include postings/txns before this date

-D --daily : multiperiod/multicolumn report by day

-W --weekly : multiperiod/multicolumn report by week

-M --monthly : multiperiod/multicolumn report by month

-Q --quarterly : multiperiod/multicolumn report by quarter

-Y --yearly : multiperiod/multicolumn report by year

-p --period=PERIODEXP : set start date, end date, and/or reporting interval all at once using period expressions syntax

--date2 : match the secondary date instead (see command help for other effects)

-U --unmarked : include only unmarked postings/txns (can combine with -P or -C)

-P --pending : include only pending postings/txns

-C --cleared : include only cleared postings/txns

-R --real : include only non-virtual postings

-NUM --depth=NUM : hide/aggregate accounts or postings more than NUM levels deep

-E --empty : show items with zero amount, normally hidden (and vice-versa in hledger-ui/hledger-web)

-B --cost : convert amounts to their cost/selling amount at transaction time

-V --market : convert amounts to their market value in default valuation commodities

-X --exchange=COMM : convert amounts to their market value in commodity COMM

--value : convert amounts to cost or market value, more flexibly than -B/-V/-X

--infer-market-prices : use transaction prices (recorded with @ or @@) as additional market prices, as if they were P directives

--auto : apply automated posting rules to modify transactions.

--forecast : generate future transactions from periodic transaction rules, for the next 6 months or till report end date. In hledger-ui, also make ordinary future transactions visible.

--color=WHEN (or --colour=WHEN) : Should color-supporting commands use ANSI color codes in text output. : 'auto' (default): whenever stdout seems to be a color-supporting terminal. : 'always' or 'yes': always, useful eg when piping output into 'less -R'. : 'never' or 'no': never. : A NO_COLOR environment variable overrides this.

When a reporting option appears more than once in the command line, the last one takes precedence.

Some reporting options can also be written as query arguments.

Command options

To see options for a particular command, including command-specific options, run: hledger COMMAND -h.

Command-specific options must be written after the command name, eg: hledger print -x.

Additionally, if the command is an add-on, you may need to put its options after a double-hyphen, eg: hledger ui -- --watch. Or, you can run the add-on executable directly: hledger-ui --watch.

Command arguments

Most hledger commands accept arguments after the command name, which are often a query, filtering the data in some way.

You can save a set of command line options/arguments in a file, and then reuse them by writing @FILENAME as a command line argument. Eg: hledger bal @foo.args. (To prevent this, eg if you have an argument that begins with a literal @, precede it with --, eg: hledger bal -- @ARG).

Inside the argument file, each line should contain just one option or argument. Avoid the use of spaces, except inside quotes (or you'll see a confusing error). Between a flag and its argument, use = (or nothing). Bad:

assets depth:2
-X USD

Good:

assets
depth:2
-X=USD

For special characters (see below), use one less level of quoting than you would at the command prompt. Bad:

-X"$"

Good:

-X$

See also: Save frequently used options.

Special characters

Single escaping (shell metacharacters)

In shell command lines, characters significant to your shell - such as spaces, <, >, (, ), |, $ and \ - should be "shell-escaped" if you want hledger to see them. This is done by enclosing them in single or double quotes, or by writing a backslash before them. Eg to match an account name containing a space:

$ hledger register 'credit card'

or:

$ hledger register credit\ card

Double escaping (regular expression metacharacters)

Characters significant in regular expressions (described below) - such as ., ^, $, [, ], (, ), |, and \ - may need to be "regex-escaped" if you don't want them to be interpreted by hledger's regular expression engine. This is done by writing backslashes before them, but since backslash is typically also a shell metacharacter, both shell-escaping and regex-escaping will be needed. Eg to match a literal $ sign while using the bash shell:

$ hledger balance cur:'\$'

or:

$ hledger balance cur:\\$

Triple escaping (for add-on commands)

When you use hledger to run an external add-on command (described below), one level of shell-escaping is lost from any options or arguments intended for by the add-on command, so those need an extra level of shell-escaping. Eg to match a literal $ sign while using the bash shell and running an add-on command (ui):

$ hledger ui cur:'\\$'

or:

$ hledger ui cur:\\\\$

If you wondered why four backslashes, perhaps this helps:

unescaped: $
escaped: \$
double-escaped: \\$
triple-escaped: \\\\$

Or, you can avoid the extra escaping by running the add-on executable directly:

$ hledger-ui cur:\\$

Less escaping

Options and arguments are sometimes used in places other than the shell command line, where shell-escaping is not needed, so there you should use one less level of escaping. Those places include:

  • an @argumentfile

  • hledger-ui's filter field

  • hledger-web's search form

  • GHCI's prompt (used by developers).

Unicode characters

hledger is expected to handle non-ascii characters correctly:

  • they should be parsed correctly in input files and on the command line, by all hledger tools (add, iadd, hledger-web's search/add/edit forms, etc.)

  • they should be displayed correctly by all hledger tools, and on-screen alignment should be preserved.

This requires a well-configured environment. Here are some tips:

  • A system locale must be configured, and it must be one that can decode the characters being used. In bash, you can set a locale like this: export LANG=en_US.UTF-8. There are some more details in Troubleshooting. This step is essential - without it, hledger will quit on encountering a non-ascii character (as with all GHC-compiled programs).

  • your terminal software (eg Terminal.app, iTerm, CMD.exe, xterm..) must support unicode

  • the terminal must be using a font which includes the required unicode glyphs

  • the terminal should be configured to display wide characters as double width (for report alignment)

  • on Windows, for best results you should run hledger in the same kind of environment in which it was built. Eg hledger built in the standard CMD.EXE environment (like the binaries on our download page) might show display problems when run in a cygwin or msys terminal, and vice versa. (See eg #961).

Regular expressions

hledger uses regular expressions in a number of places:

  • query terms, on the command line and in the hledger-web search form: REGEX, desc:REGEX, cur:REGEX, tag:...=REGEX

  • CSV rules conditional blocks: if REGEX ...

  • account alias directives and options: alias /REGEX/ = REPLACEMENT, --alias /REGEX/=REPLACEMENT

hledger's regular expressions come from the regex-tdfa library. If they're not doing what you expect, it's important to know exactly what they support:

  1. they are case insensitive

  2. they are infix matching (they do not need to match the entire thing being matched)

  3. they are POSIX ERE (extended regular expressions)

  4. they also support GNU word boundaries (\b, \B, \<, \>)

  5. they do not support backreferences; if you write \1, it will match the digit 1. Except when doing text replacement, eg in account aliases, where backreferences can be used in the replacement string to reference capturing groups in the search regexp.

  6. they do not support mode modifiers ((?s)), character classes (\w, \d), or anything else not mentioned above.

Some things to note:

  • In the alias directive and --alias option, regular expressions must be enclosed in forward slashes (/REGEX/). Elsewhere in hledger, these are not required.

  • In queries, to match a regular expression metacharacter like $ as a literal character, prepend a backslash. Eg to search for amounts with the dollar sign in hledger-web, write cur:\$.

  • On the command line, some metacharacters like $ have a special meaning to the shell and so must be escaped at least once more. See Special characters.

ENVIRONMENT

LEDGER_FILE The journal file path when not specified with -f. Default: ~/.hledger.journal (on windows, perhaps C:/Users/USER/.hledger.journal).

A typical value is ~/DIR/YYYY.journal, where DIR is a version-controlled finance directory and YYYY is the current year. Or ~/DIR/current.journal, where current.journal is a symbolic link to YYYY.journal.

On Mac computers, you can set this and other environment variables in a more thorough way that also affects applications started from the GUI (say, an Emacs dock icon). Eg on MacOS Catalina I have a ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist file containing

{
  "LEDGER_FILE" : "~/finance/current.journal"
}

To see the effect you may need to killall Dock, or reboot.

COLUMNS The screen width used by the register command. Default: the full terminal width.

NO_COLOR If this variable exists with any value, hledger will not use ANSI color codes in terminal output. This overrides the --color/--colour option.

DATA FILES

hledger reads transactions from one or more data files. The default data file is $HOME/.hledger.journal (or on Windows, something like C:/Users/USER/.hledger.journal).

You can override this with the $LEDGER_FILE environment variable:

$ setenv LEDGER_FILE ~/finance/2016.journal
$ hledger stats

or with one or more -f/--file options:

$ hledger -f /some/file -f another_file stats

The file name - means standard input:

$ cat some.journal | hledger -f-

Data formats

Usually the data file is in hledger's journal format, but it can be in any of the supported file formats, which currently are:

Reader: Reads: Used for file extensions:
journal hledger journal files and some Ledger journals, for transactions .journal .j .hledger .ledger
timeclock timeclock files, for precise time logging .timeclock
timedot timedot files, for approximate time logging .timedot
csv comma/semicolon/tab/other-separated values, for data import .csv .ssv .tsv

These formats are described in their own sections, below.

hledger detects the format automatically based on the file extensions shown above. If it can't recognise the file extension, it assumes journal format. So for non-journal files, it's important to use a recognised file extension, so as to either read successfully or to show relevant error messages.

You can also force a specific reader/format by prefixing the file path with the format and a colon. Eg, to read a .dat file as csv format:

$ hledger -f csv:/some/csv-file.dat stats

Or to read stdin (-) as timeclock format:

$ echo 'i 2009/13/1 08:00:00' | hledger print -ftimeclock:-

Multiple files

You can specify multiple -f options, to read multiple files as one big journal. There are some limitations with this:

  • most directives do not affect sibling files

  • balance assertions will not see any account balances from previous files

If you need either of those things, you can

  • use a single parent file which includes the others

  • or concatenate the files into one before reading, eg: cat a.journal b.journal | hledger -f- CMD.

Strict mode

hledger checks input files for valid data. By default, the most important errors are detected, while still accepting easy journal files without a lot of declarations:

  • Are the input files parseable, with valid syntax ?

  • Are all transactions balanced ?

  • Do all balance assertions pass ?

With the -s/--strict flag, additional checks are performed:

See also: https://hledger.org/checking-for-errors.html

experimental.

TIME PERIODS

Smart dates

hledger's user interfaces accept a flexible "smart date" syntax. Smart dates allow some english words, can be relative to today's date, and can have less-significant date parts omitted (defaulting to 1).

Examples:

2004/10/1, 2004-01-01, 2004.9.1 exact date, several separators allowed. Year is 4+ digits, month is 1-12, day is 1-31
2004 start of year
2004/10 start of month
10/1 month and day in current year
21 day in current month
october, oct start of month in current year
yesterday, today, tomorrow -1, 0, 1 days from today
last/this/next day/week/month/quarter/year -1, 0, 1 periods from the current period
20181201 8 digit YYYYMMDD with valid year month and day
201812 6 digit YYYYMM with valid year and month

Counterexamples - malformed digit sequences might give surprising results:

201813 6 digits with an invalid month is parsed as start of 6-digit year
20181301 8 digits with an invalid month is parsed as start of 8-digit year
20181232 8 digits with an invalid day gives an error
201801012 9+ digits beginning with a valid YYYYMMDD gives an error

Report start & end date

By default, most hledger reports will show the full span of time represented by the journal data. The report start date will be the earliest transaction or posting date, and the report end date will be the latest transaction, posting, or market price date.

Often you will want to see a shorter time span, such as the current month. You can specify a start and/or end date using -b/--begin, -e/--end, -p/--period or a date: query (described below). All of these accept the smart date syntax.

Some notes:

  • As in Ledger, end dates are exclusive, so you need to write the date after the last day you want to include.

  • As noted in reporting options: among start/end dates specified with options, the last (i.e. right-most) option takes precedence.

  • The effective report start and end dates are the intersection of the start/end dates from options and that from date: queries. That is, date:2019-01 date:2019 -p'2000 to 2030' yields January 2019, the smallest common time span.

Examples:

-b 2016/3/17 begin on St. Patrick’s day 2016
-e 12/1 end at the start of december 1st of the current year (11/30 will be the last date included)
-b thismonth all transactions on or after the 1st of the current month
-p thismonth all transactions in the current month
date:2016/3/17.. the above written as queries instead (.. can also be replaced with -)
date:..12/1
date:thismonth..
date:thismonth

Report intervals

A report interval can be specified so that commands like register, balance and activity will divide their reports into multiple subperiods. The basic intervals can be selected with one of -D/--daily, -W/--weekly, -M/--monthly, -Q/--quarterly, or -Y/--yearly. More complex intervals may be specified with a period expression. Report intervals can not be specified with a query.

Period expressions

The -p/--period option accepts period expressions, a shorthand way of expressing a start date, end date, and/or report interval all at once.

Here's a basic period expression specifying the first quarter of 2009. Note, hledger always treats start dates as inclusive and end dates as exclusive:

-p "from 2009/1/1 to 2009/4/1"

Keywords like "from" and "to" are optional, and so are the spaces, as long as you don't run two dates together. "to" can also be written as ".." or "-". These are equivalent to the above:

-p "2009/1/1 2009/4/1"
-p2009/1/1to2009/4/1
-p2009/1/1..2009/4/1

Dates are smart dates, so if the current year is 2009, the above can also be written as:

-p "1/1 4/1"
-p "january-apr"
-p "this year to 4/1"

If you specify only one date, the missing start or end date will be the earliest or latest transaction in your journal:

-p "from 2009/1/1" everything after january 1, 2009
-p "from 2009/1" the same
-p "from 2009" the same
-p "to 2009" everything before january 1, 2009

A single date with no "from" or "to" defines both the start and end date like so:

-p "2009" the year 2009; equivalent to “2009/1/1 to 2010/1/1”
-p "2009/1" the month of jan; equivalent to “2009/1/1 to 2009/2/1”
-p "2009/1/1" just that day; equivalent to “2009/1/1 to 2009/1/2”

Or you can specify a single quarter like so:

-p "2009Q1" first quarter of 2009, equivalent to “2009/1/1 to 2009/4/1”
-p "q4" fourth quarter of the current year

The argument of -p can also begin with, or be, a report interval expression. The basic report intervals are daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly, which have the same effect as the -D,-W,-M,-Q, or -Y flags. Between report interval and start/end dates (if any), the word in is optional. Examples:

-p "weekly from 2009/1/1 to 2009/4/1"
-p "monthly in 2008"
-p "quarterly"

Note that weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly intervals will always start on the first day on week, month, quarter or year accordingly, and will end on the last day of same period, even if associated period expression specifies different explicit start and end date.

For example:

-p "weekly from 2009/1/1 to 2009/4/1" starts on 2008/12/29, closest preceding Monday
-p "monthly in 2008/11/25" starts on 2018/11/01
-p "quarterly from 2009-05-05 to 2009-06-01" starts on 2009/04/01, ends on 2009/06/30, which are first and last days of Q2 2009
-p "yearly from 2009-12-29" starts on 2009/01/01, first day of 2009

The following more complex report intervals are also supported: biweekly, fortnightly, bimonthly, every day|week|month|quarter|year, every N days|weeks|months|quarters|years.

All of these will start on the first day of the requested period and end on the last one, as described above.

Examples:

-p "bimonthly from 2008" periods will have boundaries on 2008/01/01, 2008/03/01, ...
-p "every 2 weeks" starts on closest preceding Monday
-p "every 5 month from 2009/03" periods will have boundaries on 2009/03/01, 2009/08/01, ...

If you want intervals that start on arbitrary day of your choosing and span a week, month or year, you need to use any of the following:

every Nth day of week, every WEEKDAYNAME (eg mon|tue|wed|thu|fri|sat|sun), every Nth day [of month], every Nth WEEKDAYNAME [of month], every MM/DD [of year], every Nth MMM [of year], every MMM Nth [of year].

Examples:

-p "every 2nd day of week" periods will go from Tue to Tue
-p "every Tue" same
-p "every 15th day" period boundaries will be on 15th of each month
-p "every 2nd Monday" period boundaries will be on second Monday of each month
-p "every 11/05" yearly periods with boundaries on 5th of Nov
-p "every 5th Nov" same
-p "every Nov 5th" same

Show historical balances at end of 15th each month (N is exclusive end date):

hledger balance -H -p "every 16th day"

Group postings from start of wednesday to end of next tuesday (N is start date and exclusive end date):

hledger register checking -p "every 3rd day of week"

DEPTH

With the --depth N option (short form: -N), commands like account, balance and register will show only the uppermost accounts in the account tree, down to level N. Use this when you want a summary with less detail. This flag has the same effect as a depth: query argument (so -2, --depth=2 or depth:2 are equivalent).

QUERIES

One of hledger's strengths is being able to quickly report on precise subsets of your data. Most commands accept an optional query expression, written as arguments after the command name, to filter the data by date, account name or other criteria. The syntax is similar to a web search: one or more space-separated search terms, quotes to enclose whitespace, prefixes to match specific fields, a not: prefix to negate the match.

We do not yet support arbitrary boolean combinations of search terms; instead most commands show transactions/postings/accounts which match (or negatively match):

  • any of the description terms AND

  • any of the account terms AND

  • any of the status terms AND

  • all the other terms.

The print command instead shows transactions which:

  • match any of the description terms AND

  • have any postings matching any of the positive account terms AND

  • have no postings matching any of the negative account terms AND

  • match all the other terms.

The following kinds of search terms can be used. Remember these can also be prefixed with not:, eg to exclude a particular subaccount.

REGEX, acct:REGEX : match account names by this regular expression. (With no prefix, acct: is assumed.) : same as above

amt:N, amt:<N, amt:<=N, amt:>N, amt:>=N : match postings with a single-commodity amount that is equal to, less than, or greater than N. (Multi-commodity amounts are not tested, and will always match.) The comparison has two modes: if N is preceded by a + or - sign (or is 0), the two signed numbers are compared. Otherwise, the absolute magnitudes are compared, ignoring sign.

code:REGEX : match by transaction code (eg check number)

cur:REGEX : match postings or transactions including any amounts whose currency/commodity symbol is fully matched by REGEX. (For a partial match, use .*REGEX.*). Note, to match characters which are regex-significant, like the dollar sign ($), you need to prepend \. And when using the command line you need to add one more level of quoting to hide it from the shell, so eg do: hledger print cur:'\$' or hledger print cur:\\$.

desc:REGEX : match transaction descriptions.

date:PERIODEXPR : match dates within the specified period. PERIODEXPR is a period expression (with no report interval). Examples: date:2016, date:thismonth, date:2000/2/1-2/15, date:lastweek-. If the --date2 command line flag is present, this matches secondary dates instead.

date2:PERIODEXPR : match secondary dates within the specified period.

depth:N : match (or display, depending on command) accounts at or above this depth

note:REGEX : match transaction notes (part of description right of |, or whole description when there's no |)

payee:REGEX : match transaction payee/payer names (part of description left of |, or whole description when there's no |)

real:, real:0 : match real or virtual postings respectively

status:, status:!, status:* : match unmarked, pending, or cleared transactions respectively

tag:REGEX[=REGEX] : match by tag name, and optionally also by tag value. Note a tag: query is considered to match a transaction if it matches any of the postings. Also remember that postings inherit the tags of their parent transaction.

The following special search term is used automatically in hledger-web, only:

inacct:ACCTNAME : tells hledger-web to show the transaction register for this account. Can be filtered further with acct etc.

Some of these can also be expressed as command-line options (eg depth:2 is equivalent to --depth 2). Generally you can mix options and query arguments, and the resulting query will be their intersection (perhaps excluding the -p/--period option).

COSTING

The -B/--cost flag converts amounts to their cost or sale amount at transaction time, if they have a transaction price specified. If this flag is supplied, hledger will perform cost conversion first, and will apply any market price valuations (if requested) afterwards.

VALUATION

Instead of reporting amounts in their original commodity, hledger can convert them to cost/sale amount (using the conversion rate recorded in the transaction), and/or to market value (using some market price on a certain date). This is controlled by the --cost and --value=TYPE[,COMMODITY] options, but we also provide the simpler -V/-X flags, and usually one of those is all you need.

-V: Value

The -V/--market flag converts amounts to market value in their default valuation commodity, using the market prices in effect on the valuation date(s), if any. More on these in a minute.

-X: Value in specified commodity

The -X/--exchange=COMM option is like -V, except you tell it which currency you want to convert to, and it tries to convert everything to that.

Valuation date

Since market prices can change from day to day, market value reports have a valuation date (or more than one), which determines which market prices will be used.

For single period reports, if an explicit report end date is specified, that will be used as the valuation date; otherwise the valuation date is the journal's end date.

For multiperiod reports, each column/period is valued on the last day of the period, by default.

Market prices

To convert a commodity A to its market value in another commodity B, hledger looks for a suitable market price (exchange rate) as follows, in this order of preference :

  1. A declared market price or inferred market price: A's latest market price in B on or before the valuation date as declared by a P directive, or (with the --infer-market-price flag) inferred from transaction prices.

  2. A reverse market price: the inverse of a declared or inferred market price from B to A.

  3. A forward chain of market prices: a synthetic price formed by combining the shortest chain of "forward" (only 1 above) market prices, leading from A to B.

  4. Any chain of market prices: a chain of any market prices, including both forward and reverse prices (1 and 2 above), leading from A to B.

There is a limit to the length of these price chains; if hledger reaches that length without finding a complete chain or exhausting all possibilities, it will give up (with a "gave up" message visible in --debug=2 output). That limit is currently 1000.

Amounts for which no suitable market price can be found, are not converted.

--infer-market-price: market prices from transactions

Normally, market value in hledger is fully controlled by, and requires, P directives in your journal. Since adding and updating those can be a chore, and since transactions usually take place at close to market value, why not use the recorded transaction prices as additional market prices (as Ledger does) ? We could produce value reports without needing P directives at all.

Adding the --infer-market-price flag to -V, -X or --value enables this. So for example, hledger bs -V --infer-market-price will get market prices both from P directives and from transactions. (And if both occur on the same day, the P directive takes precedence).

There is a downside: value reports can sometimes be affected in confusing/undesired ways by your journal entries. If this happens to you, read all of this Valuation section carefully, and try adding --debug or --debug=2 to troubleshoot.

--infer-market-price can infer market prices from:

  • multicommodity transactions with explicit prices (@/@@)

  • multicommodity transactions with implicit prices (no @, two commodities, unbalanced). (With these, the order of postings matters. hledger print -x can be useful for troubleshooting.)

  • but not, currently, from "more correct" multicommodity transactions (no @, multiple commodities, balanced).

Valuation commodity

When you specify a valuation commodity (-X COMM or --value TYPE,COMM):
hledger will convert all amounts to COMM, wherever it can find a suitable market price (including by reversing or chaining prices).

When you leave the valuation commodity unspecified (-V or --value TYPE):
For each commodity A, hledger picks a default valuation commodity as follows, in this order of preference:

  1. The price commodity from the latest P-declared market price for A on or before valuation date.

  2. The price commodity from the latest P-declared market price for A on any date. (Allows conversion to proceed when there are inferred prices before the valuation date.)

  3. If there are no P directives at all (any commodity or date) and the --infer-market-price flag is used: the price commodity from the latest transaction-inferred price for A on or before valuation date.

This means:

  • If you have P directives, they determine which commodities -V will convert, and to what.

  • If you have no P directives, and use the --infer-market-price flag, transaction prices determine it.

Amounts for which no valuation commodity can be found are not converted.

Simple valuation examples

Here are some quick examples of -V:

; one euro is worth this many dollars from nov 1
P 2016/11/01 € $1.10

; purchase some euros on nov 3
2016/11/3
    assets:euros        €100
    assets:checking

; the euro is worth fewer dollars by dec 21
P 2016/12/21 € $1.03

How many euros do I have ?

$ hledger -f t.j bal -N euros
                €100  assets:euros

What are they worth at end of nov 3 ?

