I’ve been a user of Intuit Quicken for the past few years after being a loyal user of Microsoft Money (and MoneyDance earlier, when I felt I needed to run Linux on my home machine). While I think I’ve settled on the software that works best for me, I’m not completely satisfied.
I’m waiting to try out the up and coming Mint to see what features it might add for me, but until then, I’ll continue relying on Quicken for Windows.
The 2008 version of the software should be released in the next couple of months, so the new version is most likely finalized by now. If these improvements aren’t included by now, I’ll have to hope for the next version to be released a year from now.
So here are my ten suggestions for improvements, most of them minor enhancements. At the end of this post, I am giving away a free copy of Quicken Premier 2007, the version which is best for those customers with investments but no self-employment income to track.
1. Restricted Stock Units. When I was granted restricted stock units a year ago, to vest in 2009, the best option for recording the grant was as an employee stock option grant. It’s not exactly the same. For example, the tax due is calculated differently.
There are probably other, more complicated financial instruments that can be added to the software just for a more complete package.
2. Real Background Downloading. Probably the biggest hyped new feature in Quicken 2007 was “background downloading” of transactions via Direct Connect, as well as a way to use Web Connect (logging in to the bank’s website and manually downloading transactions) from inside the software. It doesn’t really work that well. By the fourth interim update to software, there have been some improvements, but some things just don’t work right while the software is downloading transactions.
Entering transactions — particularly in investment or retirement accounts — is tricky. For some reason, using the “Enter” key to input new transactions doesn’t work while Quicken is downloading in the background. The downloading process is also much slower than it was in 2006. This could use some improvement for the new version.
3. Double-entry Accounting Mode. For sticklers to accounting rules, every debit should be matched with a credit. That means rather than dealing with expense categories, you have expense accounts. For a simple example, you would record the act of buying a computer as a transfer from a cash account to an asset account called “Dell notebook computer” (or “computer equipment”). Double-entry accounting mode would be an initial set-up option in this ideal world.
This feature would make accounting geeks happy, but most people are fine with the single-entry method in which transactions are categorized and not balanced.
4. Monthly Reports. I like Microsoft Money’s automatic monthly reports that consist of a number of mini-reports, which together provide a complete financial snapshot at the end of each month. In Quicken, I have to view several different reports in order to get the same information. I think the entire report configuration interface in Quicken can use a redesign. It is quite flexible in terms of configuring each report, but I’d like to be able to define my own structure for saving reports.
5. Airline Miles. This isn’t that much of a big deal, as I already use a hack to use asset accounts to track miles and points. Other people who earn and cash in their reward travel more often than I do, business travelers for example, might benefit from accounts and reports designed specifically for tracking miles.
6. Mobile integration. Right now, the best way to use Quicken on the go is with third party software, Pocket Quicken. If I’m already paying for the software, I don’t want to have to pay again for a mobile version that won’t expire in 14 days.
7. Bring Back QIF Support. In the past few years, Intuit has begun eliminating support for the QIF file format, one that Quicken created originally and quickly became a standard for transmitting transaction information over the Internet. The official stance is that the QIF format is not as flexible as the OFX/QFX format. I think it’s a money issue. Regardless, many financial institutions are still hanging onto QIF, refusing to change their systems to support QFX. I’d still like my software to communicate with those banks and brokerages.
8. Improve the User Interface. For the 2007 versions, Intuit redesigned the graphical user interface throughout the software. It’s pretty, but it’s slow. It also doesn’t have basic interface customization options such as selecting which columns are displayed or changing the width of columns on the register screens.
9. Automatic Tax Liability. One thing I don’t include in my net worth right now is my full tax liability for all my accounts. Quicken should be able to calculate this automatically with just a little help from the user to fine tune some assumptions.
10. Quicken Bill Pay. Yes, Quicken has a bill payment feature which costs $9.95 a month for the first 20 payments and extra if you go over that limit. The service lacks the most basic feature I would like: the ability to pay bills without taking the money for the payment from my bank or credit card accounts. Yes, I want the bills to be paid without having to pay for them. If Quicken were to include this simple “feature,” I could get past the other shortcomings.
Don’t forget, I promised a giveaway. I have one copy of Quicken Premier 2007, which is the most complete version of the software except for Home & Business. If you’ve made your way through this entire post, then you deserve to win. Therefore, I will give all who choose to participate two entries in the contest.
All I ask is that you participate in a discussion by sharing what you do like about Quicken (or MS Money), what you don’t like about Quicken (or MS Money), or what you think about someone else’s contribution to the discussion.
(By the way, as I was preparing this post, Quicken crashed while attempting to access the Quicken Bill Pay feature.)
Update: This contest is now closed! The winner will be announced tomorrow. Please feel free to keep commenting and adding your thoughts for Quicken 2008.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published May 16, 2007.