Checks And Balances

Money Talk

Because I'm a die-hard Quicken user, I thought it appropriate to first embark on the competition's features in order to fairly compare the two. Installing Microsoft Money was painless--there were no glitches, and I was up and running within minutes. Microsoft guides you through the process of finding any files you want to convert to this program (including Quicken files and old Money files). The conversion process took about 10 minutes, and all my account information appeared clean and clear as day. My checkbook register included all the categories and memos as posted in my Quicken account.

The Money 98 interface is very different from the Quicken interface I'm used to. Instead of relying on graphical icons, Money 98 uses a more text-based navigational system that relies on pull-down menus. I found it less intuitive than Quicken's.

Still, Money 98 cannot be considered difficult to use. On the contrary, I was easily able to find my way around all my accounts. One feature I especially liked was the Bill Calendar for tracking bills and deposits. Here, a calendar shows you when your bills are due, and a graph gives you a balance forecast. While handy, this function is only beneficial if you're up-to-date on all your transactions.

To make this product more compelling than its competitor, Microsoft has provided many additional features. First there's Goal Planner for financial planning. Money includes 21 customizable wizards for working on short-term and lifetime plans. Then there's Microsoft Investor, which links into the Microsoft Investor Web site for tracking portfolios and researching investment opportunities. Subscribers to this service have the ability to search through 8,000 stocks and mutual funds to determine whether an investment meets certain criteria. Next there's Money Insider for articles and information from reliable financial experts.

Money 98 encourages users to get on the Internet. It includes an easy sign-up for the Microsoft Network, and the opening page directs users to links on the Web.

Although the Money 98 Financial Suite is geared toward investors, those more interested in basic financial management can get the stripped down version of Money 98 for $29.95.

Something worth noting: Money 98 works with a slightly larger number of banks than Quicken. You may want to compare the lists of financial institutions before making a decision on which one to purchase.

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This article was originally published in the May 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Checks And Balances.

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