Quicken Premier 2003

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, PhD, send e-mail
Published by: Intuit, go to the web site
Requires: MS Windows 95/98/2000/Me/XP, Pentium 133, 32 MB RAM, 67 MB Hard Disk space
MSRP: $79.95 (retail); $59.95 (upgrade)

To be fair I have to admit I am a Quicken fan. I’ve been using the product for many years now and have upgraded on a semi-regular basis. I’ve also, out of curiosity, kept an eye on yearly reviews comparing Quicken to Microsoft’s Money. In terms of reviews, Quicken had the lead over Microsoft Money for a long time, but in more recent years this had flipped. Although this is not a comparison with Microsoft Money, I have to believe that with this upgrade Quicken is comparing very favorably this year.

For those of you who may not know it, Quicken is one of the premier personal financial tools. At first it was primarily designed to manage your checkbook, but since those humble beginnings it has expanded to encompass practically every financial aspect of one’s life. In this review, rather than covering the vast number of features available, I’ll be concentrating on what is new in this version and what it will do for you.

One thing about Quicken that I’ve been less than enthused about in the past couple versions have been the interface. I’ve seen the look and feel go through two major overhauls and while the last one was an improvement, it still was in need of another make over. I’m happy to say that Intuit has made a dramatic turnaround in this area. To put it mildly, Quicken 2003 hit a home run in my book. I won’t bother with all the details about Intuit's countless usability studies, just suffice it to say it's now much easier to locate and use the plethora of features in the program.

There have also been significant improvements in the ease of use as well. The interface, which has the feel of a web page, is of course an improvement, but there are other areas which have also received an overhaul. One is in the number of financial groups associated with Quicken and an improved bill matching feature. I had over four months of records to catch up on when I reviewed this new version and Quicken made the task a pretty painless event.

Another improved feature you will notice from the beginning is the new guided setup. Like the Turbo Tax product, it asks you several questions about your finances and behaviors and adjusts the interface and accounts so that you can get right into the heart of it as quickly as possible.

There are several other features which have always been there, but either because they were hard to find or clunky, I had not taken advantage of them in previous versions. This includes an improved auto bill entry and pay check feature. The online bill reconciler has also been improved, making more intelligent matches as well as becoming easier to use. I suppose the nicest interface improvement is the home page’s account list. Your main account information is now one click away and in an easy to digest format.

In the premier product you have access to a wide variety of investing and tax related options. One of the more exciting aspects is the link between the product and online investment tools that help you to plan "What if?" scenarios prior to making purchases or sales of your investments.

If there is anything that still needs work it is the Emergency Records and Home Inventory options. In themselves there is nothing terribly wrong with them, but they were obviously skipped when it came to overhauling the interface. Besides a make over, some data entry features such as importing from Outlook, PalmOS, or even the ability to use 3rd party scanners would help round out these features.

If you are currently a Quicken user I highly recommend making this upgrade. I have certainly skipped upgrades in the past as the new features were less than compelling, but in this version the interface changes alone are enough reason to upgrade. In the end in this reviewer's opinion, the time you save will be worth the money spent!

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