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Summary:

I spent the last week or so playing with a copy of the new Quicken Essentials for Mac from Intuit and I can make this review really short for you. If you’re a die-hard Quicken user, you will hate (I mean really loathe and despise) the […]

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I spent the last week or so playing with a copy of the new Quicken Essentials for Mac from Intuit and I can make this review really short for you. If you’re a die-hard Quicken user, you will hate (I mean really loathe and despise) the new Quicken Essentials product. If you are new to Personal Finance Management (PFM) software, then you will probably really like Quicken Essentials but still feel a little confused about why you have to pay $60 $69 for it.

Quicken Pops a Mint

Quicken 2007 for Mac was released in August of 2006. Since that time, Intuit has struggled to define its Mac strategy and loyal users have felt left behind. Intuit tried an online product that worked with the Mac, but were bewildered when a little startup, created as an anti-Quicken, amassed more subscribers. Last September, Intuit took another look at that startup and acquired Mint.com and placed Mint’s founder, Aaron Patzer at the head of the personal finance group at Intuit. That move appeared to show that Intuit was floundering and was looking for outside help to fix its core PFM business. Understandably, the new Quicken Essentials shows a strong Mint influence.

The Essence of Quicken

To start on the new version, Intuit threw away the code for previous releases and started over to create a Mac native version with a modern look and feel. One of the design goals was to create a financial app that would feel at home as part of the iWork suite and it mostly succeeded. The new version looks great and shows a lot of attention to simplifying the user experience in areas like adding new accounts. People that are new to Quicken will love how easy it is to get started.

The new version had four key features: to see all your accounts one place, to see where your money is going, to stay on top of bills, and to track goals for saving money.

Accounts in One Place

Quicken Essentials will download transactions from about 12,000 banks out of the box (around the same number that Mint.com currently supports) and up to 16,000 financial institutions will be supported in the next few months. This is over 3x the number of FI’s that Quicken for Windows supports. This is a tremendous improvement.

Where is My Money Going?

Quicken Essentials provides a nice looking home page with pie charts to quickly show where you stand. Instead of being buried in reports, this information comes front and center. QEM also supports budgets for tracking spending by category.

Plan for Bills

Quicken Essentials will analyze your previous spending and detect recurring bills to help you anticipate upcoming expenses. Of course, you can enter bills manually as well.

Set Goals for Saving Money

You can set goals and track your progress towards that goal.

The reboot of Quicken for Mac comes at a price in features however. While Intuit was fairly certain that they would cover 80 percent of the users from previous versions, there are going to be a lot of pretty upset users from the other 20 percent.

What’s Missing?

No Bill Pay

There is no Bill Pay feature in this release. Intuit found that less than 10 percent of existing customers were using that feature. Because major banks offer free online bill pay to their customers, this feature was axed as “non-essential.”

No Turbo Tax Link

There is no quick link to export tax prep reports direct to Turbo Tax. Many users would simply run the reports to look at spending by category and then type those numbers in Turbo Tax so, again, Intuit decided that this feature was also “non-essential.”

No Investment Tax Lot Accounting

QEM will track the current value of your investment accounts, but it does not provide any reports on the history of your transactions. Fortunately, all the transaction data is preserved in the underlying data and will be available to future versions that offer more comprehensive investment reporting.

The Future

Banking Services

QEM is one of the first places where you will see the integration between Intuit and Mint. All of the back-end will eventually be the same across Mint, Quicken for Windows and Quicken for Mac. Quicken for Mac will be the first product to get the big connection and then the rest will be ported over.

Parity with Windows

The whispered goal at Intuit is to bring parity to the Mac and Windows versions. This includes file format compatibility between different platforms. There is a clear acknowledgment that customers just want to get access to their financial information on whatever platform is available or convenient and Intuit is interested in being there.

Whither Quicken 2007 for Mac?

