Microsoft on the Money with new financial software
by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Business in
Issue # 637 January 8 - 14, 2002, The High Tech Office column
The new year is the start of a fiscal year for
many of us and
a good time to start off right with software to keep track of income,
The home financial-software market is dominated by two
Quicken and Microsoft's Money. While Microsoft has challenged
ever since a failed attempt to buy the company in the early 1990s, this
is one of the few areas where the software giant has failed to
Quicken has about four times as many users as MS Money.
Both programs have new versions for the new year, each
beyond their original cheque-register features. This week, a look at
Microsoft Money 2002 Canadian Edition (about $90).
Count on 20 minutes or so for set-up as you enter
personal and financial
information. This time is well spent, however, as the information you
is used to get your accounts up and running and to optionally schedule
online bill payment. Users moving from Quicken will find that Money
a good job of converting that program's records.
Mac-users, however, are out in the cold. Unlike
Quicken, Money is available
for Windows only.
At start-up, the program resembles a Web site. In
fact, it installs
Internet Explorer (if needed). Nicely, this Web page can be customized,
making it easy to jump to the modules you most often work with.
Also nice are the investment strategy tools. The
Plan helps create a long-term financial plan that includes major life
such as home buying, sending children to school, and retirement.
scenarios make it easy to try out different investment strategies, and
see the long-term implications.
With its links to Microsoft's Web browser, Internet
integration is built-in.
In the background, the software can connect to bank or broker on-line,
downloading bank statements or stock prices, even without formally
Money. Users can set the frequency of these updates, or turn them off
The MoneySide module can display financial information from your Money
data while you're online, the better to make decisions about shopping,
investing and bill paying. You can drag data such as credit card
from the module into your browser. Microsoft assures us that no
data is sent to them or to other Web sites from the program, without
For much of Money's Web integration, such as the
and MoneySide features, users will need to sign on with Microsoft's
service. Passport, which creates a single authenticated sign-on to a
of Web services, is convenient but does involve sending personal
to Microsoft. Privacy advocates and security experts have criticized
Even if Passport is hacked, however, user bank accounts and other
data are not at risk. That information remains locked in your
hard drive. Despite all the money management features, don't count on
to do your taxes. Both Money and Quicken can be used to export data to
dedicated tax preparation programs (or to your accountant); neither
prepares a tax return.
Money has grown up since its early days as a
Quicken-wannabe. This newest
version is well worth a look either by first-time users or Quicken
wanting a change. There's also a $50 Basic edition that can be
on its own, or bundled in with other Microsoft packages such as the
suite. Money data can be shared with pocket computers from Compaq,
HP and other manufacturers running Pocket Windows,
and can be stored
online on Microsoft Network. There's a free 60-day trial
Next week: How does the new version of the champion,
to Money's aggressive challenge?