Mac Personal Finance Software = Disappointment

by Matthew Bookspan May 08, 2007

Okay, so it is going on a year since I made the switch to the Mac. We now have multiple Macs in the house (two personal machines and one business). However, in the time since I switched, I have yet to find a decent Macintosh personal finance product.

I have tried Quicken for Mac (2006, not 2007), iBank 2.0, MoneyDance, JumSoft’s Money 2.0, and Midnight Software’s Cha-Ching. Can’t say that any of them holds a candle to Quicken 2007 for Windows. Yes, they all have interesting feature sets. However, I need a powerful tool with a rich feature set, and I want it at a reasonable price.

One of the fallacies of all personal finance software is that they make your life better by helping you to organize your accounts, bills, etc. What the marketers neglect to tell you is that YOU must maintain the software in a very diligent fashion. Further, they neglect to tell you the amount of manual work it takes to perform this maintenance. Of course, there is no reason to use such software unless you intend to maintain it.

Thus, when I switched from Windows, I had hoped to find a great product on the Mac that decreased the time it takes to perform my personal financial tasks. Prior to the switch, I had been using Quicken 2007 Premier edition for Windows. Although it, too, is an imperfect product, it met my needs.

Quicken 2006 for the Mac came with my MacBook. I was excited because I knew the 2007 version would be coming (it follows shortly after the Windows general release). I figured that I would migrate my data file and make the permanent switch. When I learned that I could no longer auto-download transactions from my financial institutions (FIs), and that the best I could get was web connect (download a file and then import it into Quicken), I said no way. Note, this is not necessarily a Mac Quicken problem. The FIs need to support special servers to support the auto-downloading of transactions (OFX is the file format).

You have to understand that on Windows, whether you use Quicken or M$ Money, you have auto-downloading of transactions enabled for a boatload of FIs (as long as you are running a version of the software released in the last two years—given how both Intuit and Microsoft gouge their customer base for upgrades/support). And, prior to switching back to the Mac, I had been using versions of Money or Quicken for the past 12 years.

Anyway, returning to the Mac software…. So, I tried a few other programs as mentioned above. Again, the big problem with all of them was the data entry model. Only MoneyDance supports auto-downloading of transactions from FIs. However, MoneyDance is a Java app wrapped in Cocoa. Although it works, frankly, the app is ugly and very non-Mac-like. That’s because it works exactly the same on Linux and Windows (which, although great for software design consistency, is not great for how users get work done).

I also tried the betas of Cha-Ching. This is a clever little application that bases transactional entry on a tagging system. Although this is good at enabling categorization entry by tags (AKA keywords), it really isn’t much better than using built-in categories within Quicken or any other app (which allow you to change the categories to anything you want). Also, its online integration really just hosts the Bank’s web site…if you call that integration.

iBank is a very pretty product. If it supported auto-downloading of transactions, I would probably use it as my day-to-day application for managing my personal finances. However, it lacks a powerful portfolio manager. Money 2 from Jumsoft also just doesn’t manage to have enough features to really make it useful either.

Most of the Mac personal finance apps are designed for simple budgeting or bank account management. They miss the mark for data entry and overall financial institution (auto-downloading of transactions) support. There have been many reviews of all the Mac personal finance software (MacWorld, others). However, none of these reviews discuss the switch factor. This is pretty crucial because as users make the switch, they care about what tools port over in a way that gives them incentive to stay completely tied to the new platform.

So, after almost a year of using the Mac, which product did I settle with for personal finance management? Parallels, Windows XP, and Quicken 2007 Premier Edition. Nothing beats the product’s feature set, simplicity, and FI integration. Quicken 2007 Premier Edition also has a great portfolio manager and smart reporting. Still, even with that great feature set, the product still sucks as I must always run Windows in order to use it. I just wish there was a real alternative on the Mac.

Maybe one day….


  • I switched just a few months ago (November ‘06) and am right there with you.  I’ve tried most of the products you’ve mentioned and thrown in a few others (LiquidLedger leaps to mind) for good measure.  None measured up, or were really even close, to what Quicken 2007 provides.  Especially with respect to online banking which I use heavily.

    Until a Mac native product breaks through, I’m stuck on Parallels, WinXP and Quicken.  Just like you.

    This is the only area of importance to me where I’ve found Mac software to be truly (and completely) lacking.

    musetracks had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 2
  • I had the same problems, finally choosing iBank.  See for how I decided.

    hiltmon had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I agree whole-heartedly.  After my switch 5+ years ago, I initially retained my old Windows box just for running Quicken.  Finally I think I went with Quicken 2005 on the Mac, and found it’s featureset to be weak and the app was just not as polished as the Windows version.  But it would also crash randomly (and not-so-randomly), and was just too buggy, and my books finally got into a state where an account could literally not be balanced (I’m meticulous about my bookkeeping—this was a bug).  I got disgusted and abandoned Quicken on the Mac. 

    I tried Moneydance.  This was OK, but like you said, unpolished and there was an accumulation of minor usability issues that ultimately made it a pain to use.  Also it didn’t have the powerful type of portfolio management features that I needed.

    In frustration, I dropped Moneydance and went for GnuCash.  I wanted to support an open source product where there was some chance of bugs getting fixed, etc.  But ultimately GnuCash had many of it’s own reporting issues, and the overhead of having to essentially self-manage all the double-entry bookkeeping of stock and mutual fund transactions was painful.  The various reports allowed by GnuCash were insufficient.  Plus it was running under X-Windows and the UI left much to be desired.

    By this time there was a new version of Quicken for the Mac available, so I tried it again and ended up with similar problems to the first time around (bugs, crashes, weak 401K features).  So here I am, like you, back on Quicken 2007 for Windows running via Parallels.  It’s pretty much the only Windows app I run, but for the convenience and well-developed feature set of Quicken for Windows, I find it’s worth every penny.  Believe me, I wish I could run the Mac version, but to me it just doesn’t come close to the feature set and stability of the Windows version.

