Anachostic

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Tag Archives: Quicken

Serving You More By Providing Less

Long after I’ve stopped using Quicken, the emails still continue to amaze me.  Here’s the quote to start off this topic:

“Many of our customers ask why we discontinue certain services and the answer is simple—to better serve you.“

Today I got an email from Quicken stating that I had to upgrade to Quicken 2013 because they were shutting down services for Quicken 2010.  Which services? 

  • Transaction downloads
  • Online Bill-pay through Quicken (not sure if that’s different from banks’ EFT-style payments)
  • Stock quotes and portfolio management through Quicken
  • Technical Support (except online self-service)

Well, 3 of the 4 items are Quicken-provided services, so if they want to shut them down, I don’t have an issue with that.  It’s the first item that bugs me.  The transaction download portion has a server component and a client component.  The Quicken software is the client.  The banks run the server component. 

I know how banks operate: slowly.  There isn’t any way Quicken could force banks to update their software by their imposed deadline.  Many banks will have these libraries integrated with their own software, so there would need to be some rewriting involved and major amounts of testing and documentation.  Not going to happen.

What option does that leave?  Time-bombing the client so that it will become inoperable on a specific date.  Downloading transactions is what the majority of people would use.  The bill-pay, I’m not sure of.  But, in order to better serve you, we think it’s best to not let you do this any more.

I can’t remember if I still have Quicken installed somewhere or not, but I’m going to be testing this out.  First, if they did manage to get all the banks to upgrade their code and change the format of the QIF file, then it should fail to import into MS Money.  Otherwise, I’ll guess that you can manually download transaction files and import them.  This is a slight inconvenience, but it’s not rendering Quicken unusable.  However, at that point, you have the same level of functionality of MS Money Sunset, so why not use a better application?

Here’s the bottom line.  There’s nothing new in banking.  There’s no reason to upgrade banking software.  Quicken is milking this cash cow for as long as they can.  By practicing forced obsolescence, they are forcing their customer base to choose between paying forever or leaving them.  I made my choice.  Mint.com is certainly helping people make a choice. Hmmm.  I think I need to revisit mint.com and see what’s happened since the last time I gave them a try.

Upgrade Your Misery Today!

Here’s the banner for an email I recently got:

image

Quicken and WillMaker.  Two products that go so well together.  One makes you want to die and the other helps you be prepared for that moment.  It all works together: Customer Service (I want to kill myself), “put your life on hold”, 2012, Quicken. 

You couldn’t ask for a more cohesive piece of marketing.

And this is pretty good as well.  The point of the email is “Improved Customer Service is Now FREE2”, with the footnote “Valid for 2012 Quicken customers only and available for a limited time; subject to change without notice.”  So, what I gather from this is: Quicken used to charge for good customer service, but now they are doing what they should always have been doing. They won’t do it forever, though.  They won’t tell you when they’re going to go back to the same old crappy customer service (it’ll just kinda start happening), and you still have to pay for it by buying the 2012 version.  In other words, business has dropped off and no one is calling our support lines because they either have left us or have learned to deal with the existing bugs in Quicken.  That means our support staff can help you better until enough people buy the 2012 version and swamp us with new bug reports.

And they are still pretty much the only game in town.

It’s Just Money

Why is this conversion to Quicken so goddamn hard?  I think I’m a reasonably smart person, so why does my money keep getting screwed up in Quicken?

Whenever I use Quicken, it’s laborious.  And not because it’s different, I’ve come to learn the differences in the 4 months I’ve been using it.  It’s dumb.  And I pity the people that have been using for years and years, because MS Money had a much better user interface.

My latest fiasco occurred this morning when I got a notice from a bank saying a transfer was cancelled due to insufficient funds.  After confirming that the balance in Quicken differed from the bank web site, and after a short walk to calm the hell down, I discovered that I had six deposit entries in my register that were duplicates of downloaded transactions.  Thankfully, this was a simple transfer between savings accounts and had no effect on any bills.  Of course, it uncertain if I will be whacked with an overdraft fee or not.

The problem is, I can’t trust Quicken worth a shit.  This situation arose even after reconciling the ledger of the funding account.  Should I have been suspicious that I had unmatched transactions in my register?  Yes, but it has happened so often in my short time with Quicken, I’ve taken it to be normal.  And just now when I was downloading transactions, I had a transaction mismatched and I couldn’t find the real transaction it belonged to.  Why?  because the last time I downloaded, I thought I would trust Quicken and chose “Accept All” to auto-match all the downloaded transactions.

As far as laborious, the matching process is the worst.  The downloaded transactions are in a list at the bottom and as you select each one, it highlights the matched transaction in the register above.  So your eyes are constantly scanning up and down.  Payee?  Good.  Date? Good. Amount? Good.  Ok, next.  Three checks for every downloaded transaction.  And as I’ve found, you have to check all three, especially if you frequent a business often.

The bill payment is very confusing.  The idea that you can pay a bill in Quicken, but that it doesn’t really get paid until you update your accounts is dumb.  And I certainly got misled by “One Step Update”, which I thought would make an immediate payment, but instead merges payments and transaction downloads together.  You mean there’s an even dumber way to handle online payments in Quicken?

I haven’t even dared to test out the reporting and projection tools.  I’m actually scared.  Not that anything would get messed up, since you can’t change anything when running a report, but I think I’m scared at how disappointed I will be or at how confused I will get looking at the results.