Quicken 2007 is still being fully supported. Intuit made it clear that it will provide support for a three-version window to include 2006, 2007 and Quicken Essentials.

iPad

No official statement here, but Intuit did discuss that the iPad is an “at your fingertips” device and financial data is a nice thing to have “at your fingertips.”

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I mentioned at the start that Quicken Essentials for Mac is similar in many ways to Mint. The product is streamlined, simple, visually appealing, and easy to jump into. They are so similar, that it is hard to understand why you should pay $59 for Quicken Essentials when you can use Mint.com for free. That decision comes down to…

  • planning future transactions to manage cash flow
  • importing historical data
  • offline access

If you need any of those features, Quicken Essentials would be a good choice except for the price. For such a limited product (albeit a much cleaner and better designed product) I really think Intuit should have come out with $29 introductory pricing, $19 if you own any other Quicken product.

If you are a hard-core Quicken user and you like to reconcile your bank statements with your own records and you religiously enter all your receipts, you will be disappointed in this product. You might really like the next version that includes tax lot accounting and bill pay, but then hold on to your $60 $69 for a year (yes, I am an optimist and will hope against hope to see another version in a year). For the time being, hold on to Quicken 2007, or even Quicken 2010 for Windows, and see what happens.

  1. I can’t understand why anybody would even use mint.com — it doesn’t even let you enter transactions into your checkbook or your credit card register. It’s a “view-only”, “read-only” service that only lets you LOOK at your current balances & transactions for your accounts. You can’t even enter in a single transaction into mint.com! A truly UN-useful service for people who actually really care about their finances. Unless you’re entering your own transactions and then comparing them to your bank statements at the end of the month, then you have no idea which transactions are correct or incorrect. Mint.com is ridiculous, and so is this new Quicken product.

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    1. I concur. I tried mint.com just to see what the hype was about, and felt it was lacking some basic functionality. I prefer to use Money Well. It takes a bit to get used to, but once you set it up, it works like a charm.

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    2. Stefan Foerster Thursday, February 25, 2010

      I really like mint.com (though it does have trouble connecting to my bank sometimes) but it does need the ability to manually enter and reconcile transactions as well… Without that, besides not having a true picture of your actual available funds (due to outstanding checks and the like), you are really forced to trust that what the banks have cleared is all correct. I’ve caught a few mistakes over the years, and though none have been all that big, it’s definitely enough to know I need to keep my own record as well…

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    3. Is the description correct when it states that there is no support for bill payment? I interpret this to mean that once can’t direct one’s bank to send out a check to say, Sears, or Visa? If that feature is not there, I am left to wonder what the purpose of Quicken Essentials is. I am still running a Windows XP virtual environment on my Mac for the sole purpose of running Quicken windows for bill pay and bank register management. Is there no company with a similar product for OSX? Am I destined to work with Windows forever? Cannot MSFT make such a product. UGH!

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    4. I think the best way to address this issue is that there are different money management personalities out there. You would probably associate with “trackers” or “reconcilers” that like to double-check every statement. The Millennium generation is more likely to have only ever known online banking and the instant transactions with debit cards. Writing checks is almost completely foreign except for a few big items like the rent. Those folks are used to just checking online, like having one place to check instead of several, and have never reconciled a checkbook in their life.

      Quicken Essentials is designed to meet the needs of that casual group today and Intuit hopes to grow it to meet your needs and the needs of trackers over the next year or two.

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    5. Pete – there is no bill pay support in Quicken Essentials. In previous versions, Intuit offered their own bill pay service with which you could schedule payments from within Quicken. Only 6% of Quicken customers use this service, so it was pulled from the first release of Quicken Essentials.

      As an alternative, many banks offer free online bill pay. For example, I bank with Chase and I pay several of my bills by scheduling them through Chase.com. I pick up the payments in my electronic register when I reconcile in Quicken Essentials.