$ hledger -f t.j bal -N euros -V -e 2016/11/4
             $110.00  assets:euros

What are they worth after 2016/12/21 ? (no report end date specified, defaults to today)

$ hledger -f t.j bal -N euros -V
             $103.00  assets:euros

--value: Flexible valuation

-V and -X are special cases of the more general --value option:

 --value=TYPE[,COMM]  TYPE is then, end, now or YYYY-MM-DD.
                      COMM is an optional commodity symbol.
                      Shows amounts converted to:
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using market prices at posting dates
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using market prices at period end(s)
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using current market prices
                      - default valuation commodity (or COMM) using market prices at some date

The TYPE part selects cost or value and valuation date:

--value=then : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity, using market prices on each posting's date.

--value=end : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity, using market prices on the last day of the report period (or if unspecified, the journal's end date); or in multiperiod reports, market prices on the last day of each subperiod.

--value=now : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity using current market prices (as of when report is generated).

--value=YYYY-MM-DD : Convert amounts to their value in the default valuation commodity using market prices on this date.

To select a different valuation commodity, add the optional ,COMM part: a comma, then the target commodity's symbol. Eg: --value=now,EUR. hledger will do its best to convert amounts to this commodity, deducing market prices as described above.

More valuation examples

Here are some examples showing the effect of --value, as seen with print:

P 2000-01-01 A  1 B
P 2000-02-01 A  2 B
P 2000-03-01 A  3 B
P 2000-04-01 A  4 B

2000-01-01
  (a)      1 A @ 5 B

2000-02-01
  (a)      1 A @ 6 B

2000-03-01
  (a)      1 A @ 7 B

Show the cost of each posting:

$ hledger -f- print --cost
2000-01-01
    (a)             5 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             6 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             7 B

Show the value as of the last day of the report period (2000-02-29):

$ hledger -f- print --value=end date:2000/01-2000/03
2000-01-01
    (a)             2 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             2 B

With no report period specified, that shows the value as of the last day of the journal (2000-03-01):

$ hledger -f- print --value=end
2000-01-01
    (a)             3 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             3 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             3 B

Show the current value (the 2000-04-01 price is still in effect today):

$ hledger -f- print --value=now
2000-01-01
    (a)             4 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             4 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             4 B

Show the value on 2000/01/15:

$ hledger -f- print --value=2000-01-15
2000-01-01
    (a)             1 B

2000-02-01
    (a)             1 B

2000-03-01
    (a)             1 B

You may need to explicitly set a commodity's display style, when reverse prices are used. Eg this output might be surprising:

P 2000-01-01 A 2B

2000-01-01
  a  1B
  b
$ hledger print -x -X A
2000-01-01
    a               0
    b               0

Explanation: because there's no amount or commodity directive specifying a display style for A, 0.5A gets the default style, which shows no decimal digits. Because the displayed amount looks like zero, the commodity symbol and minus sign are not displayed either. Adding a commodity directive sets a more useful display style for A:

P 2000-01-01 A 2B
commodity 0.00A

2000-01-01
  a  1B
  b
$ hledger print -X A
2000-01-01
    a           0.50A
    b          -0.50A

Effect of valuation on reports

Here is a reference for how valuation is supposed to affect each part of hledger's reports (and a glossary). (It's wide, you'll have to scroll sideways.) It may be useful when troubleshooting. If you find problems, please report them, ideally with a reproducible example. Related: #329, #1083.

Report type -B, --cost -V, -X --value=then --value=end --value=DATE, --value=now
print
posting amounts cost value at report end or today value at posting date value at report or journal end value at DATE/today
balance assertions/assignments unchanged unchanged unchanged unchanged unchanged

register
starting balance (-H) cost value at day before report or journal start valued at day each historical posting was made value at day before report or journal start value at DATE/today
posting amounts cost value at report end or today value at posting date value at report or journal end value at DATE/today
summary posting amounts with report interval summarised cost value at period ends sum of postings in interval, valued at interval start value at period ends value at DATE/today
running total/average sum/average of displayed values sum/average of displayed values sum/average of displayed values sum/average of displayed values sum/average of displayed values

balance (bs, bse, cf, is)
balance changes sums of costs value at report end or today of sums of postings value at posting date value at report or journal end of sums of postings value at DATE/today of sums of postings
budget amounts (--budget) like balance changes like balance changes like balance changes like balances like balance changes
grand total sum of displayed values sum of displayed values sum of displayed valued sum of displayed values sum of displayed values

balance (bs, bse, cf, is) with report interval
starting balances (-H) sums of costs of postings before report start value at report start of sums of all postings before report start sums of values of postings before report start at respective posting dates value at report start of sums of all postings before report start sums of postings before report start
balance changes (bal, is, bs --change, cf --change) sums of costs of postings in period same as --value=end sums of values of postings in period at respective posting dates balance change in each period, valued at period ends value at DATE/today of sums of postings
end balances (bal -H, is --H, bs, cf) sums of costs of postings from before report start to period end same as --value=end sums of values of postings from before period start to period end at respective posting dates period end balances, valued at period ends value at DATE/today of sums of postings
budget amounts (--budget) like balance changes/end balances like balance changes/end balances like balance changes/end balances like balances like balance changes/end balances
row totals, row averages (-T, -A) sums, averages of displayed values sums, averages of displayed values sums, averages of displayed values sums, averages of displayed values sums, averages of displayed values
column totals sums of displayed values sums of displayed values sums of displayed values sums of displayed values sums of displayed values
grand total, grand average sum, average of column totals sum, average of column totals sum, average of column totals sum, average of column totals sum, average of column totals

--cumulative is omitted to save space, it works like -H but with a zero starting balance.

Glossary:

cost : calculated using price(s) recorded in the transaction(s).

value : market value using available market price declarations, or the unchanged amount if no conversion rate can be found.

report start : the first day of the report period specified with -b or -p or date:, otherwise today.

report or journal start : the first day of the report period specified with -b or -p or date:, otherwise the earliest transaction date in the journal, otherwise today.

report end : the last day of the report period specified with -e or -p or date:, otherwise today.

report or journal end : the last day of the report period specified with -e or -p or date:, otherwise the latest transaction date in the journal, otherwise today.

report interval : a flag (-D/-W/-M/-Q/-Y) or period expression that activates the report's multi-period mode (whether showing one or many subperiods).

PIVOTING

Normally hledger sums amounts, and organizes them in a hierarchy, based on account name. The --pivot FIELD option causes it to sum and organize hierarchy based on the value of some other field instead. FIELD can be: code, description, payee, note, or the full name (case insensitive) of any tag. As with account names, values containing colon:separated:parts will be displayed hierarchically in reports.

--pivot is a general option affecting all reports; you can think of hledger transforming the journal before any other processing, replacing every posting's account name with the value of the specified field on that posting, inheriting it from the transaction or using a blank value if it's not present.

An example:

2016/02/16 Member Fee Payment
    assets:bank account                    2 EUR
    income:member fees                    -2 EUR  ; member: John Doe

Normal balance report showing account names:

$ hledger balance
               2 EUR  assets:bank account
              -2 EUR  income:member fees
--------------------
                   0

Pivoted balance report, using member: tag values instead:

$ hledger balance --pivot member
               2 EUR
              -2 EUR  John Doe
--------------------
                   0

One way to show only amounts with a member: value (using a query, described below):

$ hledger balance --pivot member tag:member=.
              -2 EUR  John Doe
--------------------
              -2 EUR

Another way (the acct: query matches against the pivoted "account name"):

$ hledger balance --pivot member acct:.
              -2 EUR  John Doe
--------------------
              -2 EUR

OUTPUT

Output destination

hledger commands send their output to the terminal by default. You can of course redirect this, eg into a file, using standard shell syntax:

$ hledger print > foo.txt

Some commands (print, register, stats, the balance commands) also provide the -o/--output-file option, which does the same thing without needing the shell. Eg:

$ hledger print -o foo.txt
$ hledger print -o -        # write to stdout (the default)

Output format

Some commands (print, register, the balance commands) offer a choice of output format. In addition to the usual plain text format (txt), there are CSV (csv), HTML (html), JSON (json) and SQL (sql). This is controlled by the -O/--output-format option:

$ hledger print -O csv

or, by a file extension specified with -o/--output-file:

$ hledger balancesheet -o foo.html   # write HTML to foo.html

The -O option can be used to override the file extension if needed:

$ hledger balancesheet -o foo.txt -O html   # write HTML to foo.txt

Some notes about JSON output:

  • This feature is marked experimental, and not yet much used; you should expect our JSON to evolve. Real-world feedback is welcome.

  • Our JSON is rather large and verbose, as it is quite a faithful representation of hledger's internal data types. To understand the JSON, read the Haskell type definitions, which are mostly in https://github.com/simonmichael/hledger/blob/master/hledger-lib/Hledger/Data/Types.hs.

  • hledger represents quantities as Decimal values storing up to 255 significant digits, eg for repeating decimals. Such numbers can arise in practice (from automatically-calculated transaction prices), and would break most JSON consumers. So in JSON, we show quantities as simple Numbers with at most 10 decimal places. We don't limit the number of integer digits, but that part is under your control. We hope this approach will not cause problems in practice; if you find otherwise, please let us know. (Cf #1195)

Notes about SQL output:

  • SQL output is also marked experimental, and much like JSON could use real-world feedback.

  • SQL output is expected to work with sqlite, MySQL and PostgreSQL

  • SQL output is structured with the expectations that statements will be executed in the empty database. If you already have tables created via SQL output of hledger, you would probably want to either clear tables of existing data (via delete or truncate SQL statements) or drop tables completely as otherwise your postings will be duped.

COMMANDS

hledger provides a number of commands for producing reports and managing your data. Run hledger with no arguments to list the commands available, and hledger CMD to run a command. CMD can be the full command name, or its standard abbreviation shown in the commands list, or any unambiguous prefix of the name. Eg: hledger bal.

Here are the built-in commands, with the most often-used in bold:

Data entry:

These data entry commands are the only ones which can modify your journal file.

  • add - add transactions using guided prompts

  • import - add any new transactions from other files (eg csv)

Data management:

  • check - check for various kinds of issue in the data

  • close (equity) - generate balance-resetting transactions

  • diff - compare account transactions in two journal files

  • rewrite - generate extra postings, similar to print --auto

Financial statements:

Miscellaneous reports:

  • accounts - show account names

  • activity - show postings-per-interval bar charts

  • balance (bal) - show balance changes/end balances/budgets in any accounts

  • codes - show transaction codes

  • commodities - show commodity/currency symbols

  • descriptions - show unique transaction descriptions

  • files - show input file paths

  • help - show hledger user manuals in several formats

  • notes - show unique note segments of transaction descriptions

  • payees - show unique payee segments of transaction descriptions

  • prices - show market price records

  • print - show transactions (journal entries)

  • print-unique - show only transactions with unique descriptions

  • register (reg) - show postings in one or more accounts & running total

  • register-match - show a recent posting that best matches a description

  • stats - show journal statistics

  • tags - show tag names

  • test - run self tests

Add-on commands:

Programs or scripts named hledger-SOMETHING in your PATH are add-on commands; these appear in the commands list with a + mark. Two of these are maintained and released with hledger:

  • ui - an efficient terminal interface (TUI) for hledger

  • web - a simple web interface (WUI) for hledger

And these add-ons are maintained separately:

  • iadd - a more interactive alternative for the add command

  • interest - generates interest transactions according to various schemes

  • stockquotes - downloads market prices for your commodities from AlphaVantage (experimental)

Next, the detailed command docs, in alphabetical order.

accounts

accounts
Show account names.

This command lists account names, either declared with account directives (--declared), posted to (--used), or both (the default). With query arguments, only matched account names and account names referenced by matched postings are shown. It shows a flat list by default. With --tree, it uses indentation to show the account hierarchy. In flat mode you can add --drop N to omit the first few account name components. Account names can be depth-clipped with depth:N or --depth N or -N.

Examples:

$ hledger accounts
assets:bank:checking
assets:bank:saving
assets:cash
expenses:food
expenses:supplies
income:gifts
income:salary
liabilities:debts

activity

activity
Show an ascii barchart of posting counts per interval.

The activity command displays an ascii histogram showing transaction counts by day, week, month or other reporting interval (by day is the default). With query arguments, it counts only matched transactions.

Examples:

$ hledger activity --quarterly
2008-01-01 **
2008-04-01 *******
2008-07-01 
2008-10-01 **

add

add
Prompt for transactions and add them to the journal. Any arguments will be used as default inputs for the first N prompts.

Many hledger users edit their journals directly with a text editor, or generate them from CSV. For more interactive data entry, there is the add command, which prompts interactively on the console for new transactions, and appends them to the journal file (if there are multiple -f FILE options, the first file is used.) Existing transactions are not changed. This is the only hledger command that writes to the journal file.

To use it, just run hledger add and follow the prompts. You can add as many transactions as you like; when you are finished, enter . or press control-d or control-c to exit.

Features:

  • add tries to provide useful defaults, using the most similar (by description) recent transaction (filtered by the query, if any) as a template.

  • You can also set the initial defaults with command line arguments.

  • Readline-style edit keys can be used during data entry.

  • The tab key will auto-complete whenever possible - accounts, descriptions, dates (yesterday, today, tomorrow). If the input area is empty, it will insert the default value.

  • If the journal defines a default commodity, it will be added to any bare numbers entered.

  • A parenthesised transaction code may be entered following a date.

  • Comments and tags may be entered following a description or amount.

  • If you make a mistake, enter < at any prompt to go one step backward.

  • Input prompts are displayed in a different colour when the terminal supports it.

Example (see the tutorial for a detailed explanation):

$ hledger add
Adding transactions to journal file /src/hledger/examples/sample.journal
Any command line arguments will be used as defaults.
Use tab key to complete, readline keys to edit, enter to accept defaults.
An optional (CODE) may follow transaction dates.
An optional ; COMMENT may follow descriptions or amounts.
If you make a mistake, enter < at any prompt to go one step backward.
To end a transaction, enter . when prompted.
To quit, enter . at a date prompt or press control-d or control-c.
Date [2015/05/22]: 
Description: supermarket
Account 1: expenses:food
Amount  1: $10
Account 2: assets:checking
Amount  2 [$-10.0]: 
Account 3 (or . or enter to finish this transaction): .
2015/05/22 supermarket
    expenses:food             $10
    assets:checking        $-10.0

Save this transaction to the journal ? [y]: 
Saved.
Starting the next transaction (. or ctrl-D/ctrl-C to quit)
Date [2015/05/22]: <CTRL-D> $

On Microsoft Windows, the add command makes sure that no part of the file path ends with a period, as that would cause problems (#1056).

aregister

aregister, areg\

Show the transactions and running historical balance in an account, with each line item representing one transaction.

aregister shows the transactions affecting a particular account and its subaccounts, with each line item representing a whole transaction - as in bank statements, hledger-ui, hledger-web and other accounting apps.

Note this is unlike the register command, which shows individual postings and does not always show a single account or a historical balance.

A reminder, "historical" balances include any balance from transactions before the report start date, so (if opening balances are recorded correctly) aregister will show the real-world balances of an account, as you would see in a bank statement.

As a quick rule of thumb, use aregister for reconciling real-world asset/liability accounts and register for reviewing detailed revenues/expenses.

aregister shows the register for just one account (and its subaccounts). This account must be specified as the first argument. You can write either the full account name, or a case-insensitive regular expression which will select the alphabetically first matched account. (Eg if you have assets:aaa:checking and assets:bbb:checking accounts, hledger areg checking would select assets:aaa:checking.)

Any additional arguments form a query which will filter the transactions shown.

Each aregister line item shows:

  • the transaction's date (or the relevant posting's date if different, see below)

  • the names of all the other account(s) involved in this transaction (probably abbreviated)

  • the total change to this account's balance from this transaction

  • the account's historical running balance after this transaction.

Transactions making a net change of zero are not shown by default; add the -E/--empty flag to show them.

aregister ignores a depth limit, so its final total will always match a balance report with similar arguments.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, and json.

aregister and custom posting dates

Transactions whose date is outside the report period can still be shown, if they have a posting to this account dated inside the report period. (And in this case it's the posting date that is shown.) This ensures that aregister can show an accurate historical running balance, matching the one shown by register -H with the same arguments.

To filter strictly by transaction date instead, add the --txn-dates flag. If you use this flag and some of your postings have custom dates, it's probably best to assume the running balance is wrong.

Examples:

Show all transactions and historical running balance in the first account whose name contains "checking":

$ hledger areg checking

Show transactions and historical running balance in all asset accounts during july:

$ hledger areg assets date:jul

balance

balance, bal
Show accounts and their balances.

balance is a flexible command for listing account balances, balance changes, values, value changes, and more. Generally it shows a table, with rows representing accounts, and columns representing time periods. Compared to Ledger's balance command, hledger's balance adds the significant feature of multi-period reports.

Note there are some easier variants of the balance command which are more convenient for everyday financial reporting: balancesheet, balancesheetequity, cashflow and incomestatement. But when you want most control, you can use balance. It can show:

  • accounts as a flat list or a tree, optionally depth-limited (-l, -t, -[1-9])

  • a single time period or multiple periods (-D, -W, -M, -Q, -Y, -p INTERVAL)

  • balance changes in each period (--change)

  • actual and planned balance changes, and their relative percentage, in each period (--budget)

  • accumulated totals at the end of each period (counting from report start) (--cumulative)

  • historical end balances at the end of each period (assuming a suitable opening balances transaction) (--historical)

  • totals, averages, percentages, inverted sign (-T, -A, -%, --invert)

  • custom-formatted line items (in single-period reports) (--format)

  • transposed data - swapping the rows and columns (in multi-period reports) (--transpose)

  • pivoted data - using a different field as the "account name" (--pivot FIELD) (see PIVOTING

This command supports the output destination and output format options, with output formats txt, csv, json, and (multi-period reports only:) html. In txt output in a colour-supporting terminal, negative amounts are shown in red.

Here are some examples of balance reports and features.

Simple balance report

With no arguments, balance shows a list of all accounts and their change of balance - ie, the sum of posting amounts, both inflows and outflows - during the entire period of the journal. For real-world accounts, this should also match their end balance at the end of the journal period (more on this below).

Accounts are sorted by declaration order if any, and then alphabetically by account name. For instance, using examples/sample.journal:

$ hledger bal
                  $1  assets:bank:saving
                 $-2  assets:cash
                  $1  expenses:food
                  $1  expenses:supplies
                 $-1  income:gifts
                 $-1  income:salary
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                   0  

Accounts with a zero balance (and no non-zero subaccounts, in tree mode

  • see below) are hidden by default. Use -E/--empty to show them (revealing assets:bank:checking here):

$ hledger -f examples/sample.journal  bal  -E
                   0  assets:bank:checking
                  $1  assets:bank:saving
                 $-2  assets:cash
                  $1  expenses:food
                  $1  expenses:supplies
                 $-1  income:gifts
                 $-1  income:salary
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                   0  

The total of the amounts displayed is shown as the last line, unless -N/--no-total is used.

Filtered balance report

You can show fewer accounts, a different time period, totals from cleared transactions only, etc. by using query arguments or options to limit the postings being matched. Eg:

$ hledger bal --cleared assets date:200806
                 $-2  assets:cash
--------------------
                 $-2  

List or tree mode

By default, or with -l/--flat, accounts are shown as a flat list with their full names visible, as in the examples above.

With -t/--tree, the account hierarchy is shown, with subaccounts' "leaf" names indented below their parent:

$ hledger balance
                 $-1  assets
                  $1    bank:saving
                 $-2    cash
                  $2  expenses
                  $1    food
                  $1    supplies
                 $-2  income
                 $-1    gifts
                 $-1    salary
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                   0

Notes:

  • "Boring" accounts are combined with their subaccount for more compact output, unless --no-elide is used. Boring accounts have no balance of their own and just one subaccount (eg assets:bank and liabilities above).

  • All balances shown are "inclusive", ie including the balances from all subaccounts. Note this means some repetition in the output, which requires explanation when sharing reports with non-plaintextaccounting-users. A tree mode report's final total is the sum of the top-level balances shown, not of all the balances shown.

  • Each group of sibling accounts (ie, under a common parent) is sorted separately.

Depth limiting

With a depth:N query, or --depth N option, or just -N, balance reports will show accounts only to the specified depth, hiding the deeper subaccounts. Account balances at the depth limit always include the balances from any hidden subaccounts (even in list mode). This can be useful for getting an overview. Eg, limiting to depth 1:

$ hledger balance -N -1
                 $-1  assets
                  $2  expenses
                 $-2  income
                  $1  liabilities

You can also hide top-level account name parts, using --drop N. This can be useful for hiding repetitive top-level account names:

$ hledger bal expenses --drop 1
                  $1  food
                  $1  supplies
--------------------
                  $2  

Multi-period balance report

With a report interval (set by the -D/--daily, -W/--weekly, -M/--monthly, -Q/--quarterly, -Y/--yearly, or -p/--period flag), balance shows a tabular report, with columns representing successive time periods (and a title):

$ hledger balance --quarterly income expenses -E
Balance changes in 2008:

                   ||  2008q1  2008q2  2008q3  2008q4 
===================++=================================
 expenses:food     ||       0      $1       0       0 
 expenses:supplies ||       0      $1       0       0 
 income:gifts      ||       0     $-1       0       0 
 income:salary     ||     $-1       0       0       0 
-------------------++---------------------------------
                   ||     $-1      $1       0       0 

Notes:

  • The report's start/end dates will be expanded, if necessary, to fully encompass the displayed subperiods (so that the first and last subperiods have the same duration as the others).

  • Leading and trailing periods (columns) containing all zeroes are not shown, unless -E/--empty is used.

  • Accounts (rows) containing all zeroes are not shown, unless -E/--empty is used.

  • Amounts with many commodities are shown in abbreviated form, unless --no-elide is used. (experimental)

  • Average and/or total columns can be added with the -A/--average and -T/--row-total flags.

  • The --transpose flag can be used to exchange rows and columns.

Multi-period reports with many periods can be too wide for easy viewing in the terminal. Here are some ways to handle that:

  • Hide the totals row with -N/--no-total

  • Convert to a single currency with -V

  • Maximize the terminal window

  • Reduce the terminal's font size

  • View with a pager like less, eg: hledger bal -D --color=yes | less -RS

  • Output as CSV and use a CSV viewer like visidata (hledger bal -D -O csv | vd -f csv), Emacs' csv-mode (M-x csv-mode, C-c C-a), or a spreadsheet (hledger bal -D -o a.csv && open a.csv)

  • Output as HTML and view with a browser: hledger bal -D -o a.html && open a.html

Sorting by amount

With -S/--sort-amount, accounts with the largest (most positive) balances are shown first. Eg: hledger bal expenses -MAS shows your biggest averaged monthly expenses first.

Revenues and liability balances are typically negative, however, so -S shows these in reverse order. To work around this, you can add --invert to flip the signs. (Or, use one of the higher-level reports, which flip the sign automatically. Eg: hledger incomestatement -MAS).

Percentages

With -%/--percent, balance reports show each account's value expressed as a percentage of the (column) total:

$ hledger bal expenses -Q -%
Balance changes in 2008:

                   || 2008Q1   2008Q2  2008Q3  2008Q4 
===================++=================================
 expenses:food     ||      0   50.0 %       0       0 
 expenses:supplies ||      0   50.0 %       0       0 
-------------------++---------------------------------
                   ||      0  100.0 %       0       0 

Note it is not useful to calculate percentages if the amounts in a column have mixed signs. In this case, make a separate report for each sign, eg:

$ hledger bal -% amt:`>0`
$ hledger bal -% amt:`<0`

Similarly, if the amounts in a column have mixed commodities, convert them to one commodity with -B, -V, -X or --value, or make a separate report for each commodity:

$ hledger bal -% cur:\\$
$ hledger bal -% cur:€

Balance change, end balance, historical end balance

It's important to be clear on the meaning of the numbers shown in balance reports. Here is some terminology we use:

A balance change is the net amount added to, or removed from, an account during some period.

An end balance is the amount accumulated in an account as of some date (and some time, but hledger doesn't model that; assume end of day in your timezone). It is the sum of previous balance changes.

