Last year, Intuit shook up Quicken Deluxe for the Mac with an interface overhaul and big changes under the hood that made the program compatible with new online-banking standards, if slightly buggy (
, December 1999). This year’s version, Quicken Deluxe 2001, makes it easier to pay bills, bank online, and plan for the future. Between improvements to the program and closer integration with Quicken.com, this upgrade is worthwhile for most users, especially those who don’t own last year’s model.
Bill Payment Breakthrough
The best features in the new version are improved handling of bills and proactive bill reminders. These begin when you upgrade to Quicken Deluxe 2001: in the process of converting your data file, the program flags repeated payments (or deposits) as bill candidates, suggesting that you turn them into scheduled transactions. These transactions don’t have to be for the same amount every month — they just have to be regular.
Once you’ve turned bill candidates into scheduled transactions,
you can work with them in the new Upcoming Bills And Scheduled Transactions window, choosing to either pay a bill or skip a payment (see “Bills on the Horizon”). Quicken tells you when a bill is overdue, and it’s very useful (though more than a little depressing) to see a list of all the bills you’ll need to pay over the next month.
This expanded awareness of bills extends to Quicken’s Billminder feature, which notifies you of impending bills when you start your Mac or launch Quicken.
Another noteworthy feature is global find and replace, which lets you search all (or a subset) of your accounts at once; previously, you had to search each account separately to find a particular transaction. The ability to replace results across all accounts makes it easier to fix errors and inconsistencies, such as a payee name that was entered in different ways over time.
Snuggling Close to the Web
Intuit continues to integrate the desktop program with its extensive financial Web site,
Quicken.com. You can now upload and store all your account balances in a secure, password-protected area on Quicken.com, and you can export your investment portfolio to the site, to
take better advantage of its news and securities-analysis features.
While it’s great being able to access your financial picture from anywhere that you have Web access, some people will be understandably uncomfortable with the privacy implications. Keeping your most intimate financial information on someone else’s servers is a leap of faith that some are not yet ready to make.
Bills on the Horizon
Quicken Deluxe 2001 scans your finances for regular payments and lets you turn them into scheduled transactions in a snap.
But I applaud the way Intuit has pushed its financial planning and analysis tools onto Quicken.com, where they can be more readily updated and they can draw on the latest financial news. For example, the Home Affordability Planner uses the daily national average of mortgage interest rates to give you an idea of what kind of home you can afford.
Another useful feature that takes advantage of Quicken’s improved Internet integration is automatic notification about software updates. Whenever you go online with Quicken, it checks to see if a new version is available — a click launches your Web browser and brings you to the update’s download page. Other improvements include a longer list of financial institutions offering online banking and bill payment; better investment-research capabilities; and a feature that gently nags you about upcoming tax payments and suggests possible deductions.
These additions are useful and welcome, but Quicken for the Mac remains Intuit’s neglected child, never receiving the development time and attention lavished on Quicken for Windows. There’s still no Macintosh Home & Business version, depriving Mac-based entrepreneurs of this easy-to-use payables, receivables, and invoicing solution. And Quicken Insights, a window that gives you an overview of your financial situation, still pales next to its Windows