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About AutoCat (beta)
AutoCat allows you to automatically categorize transactions and override other columns in the Transactions sheet using a customized rule set.
How to Install AutoCat (beta)
- Open your Google Sheet
- Launch/open the Tiller Money Feeds add-on from the Add-ons menu
- Click the AutoCat (beta) link from the sidebar options
- Install AutoCat or migrate your AutoCat ruleset sheet if you were using the previous version of AutoCat
After install the AutoCat rule sheet (tab) should appear. It comes pre-populated with some example rules. You can clear these out.
If you upgraded your AutoCat sheet from the previous version an archive of the original rule sheet is created.
Creating a basic rule set
AutoCat (beta) uses filter and override columns in the rule set to understand how to parse your Transactions and apply the rules based on your customized criteria. The rules engine only makes changes to the Transactions sheet.
At the most basic level AutoCat (beta) will categorize transactions based on a set of criteria you provide in the rules. More advanced rules can be created with additional columns to further customize and build a more complex rule set.
Information about advanced rule options is included below.
Most of the time a simple “Description Contains” filter will work for a basic rule set to capture recurring transactions and those with a description that are always categorized the same.
Choose a Category from the dropdown, enter “Description Contains” keyword(s) into that column in the ruleset and you have a basic rule.
Run AutoCat via the Tiller Money Feeds add-on sidebar > AutoCat (beta)
Apply “Yoga” to all transactions where the Description Contains “asheville Commuussq” for example.
This would categorize any transaction that contains that text in the description as “Yoga.”
Case & contains sensitivity
The filter criteria (Description Contains) is case insensitive, but it is literally a contains. So if you have a rule that just has the criteria for Description contains as “air” - perhaps for “Allegiant” air any other description that contains the word “air,” including in the middle of a word, would get categorized under that rule. So slightly more detailed/specific is better.
You can also use the Account Contains and Institution Contains in a similar manner to drill down even further.
Use the amount min and amount max columns to set the minimum and maximum for the amount that the rule should look for. Enter these as absolute values. AutCat understands whether it is an expense/income type and whether it should be looking for positive or negative.
If you need an exact match, enter that amount into both the min and max columns. E.g. if you want to set up a rule for your mortgage check that’s consistent every month you can use the Description Contains “Check #” and then use the Amount range $1200 for both the min and max.
How to run AutoCat
After you have installed and built a rule set you can run AutoCat using the Tiller Money Feeds add-on sidebar.
You can run the ruleset against only uncategorized transactions (default) or your entire transactions sheet.
You can choose to run AutoCat on the last 90 days of transactions (default) or the entire Transactions sheet. This option helps with performance if you have a large data set, but requires that the Transactions sheet be sorted from newest to oldest (Date columns sorted Z>A). It it's not sorted this way, the rule processor will stop on the first transaction it finds that's older than 90 days.
Rule processing order
The rules are processed in a top down order, so put your most fine grained rules at the top of the sheet and broader rules lower down.
You can sort the AutoCat sheet if you turn the filter on in the sheet or drag and drop rows to rearrange the order of your rules.
Advanced Rule Processing
AutoCat (beta) allows you to build rules to override and automate data into other columns in the Transactions sheet beyond just the Category column.
For example, if you wanted to apply a Tag in a Tags column in the Transactions sheet based on content the Description column (or any other column in the Transactions sheet) you could build a rule to do this.
In the AutoCat rules sheet, each column performs one of two functions:
- Filter criteria - search this column for matches
- Override - override this column with my custom content
In our basic rule below the Description Contains column is the "Filter Criteria" and the Category column in the Transactions sheet is the column that will be overridden with the content I selected in the Category column on the AutoCat rules sheet.
Filter criteria columns in the rules sheet determine if a transaction should be processed. (i.e. does the Transaction meet this criteria?)
A column is recognized as a filter criteria when it has a filter criteria suffix. (e.g. contains, equals, starts with, ends with) The full list of suffix options are below.
Filter criteria are AND-ed together— for a transaction to be processed, it must meet all non-blank rules.
Filter criteria columns must start with the column name to be searched. For example, “Description Contains” will search the column named “Description.” If a column does not exist in the Transactions sheet, the filter criteria is ignored. This is case sensitive. Make sure the first word in the criteria is capitalized. (i.e "Description contains" NOT "description contains")
Any Transactions-sheet column name can be used for a filter criteria. This includes custom columns you add that are not default in the Transactions sheet. Great examples are Tags, Note, or Client.
Filter Criteria Suffixes
For a column to function as a filter criteria, it must end in one of the following keywords:
- “Equals” - text equals entire rule string exactly
- “Contains” - text contains rule string
- “Starts With” - text starts with rule string
- “Ends With” - text ends with rule string
- “Max” - value is less than or equal to rule value
- “Min” - value is greater than or equal to rule value
- “Polarity” - value is zero or positive if rule string is “positive”, value is negative if rule string is “negative”
- "Regex" - supports regex commands.
Multiple Match Criteria
AutoCat (beta) supports multiple match criteria in text filter criteria fields.
For example, a “Description Contains” rule can be:
Multiple match criteria are OR-ed. In other words, the rule will be applied if the row matches just one of the keywords in the list for the rule.
Each multiple-match criteria keyword must be wrapped in quotes and separated by commas.
AutoCat (beta) also supports regex.
Add a column name and append the regex suffix to it to build rules using Regex. E.g. Description Regex or Account Regex
Examples of terms here: https://cs.lmu.edu/~ray/notes/regex/ 8
Override columns are any columns in the AutoCat rules sheet that are not recognized as filter criteria (i.e. they do not have a suffix). If a transaction matches on the rule's filter criteria, the values in any override columns for the rule will be applied to those columns in the matching rows on the Transactions sheet.
The first version of AutoCat only recognized Category column overrides. With AutoCat (beta), any Transactions sheet column name can be used for an override.
For example, if we had a rule with “Description Contains” = “Starbucks” and “Description” = “Starbucks”
12/31/19 "Seattle Starbucks store 1234" $5.00
Would be updated after AutoCat runs with:
12/31/19 "Starbucks" $5.00
This feature is great if you want to clean up your descriptions. You can use a single rule to clean up descriptions and categorize. In the basic rule example above all Starbucks transactions would be categorized as Coffee and the descriptions would be unified to just say "Starbucks" instead of including the extra details about which specific Starbucks store it was.
It's important to note that once a transaction matches on one rule, it won't match on other rules so if you want to clean up or customize other columns you would exclude those entries from multiple match criteria rules. E.g. if you put Starbucks in a multi-match rule for "coffee" you won't be able to clean the descriptions up for Starbucks.
By default override columns other than Category are not included in the AutoCat ruleset sheet. If you want to build additional override rules for Description, other default Transactions sheet columns, or your own columns (see next section) you need to manually add these columns to the AutoCat ruleset sheet by inserting columns (right click a column to insert).
Overriding custom columns
Custom columns you add to the Transactions sheet can also be used for override rules in the AutoCat sheet.
For example, if you added a column called “Tags” to your transaction sheet you can build an override rule to automatically tag transactions by adding that column and the criteria to the AutoCat sheet.