We call it a historical end balance if it includes all balance changes since the account was created. For a real world account, this means it will match the "historical record", eg the balances reported in your bank statements or bank web UI. (If they are correct!)

In general, balance changes are what you want to see when reviewing revenues and expenses, and historical end balances are what you want to see when reviewing or reconciling asset, liability and equity accounts.

As mentioned above, the default balance report shows balance changes. To ensure that you see accurate historical end balances:

  1. If the account's full lifetime is not recorded in the journal, there should be an "opening balances" transaction (a transfer from equity to the account) that initialises its balance on some date (often the first day of a year).

  2. The report should include all of the account's prior postings, eg by leaving the report start date unspecified, or by using the -H/--historical flag, described below.

Balance report types

Fair warning: balance report modes can get confusing, so feel free to just mimic the examples below, or just use the higher-level bs/bse/cf/is commands.

For more flexible reporting, there are three important option groups:

hledger balance [REPORTTYPE] [ACCUMULATIONTYPE] [VALUATIONTYPE] ...

Report type

The general thing that is calculated/shown in each cell. It is one of:

  • --change : show a sum of posting amounts (default)

  • --budget : like --change but also show a budget goal amount

  • --valuechange : show change of value of period-end historical balances

More report types are on the way.

Accumulation type

Which previous periods' postings should be included in calculations (especially in multiperiod reports). It is one of:

  • --periodic : postings from column start to column end. Ie, show changes in each period. Typically used when reviewing revenues/expenses. (default for balance, incomestatement)

  • --cumulative : postings from report start (specified by -b/--begin, eg) to column end. Ie, show changes since start of report. Rarely used.

  • --historical/-H : postings from journal start to column end. Ie, show historical balance at end of each period. Typically used when reviewing assets/liabilities/equity. (default for balancesheet, balancesheetequity, cashflow)

Valuation type

Which kind of valuation, valuation date(s) and optionally a target valuation commodity to use. It is one of:

  • no valuation, show amounts in their original commodities (default)

  • --value=cost[,COMM] : no valuation, show amounts converted to cost

  • --value=then[,COMM] : show value at transaction dates

  • --value=end[,COMM] : show value at period end date(s)

  • --value=now[,COMM] : show value at today's date

  • --value=YYYY-MM-DD[,COMM] : show value at another date

or one of their aliases: --cost/-B, --market/-V or --exchange/-X.

Combining balance report options

Many but not all combinations of balance report options are useful. Eg, --row-total/-T is disabled by --cumulative or --historical, since summing already-summed end balances usually does not make sense.

Some important reports are:

  • bal revenues expenses (bal --periodic --change revenues expenses)
    revenues/expenses in each period, an income statement / profit & loss report

  • bal -H assets liabilities (bal --historical --change assets liabilities)
    historical asset/liability balances at end of each period, a simplified balance sheet

  • bal -H assets liabilities equity (bal --historical --change assets liabilities equity)
    historical asset/liability/equity balances at end of each period, a full balance sheet

  • bal assets not:receivable (bal --periodic --change assets not:receivable)
    liquid asset changes in each period, a cashflow report

Since these are so often used, they are also available as (enhanced) separate commands:\

  • is (incomestatement)

  • bs (balancesheet)

  • bse (balancesheetequity)

  • cf (cashflow)

Here is what the accumulation / valuation type combinations show:

Valuation: >
Accumulation: v
no valuation --value= then --value= end --value= YYYY-MM-DD /now
--periodic change in period sum of posting-date market values in period period-end value of change in period DATE-value of change in period
--cumulative change from report start to period end sum of posting-date market values from report start to period end period-end value of change from report start to period end DATE-value of change from report start to period end
--historical /-H change from journal start to period end (historical end balance) sum of posting-date market values from journal start to period end period-end value of change from journal start to period end DATE-value of change from journal start to period end

Budget report

The --budget report type activates extra columns showing any budget goals for each account and period. The budget goals are defined by periodic transactions. This is very useful for comparing planned and actual income, expenses, time usage, etc.

For example, you can take average monthly expenses in the common expense categories to construct a minimal monthly budget:

;; Budget
~ monthly
  income  $2000
  expenses:food    $400
  expenses:bus     $50
  expenses:movies  $30
  assets:bank:checking

;; Two months worth of expenses
2017-11-01
  income  $1950
  expenses:food    $396
  expenses:bus     $49
  expenses:movies  $30
  expenses:supplies  $20
  assets:bank:checking

2017-12-01
  income  $2100
  expenses:food    $412
  expenses:bus     $53
  expenses:gifts   $100
  assets:bank:checking

You can now see a monthly budget report:

$ hledger balance -M --budget
Budget performance in 2017/11/01-2017/12/31:

                      ||                      Nov                       Dec 
======================++====================================================
 assets               || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-2665 [ 107% of $-2480] 
 assets:bank          || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-2665 [ 107% of $-2480] 
 assets:bank:checking || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-2665 [ 107% of $-2480] 
 expenses             ||   $495 [ 103% of   $480]    $565 [ 118% of   $480] 
 expenses:bus         ||    $49 [  98% of    $50]     $53 [ 106% of    $50] 
 expenses:food        ||   $396 [  99% of   $400]    $412 [ 103% of   $400] 
 expenses:movies      ||    $30 [ 100% of    $30]       0 [   0% of    $30] 
 income               ||  $1950 [  98% of  $2000]   $2100 [ 105% of  $2000] 
----------------------++----------------------------------------------------
                      ||      0 [              0]       0 [              0] 

This is different from a normal balance report in several ways:

  • Only accounts with budget goals during the report period are shown, by default.

  • In each column, in square brackets after the actual amount, budget goal amounts are shown, and the actual/goal percentage. (Note: budget goals should be in the same commodity as the actual amount.)

  • All parent accounts are always shown, even in list mode. Eg assets, assets:bank, and expenses above.

  • Amounts always include all subaccounts, budgeted or unbudgeted, even in list mode.

This means that the numbers displayed will not always add up! Eg above, the expenses actual amount includes the gifts and supplies transactions, but the expenses:gifts and expenses:supplies accounts are not shown, as they have no budget amounts declared.

This can be confusing. When you need to make things clearer, use the -E/--empty flag, which will reveal all accounts including unbudgeted ones, giving the full picture. Eg:

$ hledger balance -M --budget --empty
Budget performance in 2017/11/01-2017/12/31:

                      ||                      Nov                       Dec 
======================++====================================================
 assets               || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-2665 [ 107% of $-2480] 
 assets:bank          || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-2665 [ 107% of $-2480] 
 assets:bank:checking || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-2665 [ 107% of $-2480] 
 expenses             ||   $495 [ 103% of   $480]    $565 [ 118% of   $480] 
 expenses:bus         ||    $49 [  98% of    $50]     $53 [ 106% of    $50] 
 expenses:food        ||   $396 [  99% of   $400]    $412 [ 103% of   $400] 
 expenses:gifts       ||      0                      $100                   
 expenses:movies      ||    $30 [ 100% of    $30]       0 [   0% of    $30] 
 expenses:supplies    ||    $20                         0                   
 income               ||  $1950 [  98% of  $2000]   $2100 [ 105% of  $2000] 
----------------------++----------------------------------------------------
                      ||      0 [              0]       0 [              0] 

You can roll over unspent budgets to next period with --cumulative:

$ hledger balance -M --budget --cumulative
Budget performance in 2017/11/01-2017/12/31:

                      ||                      Nov                       Dec 
======================++====================================================
 assets               || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-5110 [ 103% of $-4960] 
 assets:bank          || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-5110 [ 103% of $-4960] 
 assets:bank:checking || $-2445 [  99% of $-2480]  $-5110 [ 103% of $-4960] 
 expenses             ||   $495 [ 103% of   $480]   $1060 [ 110% of   $960] 
 expenses:bus         ||    $49 [  98% of    $50]    $102 [ 102% of   $100] 
 expenses:food        ||   $396 [  99% of   $400]    $808 [ 101% of   $800] 
 expenses:movies      ||    $30 [ 100% of    $30]     $30 [  50% of    $60] 
 income               ||  $1950 [  98% of  $2000]   $4050 [ 101% of  $4000] 
----------------------++----------------------------------------------------
                      ||      0 [              0]       0 [              0] 

For more examples and notes, see Budgeting.

Budget report start date

This might be a bug, but for now: when making budget reports, it's a good idea to explicitly set the report's start date to the first day of a reporting period, because a periodic rule like ~ monthly generates its transactions on the 1st of each month, and if your journal has no regular transactions on the 1st, the default report start date could exclude that budget goal, which can be a little surprising. Eg here the default report period is just the day of 2020-01-15:

~ monthly in 2020
  (expenses:food)  $500

2020-01-15
  expenses:food    $400
  assets:checking
$ hledger bal expenses --budget
Budget performance in 2020-01-15:

              || 2020-01-15 
==============++============
 <unbudgeted> ||       $400 
--------------++------------
              ||       $400 

To avoid this, specify the budget report's period, or at least the start date, with -b/-e/-p/date:, to ensure it includes the budget goal transactions (periodic transactions) that you want. Eg, adding -b 2020/1/1 to the above:

$ hledger bal expenses --budget -b 2020/1/1
Budget performance in 2020-01-01..2020-01-15:

               || 2020-01-01..2020-01-15 
===============++========================
 expenses:food ||     $400 [80% of $500] 
---------------++------------------------
               ||     $400 [80% of $500] 
Nested budgets

You can add budgets to any account in your account hierarchy. If you have budgets on both parent account and some of its children, then budget(s) of the child account(s) would be added to the budget of their parent, much like account balances behave.

In the most simple case this means that once you add a budget to any account, all its parents would have budget as well.

To illustrate this, consider the following budget:

~ monthly from 2019/01
    expenses:personal             $1,000.00
    expenses:personal:electronics    $100.00
    liabilities

With this, monthly budget for electronics is defined to be $100 and budget for personal expenses is an additional $1000, which implicitly means that budget for both expenses:personal and expenses is $1100.

Transactions in expenses:personal:electronics will be counted both towards its $100 budget and $1100 of expenses:personal , and transactions in any other subaccount of expenses:personal would be counted towards only towards the budget of expenses:personal.

For example, let's consider these transactions:

~ monthly from 2019/01
    expenses:personal             $1,000.00
    expenses:personal:electronics    $100.00
    liabilities

2019/01/01 Google home hub
    expenses:personal:electronics          $90.00
    liabilities                           $-90.00

2019/01/02 Phone screen protector
    expenses:personal:electronics:upgrades          $10.00
    liabilities

2019/01/02 Weekly train ticket
    expenses:personal:train tickets       $153.00
    liabilities

2019/01/03 Flowers
    expenses:personal          $30.00
    liabilities

As you can see, we have transactions in expenses:personal:electronics:upgrades and expenses:personal:train tickets, and since both of these accounts are without explicitly defined budget, these transactions would be counted towards budgets of expenses:personal:electronics and expenses:personal accordingly:

$ hledger balance --budget -M
Budget performance in 2019/01:

                               ||                           Jan 
===============================++===============================
 expenses                      ||  $283.00 [  26% of  $1100.00] 
 expenses:personal             ||  $283.00 [  26% of  $1100.00] 
 expenses:personal:electronics ||  $100.00 [ 100% of   $100.00] 
 liabilities                   || $-283.00 [  26% of $-1100.00] 
-------------------------------++-------------------------------
                               ||        0 [                 0] 

And with --empty, we can get a better picture of budget allocation and consumption:

$ hledger balance --budget -M --empty
Budget performance in 2019/01:

                                        ||                           Jan 
========================================++===============================
 expenses                               ||  $283.00 [  26% of  $1100.00] 
 expenses:personal                      ||  $283.00 [  26% of  $1100.00] 
 expenses:personal:electronics          ||  $100.00 [ 100% of   $100.00] 
 expenses:personal:electronics:upgrades ||   $10.00                      
 expenses:personal:train tickets        ||  $153.00                      
 liabilities                            || $-283.00 [  26% of $-1100.00] 
----------------------------------------++-------------------------------
                                        ||        0 [                 0] 

Customising single-period balance reports

For single-period balance reports displayed in the terminal (only), you can use --format FMT to customise the format and content of each line. Eg:

$ hledger balance --format "%20(account) %12(total)"
              assets          $-1
         bank:saving           $1
                cash          $-2
            expenses           $2
                food           $1
            supplies           $1
              income          $-2
               gifts          $-1
              salary          $-1
   liabilities:debts           $1
---------------------------------
                                0

The FMT format string (plus a newline) specifies the formatting applied to each account/balance pair. It may contain any suitable text, with data fields interpolated like so:

%[MIN][.MAX](FIELDNAME)

  • MIN pads with spaces to at least this width (optional)

  • MAX truncates at this width (optional)

  • FIELDNAME must be enclosed in parentheses, and can be one of:

    • depth_spacer - a number of spaces equal to the account's depth, or if MIN is specified, MIN * depth spaces.

    • account - the account's name

    • total - the account's balance/posted total, right justified

Also, FMT can begin with an optional prefix to control how multi-commodity amounts are rendered:

  • %_ - render on multiple lines, bottom-aligned (the default)

  • %^ - render on multiple lines, top-aligned

  • %, - render on one line, comma-separated

There are some quirks. Eg in one-line mode, %(depth_spacer) has no effect, instead %(account) has indentation built in. Experimentation may be needed to get pleasing results.

Some example formats:

  • %(total) - the account's total

  • %-20.20(account) - the account's name, left justified, padded to 20 characters and clipped at 20 characters

  • %,%-50(account)  %25(total) - account name padded to 50 characters, total padded to 20 characters, with multiple commodities rendered on one line

  • %20(total)  %2(depth_spacer)%-(account) - the default format for the single-column balance report

balancesheet

balancesheet, bs
This command displays a balance sheet, showing historical ending balances of asset and liability accounts. (To see equity as well, use the balancesheetequity command.) Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

The asset and liability accounts shown are those accounts declared with the Asset or Cash or Liability type, or otherwise all accounts under a top-level asset or liability account (case insensitive, plurals allowed).

(This report is essentially similar to "hledger balance --historical assets liabilities", with liabilities sign-flipped.)

Example:

$ hledger balancesheet
Balance Sheet

Assets:
                 $-1  assets
                  $1    bank:saving
                 $-2    cash
--------------------
                 $-1

Liabilities:
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                  $1

Total:
--------------------
                   0

With a reporting interval, multiple columns will be shown, one for each report period. As with multicolumn balance reports, you can alter the report mode with --change/--cumulative/--historical. Normally balancesheet shows historical ending balances, which is what you need for a balance sheet; note this means it ignores report begin dates (and -T/--row-total, since summing end balances generally does not make sense). Instead of absolute values percentages can be displayed with -%.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, html, and (experimental) json.

balancesheetequity

balancesheetequity, bse
This command displays a balance sheet, showing historical ending balances of asset, liability and equity accounts. Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

The asset, liability and equity accounts shown are those accounts declared with the Asset, Cash, Liability or Equity type, or otherwise all accounts under a top-level asset, liability or equity account (case insensitive, plurals allowed).

(This report is essentially similar to "hledger balance --historical assets liabilities equity", with liabilities and equity sign-flipped.)

Example:

$ hledger balancesheetequity
Balance Sheet With Equity

Assets:
                 $-2  assets
                  $1    bank:saving
                 $-3    cash
--------------------
                 $-2

Liabilities:
                  $1  liabilities:debts
--------------------
                  $1

Equity:
          $1  equity:owner
--------------------
          $1

Total:
--------------------
                   0

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, html, and (experimental) json.

cashflow

cashflow, cf
This command displays a cashflow statement, showing the inflows and outflows affecting "cash" (ie, liquid) assets. Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

The "cash" accounts shown are those accounts declared with the Cash type, or otherwise all accounts under a top-level asset account (case insensitive, plural allowed) which do not have fixed, investment, receivable or A/R in their name.

(This report is essentially similar to "hledger balance --change assets not:fixed not:investment not:receivable".)

Example:

$ hledger cashflow
Cashflow Statement

Cash flows:
                 $-1  assets
                  $1    bank:saving
                 $-2    cash
--------------------
                 $-1

Total:
--------------------
                 $-1

With a reporting interval, multiple columns will be shown, one for each report period. Normally cashflow shows changes in assets per period, though as with multicolumn balance reports you can alter the report mode with --change/--cumulative/--historical. Instead of absolute values percentages can be displayed with -%.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, html, and (experimental) json.

check

check
Check for various kinds of errors in your data.

hledger provides a number of built-in error checks to help prevent problems in your data. Some of these are run automatically; or, you can use this check command to run them on demand, with no output and a zero exit code if all is well. Specify their names (or a prefix) as argument(s).

Some examples:

hledger check      # basic checks
hledger check -s   # basic + strict checks
hledger check ordereddates payees  # basic + two other checks

Here are the checks currently available:

Basic checks

These checks are always run automatically, by (almost) all hledger commands, including check:

  • parseable - data files are well-formed and can be successfully parsed

  • autobalanced - all transactions are balanced, inferring missing amounts where necessary, and possibly converting commodities using transaction prices or automatically-inferred transaction prices

  • assertions - all balance assertions in the journal are passing. (This check can be disabled with -I/--ignore-assertions.)

Strict checks

These additional checks are run when the -s/--strict (strict mode) flag is used. Or, they can be run by giving their names as arguments to check:

Other checks

These checks can be run only by giving their names as arguments to check. They are more specialised and not desirable for everyone, therefore optional:

  • ordereddates - transactions are ordered by date (similar to the old check-dates command)

  • payees - all payees used by transactions have been declared

  • uniqueleafnames - all account leaf names are unique (similar to the old check-dupes command).

Custom checks

A few more checks are are available as separate add-on commands, in https://github.com/simonmichael/hledger/tree/master/bin:

  • hledger-check-tagfiles - all tag values containing / (a forward slash) exist as file paths

  • hledger-check-fancyassertions - more complex balance assertions are passing

You could make similar scripts to perform your own custom checks. See: Cookbook -> Scripting.

close

close, equity
Prints a "closing balances" transaction and an "opening balances" transaction that bring account balances to and from zero, respectively. These can be added to your journal file(s), eg to bring asset/liability balances forward into a new journal file, or to close out revenues/expenses to retained earnings at the end of a period.

You can print just one of these transactions by using the --close or --open flag. You can customise their descriptions with the --close-desc and --open-desc options.

One amountless posting to "equity:opening/closing balances" is added to balance the transactions, by default. You can customise this account name with --close-acct and --open-acct; if you specify only one of these, it will be used for both.

With --x/--explicit, the equity posting's amount will be shown. And if it involves multiple commodities, a posting for each commodity will be shown, as with the print command.

With --interleaved, the equity postings are shown next to the postings they balance, which makes troubleshooting easier.

By default, transaction prices in the journal are ignored when generating the closing/opening transactions. With --show-costs, this cost information is preserved (balance -B reports will be unchanged after the transition). Separate postings are generated for each cost in each commodity. Note this can generate very large journal entries, if you have many foreign currency or investment transactions.

close usage

If you split your journal files by time (eg yearly), you will typically run this command at the end of the year, and save the closing transaction as last entry of the old file, and the opening transaction as the first entry of the new file. This makes the files self contained, so that correct balances are reported no matter which of them are loaded. Ie, if you load just one file, the balances are initialised correctly; or if you load several files, the redundant closing/opening transactions cancel each other out. (They will show up in print or register reports; you can exclude them with a query like not:desc:'(opening|closing) balances'.)

If you're running a business, you might also use this command to "close the books" at the end of an accounting period, transferring income statement account balances to retained earnings. (You may want to change the equity account name to something like "equity:retained earnings".)

By default, the closing transaction is dated yesterday, the balances are calculated as of end of yesterday, and the opening transaction is dated today. To close on some other date, use: hledger close -e OPENINGDATE. Eg, to close/open on the 2018/2019 boundary, use -e 2019. You can also use -p or date:PERIOD (any starting date is ignored).

Both transactions will include balance assertions for the closed/reopened accounts. You probably shouldn't use status or realness filters (like -C or -R or status:) with this command, or the generated balance assertions will depend on these flags. Likewise, if you run this command with --auto, the balance assertions will probably always require --auto.

Examples:

Carrying asset/liability balances into a new file for 2019:

$ hledger close -f 2018.journal -e 2019 assets liabilities --open
    # (copy/paste the output to the start of your 2019 journal file)
$ hledger close -f 2018.journal -e 2019 assets liabilities --close
    # (copy/paste the output to the end of your 2018 journal file)

Now:

$ hledger bs -f 2019.journal                   # one file - balances are correct
$ hledger bs -f 2018.journal -f 2019.journal   # two files - balances still correct
$ hledger bs -f 2018.journal not:desc:closing  # to see year-end balances, must exclude closing txn

Transactions spanning the closing date can complicate matters, breaking balance assertions:

2018/12/30 a purchase made in 2018, clearing the following year
    expenses:food          5
    assets:bank:checking  -5  ; [2019/1/2]

Here's one way to resolve that:

; in 2018.journal:
2018/12/30 a purchase made in 2018, clearing the following year
    expenses:food          5
    liabilities:pending

; in 2019.journal:
2019/1/2 clearance of last year's pending transactions
    liabilities:pending    5 = 0
    assets:checking

codes

codes
List the codes seen in transactions, in the order parsed.

This command prints the value of each transaction's code field, in the order transactions were parsed. The transaction code is an optional value written in parentheses between the date and description, often used to store a cheque number, order number or similar.

Transactions aren't required to have a code, and missing or empty codes will not be shown by default. With the -E/--empty flag, they will be printed as blank lines.

You can add a query to select a subset of transactions.

Examples:

1/1 (123)
 (a)  1

1/1 ()
 (a)  1

1/1
 (a)  1

1/1 (126)
 (a)  1
$ hledger codes
123
124
126
$ hledger codes -E
123
124

126

commodities

commodities
List all commodity/currency symbols used or declared in the journal.

descriptions

descriptions
List the unique descriptions that appear in transactions.

This command lists the unique descriptions that appear in transactions, in alphabetic order. You can add a query to select a subset of transactions.

Example:

$ hledger descriptions
Store Name
Gas Station | Petrol
Person A

diff

diff
Compares a particular account's transactions in two input files. It shows any transactions to this account which are in one file but not in the other.

More precisely, for each posting affecting this account in either file, it looks for a corresponding posting in the other file which posts the same amount to the same account (ignoring date, description, etc.) Since postings not transactions are compared, this also works when multiple bank transactions have been combined into a single journal entry.

This is useful eg if you have downloaded an account's transactions from your bank (eg as CSV data). When hledger and your bank disagree about the account balance, you can compare the bank data with your journal to find out the cause.

Examples:

$ hledger diff -f $LEDGER_FILE -f bank.csv assets:bank:giro 
These transactions are in the first file only:

2014/01/01 Opening Balances
    assets:bank:giro              EUR ...
    ...
    equity:opening balances       EUR -...

These transactions are in the second file only:

files

files
List all files included in the journal. With a REGEX argument, only file names matching the regular expression (case sensitive) are shown.

help

help
Show the hledger user manual in one of several formats, optionally positioned at a given TOPIC (if possible). TOPIC is any heading, or heading prefix, in the manual. Some examples: commands, print, 'auto postings', periodic.

This command shows the user manual built in to this hledger version. It can be useful if the correct version of the hledger manual, or the usual viewing tools, are not installed on your system.

By default it uses the best viewer it can find in $PATH, in this order: info, man, $PAGER (unless a topic is specified), less, or stdout. When run non-interactively, it always uses stdout. Or you can select a particular viewer with the -i (info), -m (man), or -p (pager) flags.

import

import
Read new transactions added to each FILE since last run, and add them to the main journal file. Or with --dry-run, just print the transactions that would be added. Or with --catchup, just mark all of the FILEs' transactions as imported, without actually importing any.

