It's a question that vexes many people who aspire to having a well-organized financial home: "Should I use Intuit's (Nasdaq: INTU ) Quicken software or Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Money?" The bottom line is that either will likely serve your needs quite well as you track your cash inflows and outflows, pay bills, monitor investments, and prepare for tax time.
Here are some other bottom lines from folks who have tested both products:
In PC Magazine, Kathy Yakal noted that: "This is usually a tight race, but this time around, Money is our Editors' Choice. Its new depth options, better online connections, and closer attention to spending and categorization make an already capable, sophisticated, and highly usable finance program even better. That said, Quicken remains a worthy adversary, and users committed to that platform will be served perfectly well by upgrading rather than switching. But if you've been mulling a switch, or are new to personal-finance software, Money is currently king of the hill."
In The Washington Post, Michael Tedeschi opined, "Complete beginners to this category of software may find Money's Web-style interface more comfortable; this program is less demanding than Quicken when it comes to tracking your basic financial health. But if you need in-depth financial management, Quicken is the leader by a narrowing margin -- it keeps all of your account histories one or two clicks away and offers better planning tools." He added: "Thinking of switching from Intuit to Microsoft or vice versa? No halfway contented user of either program need bother -- the effort needed to learn a new program will outweigh any benefits you might see."
If you're still undecided, perhaps browse through customer reviews at Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) , where you'll see that Microsoft Money 2005 Standard (there are apparently several levels of the program) received one and a half stars out of five from 10 reviewers at the time of this writing, and the Deluxe and Premium versions received two stars each. The Quicken reviews weren't much better. The bottom line from many Amazon customers is that the programs work and are helpful, but using them is not always a simple matter -- though sometimes it is -- so don't rule them out.
Grumblings aside, these programs can improve your life. They can help you see where your money is going and can help you manage it. Millions have used them successfully -- so consider trying one. If you don't like it, there's always good old pen and paper. (For more help managing your money, check out a free trial of our Rule Your Retirement newsletter.)
You can learn much more about these programs from Fools who use them -- some of whom have used both. Drop by our Mastering Quicken or Mastering Microsoft Money discussion boards -- you can try our vast community of discussion boards free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Microsoft and Amazon.com.