Quicken 2014 brings fixes, a few new features
Quicken used to be beloved because it saved consumers time managing their money. But now, Quicken is trying to regain a reputation that has gradually eroded over the years.
Quicken 2014, unveiled Tuesday, is Intuit’s latest effort to show there’s still room for a powerful, full-featured software program to manage money. This version of Quicken has a tough job. It’s tasked with winning back users who had been turned off by bugs in recent versions as well as luring new users accustomed to free bank and brokerage Web sites.
Quicken is as valuable as ever to consumers looking to carefully manage their expenses and their portfolios with precision. For users looking for the most power and control in tracking their money with the deft of a financial planner, Quicken is still the gold standard. Yet, Quicken 2014 brings so few changes to the software this year, it would be hard for anyone short of a Quicken expert to even notice them. Meanwhile, Quicken 2014 doesn’t make any significant changes to entice would-be users who are intimidated by the traditional look of the software in a era increasingly dominated by touch-based software.
Quicken 2014 appears to be much of a maintenance update, addressing some of the problems that resulted in disappointed customers giving Quicken 2013 a lukewarm three-star rating out of five on Amazon.com. Intuit says it’s spent a great deal repairing the problems that have vexed users of the accompanying Quicken mobile apps. “We had addressed the issues consumers had last year,” says Jeff Parker, a software designer at Intuit.
The company has mobile apps for Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iPhone, but both lack the power features of the desktop version of the software. Quicken 2014, yet, doesn’t specifically support the touch-friendly interface of Windows 8. Quicken will still run as a traditional desktop software program in Windows 8, it’s just not optimized to take advantage of the touch features of the operating system that users are increasingly calling for. It’s a perplexing omission given that a vast majority of Quicken users run the software on Windows computers.
Perhaps the most noticeable change to Quicken 2014 is the ability for consumers to take photos of paper transaction slips and receipts on their smartphones and have those synced and inserted into their master Quicken files on their home computers. This was a feature users were asking for as many attempt to move to a paperless way to tracking their money, Parker says.
The latest version of Quicken also introduces a new feature to help consumers see how expected future expenses will affect their account balances. The feature existed in a different form in Quicken before, but in Quicken 2014 the information is added to the account registers, the place where consumers’ spend most of their time in the software.
The question, though, is whether these minor changes can add relevance to the personal finance software category as it’s taken on by powerful Web sites and apps provided directly from banks and brokerages. There’s also a proliferation of competing financial apps and Web sites from others, such as USA TODAY partner SigFig, not to mention Intuit’s own Mint.com unit. The latest version of Windows 8, 8.1, due out later this month, also adds a Bing Finance app to help investors track their portfolios.
Quicken personal finance software, introduced roughly 30 years ago, revolutionized the way many consumers balanced their checkbooks, managed their budgets and tracked their investments. The software was designed to give regular consumers a way to turn their computers into a personal bookkeeping system. Quicken was the product that inspired the growth of Intuit, now a powerhouse in financial tracking software like Quickbooks and TurboTax.
Over the years, though, consumers’ tastes on how they use technology to manage their money has changed. Quicken continues to be a powerful software program, arguably the most powerful available to consumers to track all aspects of their financial life. But new users increasingly accustomed to simplified financial-tracking Web sites and apps that might not have all the features of Quicken, but don’t have much of a learning curve either.
Meanwhile, banks and brokerage’s own Web sites and apps have gotten increasingly powerful and easy to use, some even allowing consumers to track all their accounts, not just the ones at that one institution. Brokers, additionally, have taken on the responsibility of tracking the details of investments, taking away another big use of personal finance software.
Personal finance software certainly has a place. Quicken can give consumers insights into their finances well beyond most finance Web sites or apps. Many financial Web sites and apps handle just a single financial function, such as tracking a budget. Quicken is often deft at aggregating all accounts in a single place, creating a unified look at a consumers’ money. But consumers waiting for the software to get a refreshed look or interface, making it more in line with more modern apps, will need to wait a little longer.