Microsoft Money Plus vs. Quicken 2008

I was going to do a big write-up of Microsoft Money Plus vs. Quicken 2008 as I've just tried both but no one wants to read a 10-page rant about the poor state of personal finance software in this day and age. It's now just a few paragraphs rant.

Microsoft Money Plus

There is nothing Plus about the latest offering from Microsoft. It's still not a real Vista application, it's slow, the main landing page flickers like a broken strobe and Microsoft seems content to let the world innovate around them. No features to get excited about and they've obviously decided to stay off the entire Vista and Office 2007 bandwagon by staying with a barely helpful interface. There is nothing worth upgrading for and calling it "Plus" must have made some laugh while others cried.

Quicken 2008

Beautiful and grand ideas implemented poorly or at the expense of real fit and finish. 256-color icons (read "ugly") and clunky dialogs litter the user interface thus greatly minimizing the attempts to create a polished, stream-lined user experience. I found over 30 issues in the first 15 minutes and that was just setting up a new QDATA file (who uses an all uppercase filename these days?). There are lots of great ideas here; a tagging system, easier ways to categorize expenses, a default view that is actually helpful, an easy at-a-glance budgeting system. Sadly they're all marred by usability quirks and general horrible performance on Vista. The screen constantly flickers when doing certain actions and it even managed to crash the window manager twice.

In a bit of irony Quicken 2008 has a bona fide Vista Sidebar Gadget showing you upcoming bills and transactions in a compact little calendar view. The Money team should bow their head in shame for not having such a thing in Plus and if they're not bowing their heads they should be fired because they obviously just don't care anymore.

A Sad State

On one hand we have Money playing it safe by not even attempting to try new things or freshen their interface, in fact by not even admitting to the existence of an entire new operating system, Vista, at all. On the other is Quicken blowing it's budget on big ideas yet forgetting to spend any on polish or usability testing.

What all of this says to me is that there is room for a new-comer. Neither products have dominated simply because they both suck in equal measure, just in different ways, while having just enough of the right features to get by. There is quite a bit of wiggle room and someone could carve a nice chunk out of the market if they wanted.

So for now Microsoft Money stays on my computer, though I'm not upgrading to "Plus". Don't gloat though Money, you still suck, you just happen to play fractionally better with Vista.