Quicken 2010: Smoother money management?

The money management app, Quicken 2010, arrives. It's got more streamlined visuals and navigation, but remains essentially the same.

Quicken 2010 (Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

With Quicken 2010, Intuit strives to make its classic money management application easier to navigate and simpler to understand in less time, thanks to spruced-up visuals. Although a solid balance-keeper and financial assistant, Quicken needs every boost it can get. Web-based software is growing more sophisticated and stylish every day and users are increasingly less wary of dealing with banking online. These conditions form two pincer points squeezing traditional desktop software like Quicken.

Many of Quicken 2010's additions are cosmetic changes that streamline and simplify its offering. There's a set-up wizard that guides you through importing your financial information, bill reminders, and budgets. A new home page summarizes your standing, and pared down navigation makes it easier to find what you need. The most active new feature in Quicken 2010 takes a stab at automatically categorizing your transactions, with a little help from you if there's any doubt. Software that knows Safeway is a supermarket and Macy's is a clothing store isn't rocket science, but it's a must if desktop Quicken is to not become cannibalized by its own Mint.com

It's mostly Quicken's top layer that gets prettified. Scratch the surface and many of the app's second-tier tools feel like a throwback to text-heavy data surfacing, like the calculators, planners, and lists. This may not bother legacy users, or those who aren't put off by blocks of texts and charts, but others who have come to enjoy the instant understanding inherent in a well-made infographic may shut the window and move on rather than wade through text.

Quicken 2010 bill reminder

Some tools, like the bill reminder, are still a tad clunky.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Quicken 2010 could use a few more online social net links, too, such as an option to sync reminders to an online calendar. And we're pretty sure we could live without the app installing three icons to the desktop. Really, Intuit. One is plenty.

Intuit isn't blind to consumers' changing expectations in management software, online or offline. Quicken 2010's refurbished look does help, and conservatives who feel more comfortable keeping monetary details locally stored rather than encrypted in the cloud lose nothing by downloading a free trial. For strictly online users with only personal finances (not investments, property, or small businesses), Intuit offers a free, online version to challenge its own Mint.com. It has budgeting, tracking, and reminders, encryption, an iPhone component, and the added capability to prep the data for tax time, assuming you also use one of Intuit's TurboTax products.

If you've used Quicken before, you can import data from previous years. The same goes for anyone switching over from Microsoft Money.

Pricing and sweepstakes

Intuit advertises five Quicken 2010 products on its Web site, including the online version: Quicken Deluxe ($59.99); Quicken Premier ($89.99), which helps track investments; Quicken Home & Business ($99.99); and Quicken Rental Property Management ($149.99). There's also the lighter Quicken Starter Edition for $29.99.

Intuit is also launching a sweepstakes prize to pay one month's rent--up to $2,500--in December 2009. The contest begins on October 15, 2009. You'll find the rules at quickenfreerent.com.

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