Microsoft Money. (financial software) (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti
It's never been easy to keep track of finances. If you think keeping your own records is difficult, just remember the Romans. It took them ten times the time and personnel to keep records in Roman numerals than it would have if they had used the Arabic number system. Venetian merchants used a secret system of Arabic number--based recordkeeping that has, been refined over the centuries to the system of recordkeeping widely used today. The advent of the computer has made some recordkeeping easier, but you still need to learn how to use a computer. Microsoft Money helps.
Microsoft Money combines an easy-to-use interface, Windows 3.0, with a checkbook ledger that has been expanded to incorporate two special accounting journals: the cash payments and cash receipts journals. For accounting aficionados, Money is a cash-basis accounting system that may require an accountant to do end-of-year adjustments to convert it to an accrual basis for certain types of businesses. Other end-of-year adjustments may be required to convert the information to the needed format for certain financial statements and income tax returns. Money comes with a variety of foolproof, easy-to-use features that will make the task of recordkeeping less painful.
Money, which was released shortly before Intuit's Quicken 5.0 for Windows, looks very similar to Quicken and has many similar features. Its manual even has a chapter especially written for Quicken users, and the program has a feature which converts Quicken data files to Money's format. Even many of Money's command keystroke combinations are borrowed directly from Quicken. Money uses the same check forms developed for Quicken by Deluxe Business Systems, which are available for dot-matrix and laser printers. Money is so similar to Quicken that they even sound alike. Both have the same data entry--confirmation beep. With Quicken's user base of more than 2 million, imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery. This type of imitation is an attempt at 100-percent compatibility with the industry standard.
Money has some very useful innovations that go beyond its status as a Quicken look-alike. Smart Fill is a feature that, on the second and subsequent entries of a payee or payer, will complete the entry of a transaction after the first few letters of the name are entered. Money can also use aliases and codes to simplify data entry. By using a code for a repetitive transaction, the entire transaction will fill in without any further input. In making data entry significantly easier, Smart Fill helps encourage the user to enter all transactions in the system. (An incomplete set of records can be worse than no records at all.)
Also included with Smart Fill is Smart Reconcile, which takes you step by step through the process of reconciling your bank statement. Errors in reconciliation are searched for intelligently, automating the otherwise manual techniques for checking accounting errors and providing hints of what to look for. Transactions involved in the reconciliation are marked with the word reconciled for future reference. Money's Smart Fill and Smart Reconcile features give you intelligent ways to use the computer to make the tedious job of recordkeeping significantly easier.
To Money's detriment, Quicken is still the leader in available features. Quicken can track investments, link up to the Checkfree electronic check-paying network, and manage assets. But wait--there's more! Quicken has links to tax categories, more intelligent data entry, two check-printing formats, loan amortization, percentage allocations, hot-key access to reports and the check register, a payroll module, memorized and customizable reports, two-level password security, a more detailed and useful toolbar, and many more categories and classes than Money's two of each. In many ways, Quicken is more versatile than Money. And there are even more versatile programs than Quicken on the market--for a higher price.
Both Money and Quicken use the check-register format and provide for multiple files for multiple businesses, properties, and accounts. Both programs are versatile enough to handle all of the business and personal financial situations of the average individual, small business entrepreneur, or property owner. Although neither Money nor Quicken is the be-all and end-all of accounting systems, both are good programs. Each may require some intelligent setup and some analysis at the end of the year to make it useful. If you need the expanded versatility of Quicken, Money may not be the way to go. But if it's a simple, attractive, easy-to-use, foolproof system that you need, then Money beats Quicken hands down.