Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quicken Essentials for Mac

I broke down and bought Quicken Essentials for Mac the other night and I must say that it's a breath of fresh air in regards to how easy it is to use and understand. The price tag was very inviting, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much "bang for the buck" it offers...

Microsoft Money was my app of choice for +10 years and I loved it and lived by it. I started using MS Money '98 back in the day and then upgraded to the 2002 edition. There were some cool new enhancements with the 2004 edition (don't remember now what it was), so I ultimately upgraded to the 2004 edition. I used the 2004 edition for 5+ years. It did everything I needed it to do with reports, budgeting, downloading transactions from my bank, and all that good stuff. Plus, as a developer, I saw greatness in the intuitive UI approach that it showcased. Whenever I wanted to do something, I was able to accomplish it with very little effort using one or two clicks. All of the complexity was hidden from me and I only needed to worry about the numbers being entered... Everything else just worked. This was software at its finest.

Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to upgrade to the 2010 edition, and I saw where MS Money was no longer being developed. It was time that I had to choose another financial software application. I dug around and saw a few good options, but Quicken looked to be the best option for me. My Dad had always used it in the past and really liked it. I remember using it for a year or two when Jennifer and I first moved out on our own, but hadn't looked at it in +10 years.

After a day or two of solid research, I broke down and purchased the Quicken 2010 Home and Business Edition. I instantly fell in love with it. It helped me import my years of transactions from MS Money, and then walked me through the steps to setup a budget and begin tracking progress on my credit and loans. The user interface was a lot different than MS Money, but I got used to it after a few weeks. It was around this same time that Jennifer and I started doing a "cash budget". Quicken (and Intuit) have a lot of online resources for managing finances, and I was able to read a lot about how to get out of debt and manage my money more intelligently. MS Money never really offered that type of online community... or if they did, it wasn't "all up in my face" like it is with Quicken. After using the resources offered to me from within Quicken, I started to care about where my money went again. It really changed the way we manage our paychecks now. Quicken Home and Business was a smash hit for me... and then I got a Mac.

When we bought our Macs, I debated on whether or not to return my edition of Quicken and get a refund since I was still within the 90 day window. As it turned out, the Mac version wasn't going to be available for another month or so. Therefore, I decided to keep the Windows version and then evaluate the Mac version when it would become available. This meant that whenever I needed to work with my finances, I would have to load up Windows 7 in Parallels just to get to my Quicken. This worked, but it was a lot of ceremony to start up my VM and wait for it, then open Quicken, enter some stuff and shut my VM back down. It sounds petty, but it was a lot of "prep work" just to reconcile my account or even enter transactions when I didn't have my VM turned on.

Two days ago, I broke down and bought the Quicken Essentials for Mac and must say that I'm pleasantly surprised with it. Sure, it's missing a lot of functionality in regards to setting up budgets, configuring reports, and managing multiple accounts, but it works quite well for my needs. Basically I just need to enter transactions, track upcoming payments, and see how broke I am at any given time. It does this. However, I'm hoping that the next version focuses more on the reporting and budgeting aspects of home financing.

Here are some of the things that I like about the new Mac version:
  • I can create a budget to go against different Categories and Tags
  • The filtering mechanism is MUCH more intuitive than the windows version.
  • It feels like a Mac app (think iTunes or Mac Finder) and this is a big win.
  • The "Search All" box is extremely useful for finding a specific transaction.
  • Scheduled transactions are more like actual transactions.
  • Provides a "Favorites" concept for Categories, Payees, and Tags for easy picking.
  • Best of all, there is a big fat "Q" icon in my Dock now. :)
Here are some of the things that I do not like about the Mac version:
  • It doesn't offer a two-line transaction view.
  • Offers very little reporting options.
  • Budgeting options are elementary at best.
  • I cannot hide unused accounts.
All in all, I'm very pleased with the Mac version. I did use the reporting and budgeting features of the Windows version, but I understand that this is the first (big) release for the Mac since the redesign of the Mac 2007 edition. I hope they release an update soon with some enhancements in those areas.

Kudos Quicken!

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