Quicken Essentials 2010 for Mac is pretty but not powerful

I've been playing with Quicken Essentials 2010 for Mac (or QEM for short) for the past few weeks, and while its user interface is beautiful, it doesn't have many of the features that Quicken users have come to expect. If they'd bring this look and feel to full-featured applications like QuickBooks, I may be able to ditch my VMWare Virtual Machine software and completely go Mac (QuickBooks for Mac is a bad joke and, more important, isn't 100% compatible with the PC version my accountant uses).

The backstory on this one is important so here it is in a nutshell: Intuit bought the amazing home finances site Mint.com last year, to the dismay of many Mint users. With the purchase, Intuit also got Mint founder Aaron Patzer, who they installed as vice president and general manager of Intuit's Personal Finance Group. A year later, they've come out with a real, Mac "look and feel" version of Quicken, but without many of the previous version's capabilities.

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I had a chance to speak with Patzer who showed me around the Quicken 2010 Essentials application. It was hard not to ask him questions about Mint.com and future plans for that

In a press release, he said:

Quicken Essentials for Mac is the first Quicken product to take full advantage of the Mac operating system and development platform. We're bringing a completely new Quicken experience to Mac users, helping them answer essential money questions - what do I spend, what do I earn, where do I stand on my budgets, what is my net worth, and where can I do better?

The first thing you'll notice about Quicken 2010 for Mac is that it actually looks like an Apple application, and that's important. Working with QuickBooks' and other Intuit applications' interfaces is really difficult when you are accustomed to Mac applications. Patzer said that his team went into the project with the aim of making "the missing iWork application" so that users could switch between Mac Office applications without skipping a beat. They've succeeded in this.

Quicken Essentials 2010 advertises its improvements: Native Mac Product is Easier to Set up and Use; Supports More Banks, and Simplifies Transfer of Data from Previous Editions.

While that's true, the interface was the big plus for me. I don't have any previous Quicken or MS Money data to import so I couldn't try out those features. Additionally, my mortgage lender (who admittedly has a horrible Web site) was not supported by Quicken (nor by Mint.com or any other financial software). Quicken does have a great set of tools that allow you to simulate those institutions that aren't supported. I had my mortgage set up in a few minutes.

The initial setup took about 15 minutes. I imported data from three online bank accounts, two retirement funds and an investment account with eTrade. I then had about the same set of data that I have in my Mint.com account.

Did I mention the user interface is fantastic? But that's where the love affair ends.

There are a lot of downsides that, for me, made the difference. I didn't like having to set up an Intuit.com account ot use the software at the beginning. That should be optional.

It also doesn't allow printing of checks, like previous version. I don't use this but I imagine some users will need this feature.

It looks like they've chopped off a lot of Quicken's functionality to get the product out the door. I didn't experience this application freezing, but many users have.

You can't export your data to TurboTax, so keep using the 2007 edition if you need this capability.

When I checked to see if Quicken is running in 32-bit or 64-bit mode, not only did I discover that it is running in 32-bit mode, but the Quicken File Converter utility is still running in PowerPC emulation mode via Rosetta! Hope you still have that installed on your Mac.

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Most importantly, however, Quicken Essentials doesn't sync with my Mint.com account which has become my go-to application for working with my finances. I use Mint.app on my iPhone religiously (its on my front page) and there is simply no way to coordinate the two applications.

When I asked Patzer about this, he said they are currently working on this integration and it would likely appear in a future version, in "a year or so." I'll be taking another look at the application then.

However, for those users who aren't addicted to Mint.com (perhaps you don't want to upload all of your financial information to the cloud? I don't blame you!) and use a previous version of Quicken or MS Money, this update may be something to consider.

However, the interface improvement is offset by the lack of functionality that previous owners will undoubtedly miss.

You can pick up Quicken essentials for Mac for $69.99 retail or

$59.99 at Amazon.

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