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Same old interface
Like Money, Quicken 2002 appears to breeze you through setup (an improvement over last year's molasses-slow process). But the supposed speed tweaks mask the setup process's unnecessary complexity. For example, although Quicken's opening dialog asks you if you're married, have children, own a home, or run a business, unlike Money, Quicken uses your data only to customize some transaction categories, such as account names. The program should use the data to personalize the entire program and help you set priorities so that you don't have to enter the same data later on. What's more, once its setup process is over, Quicken drops you straight into financial record keeping without any offering any wizards or instructions to guide money manager newbies.
Quicken's interface, like Money's, is virtually unchanged from last year's. From Quicken's main menu, you can access several primary pages--Quicken calls them Centers--to handle tasks such as banking and investing. Better still, Quicken lets you customize the My Finances front page and create new supporting pages. You can add or subtract modules (banking or investing, for example) until the program presents you with those areas that most interest you. Unfortunately, Quicken failed to change one of our least favorite interface traits: there's still no way to modify any of the lead-in screens to Quicken's Centers. For shame.
Like last year's Quicken, the 2002 edition upgrade list is surprisingly short. Most of the enhancements are in the planning, investing, and tax sections of the program and don't really affect the program's primary chores: paying bills and balancing the books.
But lack of change isn't always a bad thing. U.S. taxpayers will be glad to know that Quicken still integrates seamlessly with Intuit's TurboTax tax prep package, which means you can move a year's financial data from Quicken straight into TurboTax. Longtime TurboTax users will want to stick with Quicken for this reason alone. Mac owners have another good reason: right now, Quicken is the only financial game in town.
We're impressed by Quicken's completely overhauled budgeting module. The weird spreadsheet-style metaphor is gone--thank goodness. Now, a series of tabbed screens--Setup, Income, Expenses, and so on--walks you through budget building. As a result, it's much easier to create a budget in 2002 than in earlier versions. That's good news in times like these, when many of us are trying to trim expenses.