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    6. I prefer to write down all my transactions manually, and then check at the end of a month with my banks statements. It does not only help me to track bank transactions, but also any cash payments and anything else. I think that’s the best and most efficient way to care about personal finances. Having a list of transactions from Mint that I cannot edit.. helps, but absolutely not enough

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    7. Downloaded the product last night after purchasing some time ago. Very, very disappointed. The lack of a financial management tool is astounding. May keep it to see if Intuit improves it since I already paid for it. I’m very surprised that a company as successful as Intuit would market such “wimpy” product

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    8. Just to be clear, there are two types of “bill pay” that other Quicken products have offered. The first, mentioned above by Weldon, was a for-pay service called Quicken Bill Pay (or something like that), where you paid Intuit a fee, and they would pay your bills for you. I can see why few people used that. The second was where the user could direct-connect to his bank from within Quicken and pay bills using the bank’s payment service. This was free, and took the place of going to the bank’s website. The benefit of this was that it did everything in one step (you didn’t have to input the payment on the bank website and then separately record that payment in Quicken).

      The latter, free bill pay is (to me) quite essential. It sounds like that was omitted in QEM, which is a dealbreaker for me. I switched some time ago to another product that offers online bill pay, investment account tracking, full reporting, etc. I doubt Intuit will win me back at this point.

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    9. The last comment is correct. Quicken Essentials Mac does not alloow the user to connect with their bank and upload payment instructions to the bank. In my view, this is the major purpose of the product. I purchased, tested, and returned to Intuit because it lacked this feature.

      INTUIT – Mac users need a version of Quicken identical to WINDOWS QUICKEN DELUXE 2010… we need MAC QUICKEN DELUXE 2010.

      Please help us!

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  2. Honestly, as a tax & accounting professional that refuses to work on anything but a Mac (if I can help it), I’ve always been disappointed with whatever Intuit releases for the OS X. So much so that I’ve just stopped trying. I use Intuit products because my clients use and love Quickbooks, but would much rather use the Windows version (through Parallels) than the OS X version. The version for OS X always seems watered down.

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    1. I love me some Quicken. I use the Windows version on my Mac VMWare Fusion. There are too many elements of Quicken that I must have (bill pay, investment entry & download, etc.) that the Mac version can’t support. And I really got a kick in the pants when just today (1/13/2011) I receive a message from Intuit that I must upgrade to Quicken 2011 or lose the functions that I so depend upon. So, I have to pay the expense of VMFusion AND Quicken for Windows. Their message says they my current version has reached its 3 year limit for these special services. Come on Intuit. Get it together and get us a Mac version that competes with the Windows version.

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  3. When I go to Quicken’s website, the price is $69.95 not $60 or $59. Do some folks get a discount?

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    1. You could pre-order it up until today, with a $10 discount.

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    2. Stefan Foerster Thursday, February 25, 2010

      It was $59.xx until release. Now that it’s actually out, available, and getting reviews, I guess they figured they’d be able to bump it up another $10. Sounds like smart business, eh? :-/ I actually have some hope for the future of Quicken on the Mac with Mr. Patzer at the helm, but the price definitely seems high — even at the previous $59 — for what you get, compared to the competition.

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    3. Mark – sorry for the confusion. In my briefing with Intuit they gave me the price as $60 and did not mention that it would be going up to $69. I apologize for the omission in my article and will see about updating the text to reflect the current pricing.

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  4. I have to disagree with your statement that die-hard Quicken fans will hate this product. I consider myself a huge Quicken fan and if anything, I loathe and despise Quicken 2007 for Mac. I love the look and feel of Mint.com so if this new Quicken is anything like you say it is, I am so excited for it!

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    1. That’s great to hear. I like the look and feel as well and think the software has made great strides in usability. It won’t satisfy people that have been using all the features of Quicken 2007 though.

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    2. Edward Mouton Thursday, March 4, 2010

      I’m definitely a nay-sayers who is a die-hard Quicken user. Intuit really dropped the ball and stays true to it’s direction to abandon Mac users. Quicken 2007 could have benefited from some updating for quite some time, but it’s still a far superior product/tool when compared to this new, and not-improved version.

