Over the weekend the New York Times business section published a slightly damp kiss for Intuit, the maker of Quicken. I wouldn’t have paid the piece much mind except for two things, one trivial and the other less so.
The photo for the piece showed Intuit execs who were, according to the caption, “working out problems in software.” But if you looked at the picture you actually saw two guys moving Post-it notes around a whiteboard. In previous posts I’ve noted the unexpected value that software developers have found in this low-tech information-management and project-planning tool; I even found my own use for them in outlining my book. More evidence: Stickies rule!
More importantly, I have to say that this paean to Quicken left out one huge problem with the product. I’ve used Quicken for something like 12 years now to manage my finances, carrying my data from an early Quicken for Windows over to Quicken for Mac (in the mid 90s) and then back the Windows in the late 90s. I’ve found that the Windows version has steadily, if slowly, improved since I finally settled on it. I tend to upgrade about once every four years. When I recently upgraded from the 2002 edition to the 2005 version I was thrilled to discover that the helpful but slow-moving wizards at Intuit had finally, after all these years, made it possible for you to merge transaction categories without requiring you to go back and manually reassign each transaction (something no sane person with years of records would ever undertake, making merges effectively impossible). Progress!
My Mac-based wife wants to get her Quicken into better shape and reorganize some of those barnacled categories, so we upgraded her version from 2003 to 2006. Intuit charges twice as much for the Mac version — and, for your extra dough, throws in only half the features. Now there’s a business model. Among other things, the category-merging feature that Windows users enjoy, and that was the whole point of our upgrade, is not available on the Mac. (Macintouch offers a host of other gripes from Mac hands.)
The whole experience has left me disgruntled and eager to explore the variety of Quicken alternatives on the Mac platform. And the Times piece, by praising the company’s revitalization of the Quicken product line without noting how poorly it treats its Mac customers, did a small disservice to this small but passionate and legendarily vocal population of users.
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