The difference between a general ledger and the general journal is that the general journal is considered the initial book of entry. The general ledger and general journal help create a double-entry bookkeeping record system, which is used to record financial transactions. These two record-keeping tools record the two different effects of financial transactions that include debits and credits. The transactions and records from the general journal are transferred to the general ledger accounts. After balances are calculated, they are transferred from the ledger to a trial balance. As of 2015, most organizations use software to record transactions in general ledgers and general journals.
The general journal is recognized as the first book of entry. This journal is the first place where transactions are recorded. This bookkeeping method was more popular when computers and software were not readily available. Every page in the general journal incorporates columns for dates, serial numbers, and debit or credit records. The general journal also provides a description with each transaction. Some organizations keep specialized journals, such as purchase or sales journals. The specialized journals only record specific types of transactions, whereas general journals record all other transactions.
A general ledger is generally a file or book used to keep records of all relevant accounts. The ledger is used to track up to five relevant accounting items that include expenses, assets, revenues, liabilities and capital. Each relevant accounting item has a two-columned, T-shaped table. The account title is located at the top of the T-shaped table, and the table has a record of debit and credit entries. The debit entries are located on the left side of the T-shaped table, and credit entries are located on the right. For some organizations, the general ledger incorporates additional columns for dates, transaction descriptions and serial numbers.