Vital Statistics

Publisher/Manufacturer: Intuit
Contact: http://www.intuit.com
Price: $no longer sold  

About the Product

People with a bank account find Pocket Quicken on the 200LX to be a really handy program.  There's no more manually recording transactions and balancing them by hand every month.  Oh, sure, desktop Quicken is fun, but you still have to write down the amount of your transaction; after all, what are the odds that you'll remember you spent precisely $723.85 at the bookstore this morning, with check number 2339, on your 20309489 account?  Not likely!  So you still have to make careful notes about your transactions as you go along, only to re-enter them later at your desk.  Thus, the 200LX and Pocket Quicken combo is extremely handy.

Unfortunately, there are certain limitations on Pocket Quicken.  Searching is virtually non-existent.    The reports are extremely limited; you can do only three very basic reports, and there are no graphs that can be displayed.  And the Pocket Quicken data file gets larged and bogged down after many transactions have been entered.  

One solution is just to use Pocket Quicken as a transaction recorder, then use the Connectivity Pack or PQ Connect to transfer the files over to a desktop version of Quicken for the more advanced features.  However, why go through all these steps?  Why not just run a full version of Quicken on the palmtop?

With this in mind, I decided to try Quicken 8 for DOS on the 200LX.  I was pleasantly surprised in most areas.

Quicken 8 is a rather large program; a full install comes in at around 3MB.  Of course, there are plenty of files that you won't need on the palmtop, such as the "Compuserve" access files, but the Q.EXE file itself is 1.5MB, so there's no getting around the fact that it's going to take up a bit of room.  You'll need a flash card or a large C: drive to make it work.  Which brings up the next point: speed.  Quicken 8 is pretty speedy on my double-speed 32MB C: drive, but less so on a flash card.  Try to put it and your data files on the internal drive if you can; the speed benefits are worth it.

The benefits of the full version of Quicken are easy to see.  There is a wide variety of customizable reports available, for every conceivable way you might want to view your finances.  In addition, you can make custom graphs on the palmtop-- in CGA mode, of course, but they're still quite impressive.  Using this, I was able to track my fuel costs for the past year and found out that my fuel expenses seem to climb just before my maintenance expenses; therefore, if I notice fuel expenses rising again, I'll know I need to take the car in for a tuneup.  The graphical view makes it easy to see when expenses are on the rise.  Quicken's graphs are interactive, allowing you to see what individual parts mean merely by moving the cursor around.

The searching is much improved in this version.  You can search by any of the variety of fields, rather than just by hitting a letter to go to the last payee.  Finally, I can search through my memo fields to find out exactly when I purchased that GPS unit, and see if it's out of warranty yet.

The Quicken 8 file structure is also much more compact than Pocket Quicken's.  A data file which takes up 250K in Pocket Quicken format only takes 128K in Quicken 8's .QDT format.  Handy!

Of course, not every feature of Quicken 8 works perfectly on the palmtop.  Most notably, the "forecast" feature, which predicts future trends based on past data, doesn't display properly on the CGA display.  Instead of seeing an interactive graph, I got only a blank screen.  Pressing ESC took me back to the Quicken main menu.

Overall, Quicken 8 seems to be a very handy tool for keeping track of the finances on your palmtop.  Its chief drawbacks would seem to be the large size of the program and its not being a System Manager application.  If you have a large internal RAM drive, and can set it up in a Software Carousel work area, (and if you can find a copy somewhere, since it's no longer sold) Quicken 8 will greatly augment your palmtop's financial functionality.  

The Verdict

If you can find a copy for under $30, buy it!  Definitely a worthwhile investment.

Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-2-1999

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