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Quicken's Quality Meltdown - Anybody know why?

A happy Quicken 99 (or was it 98?) user, I recently upgraded to Quicken 2004 after warnings from my bank that on-line banking would cease to work if I didn't upgrade (an evil marketing strategy if ever there was one).

Quicken 2004 is the classic example of a "disaster release":  Incredibly buggy, in some cases corrupting user's data, gratuitous UI changes offering no benefit, five patches out in as many months.  Don't just take my word for it, look at user comments on Amazon (2/5 stars), ZDNet (94% thumbs down), CNet (79% thumbs down).

Matching on-line transactions to recorded ones isn't exactly rocket science, and Quicken had it working for years.  Yet in Quicken '04 they managed to screw it up completely.  It's just amazing.

My question for the JoS crowd: Does anybody have the inside scoop on how a major software vendor caused such a massive quality meltdown on their flagship product?  Did Intuit lay off the QA staff as a cost savings measure?  Outsource the coding to a third world country where the developers never use the product?  I would love to know what went wrong.  Probably some valuable lessons there.

J. Peterson
Saturday, February 21, 2004


I upgraded a month or two ago, it works OK for me.  I don't do a whole lot with it.

Really, I could still be using Q99 happily.  Online banking integration is the only significant change that I think has happened in several years. 

I guess that's a strange sort of problem to have - you dominate your market so the only way to continue to make money is to sell new versions with useless features <insert obligatory MS Office joke here>

Jason
Saturday, February 21, 2004

I worked for a small software vendor with a decent-quality product.  When we wrote the next major release, all hell broke loose.  It took us almost 18 months to completely fix it and regain our customers' trust.  Here are a few reasons why it was such a problem:

1.) We had no architectural design for the largest new feature.  It started as a UI prototype, to which we kept adding features, until boom, it became the shipping product.

2.) We hired a firm to do some pretty advanced usability testing, and came up with a lot of places which needed help.  We then brainstormed new interface design internally and coded it.  But we never went back and had external users test again, nor did we have any formal usability testing performed on the new version.  As a result the new version suffered from *different* UI flaws which were just as bad.  But to long-time users, they were even worse, because those users already knew their way around our old flaws.

3.) We had almost no written specs.  As a result, when we thought the product was "complete," upper management would review it, find major issues, and require us to rewrite major portions of the application.  This pushed us later and later, which meant...

4.) We didn't have enough QA resources available.  No dedicated QA staff.  Not enough time for developers to QA it, because we were so late finishing coding.

Ryan
Saturday, February 21, 2004

I've never understood that argument about companies making money by selling new versions with "useless" features.

If nobody wanted the features, why would they buy the product? Because they're stupid? I give the person shelling out their hard-earned money more credit than that.

More often than not, new features get into products like Office as a result of direct customer feedback, and the products sell because people want the features.

Mike Treit
Saturday, February 21, 2004

Curious.  I just read an article in Business 2.0 about how they have the hottest CEO in tech.  He goes on in the article about how he used his Sigma Six (or whatever its called) stuff to revitalize Intuit.

Quicken....running your business....into the ground.

Steve
Saturday, February 21, 2004

I happily used Quicken from around '96.  Upgraded to Quicken 2000 to get the new features and rapidly gave up on it.  I tried going back to it recently, but the online features no longer worked (it claimed they had 'expired').  That most have been in the small print I didn't read when I bought it.

So I've switched to MS Money and so far so good.

On a related note I use TaxWiz for (Canadian) tax filing (taxwiz.ca) as it is downloadable, cheaper than QuickTax perfectly adequate.

When I bought a copy online this year the credit card charge came through as Intuit.  There is absolutely no mention on their website that they have been bought out by Intuit.  I wonder how longer they will market two 'competing' products?

Rob Walker
Saturday, February 21, 2004

My wife runs all but one of these with Quickbooks:
http://tk-jk.net/jk/clients.htm
It's our bread and butter. She usually has at least 4 versions running - 00, 01, 02, and 03 right now. She pays $650/year for premium support; it's worth every penny.
Upgrades usually go well but she, wisely, is the ultimate late adopter. Thanks for the warning.

