Expo Notes: Intuit plans a rebuilt Quicken

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Editor’s Note: Macworld Expo 2008 is in the books, but Macworld editors still have a few reports from the Macworld Expo show floor on meetings with Mac developers, new product announcements, and anything else that catches their eye.

I’m not in the habit of correcting Steve Jobs, but when the Apple CEO noted in his Expo keynote that Microsoft Office was the last major Mac app to finally make the transition to Intel-based Macs, he was forgetting at least one program. People who turn to their Mac to help manager their personal finances have noted the absence of Quicken, last updated in 2006 with the release of Quicken Mac 2007.

The good news: Quicken maker Intuit plans to remedy the situation when it releases a new version of the personal finance app that will run natively on Intel-based Macs. The even-better news: The Intel-native version of Quicken will be a complete rewrite of a program that even its developer concedes was getting long in the tooth. The current program and its code base “wasn’t enough to sustain us,” said Ian Vacin, leader for Mac financial software at Intuit, on the Macworld Expo show floor last week.

So bid goodbye to Quicken, and say hello to Quicken Financial Life for Mac, which is slated for a fall 2008 release. Intuit was previewing the massively revamped Quicken at its Expo booth during last week’s trade show.

Unlike Microsoft’s newly released Office 2008, which bears more than a passing resemblance to its non-Intel-native predecessor, the next version of Quicken will look completely different. Intuit is looking to exploit technologies in Leopard—the personal finance app makes use of Quick Look, for example, to show off transactions at a glance. The result is a program that looks nothing like the multiple window mishmash of palettes and toolbars you’ll find in the current version.

Other highlights planned for Quicken Financial Life:

  • Semi-transparent pop-up dialogs that reveal more information about specific transactions;
  • the use of tags, allowing users to associate accounts with different people (The example Vacin showed me involved tagging auto expenses to see who was spending what on gas.);
  • Calendaring views that have been tailored to show when your money comes in and when it goes out in an easy-to-digest way; and
  • a tag cloud view that shows where your money is being spent by listing the names of each category—the bigger the category the more money you’re spending on it.

While it works to finish the desktop version of Quicken, Intuit has also come out with Quicken Online, a browser-based version of its personal finance tools. Intuit says that service is iPhone-compatible and it’s currently running a beta program for Quicken Mobile, which lets you track balances and recent transactions for multiple accounts from your phone. In addition, the company plans to update its QuickBooks accounting program this fall to leverage Leopard features (though that update won’t be a complete rewrite in the way that the next version of Quicken will be). Intuit has already updated its TurboTax tax-preparation program with Mac-specific features.

Intuit takes its share of knocks from Mac users (including yours truly) for not always putting its best foot forward on this platform. It’s clear from the company’s showing at Expo that it’s looking to change that perception, with products that leverage the Mac’s strengths. For the first time in a long time, there’s very good reason to get excited about what the next version of Quicken has to offer.

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