Quicken Mac Dilemma

| by Ken | in Technology Add comments

I’ve been using Quicken since 1995. 1995! There aren’t many software programs you can say you use for 10 years let alone 16. I started on Mac but shifted to PC for a couple of years when it looked like the whole Mac platform was a goner. But then Quicken returned to Mac and I shifted back to the Mac version again some time maybe in 1999 and I’ve been using it on my Mac (and now Hac) since.  Back in 1995 it was a glorified calculator for a check register but these days it keeps track of all things money including investments (such as they are) and small business income and expenses and of course it is critical to being able to do my taxes. That’s why the demise of Quicken on the Mac is going to be a real problem for me.

Quicken has been quirky on MacOS X with weird things about window placement and sizes and which windows raise to the top when receiving focus.  And there’s also the weird thing about the font where when you type in a register field, you type in a base font that then gets prettied up after you complete the transaction and this discrepancy can be confusing when clicking in a previously entered transaction where you think you click at the right place in the text only to have it change it’s mind later.  But overall, it’s been solid with the data.  I’ve never lost data and the only time I had to go to a backup is when I made a major goof on the file.  And solid is what you like with a foundation application that you don’t want to be without.

Unfortunately, Intuit has made some poor choices with Quicken through the years.  They created the main Quicken application back in the days of the PowerPC architecture and clearly put some significant effort in it.  Now years later, no new Macs are PowerPC-based and are all Intel-based.  The transition was seemless for users because Apple included a tool that allowed for transition named Rosetta that allowed PowerPC applications to run on Intel-based Macs.  For Snow Leopard, Apple made Rosetta optional which was foreshadowing the latest move in Lion where Apple no longer has any Rosetta tool at all.  And that means every PowerPC application can no longer run on Lion.  I suppose I should give some credit to Intuit for sending me a very nice e-mail alerting me to the issue:

Dear Valued Quicken Customer,

Apple is scheduled to release a new operating system this summer (Lion Mac OS X 10.7). If you are using Quicken for Mac 2005, 2006, or 2007 and ARE considering upgrading to this new operating system, please click here to see how it could impact your Quicken Mac product.

If you do not plan on upgrading to the new operating system or are using Quicken Essentials for Mac, please disregard this message.

If you have any questions, please visit our Quicken Mac Q&A.


Aaron Forth
GM, Personal Finance
Intuit Inc.

For most users and most applications, it isn’t a big deal because most software vendors would have released a new version since 2006.  And in fact, Quicken did release a new version in 2007 but it was mostly just a tweaked version of Quicken 2006, as was the case for all PowerPC versions of Quicken.  But then Intuit seemed to take a snooze on the development of Quicken Mac until releasing an entirely new product named Quicken Eseentials early in 2010 (which if I recall correctly was at least a year late in arriving).  Intuit took the odd approach of releasing this new version of software with fewer features than the software it replaced.  That’s right – newer and fewer.  I guess their thinking was that Mac users aren’t users of all their features which is clearly an erroneous assumption.  They also should know by now that the Mac platform isn’t going away any time soon.  And they should understand that a good number of people don’t like the idea of managing all their money through an online service like Mint. But then Intuit has a history of making some boneheaded decisions, so maybe this shouldn’t be too surprising.

I have not upgraded to Lion yet and am not in too much of a rush to.  The Hacintosh upgrade procedure is never as straightforward as Apple branded hardware so I generally let the Hac-experts take the lead and follow cautiously.  Therefore a Lion upgrade is probably at least a few months away.  But when I do eventually, um, roar, I’m going to need to find an alternative to the current Quicken.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading and found a really helpful blog post with lots of good info and comments.  Here’s where things stand based on my opinions and the info I’ve read so far:

Quicken 2006/2007 for Mac: Well, I can’t use it on MacOS Lion, that’s defnitive.  But I could set up a virtual machine to run MacOS Snow Leopard with Rosetta.  Then any time I wanted to run Quicken, I’d need to spark up the emulator and deal with any associated weirdness.

Quicken Essentials for Mac:  The name of the product tells you all you need to know.  You can do the essential stuff with it but not the advanced stuff.  I don’t see the point.  Besides, Intuit doesn’t really seem committed to the product by saying things like “we are evaluating options for Quicken Essentials for Mac“.

Quicken for Windows: No, I don’t want to go back to splitting the computing I do at home between a PC and a Mac.  I did that for years and I’ve been happy to be solely Mac based at home now (except for the MythTV stuff on Ubuntu, but that’s not really home based computing).  Besides, a company that abandons the Mac, kills off their open QIF format, and locks down their new QXF interchange format is not a company that I’m too keen on doing business with.  Farewell Intuit.

iBank: I downloaded a trial of iBank and it is really nice.  I like nearly everything about it.  My one complaint about usability is that I do tend to like seeing my account registers spread out.  Perhaps that’s just because it’s how Quicken did it, but it can be helpful to see multiple registers at once and iBank just has the one window with the one register at a time visible.  Maybe that can be changed, I don’t know.  I didn’t spend that much time with iBank because I hit a hard stop with investments.  My investments are held at an institution that reports reinvestments of dividends (“RD” in Quicken parlance) by telling me the share quantity, the price, and the value.  The reported data doesn’t always check out math-wise and I know that it is the share price that is where the round-off occurs.  So in Quicken, I enter the quantity and the value and it figures out the share price which is usually within a decimal place or two – close enough for share price.  Unfortunately, iBank won’t let you touch the value field and insists on doing the share price to do the calculation to the value.  Well, after my import, I was way off on values because of all these little roundoff errors.  I know it shouldn’t matter that much but really, if you are the kind of person who keeps track of investment reinvestments, then you are the type of person who wants the pennies to match.  Being off by tens of dollars is tantamount to just slapping the number keypad and calling it a day. Definitely not for me. And too bad since iBank seemed to cover all the other bases. I’m not alone in this being a dealbreaker and IGG Software responded to my question saying that it is already in their queue for enhancement requests but that there’s no estimate on when that enhancement will see the light of day.

SeeFinance: I haven’t taken a close look because it lacks the ability to print checks. I don’t do that often but I don’t think I want to go back to writing checks. I like having Quicken track the printed checks now. And printing checks is the only way to go for the few that I need to write for my business.

MoneyDance: I haven’t gotten to trying this yet, but it sounds like it is going to be the only one to fit the bill.  Reportedly, it does allow the kind of investment entry I need and it covers all the other bases that iBank and my current Quicken do.  It doesn’t appear as pretty as iBank, but then I’ve been using a 5 year old version of Quicken built for a previous system architecture so clearly appearance isn’t a high priority for me.  The only thing holding back my switching is just taking the time to do the conversion and learn the new tool.  I’ll report back with another post after completing the switch.  But I thought it’d be worth this separate post to answer why leave Quicken and what the choices were.

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