Every new client seems to have some requirement that QuickBooks is missing. I should say that she can make QB do about anything but QB could make some quirky things easier to set up.

As the person who keeps her computer running and safe, I'm in awe of what it takes to support multiple versions the product. Bookkeepers get very uptight when it's time to print paychecks.

tk
Saturday, February 21, 2004

OP:  Do you really need the online banking features?  I have 2001 basic and I just manually reconcile by alt-tabbing back and forth between my online transaction history and my reconcile window.  It only takes 5-10 minutes every 3-7 days.

I've never been particularly impressed with Intuit's products or their business practices, especially not since registering Quicken 6 with the address "[my name] \n No Snail Mail On Pain Of Death" -- and then, months later, getting a credit card offer with that name and address printed on the image of a gold card.  ;>

Still, I'm to the point where I need to send out invoices and manage payments, and I'm not aware of anything that sucks less, so I'll probably wind up buying QuickBooks too.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Saturday, February 21, 2004

We've used QB to run our software company for about 7 years now.

Currently on Version 2002 (we're very very late adopters).

Never had any real problems, although my wife (who does the accounting) occassionally complains that it does wierd stuff (like a transaction gets categorized differently than she thought she set it, etc.).  Not sure if that's operator error (which I've done myself) or a bug in QB.

Support hasn't been the greatest, although we've not needed it yet.

$150.00 for financial sofware to run a $160k a year business seems like a pretty good deal to me.

I'll be wary of 2004 version.

The real Entrepreneur
Saturday, February 21, 2004

I recently switched from Microsoft Money to Quicken at the start of 2004.  The main reason was that I was fed up with how hard it was to get Money to integrate into Turbo Tax.  Possible but a pain in the neck.  New year, new finance records.

Anyhow, it works very nicely for me.

One thing I did find had to do with Money.  I had been using Money 2000 (I think, perhaps it was 99).  I had a brand new copy of Money 2002 already installed on the PC.  I thought it might useful to try the new copy of Money already on the computer. 

ARGH!!  You cannot even use the damn thing without signing up for a passport account.  What a load of crap.  Another Microsoft PM smoking crack.

hoser
Saturday, February 21, 2004

Quicken is not the same as Quickbooks. A couple of posters here seem to have conflated the two, although they are similar products both from Intuit I believe they are completely different code bases.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Saturday, February 21, 2004

Rob (& any other canucks):

Yes Quicken does own TaxWiz.  Over the years that have also bought out WinTax, HomeTax and CanTax (personal) each of which were of reasonable quality. 

I have personally used each of the major brands (TaxWiz, WinTax, HomeTax, CanTax and QuickTax) and this year I am trying Griff Tax.  That leaves UFile for next year. 

My favourite so far was HomeTax followed by WinTax -- both of which were bought and buried by Quicken.  I have no idea what Quicken is doing with the IP from these products.  It sure as hell was not added to QuickTax...

So far GriffTax simple is OK.  I haven't finished the year end for my wife's small business yet so I don't know how good or bad that will be.  For simple taxes it works very well.

O Canader
Saturday, February 21, 2004

I don't know about Quicken, but one of Intuit's other products, TrackIt (trouble-ticket tracking, among other things) has been one of the most unstable products I've seen in action.

Greg Hurlman
Sunday, February 22, 2004

(Re: Intuit products)

I've noticed this phenomenon as well, from MacinTax in the early '90s or so to TurboTax and Quicken more recently.  I've noticed more bugs in later versions, and decreased usability.  And do we need to mention the MBR thing?  I know developers that won't touch their products again because of that!  Happily, I can say that the latest Turbotax was pretty  good--fairly easy to use and stable.  They sure had some problems, though. 

They used to employ more usability folks than the norm; I don't know if this is still true.

(re: track-it)

I looked at this product a few years ago, didn't know it was bought by Intuit (I'm reasonably certain they weren't owned by them at the time).  It looked like a fabulous product.  But man, the bugs!  I'd have this thing running in the background and I'd have my machine crash within about an hour, every time.  The evaluation I was doing ended fairly quickly.

