Quicken 2002 Home & Business AND Quicken 2001 Home & Business,
a review by Joe Mraz

I know this is confusing but what can I say? I started my review of 2001 very late in the game and before I could get it finished, 2002 was made available to me. A very major problem in 2001 seems to have magically disappeared with 2002 but I thought that I should incorporate my review of that particular problem in this review. Also, I could find very few major differences between 2001 and 2002. They actually addressed features that have been in the program for years under their list of "whatís new". Maybe itís "new and improved".

Here is a copy of Quickenís "Whatís New" page:

Because they havenít issued an update to Quicken 2001 Home & Business since January 2001, it would appear that Quicken 2002 Home & Business was primarily issued to fix the problems that existed in 2001.

If youíve never used a Quicken product before, here is Quickenís definition of the product that we are about to review:

Before I get into a review of the program I have to address Quickenís customer support.

Where has customer support gone?

Can you say frustrated? Well Iíve been feeling that way and Iíve actually been saying a lot of other words that I canít print here. "Why?", you ask. Because, even as a reviewer I have been unable to contact anyone at Quicken to answer my questions regarding a major flaw in their programís on-line banking support.

Quickenís answer to support problems, without paying $1.95 per minute, is what they call "Chat Support." The only problem is that you canít get through to anyone using it. I know because I tried it at least 20 times.

First they have the audacity to say theyíre proud of the service:

"Introducing Quicken Chat Support"

We are excited to offer Quicken 2000, 2001 and 2002 for Windows customers free product support via live one-on-one chat. We believe that combining the technical expertise of our customer support staff with the latest chat technology from LivePerson will greatly enhance your online support experience."

Then you try to use it:

After waiting over 5 minutes you get:

Donít you love being told that you are important to them? Especially after they have just shown you that they really could care less about you.

Then, before you have a chance to do anything else, this new window comes up:

And to top it all off, if you donít do something right away and click on return, they thank you:

I guess that they are thanking you for not trying to get into the system again.

Ah, the joys of being a software user!

Well, I guess that I should tell you something about the software. Remember, no one from Quicken has had a chance to help me fix or understand some of these concerns but thatís their fault not mine. I think that Iíll take the Spaghetti Western approach: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. But, because Iím so ticked-off with their support Iíll do it backwards.

 

THE UGLY

Donít expect a lot of personal support with this product. Itís obvious that they are having problems or their Internet support system wouldnít be so busy that I couldnít get through.

If you want to connect the program to your bank via the internet or just download files and load them into the program, be warned that there are major problems with Quicken 2001 Home & Business.

I have experienced problems with downloading information from my bank and inserting it into Quicken.  Even though all the information is in the QIF file from the bank Quicken doesn't load everything into the program.  I ended up missing 2 entries in my checking account last month.  In another instance only 3 out of 4 items in the qif file would load even though it showed 4 and I accepted all 4. The file "Import" procedure also occasionally inserted all records twice and I had to go in and slowly delete every duplicate entry. I can't live with the system dropping data or inserting extra entries and neither can anyone else.

Finally, several months after my original complaint and "Bug Report" to quicken (they never responded to my bug report), this came up on their WEB siteís "Hot Issues" report:

Intuit is dedicated to providing you with up-to-date alert information that may affect you when you are using our products.

Duplicate Payments Downloading 
We are aware that some Quicken Bill Pay customers may experience duplicate payments downloading into their register when performing a statement download from their financial institution. This is the result of a change on a server that was made last week and impacts the Quicken register only. Duplicate payments should not have been made. To resolve this issue, we recommend contacting your financial institution for assistance deleting the duplicate transaction. They will also be able to confirm that duplicate payments were not made.

Online Quotes Not Updating 
Online quotes may not be updating for some versions of Quicken. Intuit is aware of the issue and is working on a solution. Please try your download again later.

Because I canít get a direct response from anyone at Quicken, I donít know when these bugs will be fixed. There have been no new downloads available from Quicken that address a fix to this problem. Whatís really interesting is that even though I havenít seen a fix, these "Special Alert!" messages have disappeared from the Quicken website.

OK, lets move on to Quicken 2002 Home & Business. Remember weíre still in the "UGLY" category. While 2002 doesnít seem to have the upload problems I encountered with 2001 it still has problems.

