Like Intuit Quicken, Money will display in one place your account details from thousands of supporting banks, brokerages, and credit cards. Unfortunately, we wound up with duplicate accounts in Money more than a year ago and never had the patience to merge them. We were able to deactivate, but not delete, defunct accounts. The result was a cluttered main page with a jumble of identical-looking accounts.
Money 2008's most notable new offering is the Insights feature. Insights are quick snapshots of bills, cash flow, and spending that you can customize. They also let you set alerts that will trigger if, for instance, your clothing expenses surpass your budget. You can open Insights separately from Money from the Windows Programs menu. This frustrated us, however, because Money told us Insights was already open. It told us to click the Insights icon (what does that look like?) in the Windows notification area (where's that?) at the far right of the taskbar (what's a taskbar?). My mother would have asked for a refund at this point.
However, once you know that the Insights icon is simply the letter "M," you can pull it up easily. We found the feature more helpful than getting similar information from Money's many drop-down menus. Another new feature within Money 2008 is the capability to attach account transactions to images of your checks and receipts. A similar feature exists within Intuit Quicken.
As with older iterations of the software, you can use Money to track and pay bills to accounts that enable online payments, which can spare you from jumping around among the Web pages of several different creditors. We also like the depth of Money's customizable reports. From a monthly expense report, you can double-click any section of the automated pie chart to edit the expenses. Money and Quicken are supposed to learn to describe, say, any incoming Trader Joe's expenses as groceries once you've assigned them that way. In practice, however, we wound up with a huge lump of Uncategorized expenses that force us to label expenses from that store as groceries over and over again.
The copious tie-ins to MSN Money sometimes made us feel as if the application were an advertisement for Microsoft's financial Web sites. Then again, we didn't need to use those articles and tips for our personal finances (we're partial to Yahoo Finance), but others might find them useful. Microsoft is throwing in what it touts as $450 worth of additional services from third parties such as Experian, which we did not use.Service and support
Money 2008's inline, searchable Help topics appear only if you're online--one more thing that made us wish we could do more with Money without an Internet connection, especially when we were surfing with unsecured Wi-Fi access. That said, they were pretty helpful, as were videos and the user's guide. You can access help within a browser via the Money Support Center as well as user newsgroups.
Free support is available by toll-free telephone number, which used to cost $35 per incident. There's also free chat. But it's annoying that you have to locate the product identification number to access these resources. Microsoft should save us the hassle and just accept the Windows Live ID sign-in.