Thursday, January 9, 2014

Quicken Deluxe 2014 : Review

KATHY YAKAL for PC Magazine writes: 

  • PROS
    Comprehensive management of personal finances. Connects to numerous types of online accounts. Detailed transaction management. Good level of customizability. Online bill-pay. Easy navigation. Mobile versions can snap receipt photos and attach them.
  • CONSToo much for many users. Can't access everything remotely.
  • BOTTOM LINE
    Quicken Deluxe 2014 is a financial micromanager's dream. It faces the same remote access problems that all desktop software does, but its ease of use, comprehensive account access and flexible, detailed managing of transactions can't be found elsewhere.












Desktop-based Quicken remains the 800-pound gorilla of personal finance managers. Competitors like Microsoft Money have come and gone in the 20-plus years that the software has existed, but Quicken stands alone when it comes to tracking your financial accounts using a product that exists on your hard drive.

Personal finance tasks, though, continue to move onto mobile devices, and gorillas aren't very portable. Quicken is just too big to exist in its entirety on an iPhone. Intuit has added some mobile capability to the mix in its 2014 versions: You can now snap a photo of a restaurant receipt with your smartphone, for example, and attach it to a transaction in the mobile version of Quicken, which can then by synchronized via the cloud to your desktop version.


Quicken's overall feature development, though, has changed little over the last several years. It matured rapidly throughout the first decade of its life, and remains an impressive, comprehensive personal finance solution—if you like to micromanage your money. There isa Starter Edition that costs $29.99 that does basic chores like import and manage your bank accounts, create budgets and send bill-pay reminders, but Intuit's online product, Mint, does that and more for free (and in the cloud).
So it only makes sense to start with Quicken if you're going to use its advanced capabilities like debt reduction, planning and investments, or if you need highly detailed, flexible transaction management. If you're already using desktop Quicken, there's no compelling reason to upgrade to the 2014 version unless you absolutely must have the ability to take pictures of receipts with your smartphone.
An Impressive Palette of Tools
It would be easier to talk about what Quicken Deluxe 2014 doesn't do than what it does. For many years, it's helped manage every element of personal finance that can be done by an amateur. To do anything more, you'd have to visit an accountant.
Quicken Deluxe 2014
Quicken Deluxe 2014, which I review here, lacks a few features found in the top-of-the-line edition, Quicken Premier, which is designed for users who need sophisticated investment performance-tracking tools and help understanding the tax implications of their portfolios. You can still set up and track your securities in Quicken Deluxe, and the software will display your current portfolio value. It also compares your performance to that of the market and tracks cost basis and capital gains.
You can set up several types of accounts in Quicken Deluxe:
  • Spending and saving. Checking, savings, credit cards and cash
  • Property and assets. Home, vehicle and miscellaneous assets
  • Loans and debt. Loans, home equity loans (HELOC) and miscellaneous liabilities
  • Investing and retirement. Brokerage, 401(k) or 403(b), IRA or Keogh and 529 plans
Since you can import, download or manually enter transactions from your accounts, Quicken uses that information to analyze your spending (by category) and calculate your net worth. If you sign up for online banking, you can pay bills electronically and get reminders of their due dates. Based on those obligations, Quicken projects your future balances.
Planning, tax tools and reports round out Quicken's stable of tools. You can define goals and use specialized calculators to gauge your ability to meet them. Quicken also helps you plan for personal income tax preparation by offering a tax estimator and help finding deductions and estimating capital gains. And it provides access to additional online tax resources. Reports and graphs include Spending by Category, Current Spending vs. Average Spending by Payee and Current Budget. 
Getting Around
Despite its depth, Quicken is easy to navigate, thanks to a user interface that has been cleaned up and streamlined throughout the years. Its default home page displays two simple, critical charts that tell you at a glance where your money has come from in the last 30 days and where it's been spent.
This content is customizable, though. You can select from a variety of mini-reports and graphs—things like Alerts, Calendar, Expenses and Income Year-to-Date—by clicking the Customize button. Each has its own set of options that can personalize your display. The data here is interactive: You can click on an entry to drill down into deeper detail. Quicken lets you create multiple Views containing different groups of content.
The left vertical pane lists all of your active accounts, along with your current net worth. The top toolbar has only three tabs in addition to the Home page: Spending, Bills and Planning. Links in the upper right provide access to information about your synchronization with mobile devices (you can send data to the Quicken Cloud, to be picked up remotely) and any active alerts (email and texts can alert you to events like Unusual Spending, Low Balance and Over Budget). You can initiate a synchronization right from this screen and select a budget to display on your smartphone or tablet.
Intuit has done a masterful job of tucking away access to the tools you'll need at the time you're likely to need them. So Quicken's look is deceiving at first glance. You don't know how much it can actually do until you start poking around. There's no real menu or program-wide navigational system that you have to keep revisiting (though there are some abbreviated menus that you may occasionally visit). Once you take off on a particular chore, you'll usually find its related activities within easy reach.
Exceptional Detail
The Spending tab give you access to the tools you'll need to manage and track your income and expenses (though you can set up a Home page view that gets you there, too). There's really very little visible here, just a view of either incoming or outgoing money that can be customized by date range and account.
But you can do tremendously detailed work on individual transactions. Highlight one in the list, and you can manage it in a number of ways. For example, you can change or add one or more categories to it, split it, enter notes and attach flags, void or memorize it, attach a file from your computer or one you've captured with your smartphone, etc. This excruciating level of detail sets Quicken apart from everyone else.
Quicken Deluxe 2014
You'll only need to click on the Bills tab if you want to be reminded to pay specific bills or you plan to use Quicken Bill Pay to dispatch payments electronically, either through the Quicken software itself or the QuickenBillPay.com website. Intuit has offered this service since the mid-90s, so the process is easy to use and as secure as a bank website.
Quicken used to be the go-to program for anyone who wanted to manage their personal finances on a computer. As more people have gone mobile and begun to prefer cloud-based solutions, though, it's been eclipsed by applications like Intuit's own Mint.com. It still provides detailed, flexible answers to your money in/money out questions, and it interacts with online tools where it can. Its Apple and Android versions give you remote access to the data you'll most likely need when you're standing in line waiting to buy something.
But its core remains on your hard drive. If you micromanage your personal finances, it might well be worth the location limitations to have access to that detailed level of financial minutia. For basic account management, categorization of transactions, budgeting and real-time, insightful reports, though, Mint.com is a better solution, and our Editors' Choice for personal finance software.



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