Forced file types during importing (even if theyíre wrong)

You have the option of importing files as "QIF" files or as "Quicken WebConnect" files. The program doesnít argue with you about QIF files. It lets you import them any way you want. However, when you try to import a "Quicken WebConnect" file, the program wants to take over and refuses to give you any options that it thinks are wrong. When youíre building initial files manually, Quicken tells you that an IRA account should fall under their "Investing Center" (Investing type files). However when I tried to import my bankís IRA information into the program as a "Quicken WebConnect" file, the program refused to display my pre-built Investing files as a valid file that could be imported to. Only Banking type files were displayed. When I told the program to go ahead anyway, the program automatically built a new file for my IRA data in "Banking Center" category of the program (which the manual set-up says is the wrong file type). Why wonít the "Quicken WebConnect" import procedure display all the files and let me pick the right one?

 

THE BAD

Invoice Output

I donít know if anyone at Quicken every reads these reviews but Iím going to restate a complaint about this program that I have made in two previous reviews. Maybe theyíll listen this time.

One of the nice things about Quicken 2002 Home & Business, is that you really can run a small business operation and keep your home accounting info all in one place. In the business world you have to create invoices for your clients and many of my clients want the invoices FAXed to them. Because of Quicken 2002 Home & Business uses proprietary printer drivers, the program does NOT support any easy method of sending a FAX. Quicken refuses to give the user any way to directly access and use Microsoftís Windows printer interface. That means that those of us who use Symantec WinFax Pro or Adobe Acrobat cannot use those programs with Quicken 2002 Home & Business.

Thankfully they have now included an easy way of putting an invoice on the Internet. Because of that feature I can now FAX an invoice by sending an HTML format to Microsoft FrontPage and then using Symantec WinFaxís Windows printer interface. This is really an improvement over the old way when you had to scan the printed invoice (you could only get a hard copy) to get it into any other program. Wow, what a convenience!

FAXing an invoice using this method has another drawback. Quicken doesnít know how to port graphics into the HTML page they create. That means that your company logo, that comes out just fine on your locally printed invoice, doesnít appear on the Quicken generated HTML page.

What is Quickenís problem? Why canít they use a standard printer interface like everyone else?

While the Invoice creator is convenient it has some obvious limitations. Even the area for information about your company will only accept five (5) lines of input. That means that you canít skip a line between name and address information (normally 3 lines) and then enter Phone and Email on two separate lines. There is no way to overcome the configuration that Quicken is forcing you to use.

Quite frankly Iíd be a lot happier if the program would generate a database output (delineated ASCII with headers) that could be ported into any program I wanted. I could then build an invoice using Microsoft Excel, link the information to ACT!, use any program that I wanted to and still use Quicken as my small business accounting engine. There I go again, wanting to have some control of my operation.

Data Input - Itís not so automatic when you download files.

Back when we had to input everything by hand from our checkbook, Quicken designed a marvelous option that recorded all the input fields for a specific Payee and automatically filled in those fields the next time you entered the Payeeís name. This was great! If you had a regular monthly utility or mortgage payment, all you had to do was enter the Payee name and hit enter. The dollars, the Category, the tax status, even Category splits and memo information were automatically entered for you.

Now that you can download your transactions from your bank, guess what doesnít work on downloaded information. Thatís right: no Category, Category split, tax status, or memo information. Iíve tried everything. Iíve gone to the Payee area and hit the tab key, Iíve even manually reentered the whole Payee name (and tried to select the Payee name from the remembered names in a pop-up window) but nothing happens. So, in order to get the appropriate Category and Tax information I have to go to every downloaded transaction, select Category and generate the necessary information. If the entry is a repetitive Payee, this operation takes longer than the old manual input method!

Best of all you get to do this every month because, nothing associated with updating a download entry is remembered by the program.

Data Input - Little annoyances

While we are talking about Category selection let me take the time to voice another gripe. When you get to the Category area and start to type, a window opens that shows the category fields that start with the letters that you have typed. My big complaint with this feature is that the window opens showing the closest match at the bottom of the window. If there are sub categories, you have to waste time scrolling down to find them. If the window opened up with the closest match at the top, the sub categories would be displayed and all youíd have to do is click on the appropriate sub category.

Big Annoyances

My bank doesnít offer a banking "hot" link (there is no WEB Connect) that can be used by Quicken. And, I hate it when a program keeps trying to take control of features on my computer. Every time I run Quicken this window pops up:

Can someone please tell me why there is not a check box on this window that allows me to select "Donít ask this question again". I am getting so fed up with this kind of $#%@& programming! Wait a minute. There, I took my Prozac. We can continue now.

