At a Glance
There’s no better application than Quicken for manag-ing your personal finances. With a slew of features that let you track everything from how much money you spend on Pop-Tarts to your current net worth or how much you’ve racked up in ATM fees, Quicken can tackle the ordinary, the unusual, and everything in between.
As is often the case with applications that already seem to do everything, there’s little in the latest release that will entice existing users to upgrade. But if you’re still balancing your checkbook with a pen and a calculator, Quicken 2005 has just made it much easier to move to digital accounting.
Fast Account Setup
Before this version, the bane of any new Quicken user’s existence was the account setup process, which required that you collect all your bank statements and manually enter past transactions to bring your Quicken checkbook up-to-date. With this release, setting up accounts is as simple as clicking on a button, as long as your bank is one of the more than 1,100 banks that support Quicken. Using the New Account Assistant feature, I was able to select my bank, choose each of the bank accounts that I wanted to track in Quicken—eight in all—and import all my banking information in less than five minutes. (Note that the New Account Assistant feature requires a subscription to your bank’s online banking system, which may result in a service fee.)
There were some minor tasks to do: I had to categorize each of the imported transactions and change the payee information on some paper-check transactions. But, overall, the account setup process was completely painless, and all future updates can be set to download automatically.
Plans for the Future
Unless you were filing a 1040 EZ form, previous versions of Quicken’s tax planner were fairly limited when it came to predicting your future tax liability. Quicken 2005 now includes several improvements that make it easier to estimate your taxes, especially if you have a home business (Schedule C) or a variety of capital gains (Schedule D) and losses. However, while the program does allow for entering more-detailed information, Quicken’s tax planner is no substitute for a trip to the accountant, especially if your tax situation is even a little bit complicated.
When it comes to budgeting, Quicken still keeps the process simple. Use the Quick Budget feature, and Quicken will look at all the transactions you’ve entered and create a budget for you based on your current spending. You can then easily adjust your budget by entering or changing dollar amounts according to what you really want them to be. Once your budget information is entered, Quicken’s budget report will compare your actual expenses to what you intended to spend.
Another of Quicken’s new features is the redesigned Home Inventory application, accessible from within Quicken. This program lets you create a detailed list of all the important items you own, so you can track their purchase prices, current value, replacement costs, and serial numbers, and whether they’re covered by your insurance policy. You can also drag photos from your iPhoto library to any database item, and create a detailed photo catalog of your possessions.
For all you neatniks, Intuit has made it easier to remove unnecessary categories from the program’s extensive list. Once you’ve assigned categories to your existing transactions, simply select Remove Unused Categories from the Lists menu, and Quicken will remove all the categories that you don’t use.
In a past review, we mentioned that Quicken 2004 ( April 2004 ) had a bug in the way it reported capital gains when you short-sold stocks. We’re pleased to report that this issue has been remedied. The program no longer misreports capital gains. If you’re currently using Quicken to track stock transactions, you’ll want to make the upgrade.;
Macworld’s Buying Advice
There’s little in Quicken 2005 that will make it a must-have upgrade for all current Quicken users. But if you’re just starting to loosen your grip on your paper check registers, Quicken’s new account setup process has made the move to digital finance tracking much easier. In the end, Quicken remains the hands-down best way to track your personal finances.