Quicken 2011 review: financial paradise by the dashboard

Intuit has released Quicken 2011, a new personal finance management tool that represents the first collaborative Quicken release between the Quicken Desktop and Mint.com teams. The result is a desktop personal finance tool that looks and feels in some areas like a website with a new and improved dashboard to guide your finances, yet it retains the benefits of an offline personal finance tool that many Quicken users want.

One of the areas that received a big overhaul was the dashboard, or home screen, which now gives users an easy to understand summary of the important day-to-day information they need. The revamped dashboard is very useful and with the inclusion of spending, monthly bills and spending goals you can keep on top of the day-to-day items in just a few minutes.

Getting started with Quicken 2011 is fast. After installing it you can complete the account linking in about 10 minutes depending on how many accounts you have. Bills and spending goals take another five minutes each. From there you are ready to start managing your money instead of messing with settings and manually categorizing a million transactions.

Speaking of categorization, that's another area of improvement in Quicken 2011 that borrows heavily from Mint.com. Quicken desktop users now enjoy the same level of auto-categorization for transactions that Mint has been praised for. In our experience the categorization was just as good as on Mint, with the need to enter several categories manually but that only added another few minutes to the getting started process.

With Quicken 2011 you can connect to 12,000 financial institutions for automatic updating of your financial information including banks, credit card companies, investment firms and more. If your bank can't connect automatically, or you prefer not to connect your bank directly to Quicken you can download files from your bank and import them into Quicken, something you can't currently do on Mint.com. If you link or import your transactions Quicken will account for transfers between accounts automatically so you don't have to worry about double counting.

If you enter your bills in Quicken 2011 your home screen will provide a reminder of upcoming bills to pay and Quicken will project your balance to help you stay on top of what you have available until your next pay day.

Quicken also uses spending goals to help you track and keep a budget. The totals are updated based on categories which, when combined with the good auto-categorization, makes for an easy to use tool.

For all Quicken 2011 does well, it does have a few shortcomings. First off, while you can track your debt such as a home loan, school loans and car loans, the accounts aren't linked so you manually need to update this information. In a phone interview with WalletPop Eddy Wu, a product manager from Intuit, told us that automatic debt linking or updating is something the team wants to add in the future.

Second, there's no way to take the information with you on a mobile device or access it from the web. We understand that Quicken is a desktop product, and not all users will want a mobile or web version, but it would be nice to see some way to sync your Quicken Desktop to Mint.com or direct to an app for a look at dashboard information on-the-go.

Quicken 2011 comes in five versions to meet the needs of different users starting at $29.
  • Quicken Starter Edition ($29.99) - For consumers who want to get handle on their money so they avoid missing bills and incurring costly fees.
  • Quicken Deluxe ($59.99) - For those who want to save more; helps create custom savings plans.
  • Quicken Premier ($89.99) - For investors and those who manage investments and want to plan ahead for tax time.
  • Quicken Home & Business ($99.99) - For people who want to track tax-deductible business expenses, and see profit and loss at a glance.
  • Quicken Rental Property Manager ($149.99) - For property owners looking to manage their personal, business and rental property finances in one place.
In addition to the release of Quicken 2011, which only works on Windows computers, Intuit released free updates to Quicken Essentials for Mac, allowing users to print checks, create spending reports, attach receipts and other files to transactions, manually-edit investment holdings, export data into tax file formats and more.

You can learn more about Quicken 2011 and purchase it from Intuit as well as a number of retail locations.
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