Such is the reputation of Quicken, Intuit's accounting and financial management software, that Microsoft once tried to buy the company. The deal never came off, but Intuit has kept up the pace with programs for our personal finances. Its flagship Quicken XG product, though, is powerful enough to meet the needs of a sole trader or small business, even if they are registered for VAT.
The problem with any software of this sort is the painful process of entering the data. But Quicken makes this about as easy as it can be. The first screen, after installation, gives the option to configure the software for running a business, keeping an eye on investments or managing debt. For business accounts, adding customers or cost categories is a matter of a few mouse clicks, and it is possible to turn VAT on or off for each account. This is very useful for firms that have VAT-exempt or zero-rated services.
The main screen can also display data from more than one category, so it is possible to view business and personal data together, or bank and credit card balances alongside debtors and creditors. However, the downside to this is that the main screen can look quite cluttered.
There are also some niggles about the way Quicken handles data. By default, some dates are in the US month-day-year format, but others keep to the format in the UK. This increases the chance of entering the wrong information. The software also refused to display a zero value for the purchase price of a share - important for anyone who has windfall shares.
There are other places where the software is only partially localised for the UK. Again on the equities screen, there is a button to download US but not UK historic prices.
Quicken XG is powerful, but in its current version it is hard to feel comfortable using it. For personal finance, it is still ahead of the pack, but for business book- keeping there are other options.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Pros: powerful features
Cons: erratic localisation, fussy screens, no Mac support in the UK
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