Rich
Sunday, February 22, 2004

'O Canader': thanks for the pointers about other tax software.  I'll try one out next year if its still around.

I wonder if this leads to a viable business plan:
1. Write tax software
2. Be bought by Intuit

Rob Walker
Sunday, February 22, 2004

No idea as to why Intuit has experienced a quality meltdown, but it isn't limited to Quicken.

Quickbooks is at least as buggy.  Actually, I'm not sure that this is new behaviour - going back to version 6 (or maybe 5 was the first version we used) Quickbooks was the program that crashed badly if you had any network instability (still does, but not as regularly) - despite advertising five user access over a network. It was also the program that could not reliably import the same file twice.  And it is the program that gets slower, and slower, and slower as you add transactions.  Have a lot of inventory?  Not only will searching for inventory take many minutes, but so will searching for anything else.

Bugs in Quickbooks have cost us hundreds of dollars.  Incautiously activating the multi-currency feature (obviously too soon), not all of the reports reported the same currency.  When I say that, I mean that if you do a tax report covering multiple currencies, sometimes it "forgets" the invoices are multi-currency, and reports as if they were all the base currency.  And this isn't consistent either, so you have to view the details of every report before trusting the consolidation, and match each detail with the base currency amount that you expected in order to be sure your numbers were right. Of course you can't return to single currency mode. And heaven forbid if you decide to use an outside payroll system (after they changed their payroll subscriptions to force you to subscribe to the actual software as well as payroll - a nearly 300% price increase, plus you get to be a guinea pig for all their new features and bugs with each new version of the software, which is automatically rolled out with the payroll).  If you use an outside payroll system, you have to set up new payroll accounts.  If you use the internal payroll accounts, even though the transactions appear successful, they don't show up on the reports.

The sad part about all of the above is that the previous software (Simply Accounting) that we used randomly deleted entries (actually usually only half an entry, which is worse).  So Quickbooks was superior software.

Part of Intuit's problem (I think) is the fact that they have so many different code bases for essentially the same application.  The Canadian version of Quickbooks does not have the same code base as the American version (for instance). Another part of the problem may be that the migration from traditional app to browser based app wasn't particularly smooth.  They have also purchased a ton of companies and integrated their code (supposedly). I suspect said integration had some quirks that needed (needs?) working out.

It seems to me also that much more effort has gone into nifty copyright protection schemes and automatic updating (some of which silently disable previous features - argh!).  And figuring out how best to force your customers into a subscription mode instead of a "buy our new software when the customer wants to" mode.

I admire Intuit at a business level - they have done an incredible job at weaning their customers from a one-time sale to re-occurring revenue streams.  But their methodology has also really turned me off as a customer.

Not an Intuit Fan
Sunday, February 22, 2004

I use a human being (not me) to do my taxes.

Highly recommended. :)

Kentasy
Sunday, February 22, 2004

> If nobody wanted the features, why would they buy the product?

Maybe it's not trying a matter of trying to persuade people to upgrade: maybe it's a matter of, if you don't have new features (a 'new release') then you can't get people to publish reviews of it again.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Okay then, since Quickbooks is starting to sound really awful, does anybody have recommendations for another application I can use?  I mostly need to create detailed invoices for hourly consulting and sales of a shrinkwrapped app; tracking my bank balance is not necessary since I have an older version of Quicken.  (=

Sam Livingston-Gray
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Anybody try GnuCash?  I currently use Q2001, with which I am satisfied, but the machine it's on is nearing the end of its life and re-installing on a new machine means 1) finding my Q2001 media, 2) re-registering OR 2a) spending 1-4 hours on the phone to explain that I've already registered and just want to use a re-installed instance, 2a1) listen to the PSS read the part of her script about why I should upgrade, 3) try to get all of the updates installed so on-line banking will work, 4) restore current data from backup and pray.

