One of the best features in Quicken 2006 is the one-click minireport, a convenient way to pinpoint categories where you may be overspending. For instance, when you click a payee (for example, Rob's Diner) or a category name (Dining) in the check register, the minireport button appears to the right of the name. Click the button, and a drop-down list shows all recent transactions for that payee or category. Quicken's legendary attention to detail shines here: You can change the minireport's time frame to show, say, the last 90 days of Dining (rather than the default setting of 30 days) by clicking the down arrow inside the report box. While Quicken 2005 showed spending-by-category information, too, you had to jump through more hoops to find it.
Quicken 2006 borrows from QuickBooks and other business accounting programs by letting you save reports, such as Adobe Acrobat PDF files--handy for sending financial statements to your accountant via e-mail.
Quicken 2006 (except the Basic version) also lets you attach electronic images and statements, such as canceled checks, invoices, and business receipts, to your transactions and accounts. This is handy if your bank posts "images" (that is, JPEG files) of your checks online but doesn't send you canceled paper checks. While we like this feature, we think it needs work. Currently, it's a two-step process: First, you download a check image from the bank, save it on the hard drive, then import it to Quicken. An easier approach would be to download the image directly into Quicken, the same way you do with your financial data. Perhaps that'll be in next year's version.
We received a ton of reader e-mail with regard to Quicken 2005's inability to use QIF for online banking in favor of the new OFX-file format. In particular, some financial institutions started charging customers to use online banking downloads. Intuit says that while it does charge the financial institution for the use of the proprietary file format, Intuit has no control over what the bank charges its customers. An Intuit representative mentioned that most financial institutions do not charge, and if yours does, simply ask the institution to waive the file download fees.
Intuit has beefed up Quicken's tech support over last year's offering. The online chat hours now run from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT on weekends. That's a huge increase to 104 chat hours per week, way up from 56. We contacted chat support at 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon and reached a tech staffer immediately. However, since Quicken 2006 wasn't officially released (it was a week before launch), the tech wasn't able to answer our questions.
Another plus is that data recovery is now free for Quicken customers. (Intuit used to charge $199 to repair a damaged file.) The company also launched customer forums and blogs for people seeking user-to-user support. The bad news: Phone support costs $24.95 per call, which seems high to us, with hours from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT weekdays.