CeePrompt! Computer Connection 

Originally published Monday, April 6, 1998

Personal finance a quick fix

There's an old adage in the computer industry: "Never trust an upgrade over
No. 5." It's the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought, and while many applications have fallen prey to the UnNeeded UpGrade, Quicken is not one of them. This personal-finance package has only improved with age, and the latest incarnation, Quicken Deluxe 98, is the best that I've used so far.

As a devoted Quicken user since its birth back in the DOS era, I've seen many improvements and enhancements, but none was as dramatic as when Quicken converted to a Windows-based product. This was a leap from the text-based environment of DOS to the graphic user environment of Windows, but like all change, I eventually adapted ... albeit grudgingly.

The many upgrades that Quicken has undergone since have been a survival necessity to keep pace with the integration of the World Wide Web into financial software and certainly to stay abreast of its formidable competitor, Microsoft Money. Since upgrades occur so often, I think Intuit was wise to associate the current version with a year, rather than a number, such as Quicken 27.

The personal-finance software playing field has narrowed considerably over the past few years, and it seems that Money and Quicken are the only true contenders at this point. Many reviewers give high marks to Microsoft Money but still give the edge to the tried and true Quicken product. (You'll recall that Microsoft was actually negotiating to purchase Quicken until antitrust issues quashed the deal.)

Quicken Deluxe 98 is step by step and very intuitive right from the start.

Wizards abound to guide you through the set-up of all account types from banking to investments. With the Quicken CD-ROM in place, you'll receive audio help as well as video tutors to help along the way. The software is so friendly and perceptive that these multimedia helpers can actually become annoying at times. A simple mouse click turns them off.

The traditional Quicken register exists for every established account with easy to use pop-up menus that access the most commonly used functions. As with many other application upgrades, Quicken 98 is now heavily integrated with Internet functionality.

The online-banking features are markedly improved in this version with more than 50 banks now supporting the online-
banking and bill-paying components of Quicken. Quicken now requires that you have a direct Internet connection to pay your bills online, download transactions or transact other banking business. If you don't have an account with a provider, Quicken will set one up with Concentric Network for a small fee.

For me, online banking has been one of the greatest inventions of the '90s. Through its banking partner, Bank of Stockton, Quicken downloads my transactions daily directly into the register, sends scheduled automatic payments and pays bills without any paperwork, during the day or night. It's a must for busy people who don't have time to balance their checkbook or pause to pay bills.

Investment accounts are finally easy to set up and track in this version.

Investments have been clumsy to configure and update in past versions, but once again the Wizard in Quicken 98 guides you painlessly through the process. The Portfolio view makes much better sense now of all your securities from one screen, and setting up linked cash balances is no longer so cumbersome.

With Internet connectivity, you can update all your investment accounts directly from within the Quicken software. By selecting "Update Quicken" you'll get the latest prices for your portfolio holdings, current information about the stock-market performance and any headlines that pertain to your securities. Just make sure you set up your securities with the correct ticker symbol, and Quicken does the rest.

Additional features include budgeting tools and financial- planning features such as the Mutual Fund Finder that locates funds for you based on the criteria that you select. Quicken continues to be fully integrated with its tax partner, TurboTax, and also helps you in your search for tax-deductible items using the Deduction Finder.

I'm not sure how much more functionality Intuit can build into future versions of Quicken. Deluxe 98 is already pretty perfect!


Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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