Personal concerns

My next remarks have nothing to do with good or bad but they have everything to do with Quickenís marketing strategies. Many of the new features in Quicken seem like really great additions to the program. The Planning Center offers such things as: Can I retire when I want to, Create a budget, Can I afford college, Can I afford that house, How can I save more money? All these sections generate the basic information that your need but as you look at the screens you see that Quicken is constantly trying to sell something. They offer you everything from a professional financial planner to a Quicken credit card. They even sell mortgages at http://quickenloans.quicken.com/.

The same unending sales offerings exist in an area that Quicken calls its Tax Center. In fact, the default Quicken "Center" master windows (Business Center, Banking Center, Investment Center, Tax Center, and Planning Center) devote the upper left corner of the screen to nothing but advertising other Quicken software and services.

This is a tough one for me because, in many cases, what they offer is the logical next step in what you need. And, in this day-and-age when you pay for a VCR or DVD and still have to watch advertising I guess that this approach should be expected, but I donít like it.

If Microsoft started popping up advertising for Encarta every time I checked spelling or grammar, Iíd probably go ballistic. This approach feels annoying and invasive and I resent Quicken taking advantage of a "captured audience". A simple pointer to a section called "Other Services" would be acceptable but why are they taking up desktop space that I paid for to pitch other products? A few years ago this sales approach would have been considered bad taste and, even today, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

 

THE GOOD

Ok, enough of the complaining already. Yes Martha, there really is a Santa.... whoops! I meant to say that there really are a lot of good things to talk about. In fact, if you are not trying to work with imported banking records, you donít need to FAX a customer invoice, and you normally donít need user support, I would recommend that you give Quicken 2002 Home & Business a try. Letís face it folks, there are only two programs out there that can do what this program does and are in this price range. There is also the fact that there are a whole lot of Quicken users and if we complain loud enough Quicken will have to listen.

I really like the look & feel of the latest display. It actually seems easier to get around within the program.

Putting the toolbar at the top is great because I used to always accidentally activate something when a drop-down window was open and there were hot buttons on the bottom.

The "Quick Tabs" window on the right of the screen offers easy access to anywhere in the program and it automatically expands and adds account information as you build and access the accounts. You can also build a customized toolbar to accommodate your specific needs.

Iíve included a picture of the Quicken 2002 Home & Business "Planning Center", "Small Business Guidance", and "Business Center" pages to give you an idea about the layout. The "Planning Center" window shows the toolbar and the "Quick Tabs" field on the right. Iíd like to show you pictures of every page but weíd run out of memory. You can go to Quickenís web site (www.quicken.com) and view a lot more samples of the programs different screens.

As you can see, especially in the sample of the "Small Business Guidance" page, the information and services offered by this program are exceptional. I was very impressed by the depth of information provided for those who wished to start a small business. Quicken not only provides you with all the accounting tools needed to administer a small business, they tell you how to establish the business.

The real problem for me with then new Quicken 2002 Home & Business is that there are so many offerings in the program that I canít possibly review them all in the time typically allotted for a software review.

Iíve never had any problems paying my bills on time or needed to set up a budget so those options are superfluous to me. Also, as a one-person business operation, I have no need for the employee support capabilities of the program. As a result, I havenít reviewed those portions of the program.

The new vehicle mileage tracking option is nice but itís a little late in the year for my use now, maybe next year.

Itís obvious that they are trying to make it better

I have been using the 2002 program for about two month now and, even though Iíve found some time consuming and annoying shortcomings, the overall program is impressive in both the breadth of offerings and its basically solid operation.

As of now, 2002 seems to have overcome the "Import" problems that existed in 2001 which means that you can now trust the validity of imported data. That eliminates the one major problem that would have caused me to tell you to "stay away" from this program.

But theyíre not there yet

For several years I have personally use Quicken Home & Business to track my business, keep records of all my banking activities and track my taxes. I have to admit that there are times Iíd like to throw my computer out the window because of this software but it really is the only tool of choice right now.

Now that Imported data appears to be valid, we need automated entry of repetitive "Payee" and associated tax information to work with On-line and Imported banking files, then Quicken 2002 Home & Business will be almost totally automatic during records input. If they eliminate their custom printer interface and start using the Windows printer interface Iíd be even happier.

Especially now, when operating systems and networks are trying to give you even greater abilities to share facilities and program output, Quickenís ongoing efforts to "stand alone" seems really strange. As a computer user, Iím really looking forward to the day when I can do "what I want" without being held back by some arbitrary programming limitation.

If you have any questions or comments about this review, please email me.

Joe Mraz
J_m_mraz@hotmail.com