Here's what I'm wondering about GnuCash.  Obviously almost no banks on earth support on-line banking with it, but it does claim to import and automatically merge .QIF files.  My bank provides manual download of QIFs based on filter criteria that you select in a browser interface, so I've thought it would be cool if I could get in touch with someone in their development area to see if there was some way I could automate my selection and download through scripting on my end, which would come pretty close to satisfying my wants.  I'm sure they would never give up that kind of information, but it's a nice thought.  Anybody ever try anything like this?

MacSqueeb
Sunday, February 22, 2004

And they boast about their Six Sigma program.

fool for python
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Microsoft Great Plains Small Business Manager

http://www.microsoft.com/BusinessSolutions/Small%20Business%20Manager/default.mspx

I've worked with the full blown Great Plains for years and it's rock solid.  This product is built on the same code base. 

Jason
Monday, February 23, 2004

Of course, Great Plains is referred to "Great Pains" for a reason too.

I don't think there is a really good accounting package out there for small businesses.  I was waiting for MYOB to mature a bit (was looking pretty good), but they now belong to Intuit...

Phibian
Monday, February 23, 2004

I "upgraded" from Quicken '99 to '04 recently; due to file formating changes with online banking.  (my bank wasn't supporting '99 or the other way around, not sure).

When I setup online banking I noticed a message saying the .qif files are going away next year and unless the bank uses qifXML or some xml flavor I won't be able to use the online feature.

Talk about "upgrade by obsoletion"

apw
Monday, February 23, 2004

Kentasy,

Your tax person probably uses a software product to do your taxes.

pdq
Monday, February 23, 2004

Taxes by hand.  That is funny.

hoser
Monday, February 23, 2004

I have been faithful to WinTax/QuickTax for more years than it's been Intuit. Last year they annoyed me by restricting printing. This year it would not "Activate" by 'Net (no phone option offered until upgrade completed).

Had a real hassle getting it installed (e.g. would not recognize CD for access to Wealth Planner etc), and now it takes OVER TWO MINUTES to load.

Does anyone have any idea how to fix this? I have a support request in to Intuit, but not too hopeful.

BTW, if I get back in business in a small way, I will resurrect my old DOS version 1.0 of Quickbooks. No online banking, but it worked just swell.

Mike Cromie
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'm a Quicken user from way back -- I believe I may have started with the very first version, but it was so long ago I don't remember.  I also recently upgraded to 2004, and for the most part its ok.  There is one problem, though, that is very irritating -- and its especially irritating because in order to get help on it from their support organization I'd have to pay money.  Since I believe its a bug I refuse to pay them to find a solution.  The problem has to do with those dialog boxes that pop up to warn you that you're about to over-write the previous backup, or worse, asks you if you wouldn't rather be paying your bills online, I click on the box that says don't show this again -- to no avail.  These blasted things keep coming back.  No matter how many times I select the "Don't show this again option" I still see it again.  It's more than a little irritating. 

Dennis Miller (not THAT Dennis Miller)

Dennis Miller
Thursday, April 01, 2004

I found a new tax program called "MyTaxExpress"...which does everything except the RRSP garbage, that Intuit does, but costs less than a third in price. I would think it will be the next program of choice. I have been a faithfull customer of quicktax since its inception, but not anymore...they are toooo greedy!! All I want to do is DO MY TAXES...I don't need all the other garbage they want you to pay for. Try MYTAXEXpress..you will like it...probably Intuit will buy them after this year, as they seem to do to all the other competition, that is cheaper.

BI
Friday, April 02, 2004

I'm boiling over features, limitations and crappy chat support with Quicken 2004 Premiere H&B. My first unresolved question involved categories. I made the big mistake when I upgraded to 04 of adding in all the presets of categories within Quicken. I've been told you can never alter or remove them once you add them.

Secondly, I was very attracted to the Vehicle Mileage Tracker until I was told by two chat support specialists that there is no way to get a report of mileage by vehicle. Since the tracker has you enter which vehicle you used, why can't you have a report by vehicle.

I then asked each support person where I might find Quicken forums and they both acted like I was speaking a foreign language. With all these issues, I was told they were too complex for chat support and I would have to pay for Live phone support.