Unlike other hledger commands, with import the journal file is an output file, and will be modified, though only by appending (existing data will not be changed). The input files are specified as arguments, so to import one or more CSV files to your main journal, you will run hledger import bank.csv or perhaps hledger import *.csv.

Note you can import from any file format, though CSV files are the most common import source, and these docs focus on that case.

Deduplication

As a convenience import does deduplication while reading transactions. This does not mean "ignore transactions that look the same", but rather "ignore transactions that have been seen before". This is intended for when you are periodically importing foreign data which may contain already-imported transactions. So eg, if every day you download bank CSV files containing redundant data, you can safely run hledger import bank.csv and only new transactions will be imported. (import is idempotent.)

Since the items being read (CSV records, eg) often do not come with unique identifiers, hledger detects new transactions by date, assuming that:

  1. new items always have the newest dates

  2. item dates do not change across reads

  3. and items with the same date remain in the same relative order across reads.

These are often true of CSV files representing transactions, or true enough so that it works pretty well in practice. 1 is important, but violations of 2 and 3 amongst the old transactions won't matter (and if you import often, the new transactions will be few, so less likely to be the ones affected).

hledger remembers the latest date processed in each input file by saving a hidden ".latest" state file in the same directory. Eg when reading finance/bank.csv, it will look for and update the finance/.latest.bank.csv state file. The format is simple: one or more lines containing the same ISO-format date (YYYY-MM-DD), meaning "I have processed transactions up to this date, and this many of them on that date." Normally you won't see or manipulate these state files yourself. But if needed, you can delete them to reset the state (making all transactions "new"), or you can construct them to "catch up" to a certain date.

Note deduplication (and updating of state files) can also be done by print --new, but this is less often used.

Import testing

With --dry-run, the transactions that will be imported are printed to the terminal, without updating your journal or state files. The output is valid journal format, like the print command, so you can re-parse it. Eg, to see any importable transactions which CSV rules have not categorised:

$ hledger import --dry bank.csv | hledger -f- -I print unknown

or (live updating):

$ ls bank.csv* | entr bash -c 'echo ====; hledger import --dry bank.csv | hledger -f- -I print unknown'

Importing balance assignments

Entries added by import will have their posting amounts made explicit (like hledger print -x). This means that any balance assignments in imported files must be evaluated; but, imported files don't get to see the main file's account balances. As a result, importing entries with balance assignments (eg from an institution that provides only balances and not posting amounts) will probably generate incorrect posting amounts. To avoid this problem, use print instead of import:

$ hledger print IMPORTFILE [--new] >> $LEDGER_FILE

(If you think import should leave amounts implicit like print does, please test it and send a pull request.)

Commodity display styles

Imported amounts will be formatted according to the canonical commodity styles (declared or inferred) in the main journal file.

incomestatement

incomestatement, is\

This command displays an income statement, showing revenues and expenses during one or more periods. Amounts are shown with normal positive sign, as in conventional financial statements.

The revenue and expense accounts shown are those accounts declared with the Revenue or Expense type, or otherwise all accounts under a top-level revenue or income or expense account (case insensitive, plurals allowed).

(This report is essentially similar to "hledger balance --change revenues expenses", with revenues sign-flipped.)

Example:

$ hledger incomestatement
Income Statement

Revenues:
                 $-2  income
                 $-1    gifts
                 $-1    salary
--------------------
                 $-2

Expenses:
                  $2  expenses
                  $1    food
                  $1    supplies
--------------------
                  $2

Total:
--------------------
                   0

With a reporting interval, multiple columns will be shown, one for each report period. Normally incomestatement shows revenues/expenses per period, though as with multicolumn balance reports you can alter the report mode with --change/--cumulative/--historical. Instead of absolute values percentages can be displayed with -%.

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, html, and (experimental) json.

notes

notes
List the unique notes that appear in transactions.

This command lists the unique notes that appear in transactions, in alphabetic order. You can add a query to select a subset of transactions. The note is the part of the transaction description after a | character (or if there is no |, the whole description).

Example:

$ hledger notes
Petrol
Snacks

payees

payees
List the unique payee/payer names that appear in transactions.

This command lists unique payee/payer names which have been declared with payee directives (--declared), used in transaction descriptions (--used), or both (the default).

The payee/payer is the part of the transaction description before a | character (or if there is no |, the whole description).

You can add query arguments to select a subset of transactions. This implies --used.

Example:

$ hledger payees
Store Name
Gas Station
Person A

prices

prices
Print market price directives from the journal. With --costs, also print synthetic market prices based on transaction prices. With --inverted-costs, also print inverse prices based on transaction prices. Prices (and postings providing prices) can be filtered by a query. Price amounts are always displayed with their full precision.

print

print
Show transaction journal entries, sorted by date.

The print command displays full journal entries (transactions) from the journal file, sorted by date (or with --date2, by secondary date).

Amounts are shown mostly normalised to commodity display style, eg the placement of commodity symbols will be consistent. All of their decimal places are shown, as in the original journal entry (with one alteration: in some cases trailing zeroes are added.)

Amounts are shown right-aligned within each transaction (but not across all transactions).

Directives and inter-transaction comments are not shown, currently. This means the print command is somewhat lossy, and if you are using it to reformat your journal you should take care to also copy over the directives and file-level comments.

Eg:

$ hledger print
2008/01/01 income
    assets:bank:checking            $1
    income:salary                  $-1

2008/06/01 gift
    assets:bank:checking            $1
    income:gifts                   $-1

2008/06/02 save
    assets:bank:saving              $1
    assets:bank:checking           $-1

2008/06/03 * eat & shop
    expenses:food                $1
    expenses:supplies            $1
    assets:cash                 $-2

2008/12/31 * pay off
    liabilities:debts               $1
    assets:bank:checking           $-1

print's output is usually a valid hledger journal, and you can process it again with a second hledger command. This can be useful for certain kinds of search, eg:

# Show running total of food expenses paid from cash.
# -f- reads from stdin. -I/--ignore-assertions is sometimes needed.
$ hledger print assets:cash | hledger -f- -I reg expenses:food

There are some situations where print's output can become unparseable:

Normally, the journal entry's explicit or implicit amount style is preserved. For example, when an amount is omitted in the journal, it will not appear in the output. Similarly, when a transaction price is implied but not written, it will not appear in the output. You can use the -x/--explicit flag to make all amounts and transaction prices explicit, which can be useful for troubleshooting or for making your journal more readable and robust against data entry errors. -x is also implied by using any of -B,-V,-X,--value.

Note, -x/--explicit will cause postings with a multi-commodity amount (these can arise when a multi-commodity transaction has an implicit amount) to be split into multiple single-commodity postings, keeping the output parseable.

With -B/--cost, amounts with transaction prices are converted to cost using that price. This can be used for troubleshooting.

With -m/--match and a STR argument, print will show at most one transaction: the one one whose description is most similar to STR, and is most recent. STR should contain at least two characters. If there is no similar-enough match, no transaction will be shown.

With --new, hledger prints only transactions it has not seen on a previous run. This uses the same deduplication system as the import command. (See import's docs for details.)

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, and (experimental) json and sql.

Here's an example of print's CSV output:

$ hledger print -Ocsv
"txnidx","date","date2","status","code","description","comment","account","amount","commodity","credit","debit","posting-status","posting-comment"
"1","2008/01/01","","","","income","","assets:bank:checking","1","$","","1","",""
"1","2008/01/01","","","","income","","income:salary","-1","$","1","","",""
"2","2008/06/01","","","","gift","","assets:bank:checking","1","$","","1","",""
"2","2008/06/01","","","","gift","","income:gifts","-1","$","1","","",""
"3","2008/06/02","","","","save","","assets:bank:saving","1","$","","1","",""
"3","2008/06/02","","","","save","","assets:bank:checking","-1","$","1","","",""
"4","2008/06/03","","*","","eat & shop","","expenses:food","1","$","","1","",""
"4","2008/06/03","","*","","eat & shop","","expenses:supplies","1","$","","1","",""
"4","2008/06/03","","*","","eat & shop","","assets:cash","-2","$","2","","",""
"5","2008/12/31","","*","","pay off","","liabilities:debts","1","$","","1","",""
"5","2008/12/31","","*","","pay off","","assets:bank:checking","-1","$","1","","",""
  • There is one CSV record per posting, with the parent transaction's fields repeated.

  • The "txnidx" (transaction index) field shows which postings belong to the same transaction. (This number might change if transactions are reordered within the file, files are parsed/included in a different order, etc.)

  • The amount is separated into "commodity" (the symbol) and "amount" (numeric quantity) fields.

  • The numeric amount is repeated in either the "credit" or "debit" column, for convenience. (Those names are not accurate in the accounting sense; it just puts negative amounts under credit and zero or greater amounts under debit.)

register

register, reg
Show postings and their running total.

The register command displays matched postings, across all accounts, in date order, with their running total or running historical balance. (See also the aregister command, which shows matched transactions in a specific account.)

register normally shows line per posting, but note that multi-commodity amounts will occupy multiple lines (one line per commodity).

It is typically used with a query selecting a particular account, to see that account's activity:

$ hledger register checking
2008/01/01 income               assets:bank:checking            $1           $1
2008/06/01 gift                 assets:bank:checking            $1           $2
2008/06/02 save                 assets:bank:checking           $-1           $1
2008/12/31 pay off              assets:bank:checking           $-1            0

With --date2, it shows and sorts by secondary date instead.

The --historical/-H flag adds the balance from any undisplayed prior postings to the running total. This is useful when you want to see only recent activity, with a historically accurate running balance:

$ hledger register checking -b 2008/6 --historical
2008/06/01 gift                 assets:bank:checking            $1           $2
2008/06/02 save                 assets:bank:checking           $-1           $1
2008/12/31 pay off              assets:bank:checking           $-1            0

The --depth option limits the amount of sub-account detail displayed.

The --average/-A flag shows the running average posting amount instead of the running total (so, the final number displayed is the average for the whole report period). This flag implies --empty (see below). It is affected by --historical. It works best when showing just one account and one commodity.

The --related/-r flag shows the other postings in the transactions of the postings which would normally be shown.

The --invert flag negates all amounts. For example, it can be used on an income account where amounts are normally displayed as negative numbers. It's also useful to show postings on the checking account together with the related account:

$ hledger register --related --invert assets:checking

With a reporting interval, register shows summary postings, one per interval, aggregating the postings to each account:

$ hledger register --monthly income
2008/01                 income:salary                          $-1          $-1
2008/06                 income:gifts                           $-1          $-2

Periods with no activity, and summary postings with a zero amount, are not shown by default; use the --empty/-E flag to see them:

$ hledger register --monthly income -E
2008/01                 income:salary                          $-1          $-1
2008/02                                                          0          $-1
2008/03                                                          0          $-1
2008/04                                                          0          $-1
2008/05                                                          0          $-1
2008/06                 income:gifts                           $-1          $-2
2008/07                                                          0          $-2
2008/08                                                          0          $-2
2008/09                                                          0          $-2
2008/10                                                          0          $-2
2008/11                                                          0          $-2
2008/12                                                          0          $-2

Often, you'll want to see just one line per interval. The --depth option helps with this, causing subaccounts to be aggregated:

$ hledger register --monthly assets --depth 1h
2008/01                 assets                                  $1           $1
2008/06                 assets                                 $-1            0
2008/12                 assets                                 $-1          $-1

Note when using report intervals, if you specify start/end dates these will be adjusted outward if necessary to contain a whole number of intervals. This ensures that the first and last intervals are full length and comparable to the others in the report.

Custom register output

register uses the full terminal width by default, except on windows. You can override this by setting the COLUMNS environment variable (not a bash shell variable) or by using the --width/-w option.

The description and account columns normally share the space equally (about half of (width - 40) each). You can adjust this by adding a description width as part of --width's argument, comma-separated: --width W,D . Here's a diagram (won't display correctly in --help):

<--------------------------------- width (W) ---------------------------------->
date (10)  description (D)       account (W-41-D)     amount (12)   balance (12)
DDDDDDDDDD dddddddddddddddddddd  aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa  AAAAAAAAAAAA  AAAAAAAAAAAA

and some examples:

$ hledger reg                     # use terminal width (or 80 on windows)
$ hledger reg -w 100              # use width 100
$ COLUMNS=100 hledger reg         # set with one-time environment variable
$ export COLUMNS=100; hledger reg # set till session end (or window resize)
$ hledger reg -w 100,40           # set overall width 100, description width 40
$ hledger reg -w $COLUMNS,40      # use terminal width, & description width 40

This command also supports the output destination and output format options The output formats supported are txt, csv, and (experimental) json.

register-match

register-match
Print the one posting whose transaction description is closest to DESC, in the style of the register command. If there are multiple equally good matches, it shows the most recent. Query options (options, not arguments) can be used to restrict the search space. Helps ledger-autosync detect already-seen transactions when importing.

rewrite

rewrite
Print all transactions, rewriting the postings of matched transactions. For now the only rewrite available is adding new postings, like print --auto.

This is a start at a generic rewriter of transaction entries. It reads the default journal and prints the transactions, like print, but adds one or more specified postings to any transactions matching QUERY. The posting amounts can be fixed, or a multiplier of the existing transaction's first posting amount.

Examples:

$ hledger-rewrite.hs ^income --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33  ; income tax' --add-posting '(reserve:gifts)  $100'
$ hledger-rewrite.hs expenses:gifts --add-posting '(reserve:gifts)  *-1"'
$ hledger-rewrite.hs -f rewrites.hledger

rewrites.hledger may consist of entries like:

= ^income amt:<0 date:2017
  (liabilities:tax)  *0.33  ; tax on income
  (reserve:grocery)  *0.25  ; reserve 25% for grocery
  (reserve:)  *0.25  ; reserve 25% for grocery

Note the single quotes to protect the dollar sign from bash, and the two spaces between account and amount.

More:

$ hledger rewrite -- [QUERY]        --add-posting "ACCT  AMTEXPR" ...
$ hledger rewrite -- ^income        --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33'
$ hledger rewrite -- expenses:gifts --add-posting '(budget:gifts)  *-1"'
$ hledger rewrite -- ^income        --add-posting '(budget:foreign currency)  *0.25 JPY; diversify'

Argument for --add-posting option is a usual posting of transaction with an exception for amount specification. More precisely, you can use '*' (star symbol) before the amount to indicate that that this is a factor for an amount of original matched posting. If the amount includes a commodity name, the new posting amount will be in the new commodity; otherwise, it will be in the matched posting amount's commodity.

Re-write rules in a file

During the run this tool will execute so called "Automated Transactions" found in any journal it process. I.e instead of specifying this operations in command line you can put them in a journal file.

$ rewrite-rules.journal

Make contents look like this:

= ^income
    (liabilities:tax)  *.33

= expenses:gifts
    budget:gifts  *-1
    assets:budget  *1

Note that '=' (equality symbol) that is used instead of date in transactions you usually write. It indicates the query by which you want to match the posting to add new ones.

$ hledger rewrite -- -f input.journal -f rewrite-rules.journal > rewritten-tidy-output.journal

This is something similar to the commands pipeline:

$ hledger rewrite -- -f input.journal '^income' --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33' \
  | hledger rewrite -- -f - expenses:gifts      --add-posting 'budget:gifts  *-1'       \
                                                --add-posting 'assets:budget  *1'       \
  > rewritten-tidy-output.journal

It is important to understand that relative order of such entries in journal is important. You can re-use result of previously added postings.

Diff output format

To use this tool for batch modification of your journal files you may find useful output in form of unified diff.

$ hledger rewrite -- --diff -f examples/sample.journal '^income' --add-posting '(liabilities:tax)  *.33'

Output might look like:

--- /tmp/examples/sample.journal
+++ /tmp/examples/sample.journal
@@ -18,3 +18,4 @@
 2008/01/01 income
-    assets:bank:checking  $1
+    assets:bank:checking            $1
     income:salary
+    (liabilities:tax)                0
@@ -22,3 +23,4 @@
 2008/06/01 gift
-    assets:bank:checking  $1
+    assets:bank:checking            $1
     income:gifts
+    (liabilities:tax)                0

If you'll pass this through patch tool you'll get transactions containing the posting that matches your query be updated. Note that multiple files might be update according to list of input files specified via --file options and include directives inside of these files.

Be careful. Whole transaction being re-formatted in a style of output from hledger print.

See also:

https://github.com/simonmichael/hledger/issues/99

rewrite vs. print --auto

This command predates print --auto, and currently does much the same thing, but with these differences:

  • with multiple files, rewrite lets rules in any file affect all other files. print --auto uses standard directive scoping; rules affect only child files.

  • rewrite's query limits which transactions can be rewritten; all are printed. print --auto's query limits which transactions are printed.

  • rewrite applies rules specified on command line or in the journal. print --auto applies rules specified in the journal.

roi

roi
Shows the time-weighted (TWR) and money-weighted (IRR) rate of return on your investments.

At a minimum, you need to supply a query (which could be just an account name) to select your investment(s) with --inv, and another query to identify your profit and loss transactions with --pnl.

If you do not record changes in the value of your investment manually, or do not require computation of time-weighted return (TWR), --pnl could be an empty query (--pnl "" or --pnl STR where STR does not match any of your accounts).

This command will compute and display the internalized rate of return (IRR) and time-weighted rate of return (TWR) for your investments for the time period requested. Both rates of return are annualized before display, regardless of the length of reporting interval.

Price directives will be taken into account if you supply appropriate --cost or --value flags (see VALUATION).

Note, in some cases this report can fail, for these reasons:

  • Error (NotBracketed): No solution for Internal Rate of Return (IRR). Possible causes: IRR is huge (>1000000%), balance of investment becomes negative at some point in time.

  • Error (SearchFailed): Failed to find solution for Internal Rate of Return (IRR). Either search does not converge to a solution, or converges too slowly.

Examples:

  • Using roi to compute total return of investment in stocks: https://github.com/simonmichael/hledger/blob/master/examples/roi-unrealised.ledger

  • Cookbook -> Return on Investment

Semantics of --inv and --pnl

Query supplied to --inv has to match all transactions that are related to your investment. Transactions not matching --inv will be ignored.

In these transactions, ROI will conside postings that match --inv to be "investment postings" and other postings (not matching --inv) will be sorted into two categories: "cash flow" and "profit and loss", as ROI needs to know which part of the investment value is your contributions and which is due to the return on investment.

  • "Cash flow" is depositing or withdrawing money, buying or selling assets, or otherwise converting between your investment commodity and any other commodity. Example:

    2019-01-01 Investing in Snake Oil
      assets:cash          -$100
      investment:snake oil
    
    2020-01-01 Selling my Snake Oil
      assets:cash           $10
      investment:snake oil  = 0
    
  • "Profit and loss" is change in the value of your investment:

    2019-06-01 Snake Oil falls in value
      investment:snake oil  = $57
      equity:unrealized profit or loss
    

All non-investment postings are assumed to be "cash flow", unless they match --pnl query. Changes in value of your investment due to "profit and loss" postings will be considered as part of your investment return.

Example: if you use --inv snake --pnl equity:unrealized, then postings in the example below would be classifed as:

2019-01-01 Snake Oil #1
  assets:cash          -$100   ; cash flow posting
  investment:snake oil         ; investment posting

2019-03-01 Snake Oil #2
  equity:unrealized pnl  -$100 ; profit and loss posting
  snake oil                    ; investment posting

2019-07-01 Snake Oil #3
  equity:unrealized pnl        ; profit and loss posting
  cash          -$100          ; cash flow posting
  snake oil     $50            ; investment posting

IRR and TWR explained

"ROI" stands for "return on investment". Traditionally this was computed as a difference between current value of investment and its initial value, expressed in percentage of the initial value.

However, this approach is only practical in simple cases, where investments receives no in-flows or out-flows of money, and where rate of growth is fixed over time. For more complex scenarios you need different ways to compute rate of return, and this command implements two of them: IRR and TWR.

Internal rate of return, or "IRR" (also called "money-weighted rate of return") takes into account effects of in-flows and out-flows. Naively, if you are withdrawing from your investment, your future gains would be smaller (in absolute numbers), and will be a smaller percentage of your initial investment, and if you are adding to your investment, you will receive bigger absolute gains (but probably at the same rate of return). IRR is a way to compute rate of return for each period between in-flow or out-flow of money, and then combine them in a way that gives you a compound annual rate of return that investment is expected to generate.

As mentioned before, in-flows and out-flows would be any cash that you personally put in or withdraw, and for the "roi" command, these are the postings that match the query in the--inv argument and NOT match the query in the--pnl argument.

If you manually record changes in the value of your investment as transactions that balance them against "profit and loss" (or "unrealized gains") account or use price directives, then in order for IRR to compute the precise effect of your in-flows and out-flows on the rate of return, you will need to record the value of your investement on or close to the days when in- or out-flows occur.

In technical terms, IRR uses the same approach as computation of net present value, and tries to find a discount rate that makes net present value of all the cash flows of your investment to add up to zero. This could be hard to wrap your head around, especially if you haven't done discounted cash flow analysis before. Implementation of IRR in hledger should produce results that match the XIRR formula in Excel.

Second way to compute rate of return that roi command implements is called "time-weighted rate of return" or "TWR". Like IRR, it will also break the history of your investment into periods between in-flows, out-flows and value changes, to compute rate of return per each period and then a compound rate of return. However, internal workings of TWR are quite different.

TWR represents your investment as an imaginary "unit fund" where in-flows/ out-flows lead to buying or selling "units" of your investment and changes in its value change the value of "investment unit". Change in "unit price" over the reporting period gives you rate of return of your investment.

References: * Explanation of rate of return * Explanation of IRR * Explanation of TWR * Examples of computing IRR and TWR and discussion of the limitations of both metrics

stats

stats
Show some journal statistics.

The stats command displays summary information for the whole journal, or a matched part of it. With a reporting interval, it shows a report for each report period.

Example:

$ hledger stats
Main journal file        : /src/hledger/examples/sample.journal
Included journal files   : 
Transactions span        : 2008-01-01 to 2009-01-01 (366 days)
Last transaction         : 2008-12-31 (2333 days ago)
Transactions             : 5 (0.0 per day)
Transactions last 30 days: 0 (0.0 per day)
Transactions last 7 days : 0 (0.0 per day)
Payees/descriptions      : 5
Accounts                 : 8 (depth 3)
Commodities              : 1 ($)
Market prices            : 12 ($)

This command also supports output destination and output format selection.

tags

tags
List the unique tag names used in the journal. With a TAGREGEX argument, only tag names matching the regular expression (case insensitive) are shown. With QUERY arguments, only transactions matching the query are considered.

With the --values flag, the tags' unique values are listed instead.

With --parsed flag, all tags or values are shown in the order they are parsed from the input data, including duplicates.

With -E/--empty, any blank/empty values will also be shown, otherwise they are omitted.

test

test
Run built-in unit tests.

This command runs the unit tests built in to hledger and hledger-lib, printing the results on stdout. If any test fails, the exit code will be non-zero.

This is mainly used by hledger developers, but you can also use it to sanity-check the installed hledger executable on your platform. All tests are expected to pass - if you ever see a failure, please report as a bug!

This command also accepts tasty test runner options, written after a -- (double hyphen). Eg to run only the tests in Hledger.Data.Amount, with ANSI colour codes disabled:

$ hledger test -- -pData.Amount --color=never

For help on these, see https://github.com/feuerbach/tasty#options (-- --help currently doesn't show them).

About add-on commands

Add-on commands are programs or scripts in your PATH

  • whose name starts with hledger-

  • whose name ends with a recognised file extension: .bat,.com,.exe, .hs,.lhs,.pl,.py,.rb,.rkt,.sh or none

  • and (on unix, mac) which are executable by the current user.

Add-ons are a relatively easy way to add local features or experiment with new ideas. They can be written in any language, but haskell scripts have a big advantage: they can use the same hledger library functions that built-in commands use for command-line options, parsing and reporting. Some experimental/example add-on scripts can be found in the hledger repo's bin/ directory.

