First Look: Quicken's First-Rate Upgrade

Kudos to Intuit for not standing in place with its popular, if sometimes maddening, personal finance software. This year's versions of Quicken, announced today, take advantage of the latest in electronic record-keeping in some clever and useful ways.

Unlike Microsoft's recently released 2006 editions of Money--a minor upgrade from the 2005 product--Quicken 2006 provides some compelling reasons to upgrade from older versions, or even to start using personal finance software, especially if you already patronize Web-savvy banks and other financial institutions.

My favorite of the new features in the shipping copy of the $80 Quicken Premier 2006 I tested: The ability, with a couple of mouse clicks, to attach electronic documents--images or PDFs of checks, monthly statements, or paycheck stubs, for example--to Quicken accounts or register entries. If you are ever audited, your records are easily accessible--a huge improvement over the previous routine (for my bank, at least) of having to figure out which documents you need and then paying your financial institution to photocopy and mail them. As an added bonus, the software allows you to encrypt these documents so they cannot be viewed from outside Quicken, providing a level of privacy you'd otherwise need special software to match.

Note that the ability to attach documents is not included in the $30 Quicken Basic, but it does come in the $60 Quicken Deluxe and the $90 Quicken Home and Business editions. Also remember that Intuit typically offers mail-in rebates on its products (we provide only prices you'll pay in most stores).

New and Improved

Another new feature integrates some of Quicken's impressive report-creation abilities into account registers. New buttons in the payee and category fields of transaction entries bring up mini-reports showing all transactions involving that payee or category within a customizable time frame (from the last 30 days to the last three years).

Speaking of reports, Quicken's renovated Reports Center makes it easier to create and access the reports you want. You now can choose customization options before the software generates reports (previously you got a report based on default options that you then could change). You can save favorite report queries in folders so you don't have to set the options anew whenever you use the software, and you can add queries to the Quicken toolbar so you don't have to go to the Reports Center to run them. You can export reports in PDF format for easy viewing by accountants or others. And you can edit register entries from within reports--a big time-saver if you want to change multiple entries.

I'm still somewhat irritated by Intuit's abandonment of the .qif format, which continues to be a problem for people whose financial institutions either charge for or aren't willing to support the .ofx format Quicken requires for data downloads. But I have to hand it to the company: The 2006 versions of Quicken are among the best Intuit has delivered in years, even if you're not being forced to upgrade by Intuit's sunset policies for support of data downloads (last I heard, you could only get automated bank downloads if your edition was three years old or newer).

Intuit Quicken 2006 Premier


Smart new features make this year's editions of the market-leading personal finance manager a worthy upgrade.
$80
www.intuit.com

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