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    3. Cristina, I’m on your side. I’ve been using Quicken since the ’80′s DOS days. Speed and reliability took a nosedive when Quicken first became a Windows app. In my earlier days I was a Quicken geek, using every Quicken feature to track every minute detail. But these days, who has time? Now I use only debit cards and pay all bills online (but not with BillPay) – never write checks.

      Mint.com is clean, fast and elegant but it won’t import my history, so I can’t use it for tax records. I use it just for quick balance check and alerts when big transactions clear the bank. (Or when balance gets low)

      I’m encouraged by what I read about Essentials for Mac. For the sake of those of us who like it clean and simple, I hope Quicken doesn’t bog it down with too many features.

      I wonder if Essentials can be developed as a modular system that lets users turn on just the features they want…?

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  5. I really want to like it. A local Mac version of Mint. But it’s missing simple stuff like income v. expenses for the month (i.e. what’s left). And the only way to graphically see historical spending per category is a pop-up in the budget section. That should be its own report!

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    1. I am with Brad. I really want to like this new essentials program, and for the most part, I do. But it is beyond my understanding how they could produce such a weak budgeting module. It does not distinguish between expense and income categories. So there is no way to tell at a glance, how much money I have left during the month to determine if I need to alter some of my budget categories.

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    2. I just made the mistake of upgrading from Quicken 2006 before reading the reviews. I agree that the reporting tools are awful and no investment tools either. Pie charts are great for the big picture but if I want to see how the new windows and insulation in my house have decreased my electric bill then Quicken essentials can not give me that information. An excel spread sheet with some pivot tables has better reporting than QE.

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  6. I’d take a look if there was a trial period but I’m not putting down $70 in the off chance I like it.

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  7. What’s with the stupid sky background?

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  8. As people talking about mint.com mentioned, mint is read only, no way to input upcoming transactions to really plan.

    Here is my question, does that new version of Quicken offers that feature? Every review I’ve seen so far focus on the read-only part of things, which I’m not interested in. From that line in the article “planning future transactions to manage cash flow” it would appear so, I just can’t see that anywhere…

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    1. saul Stockhamer Thursday, February 25, 2010

      I have a brand new mac 27″ computer with snow leopard.I could not wait for the quicken essential for mac since I was using quicken for windows for years. I just got it and it is a big disapoinment . It does not have a way to print your own checks and it lacks in its reminder portion. I don’t understand why they just can’t duplicate the quicken for windows program. Because of this I am installing the ability to use windows on friday. intuits marketing people have developed a program for old time mac users and not one that would benefit sales for mac coming from the windows to mac conversion. I blame apple for not demanding a program that would also benefit their sales.

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    2. Yes you can manually enter transactions. In the case of checks, you can reconcile these with the bank later.

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    3. Saul – it’s interesting that Intuit went to great lengths with the Converter to reach out to switchers that have lots of data in Quicken for Windows or Microsoft Money. The old process for transferring data from Quicken for Windows to Mac was absolutely horrible. The new app makes it a lot easier to move but, as you have explained, many will be disappointed to find that the programs do not have the same features.

      I do think there is hope for future versions of Quicken for Mac, but you may want to hold out until those are released.

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  9. Not a comment but a question. I currently use Quicken for Windows on an old PV which I would like to get rid of. The only use I have for Quicken, however, is as a check register. Mint.com does not have a check register although they told me they were looking into it when I wrote them. Not that I’m using a Mac for everything else, I don’t want to spend $60 or $70 for Quicken just to be a check register although converting all my old data is appealing. Is there a free program that is purely a check register and, if so, can old data be imported? Thank you.

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  10. I am still using the copy of Quicken 2004 which came with my old iBook back when I bought it. If I was going to upgrade I think I would switch to MoneyWell or Cha-Ching, but I would rather spend money on something other than something to help me track what I spend money on ;)

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