Microsoft Money Plus Premium 2008 is a strong personal finance application overall. The interface is well laid out and it's packed with features that are particularly useful for people already comfortable with online banking. However, Money does not offer a compelling reason to upgrade over its predecessor. Nor do we recommend switching from Intuit Quicken if that program already pleases you.
That said, users love to hate both Money and Quicken for a variety of reasons, and we can understand why. For instance, Microsoft has not improved Money's capability to juggle and eliminate duplicate accounts, and its many tie-ins to Web-based information can be an impediment for those hoping to use the program offline. Nevertheless, we found Money useful for displaying our bank and credit card information in one place, as well as for producing reports and charts that helped us understand how much we were spending and earning.
We tested the $49 Microsoft Money Plus Premium, which is geared for users who want to juggle accounts and bills as well as long-term planning tools. Money 2008 also comes in three other editions: the $19 Essentials to keep track of bills and investments, the $29 Plus Deluxe that includes tax support, and the $59 Plus Home & Business that adds help with business taxes, online payroll, and inventory tracking in addition to planning tools.Setup and interface
You'll need a Windows XP SP2 or Vista computer to run Money 2008, as well as Internet connectivity to use all the features. Microsoft recommends 1GB of RAM and 1GHz processor for Vista users. We like that Money comes on a CD for those who don't yet have a DVD drive.
Installation took about five minutes in our tests on both Windows XP and Vista PCs. You must enter the product key immediately, so don't throw away the box. Once open, the application looked no different on the surface than did its predecessor. Overall, we like Money's calm, collected look and feel--except for an ad for Experian that immediately popped up.
If you're using Microsoft Money for the first time, it will ask you to establish a Windows Live ID that will tuck your personal data behind Microsoft's servers. If you consent to this, you might be wise to establish a Windows Live ID separate from any others that you may use casually, such as for Hotmail e-mail.
Upgrading our old file from Money Home & Business 2007 took a couple of quick minutes. If you upgrade, you might want to keep the same edition you had in the past, or better, if you don't want to lose information. We had to consent to lose all our business data, such as Accounts Receivable.
Since we hadn't been budgeting in Money for many months, we had to reenter login details for our various bank accounts to update them. Luckily, when we installed Money later on a new laptop that didn't have our personal data file, Money retrieved our historical data from Microsoft's servers once we signed in with our Windows Live ID.