Note in a hledger command line, add-on command flags must have a double dash (--) preceding them. Eg you must write:

$ hledger web -- --serve

and not:

$ hledger web --serve

(because the --serve flag belongs to hledger-web, not hledger).

The -h/--help and --version flags don't require --.

If you have any trouble with this, remember you can always run the add-on program directly, eg:

$ hledger-web --serve

JOURNAL FORMAT

hledger's default file format, representing a General Journal.

hledger's usual data source is a plain text file containing journal entries in hledger journal format. This file represents a standard accounting general journal. I use file names ending in .journal, but that's not required. The journal file contains a number of transaction entries, each describing a transfer of money (or any commodity) between two or more named accounts, in a simple format readable by both hledger and humans.

hledger's journal format is a compatible subset, mostly, of ledger's journal format, so hledger can work with compatible ledger journal files as well. It's safe, and encouraged, to run both hledger and ledger on the same journal file, eg to validate the results you're getting.

You can use hledger without learning any more about this file; just use the add or web or import commands to create and update it.

Many users, though, edit the journal file with a text editor, and track changes with a version control system such as git. Editor addons such as ledger-mode or hledger-mode for Emacs, vim-ledger for Vim, and hledger-vscode for Visual Studio Code, make this easier, adding colour, formatting, tab completion, and useful commands. See Editor configuration at hledger.org for the full list.

Here's a description of each part of the file format (and hledger's data model). These are mostly in the order you'll use them, but in some cases related concepts have been grouped together for easy reference, or linked before they are introduced, so feel free to skip over anything that looks unnecessary right now.

Transactions

Transactions are the main unit of information in a journal file. They represent events, typically a movement of some quantity of commodities between two or more named accounts.

Each transaction is recorded as a journal entry, beginning with a simple date in column 0. This can be followed by any of the following optional fields, separated by spaces:

  • a status character (empty, !, or *)

  • a code (any short number or text, enclosed in parentheses)

  • a description (any remaining text until end of line or a semicolon)

  • a comment (any remaining text following a semicolon until end of line, and any following indented lines beginning with a semicolon)

  • 0 or more indented posting lines, describing what was transferred and the accounts involved (indented comment lines are also allowed, but not blank lines or non-indented lines).

Here's a simple journal file containing one transaction:

2008/01/01 income
  assets:bank:checking   $1
  income:salary         $-1

Dates

Simple dates

Dates in the journal file use simple dates format: YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY/MM/DD or YYYY.MM.DD, with leading zeros optional. The year may be omitted, in which case it will be inferred from the context: the current transaction, the default year set with a default year directive, or the current date when the command is run. Some examples: 2010-01-31, 2010/01/31, 2010.1.31, 1/31.

(The UI also accepts simple dates, as well as the more flexible smart dates documented in the hledger manual.)

Secondary dates

Real-life transactions sometimes involve more than one date - eg the date you write a cheque, and the date it clears in your bank. When you want to model this, for more accurate daily balances, you can specify individual posting dates.

Or, you can use the older secondary date feature (Ledger calls it auxiliary date or effective date). Note: we support this for compatibility, but I usually recommend avoiding this feature; posting dates are almost always clearer and simpler.

A secondary date is written after the primary date, following an equals sign. If the year is omitted, the primary date's year is assumed. When running reports, the primary (left) date is used by default, but with the --date2 flag (or --aux-date or --effective), the secondary (right) date will be used instead.

The meaning of secondary dates is up to you, but it's best to follow a consistent rule. Eg "primary = the bank's clearing date, secondary = date the transaction was initiated, if different", as shown here:

2010/2/23=2/19 movie ticket
  expenses:cinema                   $10
  assets:checking
$ hledger register checking
2010-02-23 movie ticket         assets:checking                $-10         $-10
$ hledger register checking --date2
2010-02-19 movie ticket         assets:checking                $-10         $-10

Posting dates

You can give individual postings a different date from their parent transaction, by adding a posting comment containing a tag (see below) like date:DATE. This is probably the best way to control posting dates precisely. Eg in this example the expense should appear in May reports, and the deduction from checking should be reported on 6/1 for easy bank reconciliation:

2015/5/30
    expenses:food     $10  ; food purchased on saturday 5/30
    assets:checking        ; bank cleared it on monday, date:6/1
$ hledger -f t.j register food
2015-05-30                      expenses:food                  $10           $10
$ hledger -f t.j register checking
2015-06-01                      assets:checking               $-10          $-10

DATE should be a simple date; if the year is not specified it will use the year of the transaction's date. You can set the secondary date similarly, with date2:DATE2. The date: or date2: tags must have a valid simple date value if they are present, eg a date: tag with no value is not allowed.

Ledger's earlier, more compact bracketed date syntax is also supported: [DATE], [DATE=DATE2] or [=DATE2]. hledger will attempt to parse any square-bracketed sequence of the 0123456789/-.= characters in this way. With this syntax, DATE infers its year from the transaction and DATE2 infers its year from DATE.

Status

Transactions, or individual postings within a transaction, can have a status mark, which is a single character before the transaction description or posting account name, separated from it by a space, indicating one of three statuses:

mark status
unmarked
! pending
* cleared

When reporting, you can filter by status with the -U/--unmarked, -P/--pending, and -C/--cleared flags; or the status:, status:!, and status:* queries; or the U, P, C keys in hledger-ui.

Note, in Ledger and in older versions of hledger, the "unmarked" state is called "uncleared". As of hledger 1.3 we have renamed it to unmarked for clarity.

To replicate Ledger and old hledger's behaviour of also matching pending, combine -U and -P.

Status marks are optional, but can be helpful eg for reconciling with real-world accounts. Some editor modes provide highlighting and shortcuts for working with status. Eg in Emacs ledger-mode, you can toggle transaction status with C-c C-e, or posting status with C-c C-c.

What "uncleared", "pending", and "cleared" actually mean is up to you. Here's one suggestion:

status meaning
uncleared recorded but not yet reconciled; needs review
pending tentatively reconciled (if needed, eg during a big reconciliation)
cleared complete, reconciled as far as possible, and considered correct

With this scheme, you would use -PC to see the current balance at your bank, -U to see things which will probably hit your bank soon (like uncashed checks), and no flags to see the most up-to-date state of your finances.

Description

A transaction's description is the rest of the line following the date and status mark (or until a comment begins). Sometimes called the "narration" in traditional bookkeeping, it can be used for whatever you wish, or left blank. Transaction descriptions can be queried, unlike comments.

Payee and note

You can optionally include a | (pipe) character in descriptions to subdivide the description into separate fields for payee/payer name on the left (up to the first |) and an additional note field on the right (after the first |). This may be worthwhile if you need to do more precise querying and pivoting by payee or by note.

Comments

Lines in the journal beginning with a semicolon (;) or hash (#) or star (*) are comments, and will be ignored. (Star comments cause org-mode nodes to be ignored, allowing emacs users to fold and navigate their journals with org-mode or orgstruct-mode.)

You can attach comments to a transaction by writing them after the description and/or indented on the following lines (before the postings). Similarly, you can attach comments to an individual posting by writing them after the amount and/or indented on the following lines. Transaction and posting comments must begin with a semicolon (;).

Some examples:

# a file comment
; another file comment
* also a file comment, useful in org/orgstruct mode

comment
A multiline file comment, which continues
until a line containing just "end comment"
(or end of file).
end comment

2012/5/14 something  ; a transaction comment
    ; the transaction comment, continued
    posting1  1  ; a comment for posting 1
    posting2
    ; a comment for posting 2
    ; another comment line for posting 2
; a file comment (because not indented)

You can also comment larger regions of a file using comment and end comment directives.

Tags

Tags are a way to add extra labels or labelled data to postings and transactions, which you can then search or pivot on.

A simple tag is a word (which may contain hyphens) followed by a full colon, written inside a transaction or posting comment line:

2017/1/16 bought groceries  ; sometag:

Tags can have a value, which is the text after the colon, up to the next comma or end of line, with leading/trailing whitespace removed:

    expenses:food    $10 ; a-posting-tag: the tag value

Note this means hledger's tag values can not contain commas or newlines. Ending at commas means you can write multiple short tags on one line, comma separated:

    assets:checking  ; a comment containing tag1:, tag2: some value ...

Here,

  • "a comment containing" is just comment text, not a tag

  • "tag1" is a tag with no value

  • "tag2" is another tag, whose value is "some value ..."

Tags in a transaction comment affect the transaction and all of its postings, while tags in a posting comment affect only that posting. For example, the following transaction has three tags (A, TAG2, third-tag) and the posting has four (those plus posting-tag):

1/1 a transaction  ; A:, TAG2:
    ; third-tag: a third transaction tag, <- with a value
    (a)  $1  ; posting-tag:

Tags are like Ledger's metadata feature, except hledger's tag values are simple strings.

Postings

A posting is an addition of some amount to, or removal of some amount from, an account. Each posting line begins with at least one space or tab (2 or 4 spaces is common), followed by:

  • (optional) a status character (empty, !, or *), followed by a space

  • (required) an account name (any text, optionally containing single spaces, until end of line or a double space)

  • (optional) two or more spaces or tabs followed by an amount.

Positive amounts are being added to the account, negative amounts are being removed.

The amounts within a transaction must always sum up to zero. As a convenience, one amount may be left blank; it will be inferred so as to balance the transaction.

Be sure to note the unusual two-space delimiter between account name and amount. This makes it easy to write account names containing spaces. But if you accidentally leave only one space (or tab) before the amount, the amount will be considered part of the account name.

Virtual postings

A posting with a parenthesised account name is called a virtual posting or unbalanced posting, which means it is exempt from the usual rule that a transaction's postings must balance add up to zero.

This is not part of double entry accounting, so you might choose to avoid this feature. Or you can use it sparingly for certain special cases where it can be convenient. Eg, you could set opening balances without using a balancing equity account:

1/1 opening balances
  (assets:checking)   $1000
  (assets:savings)    $2000

A posting with a bracketed account name is called a balanced virtual posting. The balanced virtual postings in a transaction must add up to zero (separately from other postings). Eg:

1/1 buy food with cash, update budget envelope subaccounts, & something else
  assets:cash                    $-10 ; <- these balance
  expenses:food                    $7 ; <-
  expenses:food                    $3 ; <-
  [assets:checking:budget:food]  $-10    ; <- and these balance
  [assets:checking:available]     $10    ; <-
  (something:else)                 $5       ; <- not required to balance

Ordinary non-parenthesised, non-bracketed postings are called real postings. You can exclude virtual postings from reports with the -R/--real flag or real:1 query.

Account names

Account names typically have several parts separated by a full colon, from which hledger derives a hierarchical chart of accounts. They can be anything you like, but in finance there are traditionally five top-level accounts: assets, liabilities, revenue, expenses, and equity.

Account names may contain single spaces, eg: assets:accounts receivable. Because of this, they must always be followed by two or more spaces (or newline).

Account names can be aliased.

Amounts

After the account name, there is usually an amount. (Important: between account name and amount, there must be two or more spaces.)

hledger's amount format is flexible, supporting several international formats. Here are some examples. Amounts have a number (the "quantity"):

1

..and usually a currency or commodity name (the "commodity"). This is a symbol, word, or phrase, to the left or right of the quantity, with or without a separating space:

$1
4000 AAPL

If the commodity name contains spaces, numbers, or punctuation, it must be enclosed in double quotes:

3 "no. 42 green apples"

Amounts can be preceded by a minus sign (or a plus sign, though plus is the default), The sign can be written before or after a left-side commodity symbol:

-$1
$-1

One or more spaces between the sign and the number are acceptable when parsing (but they won't be displayed in output):

+ $1
$-      1

Scientific E notation is allowed:

1E-6
EUR 1E3

Decimal marks, digit group marks

A decimal mark can be written as a period or a comma:

1.23
1,23456780000009

In the integer part of the quantity (left of the decimal mark), groups of digits can optionally be separated by a "digit group mark" - a space, comma, or period (different from the decimal mark):

     $1,000,000.00
  EUR 2.000.000,00
INR 9,99,99,999.00
      1 000 000.9455

Note, a number containing a single digit group mark and no decimal mark is ambiguous. Are these digit group marks or decimal marks ?

1,000
1.000

If you don't tell it otherwise, hledger will assume both of the above are decimal marks, parsing both numbers as 1. To prevent confusion and undetected typos, especially if your data contains digit group marks, we recommend you explicitly declare the decimal mark (and optionally a digit group mark), for each commodity, using commodity directives (described below):

# number formats for $, EUR, INR and the no-symbol commodity:
commodity $1,000.00
commodity EUR 1.000,00
commodity INR 9,99,99,999.00
commodity 1 000 000.9455

Note, commodity directives declare both the number format for parsing input, and the display style for showing output. For the former, they are position-sensitive, affecting only following amounts, so commodity directives should be at the top of your journal file. This is discussed more on #793.

Commodity display style

For the amounts in each commodity, hledger chooses a consistent display style to use in most reports. (Except for price amounts, which are always displayed as written). The display style is inferred as follows.

First, if a default commodity is declared with D, this commodity and its style is applied to any no-symbol amounts in the journal.

Then each commodity's style is inferred from one of the following, in order of preference:

  • The commodity directive for that commodity (including the no-symbol commodity), if any.

  • The amounts in that commodity seen in the journal's transactions. (Posting amounts only; prices and periodic or auto rules are ignored, currently.)

  • The built-in fallback style, which looks like this: $1000.00. (Symbol on the left, period decimal mark, two decimal places.)

A style is inferred from journal amounts as follows:

  • Use the general style (decimal mark, symbol placement) of the first amount

  • Use the first-seen digit group style (digit group mark, digit group sizes), if any

  • Use the maximum number of decimal places of all.

Transaction price amounts don't affect the commodity display style directly, but occasionally they can do so indirectly (eg when a posting's amount is inferred using a transaction price). If you find this causing problems, use a commodity directive to fix the display style.

To summarise: each commodity's amounts will be normalised to (a) the style declared by a commodity directive, or (b) the style of the first posting amount in the journal, with the first-seen digit group style and the maximum-seen number of decimal places. So if your reports are showing amounts in a way you don't like, eg with too many decimal places, use a commodity directive. Some examples:

# declare euro, dollar, bitcoin and no-symbol commodities and set their 
# input number formats and output display styles:
commodity EUR 1.000,
commodity $1000.00
commodity 1000.00000000 BTC
commodity 1 000.

Rounding

Amounts are stored internally as decimal numbers with up to 255 decimal places, and displayed with the number of decimal places specified by the commodity display style. Note, hledger uses banker's rounding: it rounds to the nearest even number, eg 0.5 displayed with zero decimal places is "0"). (Guaranteed since hledger 1.17.1; in older versions this could vary if hledger was built with Decimal < 0.5.1.)

Transaction prices

Within a transaction, you can note an amount's price in another commodity. This can be used to document the cost (in a purchase) or selling price (in a sale). For example, transaction prices are useful to record purchases of a foreign currency. Note transaction prices are fixed at the time of the transaction, and do not change over time. See also market prices, which represent prevailing exchange rates on a certain date.

There are several ways to record a transaction price:

  1. Write the price per unit, as @ UNITPRICE after the amount:

    2009/1/1
      assets:euros     €100 @ $1.35  ; one hundred euros purchased at $1.35 each
      assets:dollars                 ; balancing amount is -$135.00
    
  2. Write the total price, as @@ TOTALPRICE after the amount:

    2009/1/1
      assets:euros     €100 @@ $135  ; one hundred euros purchased at $135 for the lot
      assets:dollars
    
  3. Specify amounts for all postings, using exactly two commodities, and let hledger infer the price that balances the transaction:

    2009/1/1
      assets:euros     €100          ; one hundred euros purchased
      assets:dollars  $-135          ; for $135
    
  4. Like 1, but the @ is parenthesised, i.e. (@); this is for compatibility with Ledger journals (Virtual posting costs), and is equivalent to 1 in hledger.

  5. Like 2, but as in 4 the @@ is parenthesised, i.e. (@@); in hledger, this is equivalent to 2.

Use the -B/--cost flag to convert amounts to their transaction price's commodity, if any. (mnemonic: "B" is from "cost Basis", as in Ledger). Eg here is how -B affects the balance report for the example above:

$ hledger bal -N --flat
               $-135  assets:dollars
                €100  assets:euros
$ hledger bal -N --flat -B
               $-135  assets:dollars
                $135  assets:euros    # <- the euros' cost

Note -B is sensitive to the order of postings when a transaction price is inferred: the inferred price will be in the commodity of the last amount. So if example 3's postings are reversed, while the transaction is equivalent, -B shows something different:

2009/1/1
  assets:dollars  $-135              ; 135 dollars sold
  assets:euros     €100              ; for 100 euros
$ hledger bal -N --flat -B
               €-100  assets:dollars  # <- the dollars' selling price
                €100  assets:euros

Lot prices, lot dates

Ledger allows another kind of price, lot price (four variants: {UNITPRICE}, {{TOTALPRICE}}, {=FIXEDUNITPRICE}, {{=FIXEDTOTALPRICE}}), and/or a lot date ([DATE]) to be specified. These are normally used to select a lot when selling investments. hledger will parse these, for compatibility with Ledger journals, but currently ignores them. A transaction price, lot price and/or lot date may appear in any order, after the posting amount and before the balance assertion if any.

Balance assertions

hledger supports Ledger-style balance assertions in journal files. These look like, for example, = EXPECTEDBALANCE following a posting's amount. Eg here we assert the expected dollar balance in accounts a and b after each posting:

2013/1/1
  a   $1  =$1
  b       =$-1

2013/1/2
  a   $1  =$2
  b  $-1  =$-2

After reading a journal file, hledger will check all balance assertions and report an error if any of them fail. Balance assertions can protect you from, eg, inadvertently disrupting reconciled balances while cleaning up old entries. You can disable them temporarily with the -I/--ignore-assertions flag, which can be useful for troubleshooting or for reading Ledger files. (Note: this flag currently does not disable balance assignments, below).

Assertions and ordering

hledger sorts an account's postings and assertions first by date and then (for postings on the same day) by parse order. Note this is different from Ledger, which sorts assertions only by parse order. (Also, Ledger assertions do not see the accumulated effect of repeated postings to the same account within a transaction.)

So, hledger balance assertions keep working if you reorder differently-dated transactions within the journal. But if you reorder same-dated transactions or postings, assertions might break and require updating. This order dependence does bring an advantage: precise control over the order of postings and assertions within a day, so you can assert intra-day balances.

Assertions and included files

With included files, things are a little more complicated. Including preserves the ordering of postings and assertions. If you have multiple postings to an account on the same day, split across different files, and you also want to assert the account's balance on the same day, you'll have to put the assertion in the right file.

Assertions and multiple -f options

Balance assertions don't work well across files specified with multiple -f options. Use include or concatenate the files instead.

Assertions and commodities

The asserted balance must be a simple single-commodity amount, and in fact the assertion checks only this commodity's balance within the (possibly multi-commodity) account balance. This is how assertions work in Ledger also. We could call this a "partial" balance assertion.

To assert the balance of more than one commodity in an account, you can write multiple postings, each asserting one commodity's balance.

You can make a stronger "total" balance assertion by writing a double equals sign (== EXPECTEDBALANCE). This asserts that there are no other unasserted commodities in the account (or, that their balance is 0).

2013/1/1
  a   $1
  a    1€
  b  $-1
  c   -1€

2013/1/2  ; These assertions succeed
  a    0  =  $1
  a    0  =   1€
  b    0 == $-1
  c    0 ==  -1€

2013/1/3  ; This assertion fails as 'a' also contains 1€
  a    0 ==  $1

It's not yet possible to make a complete assertion about a balance that has multiple commodities. One workaround is to isolate each commodity into its own subaccount:

2013/1/1
  a:usd   $1
  a:euro   1€
  b

2013/1/2
  a        0 ==  0
  a:usd    0 == $1
  a:euro   0 ==  1€

Assertions and prices

Balance assertions ignore transaction prices, and should normally be written without one:

2019/1/1
  (a)     $1 @ €1 = $1

We do allow prices to be written there, however, and print shows them, even though they don't affect whether the assertion passes or fails. This is for backward compatibility (hledger's close command used to generate balance assertions with prices), and because balance assignments do use them (see below).

Assertions and subaccounts

The balance assertions above (= and ==) do not count the balance from subaccounts; they check the account's exclusive balance only. You can assert the balance including subaccounts by writing =* or ==*, eg:

2019/1/1
  equity:opening balances
  checking:a       5
  checking:b       5
  checking         1  ==* 11

Assertions and virtual postings

Balance assertions are checked against all postings, both real and virtual. They are not affected by the --real/-R flag or real: query.

Assertions and precision

Balance assertions compare the exactly calculated amounts, which are not always what is shown by reports. Eg a commodity directive may limit the display precision, but this will not affect balance assertions. Balance assertion failure messages show exact amounts.

Balance assignments

Ledger-style balance assignments are also supported. These are like balance assertions, but with no posting amount on the left side of the equals sign; instead it is calculated automatically so as to satisfy the assertion. This can be a convenience during data entry, eg when setting opening balances:

; starting a new journal, set asset account balances
2016/1/1 opening balances
  assets:checking            = $409.32
  assets:savings             = $735.24
  assets:cash                 = $42
  equity:opening balances

or when adjusting a balance to reality:

; no cash left; update balance, record any untracked spending as a generic expense
2016/1/15
  assets:cash    = $0
  expenses:misc

The calculated amount depends on the account's balance in the commodity at that point (which depends on the previously-dated postings of the commodity to that account since the last balance assertion or assignment). Note that using balance assignments makes your journal a little less explicit; to know the exact amount posted, you have to run hledger or do the calculations yourself, instead of just reading it.

Balance assignments and prices

A transaction price in a balance assignment will cause the calculated amount to have that price attached:

2019/1/1
  (a)             = $1 @ €2
$ hledger print --explicit
2019-01-01
    (a)         $1 @ €2 = $1 @ €2

Directives

A directive is a line in the journal beginning with a special keyword, that influences how the journal is processed. hledger's directives are based on a subset of Ledger's, but there are many differences (and also some differences between hledger versions).

Directives' behaviour and interactions can get a little bit complex, so here is a table summarising the directives and their effects, with links to more detailed docs. Note part of this table is hidden when viewed in a web browser - scroll it sideways to see more.

directive end directive subdirectives purpose can affect (as of 2018/06)
account any text document account names, declare account types & display order all entries in all files, before or after
alias end aliases rewrite account names following entries until end of current file or end directive
apply account end apply account prepend a common parent to account names following entries until end of current file or end directive
comment end comment ignore part of journal following entries until end of current file or end directive
commodity format declare a commodity and its number notation & display style number notation: following entries in that commodity in all files ;
display style: amounts of that commodity in reports
D declare a commodity to be used for commodityless amounts, and its number notation & display style default commodity: following commodityless entries until end of current file;
number notation: following entries in that commodity until end of current file;
display style: amounts of that commodity in reports
include include entries/directives from another file what the included directives affect
[payee] declare a payee name following entries until end of current file
P declare a market price for a commodity amounts of that commodity in reports, when -V is used
Y declare a year for yearless dates following entries until end of current file
= declare an auto posting rule, adding postings to other transactions all entries in parent/current/child files (but not sibling files, see #1212)

And some definitions:

subdirective optional indented directive line immediately following a parent directive
number notation how to interpret numbers when parsing journal entries (the identity of the decimal separator character). (Currently each commodity can have its own notation, even in the same file.)
display style how to display amounts of a commodity in reports (symbol side and spacing, digit groups, decimal separator, decimal places)
directive scope which entries and (when there are multiple files) which files are affected by a directive

As you can see, directives vary in which journal entries and files they affect, and whether they are focussed on input (parsing) or output (reports). Some directives have multiple effects.