This has been one problem after another.  I spoke to a co-worker one time about a business application we use and she commented on how stupid she felt after training because none of it made any sense to her.  It was because the program is so un-intuitive, it made her have to think differently about everything she wanted to do.  That is how I feel and I do not think it is my fault.

The Quickening II

Like a bad sequel, I get to continue a story that should have ended.  As I discover some things in Quicken I don’t like, I check the opinions of blogs and Quicken’s own support forums and I am saddened by what I learn.  I guess none of my gripes are new, but they are mine.

I’m sure I’m going to have lots of fun matching transactions as time goes on.  I’m convincing myself that the real numbers matter starting next month – a fresh month of a fresh year.  But right now things are off.  One of my accounts had to have an adjustment posted to make it match with the last bank statement.  That worries me.  As I cleaned up the categories for my transactions, I found that when I would categorize a transaction as a transfer, it would helpfully create the other side of the transfer for me, duplicating a previously-downloaded transaction in another account.  So with all the credit card payments I categorized, I suddenly had a massively negative balance in my checking account.  More cleanup…

As I worked through these various screens I found myself missing a Microsoft standard: the Back button.  I remember years ago when I tried out the Zune at Staples, I thought to myself, “MS loves the Back button.”  The Zune has one.  And you know, it is the easiest concept for anyone to understand.  I also was a little weirded out at how some screens are windows of their own and some are in the main window.

And continuing with UI issues, I found the little things to be the most annoying.  Like being unable to resize columns.  The text in a column is truncated, but you can’t expand the column to see it.  You have to mouse over each row to see the tooltip.  I’m slowly getting used to Quicken’s way of doing subcategories – using a colon.  Money had that format as an option, but I turned it off.  The UI, overall, is definitely from another line of thinking – and not very much in line with Microsoft’s design recommendations.  I’ve had the argument before about how being consistent with Microsoft design helps a user understand your application quicker.  The additional time it is taking me to understand how Quicken works is a fine example of this.  Holy crap, I just discovered that some (4) popup windows I thought had closed actually didn’t.  They’re in a pseudo-taskbar at the bottom of the main window.  Good god.

Now the bigger issues.  The biggest being that the filtered view in the register does not maintain the proper running balance.  It shows a running balance of the transactions shown.  This makes the filtered view useless, but Quicken users have been living with it since the feature was introduced.  That’s nearly a deal-breaker, but I’m going to stick it out.  The other big one is there is no transaction entry form (that I can find).  You have to enter all your info directly in the register.  This brought back a very distant memory of when I first used Quicken and I didn’t like that method of entry.  Money provided a more presentable form for entry and it was a significant selling point.  Money also allowed the option to enter transactions Quicken-style.  Funny how Money tried to implement a more Quicken-esqe experience and ended up being the one that failed.

I feel a bit sad that Quicken is now the only major player in this software category.  Mostly because I know they can never make the changes needed to satisfy the MS Money crowd without ruining the experience of legacy Quicken users.

The Quickening

So I’m at the 7th and final stage of grieving: acceptance.  I have accepted that Microsoft Money is gone and will not be coming back, so I must move to Quicken.  It’s not without trepidation that I purchase Quicken and try to recapture the enjoyment of tracking my finances with a new program.  I had used Quicken a long time ago and was not as pleased as I was with MS Money, which is probably why I’ve used Money for over 10 years.

So I’ve gotten Quicken Deluxe 2010 installed and the first thing that pisses me off is that it has put icons on my desktop.  Not just one icon, which is tolerable, but 4.  One for the application and three sales pitches.  This is a terrible first impression.  One shortcut is to a co-branded version of FreeCreditReport dot COM – one of the biggest scams out there.  One is for their BillPay service, at $10/mo.  Even Wachovia, a premier bank, only charges $6/mo for integrated BillPay.  Unless Quicken doesn’t have 2-way integration with Wachovia, which is practically a dealbreaker for me.  MS Money had it. (Turns out, yes, Quicken does support online payments through Wachovia)  The final offer is for a typical rewards credit card provided by Chase.

First Launch: I am prompted to “Get Started”.  I have to enter my banks and their login info so Quicken can download transactions and whatnot.  I’m mildly impressed.  In MS Money, this was a separate step after setting up accounts.  It picks up my Wachovia account without a problem.  Then I do my Chase account.  Oops, there was a problem.  It says to try again later.  So I think, “Maybe it should be entered as a WaMu account, since that’s where it was originally opened.”  Nope.  Not found there.  It’s later now, so I try again under Chase.  Quicken crashes.  Ok, my impression of this program is sinking fast.

Second Launch: I get all of my accounts set up.  And I am quite impressed with how well it handled ALL of my accounts.  If I had a login for it, Quicken handled it.  I got my loans entered and the wizard was pretty easy to work through.  I browse through the preferences and set a few things to my liking, like two-line registers.  Now, I am downloading transactions for an account that doesn’t have real-time transaction updates.  And it’s frozen.  However, I was able to close the window (X) and it seemed to be a successful update.  We’ll see how that turns out on the others… ok, three of the four I had to close the window, but they seem current.  Not sure of this is going to be an annoyance or it’s just a fluke.

I’m going to give it an honest try, since I have no other choice, really.  I’ve tried GnuCash and that was definitely a step down.  So we’ll see how quick things get.