Intuit has been on my blacklist ever since they sent us a notice that they would no longer be supporting QuickBooks for Mac. I went out and bought a PC and PC version of Quicken and hand-typed several years of entries (no conversion or import available at that time). The next year, I got an announcement that Intuit was again supporting and upgrading QuickBooks for Mac.

Just plain poor business practices across the board!! I'm just getting ready to demand my money back for this nightmare they call an upgrade!!

Sheryl
Thursday, April 08, 2004

Hi, Everyone:

Like many of the other Quicken users who have posted comments here, I am a long-term(5+ years) user of Quicken for tracking a few investments. Since I never hooked up with any of the online accommodations except for updates for quotes, most of my usage has been done on a "manual" basis. But one thing has nagged me for years and it still nags me for Quicken 2004: I cannot get scheduled transactions(like those on Calendar) to show up on my Portfolio. I usually make adjustments each month or so after I received a statement from the mutual fund where the funds are invested. As I interpret the language(and I have the text,"Quicken 2004 for Dummies"), Quicken is supposed to automatically make entries through the scheduled transaction to the proper account to update the balance after each new contribution. I get a nice indication on my Calendar, but for whatever reason--I have never been able to get this--I do not realize a change in the balance of the accounts. To get that I must make separate entries each time.

Does that make sense to anyone? Can anyone tell me what my error is?

Your comments would be appreciated.

Regards,

Wendell Lloyd

Wendell R. Lloyd
Sunday, May 02, 2004

I hate Intuit... I've been using Quicken since 1992 and what a mess.  I never can get my real net worth!  And the worst happened 18 months ago when I went back to the Mac OS world.  Intuit don't even store the Quicken data in the same format on both plaforms... so no easy way to import data.  I had to manually edit the QIF files to be able to import the categories and transactions... really painful transition.

And in 2004, they don't even support an Investment account in foreign currency on the Mac... It's like if their Mac team was totally dissociated from the Windows teams... Their loosing money maintaining two platforms when they could do multi-platform development like we do at Ubisoft... anyway...

So I end up tracking my portfolios on Yahoo!!!  At least it can figure out that a stock is on the Canadian market and convert using the daily exchange rate...

Hugo Frappier
Sunday, May 09, 2004

I'm using Quicken 99 and after a hiatus of 6 months I can get the online feature to work.  It gives me an error message of OL-66.  Intuit stated that they no longer support Quicken 99.  Anyone know what OL-66 error is?

Brian
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Sorry, but a typo snuck in.  It's supposed to read I CAN'T get...

Brian
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

SIX SiGMA! That explains it. Infinite faith in a silver bullet.
Well, not even the basic 401k calculations are accurate.
What a poor joke of a program. Yes, probably mass RIF's
and substandard QA.
One can only hope some Indian company like WIPRO
brings a finance package on the US market and wipes out
Quicken. Bad for the employees. Good for cnsumers.
Arrogant companies as Intuit have no place in business any more.

BK
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I use Quicken 2004, and am really having issues w/ the reconcile function.

It will go along fine for months, and then all of the sudden some transaction from months or even years ago shows up as un-cleared/un-reconciled. If you try to clear it , it throws the balance totally off.

Does anybody know how to clean up this when it gets out of whack ?

If i cant figure this out , I would seriously consideribailing out on Quicken to MsMoney - any recommendations on whther thats a good idea or not ?

Randy Livocx
Sunday, June 13, 2004


I have updated quicken since quicken 1 every year just because I like the product, and I am a silly man.  nothing else to do I guess.  Everything has been great untill 2004. I now get nothing right.  I send transactions out and quicken {the program} askes me to resend it even thow the bank got it, The all my transactions double them selves.  My balance is now -45,000 dollars.  I am poor but not that poor.  A little bird has told me that they know it is crap and 2005 will fix all.  If you follow the stock market it shows.  I have reached deep into quicken head quarters and getting free help. 

poor looking in ohio
Friday, July 30, 2004

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