    TTop had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • What about using Quicken for Windows with Crossover?
    Here is the compatibility report for Quicken 2007

    mackid had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • so how much would you pay for a product exactly like quicke for windows available for MAC?

    hodari had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 4
  • All those other programs seem to be missing something once you have used Quicken 2007. I really like the clear cash flow reporting on the main screen as well as the streamlined online account updating (uh, especially when it works for all my accounts in one click). I currently run my XP Box side by side with my PowerMac G4. Quicken 2007 is really the only thing keeping the XP box on my desk.

    If you go to the Quicken forums you’ll see there are tons of frustrated users of Quicken for Mac. It appears that Intuit is maddeningly unresponsive to their pleas for a better product on the Mac.

    trix606 had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • I’ve been using Macs since the late ‘80s, and I’ve used various versions of Mac Quicken since the early or mid-90s.  Mac Quicken 2002 was the last version that I used with regularity.  I realized that I was doing way too much work reconciling my bank accounts, so I searched for a replacement.  I tried both ‘05 and ‘06 versions and found they did little more than the earlier version. Downloading from my bank account was idiosyncratic at best, and I could forget about my investment accounts. iBank and MoneyDance didn’t work any better.

    I finally gave up.  I keep a WinTel (actually AMD) box that I built running 24/7 in my office.  I connect to it via MS Remote Desktop Connect (RDC) and use it to run Quicken Premier ‘07 (among other Windows only software packages).  I prefer RDC to Parallels because its Mac footprint is extremely small,  and I can connect to it from any of my Macs from (almost) anywhere in the world that I can get a fast internet connection.

    Why do the Intuit folks shortchange the Mac platform? Yes, it would take resources to catch the product up with the WinTel version, but once in sync, it seems like there would be synergies in having a common development path.  Right now, all they do is create a bunch of bad will among Mac users.

    Billybob had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1

    Is anybody reading this thread going to the Apple shareholders meeting this Thursday at 10am? 

    If so, can you PLEASE stand up & ask Steve Jobs why in the HELL he is keeping Intuit CEO Bill Campbell on the Apple Board of Directors, when Bill Campbell has CONTINUED to delivered COMPLETELY SUBPAR financial products for Mac OS X?

    Even in the year 2007, Quicken & QuickBooks are absolutely horrible products on the Mac, and COMPLETELY pale in comparison to their Windows counterparts.

    Just a quick example:

    1. Quicken for Mac does NOT auto-download to MOST financial institutions for instantaneous downloading like it does in Quicken for Windows.
    2. Quicken & QuickBooks for Mac both feature less than 50% of the feature set of the Windows versions of these products.
    3. QuickBooks has no multi-user support, whereas every version of QuickBooks for Windows can be networked.
    4. Neither product supports a cross-platform file format so Windows users will actually LOSE MANY FEATURES & FINANCIAL INFORMATION upon switching to Macintosh, and the tedious export/import routine for QuickBooks still does not work reliably under any circumstances.

    These are just the top 4 issues off the top of my head, but obviously there are DOZENS UPON DOZENS more!  There are no other real personal financial software alternatives for the Mac (with the exception of MYOB, which is okay for small businesses), so we are stuck with these subpar products from Intuit.

    And the only way that many Windows users can switch to the Mac is to end up using their INtuit product in Parallels or Boot Camp.


    I will not be able to make it to the shareholders meeting this week—can somebody please bring up this information at the meeting?

    As far as I’m concerned, Bill Campbell should be kicked off the board completely or step up to the plate and treat Mac users with the respect that they deserve.

    scotty321 had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 1
  • Interestingly enough, I have a business and use Quicken for my personal life and Quickbooks for the business.  In considering the move to Mac, I called Intuit to ask about support for the products. 

    Quicken was obvious, use the Mac version (they said).  But what about Quickbooks?

    After much time with the guy talking to his supervisor *they* recommended that I use Parallels for the Quickbooks—it is the officially supported way to run Quickbooks on the Mac.

    Wonder if other companies that make Mac versions of their programs today will cop out and decide that Parallels gives them a way out?  I can see them saying—“let’s put our Mac resources into making our Windows versions great and recommend Parallels”.


    Chris Williams had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 4
  • Personal Finance is a total pain on Macs.  There are plenty of programs to use if your needs are really basic but if you want to really get down to the nitty gritty. You will likely not be happy with “any” of the current tools.

    That’s just crazy.

    hmurchison had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 145
  • If you use parallels with the Coherance feature, you won’t notice that you are running windows.  It’s not a perfect world, you know….

    Dorian had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Personal finance software is a pain on the Mac, it’s even more of a pain if you happen to live in the UK: 

    Quicken decided to “take the difficult business decision to discontinue development of products for the UK market” in 2005, since when there has been no UK support or new releases.

    The UK version of Microsoft Money also doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2004.  MS Money obviously never ran on a Mac anyway.

    So I’m stuck using an old version of MS Money via parallels.  And believe me, I’ve looked for Mac alternatives, but as the article said, good Mac alternatives don’t exist.

    Eddieranu had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 4
  • Apparently Intuit charges FIs separately for supporting WinQuicken and MacQuicken so many FIs opt to not support the Mac. Since I moved my accounts to FIs that support auto updating on the Mac I’ve been much happier with the Mac version of Quicken.

    nazanne had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 2
  • Which FIs did you switch to for the Mac version of Quicken?

    Matthew Bookspan had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 12
  • One other item of note from the article - the versions of the software I have tried have been rev’d.

    Matthew Bookspan had this to say on May 08, 2007 Posts: 12
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