I've been a somewhat satisfied user of Intuit's Quicken home accounting software for many, many years. Quicken has a very deserved reputation for lousy technical support, but the online users' groups are terrific. I used to upgrade every other year or so, but stalled at Quicken 2000. Or rather, I 'upgraded' to Quicken 2003, hated the way it locked up and garbled my display, uninstalled it and went back to Quicken 2000.
Among the very most useful features of Quicken is that I can download my checking account and credit card statements and reconcile them quickly. A bonus feature was that I could do the same with mutual fund prices, whether or not I actually owned them. Or rather, make that, I used to be able to do these things.
Some time in the past few days, Quicken quietly decided to pull the plug on what it calls online services for older versions of Quicken. (I had no warning of this and only found the web page today when things had been going wrong for several days.) The result of this is not only that I can't download mutual fund (or stock) prices, but also that I can no longer get information from my bank in a useful format.
I can sort of understand why Quicken isn't interested in providing free stock prices to people who haven't bought recent copies of their software; there's a cost to running servers serving masses of free quotes, even if they are not up to date ones. While it's annoying to be cut off without warning, it's not the end of the world to me because I'm not much of an investor/trader — and by the time we finish paying for our remodelling, I won't be one at all.
What I am angry about is that Intuit is able to make my bank stop supplying me with my bank statements in a useful format—but I'm not sure if it's Quicken I should be mad at, or my bank, or both. Quicken has (had) this nifty feature called “web connect”. I would go to my bank's homepage, sign in, click various things, and the bank's web page would download data(in .QFX format) right into my Quicken client. What's more, it would download it a form that allowed me to match the downloaded transactions with manually entered ones, thus preventing any duplication at those times when I am keeping up on my accounting.
It's not clear to me how it can be that Quicken's decision to stop supporting version 2000 of its software means that a transaction between me and my bank, one that did not go through Quicken's computers, is no longer possible. I called my bank, and after a long and painful conversation with the polite but script-reading frontline tech (Indian accent) eventually spoke to a level 2 tech. But all he would tell me is that the web site designers had made a decision to 'stop supporting third party software versions not supported by the manufacturer'. [That's not, however, strictly true, since the bank's web site still supports downloads in .QIF format in the older format used in version '98 as well as the Y2K compliant .QIF format used by all later versions.] He could file a form suggesting they support the old version, but he and I both new that's quite hopeless. Again, it's not clear to me what sort of format change is involved here, since versions 2000-04 all used the same .QFX format, and versions 2001-04 still work. It seems more like Intuit did something to make the servers stop talking to the older version than an actual format change.
Meanwhile, I can still get the information from my bank in flat-file .QIF format and then import it manually. With a cheking account and his and hers credit cards this manual process takes about 3 times as long to get the info as did the automated process. I could live with that. What is super-annoying is that .QIF importation does not reconcile downloads automatically with manual entries. So if, say, I get $100 from the bank ATM, and like a good boy I remember to enter this manually into my accounts, when I download a bunch of transactions later, that $100 will show up a second time as an independent transaction. Multiply this by the number of transactions in a month, keep in mind that I book checks with the date I write them, but the bank books them with the date paid which can be weeks later, and monthly checking account reconciliation becomes a complex affair instead of a two-minute job.
Intuit's purpose in doing this format change is to make me buy an updated copy of Quicken. Why the bank wants to go along with this I do not know.
Intuit on its well-hidden web page announcing this change says it will kindly discount $20 off the suggested retail price of version 2004 (that would be the version which is due to be replaced by version 2005 any day now). That still means they want $40. Or I could get it for $12 at a discounter (media only meaning that it's probably a genuine licensed copy sold to an OEM manufacturer, but one not intended to be sold separately; if this were a UCITA state, I'd be in trouble), including shipping. I can afford that. And I suppose I can swallow my resentment at about being cut off from online updates without warning—my bank has done lots worse to me over the years, and I haven't switched banks yet (captive? me? probably.)
No, what really has me mad is that I don't want to “upgrade” to Quicken 2004. My experience with Quicken 2003 was a DISASTER. Not only did I dislike the changes to the interface, not only was it slower than Q2000, but as I said above, it locked up and garbled my display. Most of the online comment in alt.comp.software.financial.quicken suggests that while Q2004 isn't quite as bad as Q2003, it isn't as good as Q2000, and in some cases bad things happen to your data during the upgrade process. I have no desire to take that risk when everything was working just fine.
But doing nothing is a lousy alternative too — it will cost me at least an hour a month, probably more, to manually reconcile the his and hers credit cards and the checking account. And there doesn't seem to be any good alternative software out there. MS Money is worse, not to mention learning curve issues (I think I'm good at making Quicken do stuff). Kapital is not yet ready for prime time, and doesn't speak to banks any better than QIF anyway.