Directives and multiple files

If you use multiple -f/--file options, or the include directive, hledger will process multiple input files. But note that directives which affect input (see above) typically last only until the end of the file in which they occur.

This may seem inconvenient, but it's intentional; it makes reports stable and deterministic, independent of the order of input. Otherwise you could see different numbers if you happened to write -f options in a different order, or if you moved includes around while cleaning up your files.

It can be surprising though; for example, it means that alias directives do not affect parent or sibling files (see below).

Comment blocks

A line containing just comment starts a commented region of the file, and a line containing just end comment (or the end of the current file) ends it. See also comments.

Including other files

You can pull in the content of additional files by writing an include directive, like this:

include FILEPATH

Only journal files can include, and only journal, timeclock or timedot files can be included (not CSV files, currently).

If the file path does not begin with a slash, it is relative to the current file's folder.

A tilde means home directory, eg: include ~/main.journal.

The path may contain glob patterns to match multiple files, eg: include *.journal.

There is limited support for recursive wildcards: **/ (the slash is required) matches 0 or more subdirectories. It's not super convenient since you have to avoid include cycles and including directories, but this can be done, eg: include */**/*.journal.

The path may also be prefixed to force a specific file format, overriding the file extension (as described in hledger.1 -> Input files): include timedot:~/notes/2020*.md.

Default year

You can set a default year to be used for subsequent dates which don't specify a year. This is a line beginning with Y followed by the year. Eg:

Y2009  ; set default year to 2009

12/15  ; equivalent to 2009/12/15
  expenses  1
  assets

Y2010  ; change default year to 2010

2009/1/30  ; specifies the year, not affected
  expenses  1
  assets

1/31   ; equivalent to 2010/1/31
  expenses  1
  assets

Declaring payees

The payee directive can be used to declare a limited set of payees which may appear in transaction descriptions. The "payees" check will report an error if any transaction refers to a payee that has not been declared. Eg:

payee Whole Foods

Declaring commodities

The commodity directive has several functions:

  1. It declares commodities which may be used in the journal. This is currently not enforced, but can serve as documentation.

  2. It declares what decimal mark character (period or comma) to expect when parsing input - useful to disambiguate international number formats in your data. (Without this, hledger will parse both 1,000 and 1.000 as 1).

  3. It declares a commodity's display style in output - decimal and digit group marks, number of decimal places, symbol placement etc.

You are likely to run into one of the problems solved by commodity directives, sooner or later, so it's a good idea to just always use them to declare your commodities.

A commodity directive is just the word commodity followed by an amount. It may be written on a single line, like this:

; commodity EXAMPLEAMOUNT

; display AAAA amounts with the symbol on the right, space-separated,
; using period as decimal point, with four decimal places, and
; separating thousands with comma.
commodity 1,000.0000 AAAA

or on multiple lines, using the "format" subdirective. (In this case the commodity symbol appears twice and should be the same in both places.):

; commodity SYMBOL
;   format EXAMPLEAMOUNT

; display indian rupees with currency name on the left,
; thousands, lakhs and crores comma-separated,
; period as decimal point, and two decimal places.
commodity INR
  format INR 1,00,00,000.00

The quantity of the amount does not matter; only the format is significant. The number must include a decimal mark: either a period or a comma, followed by 0 or more decimal digits.

Note hledger normally uses banker's rounding, so 0.5 displayed with zero decimal digits is "0". (More at Commodity display style.)

Commodity error checking

In strict mode, enabled with the -s/--strict flag, hledger will report an error if a commodity symbol is used that has not been declared by a commodity directive. This works similarly to account error checking, see the notes there for more details.

Default commodity

The D directive sets a default commodity, to be used for amounts without a commodity symbol (ie, plain numbers). This commodity will be applied to all subsequent commodity-less amounts, or until the next D directive. (Note, this is different from Ledger's D.)

For compatibility/historical reasons, D also acts like a commodity directive, setting the commodity's display style (for output) and decimal mark (for parsing input). As with commodity, the amount must always be written with a decimal mark (period or comma). If both directives are used, commodity's style takes precedence.

The syntax is D AMOUNT. Eg:

; commodity-less amounts should be treated as dollars
; (and displayed with the dollar sign on the left, thousands separators and two decimal places)
D $1,000.00

1/1
  a     5  ; <- commodity-less amount, parsed as $5 and displayed as $5.00
  b

Declaring market prices

The P directive declares a market price, which is an exchange rate between two commodities on a certain date. (In Ledger, they are called "historical prices".) These are often obtained from a stock exchange, cryptocurrency exchange, or the foreign exchange market.

Here is the format:

P DATE COMMODITYA COMMODITYBAMOUNT
  • DATE is a simple date

  • COMMODITYA is the symbol of the commodity being priced

  • COMMODITYBAMOUNT is an amount (symbol and quantity) in a second commodity, giving the price in commodity B of one unit of commodity A.

These two market price directives say that one euro was worth 1.35 US dollars during 2009, and $1.40 from 2010 onward:

P 2009/1/1 € $1.35
P 2010/1/1 € $1.40

The -V, -X and --value flags use these market prices to show amount values in another commodity. See Valuation.

Declaring accounts

account directives can be used to declare accounts (ie, the places that amounts are transferred from and to). Though not required, these declarations can provide several benefits:

  • They can document your intended chart of accounts, providing a reference.

  • They can help hledger know your accounts' types (asset, liability, equity, revenue, expense), useful for reports like balancesheet and incomestatement.

  • They control account display order in reports, allowing non-alphabetic sorting (eg Revenues to appear above Expenses).

  • They can store extra information about accounts (account numbers, notes, etc.)

  • They help with account name completion in the add command, hledger-iadd, hledger-web, ledger-mode etc.

  • In strict mode, they restrict which accounts may be posted to by transactions, which helps detect typos.

The simplest form is just the word account followed by a hledger-style account name, eg this account directive declares the assets:bank:checking account:

account assets:bank:checking

Account error checking

By default, accounts come into existence when a transaction references them by name. This is convenient, but it means hledger can't warn you when you mis-spell an account name in the journal. Usually you'll find the error later, as an extra account in balance reports, or an incorrect balance when reconciling.

In strict mode, enabled with the -s/--strict flag, hledger will report an error if any transaction uses an account name that has not been declared by an account directive. Some notes:

  • The declaration is case-sensitive; transactions must use the correct account name capitalisation.

  • The account directive's scope is "whole file and below" (see directives). This means it affects all of the current file, and any files it includes, but not parent or sibling files. The position of account directives within the file does not matter, though it's usual to put them at the top.

  • Accounts can only be declared in journal files (but will affect included files in other formats).

  • It's currently not possible to declare "all possible subaccounts" with a wildcard; every account posted to must be declared.

Account comments

Comments, beginning with a semicolon, can be added:

  • on the same line, after two or more spaces (because ; is allowed in account names)

  • on the next lines, indented

An example of both:

account assets:bank:checking  ; same-line comment, note 2+ spaces before ;
  ; next-line comment
  ; another with tag, acctno:12345 (not used yet)

Same-line comments are not supported by Ledger, or hledger <1.13.

Account subdirectives

We also allow (and ignore) Ledger-style indented subdirectives, just for compatibility.:

account assets:bank:checking
  format blah blah  ; <- subdirective, ignored

Here is the full syntax of account directives:

account ACCTNAME  [ACCTTYPE] [;COMMENT]
  [;COMMENTS]
  [LEDGER-STYLE SUBDIRECTIVES, IGNORED]

Account types

hledger recognises five main types of account, corresponding to the account classes in the accounting equation:

Asset, Liability, Equity, Revenue, Expense.

These account types are important for controlling which accounts appear in the balancesheet, balancesheetequity, incomestatement reports (and probably for other things in future).

Additionally, we recognise the Cash type, which is also an Asset, and which causes accounts to appear in the cashflow report. ("Cash" here means liquid assets, eg bank balances but typically not investments or receivables.)

Declaring account types

Generally, to make these reports work you should declare your top-level accounts and their types, using account directives with type: tags.

The tag's value should be one of: Asset, Liability, Equity, Revenue, Expense, Cash, A, L, E, R, X, C (all case insensitive). The type is inherited by all subaccounts except where they override it. Here's a complete example:

account assets       ; type: Asset
account assets:bank  ; type: Cash
account assets:cash  ; type: Cash
account liabilities  ; type: Liability
account equity       ; type: Equity
account revenues     ; type: Revenue
account expenses     ; type: Expense
Auto-detected account types

If you happen to use common english top-level account names, you may not need to declare account types, as they will be detected automatically using the following rules:

If name matches regular expression: account type is:
^assets?(:|$) Asset
^(debts?|liabilit(y|ies))(:|$) Liability
^equity(:|$) Equity
^(income|revenue)s?(:|$) Revenue
^expenses?(:|$) Expense
If account type is Asset and name does not contain regular expression: account type is:
(investment|receivable|:A/R|:fixed) Cash

Even so, explicit declarations may be a good idea, for clarity and predictability.

Interference from auto-detected account types

If you assign any account type, it's a good idea to assign all of them, to prevent any confusion from mixing declared and auto-detected types. Although it's unlikely to happen in real life, here's an example: with the following journal, balancesheetequity shows "liabilities" in both Liabilities and Equity sections. Declaring another account as type:Liability would fix it:

account liabilities  ; type:Equity

2020-01-01
  assets        1
  liabilities   1
  equity       -2
Old account type syntax

In some hledger journals you might instead see this old syntax (the letters ALERX, separated from the account name by two or more spaces); this is deprecated and may be removed soon:

account assets       A
account liabilities  L
account equity       E
account revenues     R
account expenses     X

Account display order

Account directives also set the order in which accounts are displayed, eg in reports, the hledger-ui accounts screen, and the hledger-web sidebar. By default accounts are listed in alphabetical order. But if you have these account directives in the journal:

account assets
account liabilities
account equity
account revenues
account expenses

you'll see those accounts displayed in declaration order, not alphabetically:

$ hledger accounts -1
assets
liabilities
equity
revenues
expenses

Undeclared accounts, if any, are displayed last, in alphabetical order.

Note that sorting is done at each level of the account tree (within each group of sibling accounts under the same parent). And currently, this directive:

account other:zoo

would influence the position of zoo among other's subaccounts, but not the position of other among the top-level accounts. This means:

  • you will sometimes declare parent accounts (eg account other above) that you don't intend to post to, just to customize their display order

  • sibling accounts stay together (you couldn't display x:y in between a:b and a:c).

Rewriting accounts

You can define account alias rules which rewrite your account names, or parts of them, before generating reports. This can be useful for:

  • expanding shorthand account names to their full form, allowing easier data entry and a less verbose journal

  • adapting old journals to your current chart of accounts

  • experimenting with new account organisations, like a new hierarchy or combining two accounts into one

  • customising reports

Account aliases also rewrite account names in account directives. They do not affect account names being entered via hledger add or hledger-web.

See also Rewrite account names.

Basic aliases

To set an account alias, use the alias directive in your journal file. This affects all subsequent journal entries in the current file or its included files. The spaces around the = are optional:

alias OLD = NEW

Or, you can use the --alias 'OLD=NEW' option on the command line. This affects all entries. It's useful for trying out aliases interactively.

OLD and NEW are case sensitive full account names. hledger will replace any occurrence of the old account name with the new one. Subaccounts are also affected. Eg:

alias checking = assets:bank:wells fargo:checking
; rewrites "checking" to "assets:bank:wells fargo:checking", or "checking:a" to "assets:bank:wells fargo:checking:a"

Regex aliases

There is also a more powerful variant that uses a regular expression, indicated by the forward slashes:

alias /REGEX/ = REPLACEMENT

or --alias '/REGEX/=REPLACEMENT'.

REGEX is a case-insensitive regular expression. Anywhere it matches inside an account name, the matched part will be replaced by REPLACEMENT. If REGEX contains parenthesised match groups, these can be referenced by the usual numeric backreferences in REPLACEMENT. Eg:

alias /^(.+):bank:([^:]+):(.*)/ = \1:\2 \3
; rewrites "assets:bank:wells fargo:checking" to  "assets:wells fargo checking"

Also note that REPLACEMENT continues to the end of line (or on command line, to end of option argument), so it can contain trailing whitespace.

Combining aliases

You can define as many aliases as you like, using journal directives and/or command line options.

Recursive aliases - where an account name is rewritten by one alias, then by another alias, and so on - are allowed. Each alias sees the effect of previously applied aliases.

In such cases it can be important to understand which aliases will be applied and in which order. For (each account name in) each journal entry, we apply:

  1. alias directives preceding the journal entry, most recently parsed first (ie, reading upward from the journal entry, bottom to top)

  2. --alias options, in the order they appeared on the command line (left to right).

In other words, for (an account name in) a given journal entry:

  • the nearest alias declaration before/above the entry is applied first

  • the next alias before/above that will be be applied next, and so on

  • aliases defined after/below the entry do not affect it.

This gives nearby aliases precedence over distant ones, and helps provide semantic stability - aliases will keep working the same way independent of which files are being read and in which order.

In case of trouble, adding --debug=6 to the command line will show which aliases are being applied when.

Aliases and multiple files

As explained at Directives and multiple files, alias directives do not affect parent or sibling files. Eg in this command,

hledger -f a.aliases -f b.journal

account aliases defined in a.aliases will not affect b.journal. Including the aliases doesn't work either:

include a.aliases

2020-01-01  ; not affected by a.aliases
  foo  1
  bar

This means that account aliases should usually be declared at the start of your top-most file, like this:

alias foo=Foo
alias bar=Bar

2020-01-01  ; affected by aliases above
  foo  1
  bar

include c.journal  ; also affected

end aliases

You can clear (forget) all currently defined aliases with the end aliases directive:

end aliases

Default parent account

You can specify a parent account which will be prepended to all accounts within a section of the journal. Use the apply account and end apply account directives like so:

apply account home

2010/1/1
    food    $10
    cash

end apply account

which is equivalent to:

2010/01/01
    home:food           $10
    home:cash          $-10

If end apply account is omitted, the effect lasts to the end of the file. Included files are also affected, eg:

apply account business
include biz.journal
end apply account
apply account personal
include personal.journal

Prior to hledger 1.0, legacy account and end spellings were also supported.

A default parent account also affects account directives. It does not affect account names being entered via hledger add or hledger-web. If account aliases are present, they are applied after the default parent account.

Periodic transactions

Periodic transaction rules describe transactions that recur. They allow hledger to generate temporary future transactions to help with forecasting, so you don't have to write out each one in the journal, and it's easy to try out different forecasts.

Periodic transactions can be a little tricky, so before you use them, read this whole section - or at least these tips:

  1. Two spaces accidentally added or omitted will cause you trouble - read about this below.

  2. For troubleshooting, show the generated transactions with hledger print --forecast tag:generated or hledger register --forecast tag:generated.

  3. Forecasted transactions will begin only after the last non-forecasted transaction's date.

  4. Forecasted transactions will end 6 months from today, by default. See below for the exact start/end rules.

  5. period expressions can be tricky. Their documentation needs improvement, but is worth studying.

  6. Some period expressions with a repeating interval must begin on a natural boundary of that interval. Eg in weekly from DATE, DATE must be a monday. ~ weekly from 2019/10/1 (a tuesday) will give an error.

  7. Other period expressions with an interval are automatically expanded to cover a whole number of that interval. (This is done to improve reports, but it also affects periodic transactions. Yes, it's a bit inconsistent with the above.) Eg:
    ~ every 10th day of month from 2020/01, which is equivalent to
    ~ every 10th day of month from 2020/01/01, will be adjusted to start on 2019/12/10.

Periodic transaction rules also have a second meaning: they are used to define budget goals, shown in budget reports.

Periodic rule syntax

A periodic transaction rule looks like a normal journal entry, with the date replaced by a tilde (~) followed by a period expression (mnemonic: ~ looks like a recurring sine wave.):

~ monthly
    expenses:rent          $2000
    assets:bank:checking

There is an additional constraint on the period expression: the start date must fall on a natural boundary of the interval. Eg monthly from 2018/1/1 is valid, but monthly from 2018/1/15 is not.

Partial or relative dates (M/D, D, tomorrow, last week) in the period expression can work (useful or not). They will be relative to today's date, unless a Y default year directive is in effect, in which case they will be relative to Y/1/1.

Two spaces between period expression and description!

If the period expression is followed by a transaction description, these must be separated by two or more spaces. This helps hledger know where the period expression ends, so that descriptions can not accidentally alter their meaning, as in this example:

; 2 or more spaces needed here, so the period is not understood as "every 2 months in 2020"
;               ||
;               vv
~ every 2 months  in 2020, we will review
    assets:bank:checking   $1500
    income:acme inc

So,

  • Do write two spaces between your period expression and your transaction description, if any.

  • Don't accidentally write two spaces in the middle of your period expression.

Forecasting with periodic transactions

The --forecast flag activates any periodic transaction rules in the journal. They will generate temporary recurring transactions, which are not saved in the journal, but will appear in all reports (eg print). This can be useful for estimating balances into the future, or experimenting with different scenarios. Or, it can be used as a data entry aid: describe recurring transactions, and every so often copy the output of print --forecast into the journal.

These transactions will have an extra tag indicating which periodic rule generated them: generated-transaction:~ PERIODICEXPR. And a similar, hidden tag (beginning with an underscore) which, because it's never displayed by print, can be used to match transactions generated "just now": _generated-transaction:~ PERIODICEXPR.

Periodic transactions are generated within some forecast period. By default, this

  • begins on the later of

    • the report start date if specified with -b/-p/date:

    • the day after the latest normal (non-periodic) transaction in the journal, or today if there are no normal transactions.

  • ends on the report end date if specified with -e/-p/date:, or 6 months (180 days) from today.

This means that periodic transactions will begin only after the latest recorded transaction. And a recorded transaction dated in the future can prevent generation of periodic transactions. (You can avoid that by writing the future transaction as a one-time periodic rule instead - put tilde before the date, eg ~ YYYY-MM-DD ...).

Or, you can set your own arbitrary "forecast period", which can overlap recorded transactions, and need not be in the future, by providing an option argument, like --forecast=PERIODEXPR. Note the equals sign is required, a space won't work. PERIODEXPR is a period expression, which can specify the start date, end date, or both, like in a date: query. (See also hledger.1 -> Report start & end date). Some examples: --forecast=202001-202004, --forecast=jan-, --forecast=2020.

Budgeting with periodic transactions

With the --budget flag, currently supported by the balance command, each periodic transaction rule declares recurring budget goals for the specified accounts. Eg the first example above declares a goal of spending $2000 on rent (and also, a goal of depositing $2000 into checking) every month. Goals and actual performance can then be compared in budget reports.

See also: Budgeting and Forecasting.

Auto postings

"Automated postings" or "auto postings" are extra postings which get added automatically to transactions which match certain queries, defined by "auto posting rules", when you use the --auto flag.

An auto posting rule looks a bit like a transaction:

= QUERY
    ACCOUNT  AMOUNT
    ...
    ACCOUNT  [AMOUNT]

except the first line is an equals sign (mnemonic: = suggests matching), followed by a query (which matches existing postings), and each "posting" line describes a posting to be generated, and the posting amounts can be:

  • a normal amount with a commodity symbol, eg $2. This will be used as-is.

  • a number, eg 2. The commodity symbol (if any) from the matched posting will be added to this.

  • a numeric multiplier, eg *2 (a star followed by a number N). The matched posting's amount (and total price, if any) will be multiplied by N.

  • a multiplier with a commodity symbol, eg *$2 (a star, number N, and symbol S). The matched posting's amount will be multiplied by N, and its commodity symbol will be replaced with S.

Any query term containing spaces must be enclosed in single or double quotes, as on the command line. Eg, note the quotes around the second query term below:

= expenses:groceries 'expenses:dining out'
    (budget:funds:dining out)                 *-1

Some examples:

; every time I buy food, schedule a dollar donation
= expenses:food
    (liabilities:charity)   $-1

; when I buy a gift, also deduct that amount from a budget envelope subaccount
= expenses:gifts
    assets:checking:gifts  *-1
    assets:checking         *1

2017/12/1
  expenses:food    $10
  assets:checking

2017/12/14
  expenses:gifts   $20
  assets:checking
$ hledger print --auto
2017-12-01
    expenses:food              $10
    assets:checking
    (liabilities:charity)      $-1

2017-12-14
    expenses:gifts             $20
    assets:checking
    assets:checking:gifts     -$20
    assets:checking            $20

Auto postings and multiple files

An auto posting rule can affect any transaction in the current file, or in any parent file or child file. Note, currently it will not affect sibling files (when multiple -f/--file are used - see #1212).

Auto postings and dates

A posting date (or secondary date) in the matched posting, or (taking precedence) a posting date in the auto posting rule itself, will also be used in the generated posting.

Auto postings and transaction balancing / inferred amounts / balance assertions

Currently, auto postings are added:

Note this means that journal entries must be balanced both before and after auto postings are added. This changed in hledger 1.12+; see #893 for background.

Auto posting tags

Automated postings will have some extra tags:

  • generated-posting:= QUERY - shows this was generated by an auto posting rule, and the query

  • _generated-posting:= QUERY - a hidden tag, which does not appear in hledger's output. This can be used to match postings generated "just now", rather than generated in the past and saved to the journal.

Also, any transaction that has been changed by auto posting rules will have these tags added:

  • modified: - this transaction was modified

  • _modified: - a hidden tag not appearing in the comment; this transaction was modified "just now".

CSV FORMAT

How hledger reads CSV data, and the CSV rules file format.

hledger can read CSV files (Character Separated Value - usually comma, semicolon, or tab) containing dated records as if they were journal files, automatically converting each CSV record into a transaction.

(To learn about writing CSV, see CSV output.)

We describe each CSV file's format with a corresponding rules file. By default this is named like the CSV file with a .rules extension added. Eg when reading FILE.csv, hledger also looks for FILE.csv.rules in the same directory as FILE.csv. You can specify a different rules file with the --rules-file option. If a rules file is not found, hledger will create a sample rules file, which you'll need to adjust.

This file contains rules describing the CSV data (header line, fields layout, date format etc.), and how to construct hledger journal entries (transactions) from it. Often there will also be a list of conditional rules for categorising transactions based on their descriptions. Here's an overview of the CSV rules; these are described more fully below, after the examples:

skip skip one or more header lines or matched CSV records
fields name CSV fields, assign them to hledger fields
field assignment assign a value to one hledger field, with interpolation
separator a custom field separator
if block apply some rules to CSV records matched by patterns
if table apply some rules to CSV records matched by patterns, alternate syntax
end skip the remaining CSV records
date-format how to parse dates in CSV records
decimal-mark the decimal mark used in CSV amounts, if ambiguous
newest-first disambiguate record order when there's only one date
include inline another CSV rules file
balance-type choose which type of balance assignments to use

Note, for best error messages when reading CSV files, use a .csv, .tsv or .ssv file extension or file prefix - see File Extension below.

There's an introductory Convert CSV files tutorial on hledger.org.

Examples

Here are some sample hledger CSV rules files. See also the full collection at:
https://github.com/simonmichael/hledger/tree/master/examples/csv

Basic

At minimum, the rules file must identify the date and amount fields, and often it also specifies the date format and how many header lines there are. Here's a simple CSV file and a rules file for it:

Date, Description, Id, Amount
12/11/2019, Foo, 123, 10.23
# basic.csv.rules
skip         1
fields       date, description, _, amount
date-format  %d/%m/%Y
$ hledger print -f basic.csv
2019-11-12 Foo
    expenses:unknown           10.23
    income:unknown            -10.23

Default account names are chosen, since we didn't set them.

