Pros: functionality behemoth, updated interface, comprehensive finance package, all-in-one offer
Cons: functionality behemoth, changes from 2003 less significant, graphs still inflexible, slow(er)
Okay, now that I have your attention let me explain how Quicken 2004 Deluxe can be for free and still the full version with all the bells and whistles. That does have little to do with it being the 20th Anniversary Edition, but more with specials one has to look out for.
Note: Intuit's website is the wrong place to look for such offer!
$$$ 4 FREE ???
Well, it has been from November 29th until December 6th, at least that's how long Staples.com is running this particular special offer. (Other vendors like MediaPlay and OfficeMax have occasionally similar deals.)
In general, Quicken is greatly discounted when buying it with Turbotax -- unless you're buying from intuit.com. The retail version of Turbotax Deluxe 2003 (39.-) includes an offer to bundle Quicken 2004 Basic for free.
Updaters beware, going to Intuit's website and purchasing direct allows only for a $10 instant rebate but excludes the normal $20 rebate for previous owners.
A few examples Turbotax Deluxe / Quicken Deluxe Bundle ...
- Intuit online: $99 -$10(instant) = $89 tax
- Local retailer: $99 -$40(mail-in) = $59 tax
- Special: $99 -$30(instant) -$40(mail-in) = $29 tax
(mail-in rebates for upgrades only)
One can see possible money savings by comparing. Of course that's nothing new to most readers, and I already had a fit in my review to Quicken Deluxe 2003. (Nothing from section "what's the issue" has changed!) So let's skip the rage and move on to the program review.
20th Anniversary Edition = quantum leap?
Reading the advertisement pretty much every year brought a new 'revolutionary' version of Quicken, even easier to use and more powerful than ever.
I am following this program since 2001 with my first full version one year later (Quicken Deluxe 2002) and despite all the agreeable improvements, changes seem to happen more and more 'under the hood'. Sure it's prettier but what else is really new?
Frankly, if you don't miss anything in older version, there is no obvious reason to upgrade since changes may be great but not used after all.
Having said that, the slightly different interface from year to year has one drawback. Being used to a version before 2003 it's initially harder to navigate 2004 since most things just moved around in 2003 but did not significantly improve. The interface differences between 2003 and 2004 are minimal and mostly to pretty things up. (shaded buttons and graphs).
Intuit states several reasons why this version is a must have ...
- Ready for WindowsXP (not different from 2003)
- Updated security protection (protection is always good)
- faster performance (did not observe this boost)
- latest tax rates (should be downloadable anyway)
- Improved data backup (sure, why not)
- Top customer requests (not mine though)
While any of these statements sound good, Similar reasons where given for Quicken Deluxe 2003, which was also ready for XP and speed-wise actually felt quicker than the 2004 version. (Is the prettied-up interface slowing it down?)
Quicken 2004 Deluxe in a nutshell.
Despite the big name tag "20th Anniversary Edition", the impression when starting the program for the first time may be that one is still looking at the old version. But then one will notice the nicely shaded buttons and graphs. Ahh so that's what the anniversary looks like.
On the positive side, Intuit avoided the same confusion it created in 2003 with re-arranging the interface and making it hard to find. So if you found your way around in 2003, 2004 will be a piece of cake to navigate. Coming from older versions prepare yourself for some study time.
The claimed improvements for 2004 are ...
1. Express Account Setup
Pro: maybe great for newbies
Con: Doesn't matter for most updaters
2. Schedule automatic downloads of your data
Pro: keep data up-to-date
Con: already in 2003
3. Connect to > 2,000 financial institutions
Pro: a few more supported banks etc.
Con: 2003 read exactly the same
4. Investments made easy (New!)
Pro: sounds like it fixes an old issue
Con: (still investigating)
5. Monitor changes in your net worth (New!)
Pro: historic overview gives some new insight
Con: (for historians only)
6. Track your 401(k) step-by-step (Improved!)
Pro: sounds great
Con: doesn't work for my provider (Putnam)
7. Reports are easier to read (Improved!)
Pro: slight improvements
Con: not significant for most users
8. Get the tax deductions you deserve (Easy!)
Pro: create reports to find hidden deductions
Con: complexity still higher than most users will like
9. Pay bills faster with online bill pay (Improved!)
Con: Quicken BillPay is expensive
10. Checkbook registers and reconcile are updated
Pro: easier workflow
Out of these 'main improvements' I found the redesigned checkbook to be a subtle but very useful change. Finally downloaded and scheduled transactions are represented by tabbed windows which allow easy access to either. (In 2003 display of scheduled transactions had somewhat of a random feel to it.)
All these things may be needed by one or another, so I am not going to judge them here. However, the average user may not even notice 90% of it and still wrestle with remaining issues (old ones). Given that Intuit implemented the "top customer requests", my wishlist apparently never made it on their priorities. (Santa?)
What's missing (again)?
Pretty much most of my criticism of Quicken Deluxe 2002 remained in Quicken Deluxe 2003 and still persists in version 2004.
While the graphs got prettier and somewhat improved, they are still lacking basic trend / comparison features. For instance, the spending habits don't allow to compare 2 categories side by side over a time span. (It allows to show one or more categories combined.) For me it would be interesting to find out how dining expenses developed compared to groceries over the last year -- in one line or bar graph. It's also not very intuitive how the 'memorizing' works.
I could almost copy this section from my Quicken Deluxe 2003 review with statements regarding
- the budget function
- update for currency exchange rates
- cluttered graph interface
- Navigation (finding functions)
I will spare you a simple copy and would like to invite you to read it in the other review. (or skip it if not interested)
I would like to add one thing that has been bothering me for the time I am using Quicken (about 3 years). Window management during certain tasks is simply cumbersome. For instance, during downloading transactions, the main window is locked and cannot be moved or minimized. This would be okay, if I didn't do that while having other windows open (some of them not showing on the task bar).
The bottom line
Let me be frank about this: I like the new version! This is mainly due to the prettier interface and improvements in the checkbook register. While other improvement don't impact my daily finance chore by much they may be significant for one or the other.
Of course, part of my recommendation is the fact that I got Quicken 2004 Deluxe for free, since I am buying TurboTax anyway. However, if not interested in this bundle, savings are less significant. (Especially upgraders should stay away from Intuit's online shop for mentioned reason.)
To pay Intuit its dues, Quicken 2004 Deluxe continues to be the function behemoth it has been know for in the past. Lots of powerful financial tools are provided and should satisfy even the most pedantic user. On the other end of the spectrum, Quicken's basic functions are easy enough to learn after a few days for newbies. Once set up, it should be easy enough for daily use.
Still, it's a powerful tool to organize your finances. It does reduce paperwork for tasks like comparing the spending pattern with budget. There are many advanced features which are not mastered over night though ...
The one fact I didn't explore too much but can be read in the Quicken Deluxe 2003 review is how trusting Intuit's recommendations add up to significant expenses in owning this financial tool. Watch out for the pitfalls of using Intuit's updates under the cover of convenience. (Most of the time no rebates apply).
All in all, I got this update and it works great right now. I can recommend for everybody else to do the same. Though today (December 6th) is the last day for the Staples.com offer, I am sure there will be others. Remember, if you pay full price, you pay (way) too much!
Note: Don't forget to check out Pocket Quicken 2.0 for more mobility of your financial data.