Quicken is the granddaddy of personal finance software, and the new Deluxe 2001 edition is starting to show signs of age: its interface and long-range planning tools are particularly ragged (although better than last year's). Unless you're completely satisfied with an earlier edition of Quicken or you need its hefty investment-tracking tools, you'll be better off switching this year to the easier Microsoft Money.
You're on Your Own
Quicken doesn't offer much help with setup; it asks you a few simple questions, such as marital status, to create a single account, then boots right into the program--fine for finance vets but not for neophytes who need step-by-step instructions. The Quicken home page, however, does offer advice and links to instructions for the most common next steps, such as creating a credit card account or setting up a paycheck so you can view your tax deductions.
Overall, Quicken's interface is easier to operate than previous versions. The once-cluttered main pages of the program--particularly its banking, investing, and tax centers--look cleaner. A Money-like activity bar at the left, for instance, helps navigate to important chores, such as reconciling an account. Intuit has added global Back and Forward arrows so that you can step through the Quicken Web page and Quicken's program screens as you do in a browser with the same set of buttons. What's more, Quicken doesn't bombard you with as many ads as Money.
Still a Workhorse
Quicken handles the grunt work of daily finance management as well as ever (and as well as Money; there's really no difference between the two on the basics). Quicken now scans your account registers for repeating bill patterns and points out bills that you should schedule regularly. When we tried this tool, it spotted a score or more bills that Quicken could pay automatically. Nice.