I realize that I’ve been fairly negative in my software reviews lately (“I can’t handle the truth!”), and Quicken 2007 is no exception. I especially despise the fact that I was forced to upgrade in order to continue using what I consider to be the most important feature of Quicken personal financial software – the online update feature. See, I received a letter from Quicken about a month ago saying that for business reasons, they were dropping support for the Quicken 2004 products at the end of April. If I wanted to be able to update my accounts online, including stock quotes through Quicken.com, I would have to upgrade, as they would only support three releases at a time. So I upgraded by buying the software as cheaply as I possibly could from a reseller on Amazon.com.

To be fair, I had planned on upgrading Quicken this year – I typically try to upgrade every four years or so, whether there are compelling features or not, since the tax stuff in the program is quickly out of date anyway, and I like playing with new software. I was just burned that they wouldn’t let me wait until September/October time frame, when they will be releasing the 2008 version. But such is life in the forced upgrade cycle of paid for software.

There are supposed to be a lot of user-requested enhancements in this version (and the last two that I never purchased), but it’s hard for me to tell. The user interface is similar to what I’m used to in 2004, and all my data was “converted” successfully, so that’s a relief. There is some new eye-candy (reports and pages) that are fairly nice and might get me to use specific features I haven’t yet (debt management and that kind of stuff). The online update seems to work better, but I’m confused as to what has changed between the web updates and direct connections, and whether they are now interchangeable (yes, I should read the manual.) It seems like the program is asking me to add my web update accounts (accounts that you physically have to enter in your username and password, and then navigate to the appropriate page and click download for them to work) in the one step update process – if that has changed, all the better. I’m in favor of that. Alas, the account that I added didn’t work, and I got an error that it wasn’t working at this time. However, all-in-all, there is some interesting improvements that make it worth the purchase price (if your purchase price is discounted.)

That said, none of my pet peeves have been fixed with this product. There is still no option to close an account, but still use the data in reports – either you have to continue showing the account with a zero balance in Quicken, or hide it in Quicken, which also hides all the data associated with that account, thus skewing all your historical numbers. For example, when I chose to hide an old mortgage account that was refinanced a few years ago, my net worth report suddenly looked as if I bought my house for cash, and then a couple of years ago took out a huge loan against the asset. It’s the same for credit card expenses – if I hide an account that I have been using, it throws off all my historical comparisons. Doesn’t make any sense at all. But instead of fixing that, they’ve added the ability to associate files (pdf and the like) with specific transactions, so you can save copies of individual checks with each transaction. Does anyone know anyone that would use this feature regularly? I wouldn’t, and I’m pretty detailed with my record keeping…

In conclusion, I think this is a fairly good product, but Quicken’s eventual downfall will stem from the model they are pursuing, which is outdated. They are one of the few large software makers that are still trying to get people to upgrade their products every year on the basis of new features that they have added. Now they’ve thrown the loss of support into the mix to try and get people to upgrade as well. It’s a tough row to hoe – and eventually users get pretty jaded by all the “new features” that fail to impress. At the end of the day, unless they come up with a new model, they will fail as a company and we’ll all switch to a competing product (gasp!) or a free open-source alternative with less features that we never use. Until then, it’s a pretty good program.