iPhone App Review: ProOnGo ExpenseJune 26th, 2010 by dancemonkey
Capturing information for expense reports is a hassle for most executives, sales reps, and small-business owners. Basically anyone with an expense account that must track and justify all expenses, as well as keep and file all of the associated receipts, can benefit from some way to automate and simplify the expense reporting process.
The free ProOnGo Expense With Receipt Reader makes the iPhone in your pocket an expense tracking tool and, in combination with the camera and a paid-for OCR service, will automatically read the information from your receipts and enter it into the expense database. Combine that with a handful of on-board reports and export options, plus some web-based reporting options, and you have an app that has the potential to practically do your expense report for you.
Here’s how it works: you tap “New” on the receipt screen and grab a picture of a receipt (either an existing pic from the library or directly from the camera). The app uploads the image to a web-based service and after a few minutes syncs the info back to your phone. Tapping on entries with a “?” will show you the picture of the receipt, the information that the app thought it read, and a question asking you to verify or correct the information. If the information is correct you just hit “Yes” and the process is done for that expense item. You can also enter mileage expenses and time-based expenses, though obviously those do not have an associated receipt so you would enter the information manually.
In my informal test over the course of a few days (consisting of snapping pics ofevery receipt I got my hands on) the app did a great job of recognizing the business name, date, and amount (the only three items it seems to read) off every receipt. It has quirks of language that creep in now and then (“Trader Joe’s” became “Traders Joe”), but all in all it properly read every receipt I gave it, including some that seemed in my mind to be hardly machine-readable.
You have the ability to categorize expenses into different folders, but the app unfortunately doesn’t seem to automatically know what category each vendor should be in (“grocery” or “taxi”) nor does it seem to have the ability to remember what you’ve manually entered for a category (so every time you visit Trader Joe’s, you will have to categorize it yourself). It exports to XLSX, XML, Quickbooks, and will even send a fax from within the app; plus it has some web-based reports as well.
The Excel reports seem to only open properly in Excel itself; when trying to open them on the iPad or iPhone (using Numbers, Goodreader, built-in readers, anything) it would not show all of the data. This is likely not a major issue since most of these reports will eventually end up at a computer anyway. I also could not open the “Web-Generated Reports” page on my iPhone. I assume it’s simply trying to serve up a web document within the app, but as of now nothing is coming up. I can’t really comment on what we’re missing there, hopefully that issue is cleared up soon.
The other detail that may be worth knowing is that although the app is free,reading of receipts is not. You get 10 free reads when you download the app, and after that you can purchase reads from inside the app at a rate of $2.99 for 30 receipts or $4.99 for 50 receipts. I could easily see myself going through a couple hundred receipts fairly quickly, but if this is something you need for your business then it could be a cost that is well worth the time and effort NOT spent typing in these details yourself. It should also be noted that you can still store the pictures of the receipts in the app and enter the information yourself, without uploading them for OCR scanning, making this a truly free app (but without its main killer feature).
While ProOnGo Expense will not literally do your expense report for you, it definitely gives you a huge head start on the basic data entry and can do a lot of heavy-lifting itself through the powerful sort and filter operations within the app. The OCR is very good (if you have at least a 3GS, or a steady hand) and can improve the quality of your life simply by removing the drudgery of expense report entry from your daily routine.