Microsoft Money 2005
It's a cruel joke by the webmaster to give me MS Money to review again, as he knows I'm the sort of person who's broke in the third week of every month and hanging on by the fingernails in order to survive until pay day. In other words, I'm the sort of person who needs to track their finances much more closely after years of bad habits. However Microsoft has the toughest act yet to follow this year- the 2004 version of the software, which appeared to do it all.
You'll get out of any MS Money package what you put in, in terms of financial information. Every single type of transaction no matter how big or small should be entered, whether singly or rounded up into monthly figures such as the cost of your favourite magazine, newspaper, your ISP subs (a frightening figure when multiplied by 12), your travel costs- anything regular which involves you parting with your hard-earned money.
Not many may care about it if they're only paying for the basic version, but Portfolio Manager will let you manage your stocks, shares and government-sponsored savings accounts (ISAs to us Brits, for another year anyway). Money can download statements from your online bank if it's compatible but this time round, even if your online bank is signed up, you will have to pay after two years to continue with the link-up.
Credit centre returns from last year to help you manage and try and kill off your debts whether they're overdrafts, loans or from credit cards. Other information is grouped together at the comprehensive website, which gets less intimidating as you look at it more often.
The basic version of Money 2005, once again, contains its manuals on the disc rather than paper, and there's no Tax Saver Deluxe for the freelancers or small businesspeople among us to calculate their returns.
The problem is, that the major features promoted by Microsoft, were introduced last year. Only updated rate information and new banks signing up to link their online interfaces, are totally new elements to the package. The rest depends on changes to the way you spend and whether you're willing to change even further. If you're buying from then you won't have any of the documented conversion problems when importing your data into Money 2005. Microsoft are working on fixing the problems at the moment but testing on the level of SP2 would have seen off many issues, rather than reinforcing its view in some users' minds as a purveyor of less than reliable software.
If you have last year's version, stick with it, and if you plan to buy new, clear a day to get all your finance details into it, monitor the web for Microsoft's progress in fixing issues that have arisen - then buy the Deluxe version.