From the January 1996 issue of CD-ROM Today

Quicken Deluxe 5 and Microsoft Money

By David English

Ever since Microsoft yielded to pressure and withdrew its offer to buy Intuit, the world has waited for the two companies to start swinging at each other. The wait is over. Both companies have released new versions of their top-selling personal finance programs. Intuit practically owns the category with a 70 percent market share for Quicken, but this latest version of Microsoft Money is so greatly improved that PC users now have a real choice. With two strong companies supporting two strong products, this could turn into an old-fashion slug-fest.

Money for Windows 95 hardly resembles its previous incarnations. Microsoft studied how people actually manage their personal finances and has rebuilt the program from the ground up. In many ways, it's more intuitive than Quicken—which is high praise indeed. With its highly task-oriented interface, Money is an excellent choice for novices. If you're a seasoned veteran, Money can easily convert your Quicken data, but you'll have to dig into the help file to learn how (like many recent Microsoft applications, Money doesn't have a printed manual).

Other new features in Money include a handy Chart of the Day that pops up each time you run the program, an improved Report and Chart Gallery with easy-to-understand choices (such as "What I Owe" and "Where the Money Goes"), and the ability to click on a payee or category and see a quick summary of details. The Planning Wizards module, the best feature of previous versions of Money, is basically the same as before and nearly worth the price of the program by itself. Online Banking, a feature that Money virtually invented, is now fully integrated into the program.

If Money should get the prize for most improved product, Quicken Deluxe 5 should get the prize for continued excellence. The most substantial improvement is a redesigned interface that's more colorful and easier to navigate. Confused by Quicken's features? Simply store any open accounts and features in the background as QuickTabs, and bring each forward with a single click when you need it. Or create custom reports by everyday descriptions such as "How much did I spend last month on entertainment?" The CD-ROM has room for space-hungry extras such as investment videos from Jane Bryant Quinn and Marshall Loeb. The program actually looks at your data and selects the videos that suit your financial situation.

Online banking is the one area where Quicken has had to play catch up with Money. Intuit has lined up the same 21 banks that connect with Money to offer up-to-date bank and credit card balances, fund transfers between accounts, and automatic checkbook reconciliation. Keep in mind that, with either program, you can only use the online banking features if your bank supports them.

Which program should you buy? If you're running Windows 95 and prefer an especially easy-to-use interface, you should favor Microsoft Money. If you want more bells and whistles, and can use help with your investments and financial planning, take a hard look at Quicken Deluxe.

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