Bank of Ireland

Here's a CSV with two amount fields (Debit and Credit), and a balance field, which we can use to add balance assertions, which is not necessary but provides extra error checking:

Date,Details,Debit,Credit,Balance
07/12/2012,LODGMENT       529898,,10.0,131.21
07/12/2012,PAYMENT,5,,126
# bankofireland-checking.csv.rules

# skip the header line
skip

# name the csv fields, and assign some of them as journal entry fields
fields  date, description, amount-out, amount-in, balance

# We generate balance assertions by assigning to "balance"
# above, but you may sometimes need to remove these because:
#
# - the CSV balance differs from the true balance,
#   by up to 0.0000000000005 in my experience
#
# - it is sometimes calculated based on non-chronological ordering,
#   eg when multiple transactions clear on the same day

# date is in UK/Ireland format
date-format  %d/%m/%Y

# set the currency
currency  EUR

# set the base account for all txns
account1  assets:bank:boi:checking
$ hledger -f bankofireland-checking.csv print
2012-12-07 LODGMENT       529898
    assets:bank:boi:checking         EUR10.0 = EUR131.2
    income:unknown                  EUR-10.0

2012-12-07 PAYMENT
    assets:bank:boi:checking         EUR-5.0 = EUR126.0
    expenses:unknown                  EUR5.0

The balance assertions don't raise an error above, because we're reading directly from CSV, but they will be checked if these entries are imported into a journal file.

Amazon

Here we convert amazon.com order history, and use an if block to generate a third posting if there's a fee. (In practice you'd probably get this data from your bank instead, but it's an example.)

"Date","Type","To/From","Name","Status","Amount","Fees","Transaction ID"
"Jul 29, 2012","Payment","To","Foo.","Completed","$20.00","$0.00","16000000000000DGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL"
"Jul 30, 2012","Payment","To","Adapteva, Inc.","Completed","$25.00","$1.00","17LA58JSKRD4HDGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL"
# amazon-orders.csv.rules

# skip one header line
skip 1

# name the csv fields, and assign the transaction's date, amount and code.
# Avoided the "status" and "amount" hledger field names to prevent confusion.
fields date, _, toorfrom, name, amzstatus, amzamount, fees, code

# how to parse the date
date-format %b %-d, %Y

# combine two fields to make the description
description %toorfrom %name

# save the status as a tag
comment     status:%amzstatus

# set the base account for all transactions
account1    assets:amazon
# leave amount1 blank so it can balance the other(s).
# I'm assuming amzamount excludes the fees, don't remember

# set a generic account2
account2    expenses:misc
amount2     %amzamount
# and maybe refine it further:
#include categorisation.rules

# add a third posting for fees, but only if they are non-zero.
if %fees [1-9]
 account3    expenses:fees
 amount3     %fees
$ hledger -f amazon-orders.csv print
2012-07-29 (16000000000000DGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL) To Foo.  ; status:Completed
    assets:amazon
    expenses:misc          $20.00

2012-07-30 (17LA58JSKRD4HDGLNJPI1P9B8DKPVHL) To Adapteva, Inc.  ; status:Completed
    assets:amazon
    expenses:misc          $25.00
    expenses:fees           $1.00

Paypal

Here's a real-world rules file for (customised) Paypal CSV, with some Paypal-specific rules, and a second rules file included:

"Date","Time","TimeZone","Name","Type","Status","Currency","Gross","Fee","Net","From Email Address","To Email Address","Transaction ID","Item Title","Item ID","Reference Txn ID","Receipt ID","Balance","Note"
"10/01/2019","03:46:20","PDT","Calm Radio","Subscription Payment","Completed","USD","-6.99","0.00","-6.99","[email protected]joyful.com","[email protected]","60P57143A8206782E","MONTHLY - $1 for the first 2 Months: Me - Order 99309. Item total: $1.00 USD first 2 months, then $6.99 / Month","","I-R8YLY094FJYR","","-6.99",""
"10/01/2019","03:46:20","PDT","","Bank Deposit to PP Account ","Pending","USD","6.99","0.00","6.99","","[email protected]","0TU1544T080463733","","","60P57143A8206782E","","0.00",""
"10/01/2019","08:57:01","PDT","Patreon","PreApproved Payment Bill User Payment","Completed","USD","-7.00","0.00","-7.00","[email protected]","[email protected]","2722394R5F586712G","Patreon* Membership","","B-0PG93074E7M86381M","","-7.00",""
"10/01/2019","08:57:01","PDT","","Bank Deposit to PP Account ","Pending","USD","7.00","0.00","7.00","","[email protected]","71854087RG994194F","Patreon* Membership","","2722394R5F586712G","","0.00",""
"10/19/2019","03:02:12","PDT","Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.","Subscription Payment","Completed","USD","-2.00","0.00","-2.00","[email protected]","[email protected]","K9U43044RY432050M","Monthly donation to the Wikimedia Foundation","","I-R5C3YUS3285L","","-2.00",""
"10/19/2019","03:02:12","PDT","","Bank Deposit to PP Account ","Pending","USD","2.00","0.00","2.00","","[email protected]","3XJ107139A851061F","","","K9U43044RY432050M","","0.00",""
"10/22/2019","05:07:06","PDT","Noble Benefactor","Subscription Payment","Completed","USD","10.00","-0.59","9.41","[email protected]","[email protected]","6L8L1662YP1334033","Joyful Systems","","I-KC9VBGY2GWDB","","9.41",""
# paypal-custom.csv.rules

# Tips:
# Export from Activity -> Statements -> Custom -> Activity download
# Suggested transaction type: "Balance affecting"
# Paypal's default fields in 2018 were:
# "Date","Time","TimeZone","Name","Type","Status","Currency","Gross","Fee","Net","From Email Address","To Email Address","Transaction ID","Shipping Address","Address Status","Item Title","Item ID","Shipping and Handling Amount","Insurance Amount","Sales Tax","Option 1 Name","Option 1 Value","Option 2 Name","Option 2 Value","Reference Txn ID","Invoice Number","Custom Number","Quantity","Receipt ID","Balance","Address Line 1","Address Line 2/District/Neighborhood","Town/City","State/Province/Region/County/Territory/Prefecture/Republic","Zip/Postal Code","Country","Contact Phone Number","Subject","Note","Country Code","Balance Impact"
# This rules file assumes the following more detailed fields, configured in "Customize report fields":
# "Date","Time","TimeZone","Name","Type","Status","Currency","Gross","Fee","Net","From Email Address","To Email Address","Transaction ID","Item Title","Item ID","Reference Txn ID","Receipt ID","Balance","Note"

fields date, time, timezone, description_, type, status_, currency, grossamount, feeamount, netamount, fromemail, toemail, code, itemtitle, itemid, referencetxnid, receiptid, balance, note

skip  1

date-format  %-m/%-d/%Y

# ignore some paypal events
if
In Progress
Temporary Hold
Update to
 skip

# add more fields to the description
description %description_ %itemtitle

# save some other fields as tags
comment  itemid:%itemid, fromemail:%fromemail, toemail:%toemail, time:%time, type:%type, status:%status_

# convert to short currency symbols
if %currency USD
 currency $
if %currency EUR
 currency E
if %currency GBP
 currency P

# generate postings

# the first posting will be the money leaving/entering my paypal account
# (negative means leaving my account, in all amount fields)
account1 assets:online:paypal
amount1  %netamount

# the second posting will be money sent to/received from other party
# (account2 is set below)
amount2  -%grossamount

# if there's a fee, add a third posting for the money taken by paypal.
if %feeamount [1-9]
 account3 expenses:banking:paypal
 amount3  -%feeamount
 comment3 business:

# choose an account for the second posting

# override the default account names:
# if the amount is positive, it's income (a debit)
if %grossamount ^[^-]
 account2 income:unknown
# if negative, it's an expense (a credit)
if %grossamount ^-
 account2 expenses:unknown

# apply common rules for setting account2 & other tweaks
include common.rules

# apply some overrides specific to this csv

# Transfers from/to bank. These are usually marked Pending,
# which can be disregarded in this case.
if
Bank Account
Bank Deposit to PP Account
 description %type for %referencetxnid %itemtitle
 account2 assets:bank:wf:pchecking
 account1 assets:online:paypal

# Currency conversions
if Currency Conversion
 account2 equity:currency conversion
# common.rules

if
darcs
noble benefactor
 account2 revenues:foss donations:darcshub
 comment2 business:

if
Calm Radio
 account2 expenses:online:apps

if
electronic frontier foundation
Patreon
wikimedia
Advent of Code
 account2 expenses:dues

if Google
 account2 expenses:online:apps
 description google | music
$ hledger -f paypal-custom.csv  print
2019-10-01 (60P57143A8206782E) Calm Radio MONTHLY - $1 for the first 2 Months: Me - Order 99309. Item total: $1.00 USD first 2 months, then $6.99 / Month  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:03:46:20, type:Subscription Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal          $-6.99 = $-6.99
    expenses:online:apps           $6.99

2019-10-01 (0TU1544T080463733) Bank Deposit to PP Account for 60P57143A8206782E  ; itemid:, fromemail:, toemail:[email protected], time:03:46:20, type:Bank Deposit to PP Account, status:Pending
    assets:online:paypal               $6.99 = $0.00
    assets:bank:wf:pchecking          $-6.99

2019-10-01 (2722394R5F586712G) Patreon Patreon* Membership  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:08:57:01, type:PreApproved Payment Bill User Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal          $-7.00 = $-7.00
    expenses:dues                  $7.00

2019-10-01 (71854087RG994194F) Bank Deposit to PP Account for 2722394R5F586712G Patreon* Membership  ; itemid:, fromemail:, toemail:[email protected], time:08:57:01, type:Bank Deposit to PP Account, status:Pending
    assets:online:paypal               $7.00 = $0.00
    assets:bank:wf:pchecking          $-7.00

2019-10-19 (K9U43044RY432050M) Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Monthly donation to the Wikimedia Foundation  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:03:02:12, type:Subscription Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal             $-2.00 = $-2.00
    expenses:dues                     $2.00
    expenses:banking:paypal      ; business:

2019-10-19 (3XJ107139A851061F) Bank Deposit to PP Account for K9U43044RY432050M  ; itemid:, fromemail:, toemail:[email protected], time:03:02:12, type:Bank Deposit to PP Account, status:Pending
    assets:online:paypal               $2.00 = $0.00
    assets:bank:wf:pchecking          $-2.00

2019-10-22 (6L8L1662YP1334033) Noble Benefactor Joyful Systems  ; itemid:, fromemail:[email protected], toemail:[email protected], time:05:07:06, type:Subscription Payment, status:Completed
    assets:online:paypal                       $9.41 = $9.41
    revenues:foss donations:darcshub         $-10.00  ; business:
    expenses:banking:paypal                    $0.59  ; business:

CSV rules

The following kinds of rule can appear in the rules file, in any order. Blank lines and lines beginning with # or ; are ignored.

fields

fields FIELDNAME1, FIELDNAME2, ...

A fields list (the word "fields" followed by comma-separated field names) is the quick way to assign CSV field values to hledger fields. It does two things:

  1. it names the CSV fields. This is optional, but can be convenient later for interpolating them.

  2. when you use a standard hledger field name, it assigns the CSV value to that part of the hledger transaction.

Here's an example that says "use the 1st, 2nd and 4th fields as the transaction's date, description and amount; name the last two fields for later reference; and ignore the others":

fields date, description, , amount, , , somefield, anotherfield

Field names may not contain whitespace. Fields you don't care about can be left unnamed. Currently there must be least two items (there must be at least one comma).

Note, always use comma in the fields list, even if your CSV uses another separator character.

Here are the standard hledger field/pseudo-field names. For more about the transaction parts they refer to, see the manual for hledger's journal format.

Transaction field names

date, date2, status, code, description, comment can be used to form the transaction's first line.

Posting field names
account

accountN, where N is 1 to 99, causes a posting to be generated, with that account name.

Most often there are two postings, so you'll want to set account1 and account2. Typically account1 is associated with the CSV file, and is set once with a top-level assignment, while account2 is set based on each transaction's description, and in conditional blocks.

If a posting's account name is left unset but its amount is set (see below), a default account name will be chosen (like "expenses:unknown" or "income:unknown").

amount

amountN sets posting N's amount. If the CSV uses separate fields for inflows and outflows, you can use amountN-in and amountN-out instead. By assigning to amount1, amount2, ... etc. you can generate anywhere from 0 to 99 postings.

There is also an older, unnumbered form of these names, suitable for 2-posting transactions, which sets both posting 1's and (negated) posting 2's amount: amount, or amount-in and amount-out. This is still supported because it keeps pre-hledger-1.17 csv rules files working, and because it can be more succinct, and because it converts posting 2's amount to cost if there's a transaction price, which can be useful.

If you have an existing rules file using the unnumbered form, you might want to use the numbered form in certain conditional blocks, without having to update and retest all the old rules. To facilitate this, posting 1 ignores amount/amount-in/amount-out if any of amount1/amount1-in/amount1-out are assigned, and posting 2 ignores them if any of amount2/amount2-in/amount2-out are assigned, avoiding conflicts.

currency

If the CSV has the currency symbol in a separate field (ie, not part of the amount field), you can use currencyN to prepend it to posting N's amount. Or, currency with no number affects all postings.

balance

balanceN sets a balance assertion amount (or if the posting amount is left empty, a balance assignment) on posting N.

Also, for compatibility with hledger <1.17: balance with no number is equivalent to balance1.

You can adjust the type of assertion/assignment with the balance-type rule (see below).

comment

Finally, commentN sets a comment on the Nth posting. Comments can also contain tags, as usual.

See TIPS below for more about setting amounts and currency.

field assignment

HLEDGERFIELDNAME FIELDVALUE

Instead of or in addition to a fields list, you can use a "field assignment" rule to set the value of a single hledger field, by writing its name (any of the standard hledger field names above) followed by a text value. The value may contain interpolated CSV fields, referenced by their 1-based position in the CSV record (%N), or by the name they were given in the fields list (%CSVFIELDNAME). Some examples:

# set the amount to the 4th CSV field, with " USD" appended
amount %4 USD

# combine three fields to make a comment, containing note: and date: tags
comment note: %somefield - %anotherfield, date: %1

Interpolation strips outer whitespace (so a CSV value like " 1 " becomes 1 when interpolated) (#1051). See TIPS below for more about referencing other fields.

separator

You can use the separator rule to read other kinds of character-separated data. The argument is any single separator character, or the words tab or space (case insensitive). Eg, for comma-separated values (CSV):

separator ,

or for semicolon-separated values (SSV):

separator ;

or for tab-separated values (TSV):

separator TAB

If the input file has a .csv, .ssv or .tsv file extension (or a csv:, ssv:, tsv: prefix), the appropriate separator will be inferred automatically, and you won't need this rule.

if block

if MATCHER
 RULE

if
MATCHER
MATCHER
MATCHER
 RULE
 RULE

Conditional blocks ("if blocks") are a block of rules that are applied only to CSV records which match certain patterns. They are often used for customising account names based on transaction descriptions.

Matching the whole record

Each MATCHER can be a record matcher, which looks like this:

REGEX

REGEX is a case-insensitive regular expression which tries to match anywhere within the CSV record. It is a POSIX ERE (extended regular expression) that also supports GNU word boundaries (\b, \B, \<, \>), and nothing else. If you have trouble, be sure to check our https://hledger.org/hledger.html#regular-expressions doc.

Important note: the record that is matched is not the original record, but a synthetic one, with any enclosing double quotes (but not enclosing whitespace) removed, and always comma-separated (which means that a field containing a comma will appear like two fields). Eg, if the original record is 2020-01-01; "Acme, Inc.";  1,000, the REGEX will actually see 2020-01-01,Acme, Inc.,  1,000).

Matching individual fields

Or, MATCHER can be a field matcher, like this:

%CSVFIELD REGEX

which matches just the content of a particular CSV field. CSVFIELD is a percent sign followed by the field's name or column number, like %date or %1.

Combining matchers

A single matcher can be written on the same line as the "if"; or multiple matchers can be written on the following lines, non-indented. Multiple matchers are OR'd (any one of them can match), unless one begins with an & symbol, in which case it is AND'ed with the previous matcher.

if
MATCHER
& MATCHER
 RULE
Rules applied on successful match

After the patterns there should be one or more rules to apply, all indented by at least one space. Three kinds of rule are allowed in conditional blocks:

  • field assignments (to set a hledger field)

  • skip (to skip the matched CSV record)

  • end (to skip all remaining CSV records).

Examples:

# if the CSV record contains "groceries", set account2 to "expenses:groceries"
if groceries
 account2 expenses:groceries
# if the CSV record contains any of these patterns, set account2 and comment as shown
if
monthly service fee
atm transaction fee
banking thru software
 account2 expenses:business:banking
 comment  XXX deductible ? check it

if table

if,CSVFIELDNAME1,CSVFIELDNAME2,...,CSVFIELDNAMEn
MATCHER1,VALUE11,VALUE12,...,VALUE1n
MATCHER2,VALUE21,VALUE22,...,VALUE2n
MATCHER3,VALUE31,VALUE32,...,VALUE3n
<empty line>

Conditional tables ("if tables") are a different syntax to specify field assignments that will be applied only to CSV records which match certain patterns.

MATCHER could be either field or record matcher, as described above. When MATCHER matches, values from that row would be assigned to the CSV fields named on the if line, in the same order.

Therefore if table is exactly equivalent to a sequence of of if blocks:

if MATCHER1
  CSVFIELDNAME1 VALUE11
  CSVFIELDNAME2 VALUE12
  ...
  CSVFIELDNAMEn VALUE1n

if MATCHER2
  CSVFIELDNAME1 VALUE21
  CSVFIELDNAME2 VALUE22
  ...
  CSVFIELDNAMEn VALUE2n

if MATCHER3
  CSVFIELDNAME1 VALUE31
  CSVFIELDNAME2 VALUE32
  ...
  CSVFIELDNAMEn VALUE3n

Each line starting with MATCHER should contain enough (possibly empty) values for all the listed fields.

Rules would be checked and applied in the order they are listed in the table and, like with if blocks, later rules (in the same or another table) or if blocks could override the effect of any rule.

Instead of ',' you can use a variety of other non-alphanumeric characters as a separator. First character after if is taken to be the separator for the rest of the table. It is the responsibility of the user to ensure that separator does not occur inside MATCHERs and values

  • there is no way to escape separator.

Example:

if,account2,comment
atm transaction fee,expenses:business:banking,deductible? check it
%description groceries,expenses:groceries,
2020/01/12.*Plumbing LLC,expenses:house:upkeep,emergency plumbing call-out

end

This rule can be used inside if blocks (only), to make hledger stop reading this CSV file and move on to the next input file, or to command execution. Eg:

# ignore everything following the first empty record
if ,,,,
 end

date-format

date-format DATEFMT

This is a helper for the date (and date2) fields. If your CSV dates are not formatted like YYYY-MM-DD, YYYY/MM/DD or YYYY.MM.DD, you'll need to add a date-format rule describing them with a strptime date parsing pattern, which must parse the CSV date value completely. Some examples:

# MM/DD/YY
date-format %m/%d/%y
# D/M/YYYY
# The - makes leading zeros optional.
date-format %-d/%-m/%Y
# YYYY-Mmm-DD
date-format %Y-%h-%d
# M/D/YYYY HH:MM AM some other junk
# Note the time and junk must be fully parsed, though only the date is used.
date-format %-m/%-d/%Y %l:%M %p some other junk

For the supported strptime syntax, see:
https://hackage.haskell.org/package/time/docs/Data-Time-Format.html#v:formatTime

decimal-mark

decimal-mark .

or:

decimal-mark ,

hledger automatically accepts either period or comma as a decimal mark when parsing numbers (cf Amounts). However if any numbers in the CSV contain digit group marks, such as thousand-separating commas, you should declare the decimal mark explicitly with this rule, to avoid misparsed numbers.

newest-first

hledger always sorts the generated transactions by date. Transactions on the same date should appear in the same order as their CSV records, as hledger can usually auto-detect whether the CSV's normal order is oldest first or newest first. But if all of the following are true:

  • the CSV might sometimes contain just one day of data (all records having the same date)

  • the CSV records are normally in reverse chronological order (newest at the top)

  • and you care about preserving the order of same-day transactions

then, you should add the newest-first rule as a hint. Eg:

# tell hledger explicitly that the CSV is normally newest first
newest-first

include

include RULESFILE

This includes the contents of another CSV rules file at this point. RULESFILE is an absolute file path or a path relative to the current file's directory. This can be useful for sharing common rules between several rules files, eg:

# someaccount.csv.rules

## someaccount-specific rules
fields   date,description,amount
account1 assets:someaccount
account2 expenses:misc

## common rules
include categorisation.rules

balance-type

Balance assertions generated by assigning to balanceN are of the simple = type by default, which is a single-commodity, subaccount-excluding assertion. You may find the subaccount-including variants more useful, eg if you have created some virtual subaccounts of checking to help with budgeting. You can select a different type of assertion with the balance-type rule:

# balance assertions will consider all commodities and all subaccounts
balance-type ==*

Here are the balance assertion types for quick reference:

=    single commodity, exclude subaccounts
=*   single commodity, include subaccounts
==   multi commodity,  exclude subaccounts
==*  multi commodity,  include subaccounts

Tips

Rapid feedback

It's a good idea to get rapid feedback while creating/troubleshooting CSV rules. Here's a good way, using entr from http://eradman.com/entrproject :

$ ls foo.csv* | entr bash -c 'echo ----; hledger -f foo.csv print desc:SOMEDESC'

A desc: query (eg) is used to select just one, or a few, transactions of interest. "bash -c" is used to run multiple commands, so we can echo a separator each time the command re-runs, making it easier to read the output.

Valid CSV

hledger accepts CSV conforming to RFC 4180. When CSV values are enclosed in quotes, note:

  • they must be double quotes (not single quotes)

  • spaces outside the quotes are not allowed

File Extension

To help hledger identify the format and show the right error messages, CSV/SSV/TSV files should normally be named with a .csv, .ssv or .tsv filename extension. Or, the file path should be prefixed with csv:, ssv: or tsv:. Eg:

$ hledger -f foo.ssv print

or:

$ cat foo | hledger -f ssv:- foo

You can override the file extension with a separator rule if needed. See also: Input files in the hledger manual.

Reading multiple CSV files

If you use multiple -f options to read multiple CSV files at once, hledger will look for a correspondingly-named rules file for each CSV file. But if you use the --rules-file option, that rules file will be used for all the CSV files.

Valid transactions

After reading a CSV file, hledger post-processes and validates the generated journal entries as it would for a journal file - balancing them, applying balance assignments, and canonicalising amount styles. Any errors at this stage will be reported in the usual way, displaying the problem entry.

There is one exception: balance assertions, if you have generated them, will not be checked, since normally these will work only when the CSV data is part of the main journal. If you do need to check balance assertions generated from CSV right away, pipe into another hledger:

$ hledger -f file.csv print | hledger -f- print

Deduplicating, importing

When you download a CSV file periodically, eg to get your latest bank transactions, the new file may overlap with the old one, containing some of the same records.

The import command will (a) detect the new transactions, and (b) append just those transactions to your main journal. It is idempotent, so you don't have to remember how many times you ran it or with which version of the CSV. (It keeps state in a hidden .latest.FILE.csv file.) This is the easiest way to import CSV data. Eg:

# download the latest CSV files, then run this command.
# Note, no -f flags needed here.
$ hledger import *.csv [--dry]

This method works for most CSV files. (Where records have a stable chronological order, and new records appear only at the new end.)

A number of other tools and workflows, hledger-specific and otherwise, exist for converting, deduplicating, classifying and managing CSV data. See:

Setting amounts

Some tips on using the amount-setting rules discussed above.

Here are the ways to set a posting's amount:

  1. If the CSV has a single amount field:
    Assign (via a fields list or a field assignment) to amountN. This sets the Nth posting's amount. N is usually 1 or 2 but can go up to 99.

  2. If the CSV has separate Debit and Credit amount fields:
    Assign to amountN-in and amountN-out. This sets posting N's amount to whichever of these has a non-zero value, guessing an appropriate sign.

