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hledger_journal(5) hledger User Manuals hledger_journal(5)


Journal - 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 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 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


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
$ 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:


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.


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
! 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.


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.


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
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
; 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 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 ...


"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.


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, income, 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.


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"):


..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:

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:


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:


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


Digit group marks

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):

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

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


hledger will treat them both as decimal marks by default (cf #793). If you use digit group marks, to prevent confusion and undetected typos we recommend you write commodity directives at the top of the file to explicitly declare the decimal mark (and optionally a digit group mark). Note, these formats ("amount styles") are specific to each commodity, so if your data uses multiple formats, hledger can handle it:

commodity $1,000.00
commodity EUR 1.000,00
commodity INR 9,99,99,999.00
commodity       1 000 000.9455

Amount display style

For each commodity, hledger chooses a consistent format to use when displaying amounts. (Except price amounts, which are always displayed as written). The display style is chosen as follows:

If there is a commodity directive (or default commodity directive) for the commodity, that format is used (see examples above).
Otherwise the format of the first posting amount in that commodity seen in the journal is used. But the number of decimal places ("precision") will be the maximum from all posting amounts in that commodity.
Or if there are no such amounts in the journal, a default format is used (like $1000.00).

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

In summary: amounts will be displayed much as they appear in your journal, with the max observed number of decimal places. If you want to see fewer decimal places in reports, use a commodity directive to override that.

hledger uses banker's rounding: it rounds to the nearest even number, eg 0.5 displayed with zero decimal places is "0"). (Note, prior to hledger 1.17.1 this could vary if hledger happened to be built with an old version of Decimal (<0.5.1); since 1.17.1 it's guaranteed.)

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:

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

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

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

assets:euros €100 ; one hundred euros purchased
assets:dollars $-135 ; for $135
Like 1 and 2, but the @ or @@ is parenthesised; this is for compatibility with Ledger journals (Virtual posting costs), and in hledger is equivalent to 1 and 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:


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 and 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:


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).


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:


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:


(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:


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

assets:cash = $0

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:


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

(a) $1 @ €2 = $1 @ €2


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.

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 inline/included entries until end of current file or end directive
apply account end apply account prepend a common parent to account names following inline/included entries until end of current file or end directive
comment end comment ignore part of journal following inline/included 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
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 inline/included 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

Declaring commodities

The commodity directive has several functions:

It declares commodities which may be used in the journal. This is currently not enforced, but can serve as documentation.
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).
It declares the amount display style to use 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:

; 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
; 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 Amount display style.)

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

a 5 ; <- commodity-less amount, parsed as $5 and displayed as $5.00

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:

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 pre-declare accounts. Though not required, they can provide several benefits:

They can document your intended chart of accounts, providing a reference.
They can store extra information about accounts (account numbers, notes, etc.)
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 help with account name completion in the add command, hledger-iadd, hledger-web, ledger-mode etc.

The simplest form is just the word account followed by a hledger-style account name, eg:

account assets:bank:checking

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 types

hledger recognises five types (or classes) of account: Asset, Liability, Equity, Revenue, Expense. This is used by a few accounting-aware reports such as balancesheet, incomestatement and cashflow.

Auto-detected account types

If you name your top-level accounts with some variation of assets, liabilities/debts, equity, revenues/income, or expenses, their types are detected automatically.

Account types declared with tags

More generally, you can declare an account's type with an account directive, by writing a type: tag in a comment, followed by one of the words Asset, Liability, Equity, Revenue, Expense, or one of the letters ALERX (case insensitive):

account assets       ; type:Asset
account liabilities  ; type:Liability
account equity       ; type:Equity
account revenues     ; type:Revenue
account expenses     ; type:Expense

Account types declared with account type codes

Or, you can write one of those letters separated from the account name by two or more spaces, but this should probably be considered deprecated as of hledger 1.13:

account assets       A
account liabilities  L
account equity       E
account revenues     R
account expenses     X

Overriding auto-detected types

If you ever override the types of those auto-detected english account names mentioned above, you might need to help the reports a bit. Eg:

; make "liabilities" not have the liability type - who knows why
account liabilities  ; type:E
; we need to ensure some other account has the liability type,
; otherwise balancesheet would still show "liabilities" under Liabilities
account -            ; type:L

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

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:


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:

alias directives preceding the journal entry, most recently parsed first (ie, reading upward from the journal entry, bottom to top)
--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

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

food $10
cash end apply account

which is equivalent to:


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. Secondly, they are also used to define the budgets shown in budget reports.

Periodic transactions can be a little tricky, so before you use them, read this whole section - or at least these tips:

Two spaces accidentally added or omitted will cause you trouble - read about this below.
For troubleshooting, show the generated transactions with hledger print --forecast tag:generated or hledger register --forecast tag:generated.
Forecasted transactions will begin only after the last non-forecasted transaction's date.
Forecasted transactions will end 6 months from today, by default. See below for the exact start/end rules.
period expressions can be tricky. Their documentation needs improvement, but is worth studying.
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.
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 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

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


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.

For more details, see: balance: Budget report and 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:



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
$ hledger print --auto

expenses:food $10
(liabilities:charity) $-1 2017-12-14
expenses:gifts $20
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:

after missing amounts are inferred, and transactions are checked for balancedness,
but before balance assertions are checked.

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".


Report bugs at (or on the #hledger IRC channel or hledger mail list)


Simon Michael <> and contributors


Copyright (C) 2007-2019 Simon Michael.
Released under GNU GPL v3 or later.


hledger(1), hledger-ui(1), hledger-web(1), hledger-api(1), hledger_csv(5), hledger_journal(5), hledger_timeclock(5), hledger_timedot(5), ledger(1)

June 2020 hledger 1.18.1