We like Money 2007's well-laid-out and customizable interface, which by default displays a list of accounts and a spending pie chart on the Home page. Intuitive shortcuts include the ability to double-click a pie slice to bring up a register of expenses for editing. The browser-like layout includes back and forward navigation arrows and various straightforward drop-down menus. You can quickly access specific resources for banking, scheduling bills, creating reports, investing, planning, and taxes.
Money 2007 is so similar to the 2006 edition that we had to dig before finding new features. That's good if you already like the interface, but Quicken 2007's radical new home page layout simplifies the view of your financial status. The biggest touted change to Money is its Savings & Spending Budget (not available in Essentials), which helps you figure out how much money you can spend or put aside each month. Its wizard walks you through adjusting spending in various categories, such as Automobile and Dining Out. Version 2007 also adds a spending tracker for budget groups, improved bill paying, and a balance adjustment tool.
Money has improved its tool to help you estimate tax deductions, but you'll have to consider separate software to file your taxes. You can export your data from Money to TaxCut and Intuit TurboTax, but we find that Intuit Quicken 2007 offers more seamless integration with its maker's various financial applications. Unfortunately for young users, neither Money nor Quicken offer explicit help for managing student loans.
You can also use Money to track expenses with visual spending "thermometers," as well as pay bills, plan for retirement, plot to overcome debt, and access MSN Money News. Money 2007's various Web-linked resources for news and tax tips can be helpful, but you can find most of that information free online anyway, and we wish they didn't include graphical ads.
Microsoft offers help for Money 2007 in the form of well-done videos and an excellent, built-in searchable user guide and FAQs. You can also consult the online knowledge base and user discussion groups or subscribe to an RSS feed for support updates. E-mail chat is free from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. PT on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m on weekends. Toll-free telephone assistance is also free during those hours.
If you're already a fan of Microsoft Money and the 2006 edition serves you well, you can probably meet your money-management needs without upgrading to Money 2007. However, you may have to upgrade if you own an older version of Money and need to connect with banks online, because Microsoft cuts off that access after two years. For new users to financial software, however, we prefer the extra features and the dead-simple home page offered by Quicken 2007.