    • If hledger guesses the wrong sign:
      Prepend a minus sign to flip it. Eg:

      fields date, description, amount-in, amount-out
      amount-out -%amount-out
      
    • If both fields contain a non-zero value:
      The amountN-in/amountN-out rules require that each CSV record has a non-zero value in exactly one of the two fields, so that hledger knows which to choose. So these would all be rejected:

      "",  ""
      "0", "0"
      "1", "none"
      

      If your CSV has amount values like this, use conditional rules instead. For example, to make hledger to choose the value containing non-zero digits:

      fields date, description, in, out
      if %in [1-9]
       amount1 %in
      if %out [1-9]
       amount1 %out
      
  3. Using the old numberless syntax:
    Assign to amount (or to amount-in and amount-out). This sets posting 1's and posting 2's amounts (and converts posting 2's amount to cost). This is supported for backwards compatibility (and occasional convenience).

  4. If the CSV has the balance instead of the transaction amount:
    Assign to balanceN, which sets posting N's amount indirectly via a balance assignment. (Old syntax: balance, equivalent to balance1.)

    • If hledger guesses the wrong default account name:
      When setting the amount via balance assertion, hledger may guess the wrong default account name. So, set the account name explicitly, eg:

      fields date, description, balance1
      account1 assets:checking
      

Amount signs

There is some special handling for amount signs, to simplify parsing and sign-flipping:

  • If an amount value begins with a plus sign:
    that will be removed: +AMT becomes AMT

  • If an amount value is parenthesised:
    it will be de-parenthesised and sign-flipped: (AMT) becomes -AMT

  • If an amount value has two minus signs (or two sets of parentheses, or a minus sign and parentheses):
    they cancel out and will be removed: --AMT or -(AMT) becomes AMT

  • If an amount value contains just a sign (or just a set of parentheses):
    that is removed, making it an empty value. "+" or "-" or "()" becomes "".

Setting currency/commodity

If the currency/commodity symbol is included in the CSV's amount field(s):

2020-01-01,foo,$123.00

you don't have to do anything special for the commodity symbol, it will be assigned as part of the amount. Eg:

fields date,description,amount
2020-01-01 foo
    expenses:unknown         $123.00
    income:unknown          $-123.00

If the currency is provided as a separate CSV field:

2020-01-01,foo,USD,123.00

You can assign that to the currency pseudo-field, which has the special effect of prepending itself to every amount in the transaction (on the left, with no separating space):

fields date,description,currency,amount
2020-01-01 foo
    expenses:unknown       USD123.00
    income:unknown        USD-123.00

Or, you can use a field assignment to construct the amount yourself, with more control. Eg to put the symbol on the right, and separated by a space:

fields date,description,cur,amt
amount %amt %cur
2020-01-01 foo
    expenses:unknown        123.00 USD
    income:unknown         -123.00 USD

Note we used a temporary field name (cur) that is not currency - that would trigger the prepending effect, which we don't want here.

Amount decimal places

Like amounts in a journal file, the amounts generated by CSV rules like amount1 influence commodity display styles, such as the number of decimal places displayed in reports.

The original amounts as written in the CSV file do not affect display style (because we don't yet reliably know their commodity).

Referencing other fields

In field assignments, you can interpolate only CSV fields, not hledger fields. In the example below, there's both a CSV field and a hledger field named amount1, but %amount1 always means the CSV field, not the hledger field:

# Name the third CSV field "amount1"
fields date,description,amount1

# Set hledger's amount1 to the CSV amount1 field followed by USD
amount1 %amount1 USD

# Set comment to the CSV amount1 (not the amount1 assigned above)
comment %amount1

Here, since there's no CSV amount1 field, %amount1 will produce a literal "amount1":

fields date,description,csvamount
amount1 %csvamount USD
# Can't interpolate amount1 here
comment %amount1

When there are multiple field assignments to the same hledger field, only the last one takes effect. Here, comment's value will be be B, or C if "something" is matched, but never A:

comment A
comment B
if something
 comment C

How CSV rules are evaluated

Here's how to think of CSV rules being evaluated (if you really need to). First,

  • include - all includes are inlined, from top to bottom, depth first. (At each include point the file is inlined and scanned for further includes, recursively, before proceeding.)

Then "global" rules are evaluated, top to bottom. If a rule is repeated, the last one wins:

  • skip (at top level)

  • date-format

  • newest-first

  • fields - names the CSV fields, optionally sets up initial assignments to hledger fields

Then for each CSV record in turn:

  • test all if blocks. If any of them contain a end rule, skip all remaining CSV records. Otherwise if any of them contain a skip rule, skip that many CSV records. If there are multiple matched skip rules, the first one wins.

  • collect all field assignments at top level and in matched if blocks. When there are multiple assignments for a field, keep only the last one.

  • compute a value for each hledger field - either the one that was assigned to it (and interpolate the %CSVFIELDNAME references), or a default

  • generate a synthetic hledger transaction from these values.

This is all part of the CSV reader, one of several readers hledger can use to parse input files. When all files have been read successfully, the transactions are passed as input to whichever hledger command the user specified.

TIMECLOCK FORMAT

The time logging format of timeclock.el, as read by hledger.

hledger can read time logs in timeclock format. As with Ledger, these are (a subset of) timeclock.el's format, containing clock-in and clock-out entries as in the example below. The date is a simple date. The time format is HH:MM[:SS][+-ZZZZ]. Seconds and timezone are optional. The timezone, if present, must be four digits and is ignored (currently the time is always interpreted as a local time).

i 2015/03/30 09:00:00 some:account name  optional description after two spaces
o 2015/03/30 09:20:00
i 2015/03/31 22:21:45 another account
o 2015/04/01 02:00:34

hledger treats each clock-in/clock-out pair as a transaction posting some number of hours to an account. Or if the session spans more than one day, it is split into several transactions, one for each day. For the above time log, hledger print generates these journal entries:

$ hledger -f t.timeclock print
2015-03-30 * optional description after two spaces
    (some:account name)         0.33h

2015-03-31 * 22:21-23:59
    (another account)         1.64h

2015-04-01 * 00:00-02:00
    (another account)         2.01h

Here is a sample.timeclock to download and some queries to try:

$ hledger -f sample.timeclock balance                               # current time balances
$ hledger -f sample.timeclock register -p 2009/3                    # sessions in march 2009
$ hledger -f sample.timeclock register -p weekly --depth 1 --empty  # time summary by week

To generate time logs, ie to clock in and clock out, you could:

  • use emacs and the built-in timeclock.el, or the extended timeclock-x.el and perhaps the extras in ledgerutils.el

  • at the command line, use these bash aliases: shell     alias ti="echo i `date '+%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S'` \$* >>$TIMELOG"     alias to="echo o `date '+%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S'` >>$TIMELOG"

  • or use the old ti and to scripts in the ledger 2.x repository. These rely on a "timeclock" executable which I think is just the ledger 2 executable renamed.

TIMEDOT FORMAT

hledger's human-friendly time logging format.

Timedot is a plain text format for logging dated, categorised quantities (of time, usually), supported by hledger. It is convenient for approximate and retroactive time logging, eg when the real-time clock-in/out required with a timeclock file is too precise or too interruptive. It can be formatted like a bar chart, making clear at a glance where time was spent.

Though called "timedot", this format is read by hledger as commodityless quantities, so it could be used to represent dated quantities other than time. In the docs below we'll assume it's time.

A timedot file contains a series of day entries. A day entry begins with a non-indented hledger-style simple date (Y-M-D, Y/M/D, Y.M.D..) Any additional text on the same line is used as a transaction description for this day.

This is followed by optionally-indented timelog items for that day, one per line. Each timelog item is a note, usually a hledger:style:account:name representing a time category, followed by two or more spaces, and a quantity. Each timelog item generates a hledger transaction.

Quantities can be written as:

  • dots: a sequence of dots (.) representing quarter hours. Spaces may optionally be used for grouping. Eg: .... ..

  • an integral or decimal number, representing hours. Eg: 1.5

  • an integral or decimal number immediately followed by a unit symbol s, m, h, d, w, mo, or y, representing seconds, minutes, hours, days weeks, months or years respectively. Eg: 90m. The following equivalencies are assumed, currently: 1m = 60s, 1h = 60m, 1d = 24h, 1w = 7d, 1mo = 30d, 1y=365d.

There is some flexibility allowing notes and todo lists to be kept right in the time log, if needed:

  • Blank lines and lines beginning with # or ; are ignored.

  • Lines not ending with a double-space and quantity are parsed as items taking no time, which will not appear in balance reports by default. (Add -E to see them.)

  • Org mode headlines (lines beginning with one or more * followed by a space) can be used as date lines or timelog items (the stars are ignored). Also all org headlines before the first date line are ignored. This means org users can manage their timelog as an org outline (eg using org-mode/orgstruct-mode in Emacs), for organisation, faster navigation, controlling visibility etc.

Examples:

# on this day, 6h was spent on client work, 1.5h on haskell FOSS work, etc.
2016/2/1
inc:client1   .... .... .... .... .... ....
fos:haskell   .... ..
biz:research  .

2016/2/2
inc:client1   .... ....
biz:research  .
2016/2/3
inc:client1   4
fos:hledger   3
biz:research  1
* Time log
** 2020-01-01
*** adm:time  .
*** adm:finance  .
* 2020 Work Diary
** Q1
*** 2020-02-29
**** DONE
0700 yoga
**** UNPLANNED
**** BEGUN
hom:chores
 cleaning  ...
 water plants
  outdoor - one full watering can
  indoor - light watering
**** TODO
adm:planning: trip
*** LATER

Reporting:

$ hledger -f t.timedot print date:2016/2/2
2016-02-02 *
    (inc:client1)          2.00

2016-02-02 *
    (biz:research)          0.25
$ hledger -f t.timedot bal --daily --tree
Balance changes in 2016-02-01-2016-02-03:

            ||  2016-02-01d  2016-02-02d  2016-02-03d 
============++========================================
 biz        ||         0.25         0.25         1.00 
   research ||         0.25         0.25         1.00 
 fos        ||         1.50            0         3.00 
   haskell  ||         1.50            0            0 
   hledger  ||            0            0         3.00 
 inc        ||         6.00         2.00         4.00 
   client1  ||         6.00         2.00         4.00 
------------++----------------------------------------
            ||         7.75         2.25         8.00 

I prefer to use period for separating account components. We can make this work with an account alias:

2016/2/4
fos.hledger.timedot  4
fos.ledger           ..
$ hledger -f t.timedot --alias /\\./=: bal date:2016/2/4 --tree
                4.50  fos
                4.00    hledger:timedot
                0.50    ledger
--------------------
                4.50

Here is a sample.timedot.

COMMON TASKS

Here are some quick examples of how to do some basic tasks with hledger. For more details, see the reference section below, the hledger_journal(5) manual, or the more extensive docs at https://hledger.org.

Getting help

$ hledger                 # show available commands
$ hledger --help          # show common options
$ hledger CMD --help      # show common and command options, and command help
$ hledger help            # show available manuals/topics
$ hledger help hledger    # show hledger manual as info/man/text (auto-chosen)
$ hledger help journal --man  # show the journal manual as a man page
$ hledger help --help     # show more detailed help for the help command

Find more docs, chat, mail list, reddit, issue tracker: https://hledger.org#help-feedback

Constructing command lines

hledger has an extensive and powerful command line interface. We strive to keep it simple and ergonomic, but you may run into one of the confusing real world details described in OPTIONS, below. If that happens, here are some tips that may help:

  • command-specific options must go after the command (it's fine to put all options there) (hledger CMD OPTS ARGS)

  • running add-on executables directly simplifies command line parsing (hledger-ui OPTS ARGS)

  • enclose "problematic" args in single quotes

  • if needed, also add a backslash to hide regular expression metacharacters from the shell

  • to see how a misbehaving command is being parsed, add --debug=2.

Starting a journal file

hledger looks for your accounting data in a journal file, $HOME/.hledger.journal by default:

$ hledger stats
The hledger journal file "/Users/simon/.hledger.journal" was not found.
Please create it first, eg with "hledger add" or a text editor.
Or, specify an existing journal file with -f or LEDGER_FILE.

You can override this by setting the LEDGER_FILE environment variable. It's a good practice to keep this important file under version control, and to start a new file each year. So you could do something like this:

$ mkdir ~/finance
$ cd ~/finance
$ git init
Initialized empty Git repository in /Users/simon/finance/.git/
$ touch 2020.journal
$ echo "export LEDGER_FILE=$HOME/finance/2020.journal" >> ~/.bashrc
$ source ~/.bashrc
$ hledger stats
Main file                : /Users/simon/finance/2020.journal
Included files           : 
Transactions span        :  to  (0 days)
Last transaction         : none
Transactions             : 0 (0.0 per day)
Transactions last 30 days: 0 (0.0 per day)
Transactions last 7 days : 0 (0.0 per day)
Payees/descriptions      : 0
Accounts                 : 0 (depth 0)
Commodities              : 0 ()
Market prices            : 0 ()

Setting opening balances

Pick a starting date for which you can look up the balances of some real-world assets (bank accounts, wallet..) and liabilities (credit cards..).

To avoid a lot of data entry, you may want to start with just one or two accounts, like your checking account or cash wallet; and pick a recent starting date, like today or the start of the week. You can always come back later and add more accounts and older transactions, eg going back to january 1st.

Add an opening balances transaction to the journal, declaring the balances on this date. Here are two ways to do it:

  • The first way: open the journal in any text editor and save an entry like this:

    2020-01-01 * opening balances
        assets:bank:checking                $1000   = $1000
        assets:bank:savings                 $2000   = $2000
        assets:cash                          $100   = $100
        liabilities:creditcard               $-50   = $-50
        equity:opening/closing balances
    

    These are start-of-day balances, ie whatever was in the account at the end of the previous day.

    The * after the date is an optional status flag. Here it means "cleared & confirmed".

    The currency symbols are optional, but usually a good idea as you'll be dealing with multiple currencies sooner or later.

    The = amounts are optional balance assertions, providing extra error checking.

  • The second way: run hledger add and follow the prompts to record a similar transaction:

    $ hledger add
    Adding transactions to journal file /Users/simon/finance/2020.journal
    Any command line arguments will be used as defaults.
    Use tab key to complete, readline keys to edit, enter to accept defaults.
    An optional (CODE) may follow transaction dates.
    An optional ; COMMENT may follow descriptions or amounts.
    If you make a mistake, enter < at any prompt to go one step backward.
    To end a transaction, enter . when prompted.
    To quit, enter . at a date prompt or press control-d or control-c.
    Date [2020-02-07]: 2020-01-01
    Description: * opening balances
    Account 1: assets:bank:checking
    Amount  1: $1000
    Account 2: assets:bank:savings
    Amount  2 [$-1000]: $2000
    Account 3: assets:cash
    Amount  3 [$-3000]: $100
    Account 4: liabilities:creditcard
    Amount  4 [$-3100]: $-50
    Account 5: equity:opening/closing balances
    Amount  5 [$-3050]: 
    Account 6 (or . or enter to finish this transaction): .
    2020-01-01 * opening balances
        assets:bank:checking                      $1000
        assets:bank:savings                       $2000
        assets:cash                                $100
        liabilities:creditcard                     $-50
        equity:opening/closing balances          $-3050
    
    Save this transaction to the journal ? [y]: 
    Saved.
    Starting the next transaction (. or ctrl-D/ctrl-C to quit)
    Date [2020-01-01]: .
    

If you're using version control, this could be a good time to commit the journal. Eg:

$ git commit -m 'initial balances' 2020.journal

Recording transactions

As you spend or receive money, you can record these transactions using one of the methods above (text editor, hledger add) or by using the hledger-iadd or hledger-web add-ons, or by using the import command to convert CSV data downloaded from your bank.

Here are some simple transactions, see the hledger_journal(5) manual and hledger.org for more ideas:

2020/1/10 * gift received
  assets:cash   $20
  income:gifts

2020.1.12 * farmers market
  expenses:food    $13
  assets:cash

2020-01-15 paycheck
  income:salary
  assets:bank:checking    $1000

Reconciling

Periodically you should reconcile - compare your hledger-reported balances against external sources of truth, like bank statements or your bank's website - to be sure that your ledger accurately represents the real-world balances (and, that the real-world institutions have not made a mistake!). This gets easy and fast with (1) practice and (2) frequency. If you do it daily, it can take 2-10 minutes. If you let it pile up, expect it to take longer as you hunt down errors and discrepancies.

A typical workflow:

  1. Reconcile cash. Count what's in your wallet. Compare with what hledger reports (hledger bal cash). If they are different, try to remember the missing transaction, or look for the error in the already-recorded transactions. A register report can be helpful (hledger reg cash). If you can't find the error, add an adjustment transaction. Eg if you have $105 after the above, and can't explain the missing $2, it could be:

    2020-01-16 * adjust cash
        assets:cash    $-2 = $105
        expenses:misc
    
  2. Reconcile checking. Log in to your bank's website. Compare today's (cleared) balance with hledger's cleared balance (hledger bal checking -C). If they are different, track down the error or record the missing transaction(s) or add an adjustment transaction, similar to the above. Unlike the cash case, you can usually compare the transaction history and running balance from your bank with the one reported by hledger reg checking -C. This will be easier if you generally record transaction dates quite similar to your bank's clearing dates.

  3. Repeat for other asset/liability accounts.

Tip: instead of the register command, use hledger-ui to see a live-updating register while you edit the journal: hledger-ui --watch --register checking -C

After reconciling, it could be a good time to mark the reconciled transactions' status as "cleared and confirmed", if you want to track that, by adding the * marker. Eg in the paycheck transaction above, insert * between 2020-01-15 and paycheck

If you're using version control, this can be another good time to commit:

$ git commit -m 'txns' 2020.journal

Reporting

Here are some basic reports.

Show all transactions:

$ hledger print
2020-01-01 * opening balances
    assets:bank:checking                      $1000
    assets:bank:savings                       $2000
    assets:cash                                $100
    liabilities:creditcard                     $-50
    equity:opening/closing balances          $-3050

2020-01-10 * gift received
    assets:cash              $20
    income:gifts

2020-01-12 * farmers market
    expenses:food             $13
    assets:cash

2020-01-15 * paycheck
    income:salary
    assets:bank:checking           $1000

2020-01-16 * adjust cash
    assets:cash               $-2 = $105
    expenses:misc

Show account names, and their hierarchy:

$ hledger accounts --tree
assets
  bank
    checking
    savings
  cash
equity
  opening/closing balances
expenses
  food
  misc
income
  gifts
  salary
liabilities
  creditcard

Show all account totals:

$ hledger balance
               $4105  assets
               $4000    bank
               $2000      checking
               $2000      savings
                $105    cash
              $-3050  equity:opening/closing balances
                 $15  expenses
                 $13    food
                  $2    misc
              $-1020  income
                $-20    gifts
              $-1000    salary
                $-50  liabilities:creditcard
--------------------
                   0

Show only asset and liability balances, as a flat list, limited to depth 2:

$ hledger bal assets liabilities --flat -2
               $4000  assets:bank
                $105  assets:cash
                $-50  liabilities:creditcard
--------------------
               $4055

Show the same thing without negative numbers, formatted as a simple balance sheet:

$ hledger bs --flat -2
Balance Sheet 2020-01-16

                        || 2020-01-16 
========================++============
 Assets                 ||            
------------------------++------------
 assets:bank            ||      $4000 
 assets:cash            ||       $105 
------------------------++------------
                        ||      $4105 
========================++============
 Liabilities            ||            
------------------------++------------
 liabilities:creditcard ||        $50 
------------------------++------------
                        ||        $50 
========================++============
 Net:                   ||      $4055 

The final total is your "net worth" on the end date. (Or use bse for a full balance sheet with equity.)

Show income and expense totals, formatted as an income statement:

hledger is 
Income Statement 2020-01-01-2020-01-16

               || 2020-01-01-2020-01-16 
===============++=======================
 Revenues      ||                       
---------------++-----------------------
 income:gifts  ||                   $20 
 income:salary ||                 $1000 
---------------++-----------------------
               ||                 $1020 
===============++=======================
 Expenses      ||                       
---------------++-----------------------
 expenses:food ||                   $13 
 expenses:misc ||                    $2 
---------------++-----------------------
               ||                   $15 
===============++=======================
 Net:          ||                 $1005 

The final total is your net income during this period.

Show transactions affecting your wallet, with running total:

$ hledger register cash
2020-01-01 opening balances     assets:cash                   $100          $100
2020-01-10 gift received        assets:cash                    $20          $120
2020-01-12 farmers market       assets:cash                   $-13          $107
2020-01-16 adjust cash          assets:cash                    $-2          $105

Show weekly posting counts as a bar chart:

$ hledger activity -W
2019-12-30 *****
2020-01-06 ****
2020-01-13 ****

Migrating to a new file

At the end of the year, you may want to continue your journal in a new file, so that old transactions don't slow down or clutter your reports, and to help ensure the integrity of your accounting history. See the close command.

If using version control, don't forget to git add the new file.

LIMITATIONS

The need to precede add-on command options with -- when invoked from hledger is awkward.

When input data contains non-ascii characters, a suitable system locale must be configured (or there will be an unhelpful error). Eg on POSIX, set LANG to something other than C.

In a Microsoft Windows CMD window, non-ascii characters and colours are not supported.

On Windows, non-ascii characters may not display correctly when running a hledger built in CMD in MSYS/CYGWIN, or vice-versa.

In a Cygwin/MSYS/Mintty window, the tab key is not supported in hledger add.

Not all of Ledger's journal file syntax is supported. See file format differences.

On large data files, hledger is slower and uses more memory than Ledger.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Here are some issues you might encounter when you run hledger (and remember you can also seek help from the IRC channel, mail list or bug tracker):

Successfully installed, but "No command 'hledger' found"
stack and cabal install binaries into a special directory, which should be added to your PATH environment variable. Eg on unix-like systems, that is ~/.local/bin and ~/.cabal/bin respectively.

I set a custom LEDGER_FILE, but hledger is still using the default file
LEDGER_FILE should be a real environment variable, not just a shell variable. The command env | grep LEDGER_FILE should show it. You may need to use export. Here's an explanation.

Getting errors like "Illegal byte sequence" or "Invalid or incomplete multibyte or wide character" or "commitAndReleaseBuffer: invalid argument (invalid character)"
Programs compiled with GHC (hledger, haskell build tools, etc.) need to have a UTF-8-aware locale configured in the environment, otherwise they will fail with these kinds of errors when they encounter non-ascii characters.

To fix it, set the LANG environment variable to some locale which supports UTF-8. The locale you choose must be installed on your system.

Here's an example of setting LANG temporarily, on Ubuntu GNU/Linux:

$ file my.journal
my.journal: UTF-8 Unicode text         # the file is UTF8-encoded
$ echo $LANG
C                                      # LANG is set to the default locale, which does not support UTF8
$ locale -a                            # which locales are installed ?
C
en_US.utf8                             # here's a UTF8-aware one we can use
POSIX
$ LANG=en_US.utf8 hledger -f my.journal print   # ensure it is used for this command

If available, C.UTF-8 will also work. If your preferred locale isn't listed by locale -a, you might need to install it. Eg on Ubuntu/Debian:

$ apt-get install language-pack-fr
$ locale -a
C
en_US.utf8
fr_BE.utf8
fr_CA.utf8
fr_CH.utf8
fr_FR.utf8
fr_LU.utf8
POSIX
$ LANG=fr_FR.utf8 hledger -f my.journal print

Here's how you could set it permanently, if you use a bash shell:

$ echo "export LANG=en_US.utf8" >>~/.bash_profile
$ bash --login

Exact spelling and capitalisation may be important. Note the difference on MacOS (UTF-8, not utf8). Some platforms (eg ubuntu) allow variant spellings, but others (eg macos) require it to be exact:

$ locale -a | grep -iE en_us.*utf
en_US.UTF-8
$ LANG=en_US.UTF-8 hledger -f my.journal print