Intuit has finally given its personal finance program a makeover. Quicken 2003 Deluxe's $60 (before a $20 rebate for upgrades) updated interface is easier to navigate and delivers even more information without cluttering your screen. In fact, Quicken's interface looks significantly cleaner than Money 2003's. All said, both apps do a stellar job of tracking your finances, but Money's superior service and support make it our Editors' Choice. Current Quicken users should seriously consider upgrading to 2003 if only for the new interface, and sophisticated investors should head for Quicken's Premier edition. Intuit has finally given its personal finance program a makeover. Quicken 2003 Deluxe's $60 (before a $20 rebate for upgrades) updated interface is easier to navigate and delivers even more information without cluttering your screen. In fact, Quicken's interface looks significantly cleaner than Money 2003's. All said, both apps do a stellar job of tracking your finances, but Money's superior service and support make it our Editors' Choice. Current Quicken users should seriously consider upgrading to 2003 if only for the new interface, and sophisticated investors should head for Quicken's Premier edition.
New look gets our vote
Last year, we mentioned that Quicken needed a major overhaul, and we got what we wanted. Quicken 2003's interface finally looks streamlined and up-to-date. Gone are the ancient Quicktabs. Instead, Quicken's Account Bar pane shows on-the-fly totals of your cash and investment assets, as well as your loan (a mortgage, for instance) and debt liabilities, along with a running total of your current net worth--a nifty, if potentially depressing, detail.
As before, you can also access any of your account registers for, say, your checking account, by clicking the account's name in the Account Bar. New tabs in each register account offer quick analytical views, such as a bar chart for income vs. expenses. Longtime users may find this new interface disconcerting at first and may have trouble finding things on occasion. Stick with it, though; in the end, you'll appreciate this cleaner, sleeker Quicken.
Some things never change
The core of Quicken 2003 Deluxe, its new look notwithstanding, remains essentially unchanged. Bill payment is as simple as ever, you can balance accounts in seconds, and Quicken's built-in collaboration with Intuit's TurboTax permits faster tax preparation. You can also use Quicken to easily build and track a budget, schedule payments in advance, or analyze your financial situation with Quicken's 24 reports. For day-to-day money management, Quicken 2003 matches Money. And if you use a Mac, it's even better: Quicken, unlike Money, comes in a Mac version.
But other things do change
Quicken's few enhancements are worthwhile. Online setup now integrates with every account register for easier access to your data, and you can schedule automatic downloads to gather current financial information, from stock prices to online bank statements. Unfortunately, unlike Money, Quicken still won't automatically upload data in the background whenever you're online, so you must either schedule updates or do them manually.
We're also disappointed that Quicken hasn't beefed up its planning features, an area in which it has historically trailed Money. Unlike Money, Quicken doesn't blend its retirement, college savings, and other financial-goal planners into an integrated whole-life planner. Intuit needs to put some work into this area.
And believe it or not, Quicken's Web integration has actually taken a step backward. For example, version 2003 connects to Quicken.com and that site's various online services via the Quicken Browser (Money has nothing similar), an Internet Explorer window that opens atop the main Quicken window and unnecessarily clutters up the screen. We wish Intuit would return to the simpler in situ browser of years past.
Investors, put a buy order on Premier
On the other hand, we're rather bullish on these new investment features. Like Money 2003, Quicken 2003 Deluxe introduces handy tools for investors. The software now integrates with Quicken Brokerage, an online broker (Muriel Siebert & Company) so that you can initiate trades from within Quicken itself and receive alerts and analysis from Siebert.
In fact, dedicated investors should purchase Quicken's more expensive ($80, before the $20 rebate) 2003 Premier version. Premier's excellent new investment tools include Intelligent Alerts, which can let you know, for instance, when a stock is beating the analysts' estimates. And the new Buy/Sell Preview shows the potential return of a sale or purchase before you make the deal.
No weekend or evening support
Quicken offers first-rate support in some areas and subpar technical help in others. The thorough online support site lets you search extensive FAQs and an online database. The phone support, however, stinks. You must pay $1.95 per minute for help on anything other than installation or data conversion. Worse, the phone desk is open only 12 hours per day (5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT)--not in the evenings and never on weekends. These hours make no sense for a program that you're likely to use at home. In this case, Microsoft does it better.
It's a draw
Despite its paucity of enhancements, Quicken 2003 Deluxe's new look is enough for us to recommend the upgrade. Investors who are serious about their portfolios, even those using Money, should steer for Quicken Premier. If you're happy with Money, not big on investing, and need excellent tech support, stick with what you have.