The Practical Mac

Welcome Back to Mac, Quicken

- 2012.01.06 - Tip Jar

Those of us who continue to use the only full-featured personal finance program available on the Mac, Quicken 2007, received an early Christmas present on Dec. 22: news directly from the new General Manager of Intuit's Personal Finance Group, Aaron Forth, that Quicken 2007 will be made Lion-compatible by "early Spring".

Arguably the most widely-used and well-known application to become broken by the inexplicable absence of Rosetta (the software that let Intel Macs run PowerPC software) from Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Quicken 2007 is the sole reason I continue to use OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on my primary Mac. We have financial data going back to 1998 in Quicken and, unable to find a suitable replacement, won't be abandoning it anytime soon.

However, in anticipation of the inevitable arrival of the day when I would be forced to upgrade to Lion because of Snow Leopard incompatibility that seems to increase with each application that is upgraded, I had already set out to figure out how to continue using Quicken 2007.

I had finally settled on a solution that involved running Snow Leopard Server virtualized in VMware on a Mac mini running Lion Server and accessing Quicken via an RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) client and terminal server. This solution was actually not as complicated as it sounds, and it gave us a new benefit: the ability to access Quicken from virtually anywhere we had an Internet connection. In fact, as I write this, I am returning from Christmas vacation having already entered every expenditure in Quicken, running on a nondescript headless Mac mini server sitting in my basement.

Thanks to Intuit's announcement, this setup (hopefully) won't be required much longer. However, we are quickly becoming accustomed to the newfound convenience of being able to access our Quicken accounts from anywhere. We might just keep this solution in place anyway.

Even if we do decide to continue running Quicken on a terminal server, Intuit's announcement is welcome news, as it means I will no longer be required to run Quicken on a virtual Snow Leopard Server. Instead, I will be able to install and run it directly on Lion Server.

It remains to be seen how the compatibility will be achieved. The preferred method would be to rewrite the code base so as not to rely on Rosetta, but other, less-elegant solutions - such as creating their own custom Rosetta wrapper - would be technically possible. Rewriting the code in Cocoa (Rosetta apps are written in Apple's now-obsolete Carbon) would better ensure compatibility with future versions of the Mac OS after Lion.

Intuit's FAQ section simply calls it "a reengineered version of Quicken for Mac 2007 that will work on OS X 10.7 Lion". This seems to indicate a rewrite, but only time will tell.

When you get right down to it, Quicken is a program that, absent bugs in the software, needs little maintenance. After all, the basic methods of accounting and bookkeeping don't really change very often. That being said, a refresh of the online banking feature to include more banks would be useful.

In the announcement, Mr. Forth identifies himself as a "fellow Mac fan and customer". This fact in itself certainly could go a long way in healing the rift and soothing the hard feelings Mac users have developed with Intuit. The same can be said for Mr. Forth's candid acknowledgment that Intuit has not always delivered on its commitment to Quicken Mac customers. All most of us have ever asked of Intuit is to admit to the problem and fix it. They have accepted responsibility for the problem and have committed to fixing it. Any way you slice it, this is good news for Mac users.

Intuit's de facto abandonment of the Mac platform made little sense. The installed base of Macs has consistently grown each year - and significantly at that. Much of this growth came at the expense of Windows. So few of us could figure out why Intuit was leaving a rapidly growing market out in the cold, especially when they had supported us (more or less) during the lean years. Admittedly, Intuit's Mac business line never exactly drove the company, but neither did it lose money. Giving Quicken a refresh, especially in light of the current dearth of acceptable personal finance software for the Mac, will most likely result not only in Intuit's holding on to its existing installed base, but to attracting more than a few new users as well.

I will never entrust my personal finances to an app that exists solely in the cloud. I'm fairly certain I have a lot of company on this issue. If Intuit wants to corner the personal finance software market, I know how they could do it. While I won't dump my finances into the cloud, I am not opposed to it residing there as well as on my Mac. My terminal server experiment has caused me to be reluctant to return to the single-location solution to managing my personal finances. Why can't I install Quicken on my Mac, my wife's Mac, as well as our iPads and maybe even iPhones, then have all my accounts synced and available on any of these installations? After all, that is exactly what happens with the books I read on my Kindle app. When I put down my iPad and later pick up my iPhone and open the Kindle app, I am on the same page in the book as when I closed the app on my iPad.

Amazon accomplishes this through the cloud in largely the same way Intuit could and should. My financial information would reside not only in the cloud, but also on any Mac or iDevice with Quicken. Intuit would have a bit more of a challenge than Amazon, but not much. Where Amazon only has to store and sync bookmarks, not the entire book, Intuit would need to store all of a user's accounts and transactions.

Also contained in the announcement, sent via email to registered users of Quicken 2007 for Mac, is a hint at more good news for Mac users. The message references a renewed commitment to the Mac platform in other, unspecified ways. The full text of the message is reprinted below so you can draw your own conclusions and perhaps make your own speculations.

Quicken logo

Dear Quicken Mac Customer:

As a fellow Mac fan and customer, I wanted to personally introduce myself, and share some highlights of our Apple-related efforts with you.

I recently became General Manager of the Personal Finance Group at Intuit, responsible for Quicken and Intuit's 25 years of leadership in personal financial management software makes me excited to lead this team and I am committed to creating products to help you reach your financial goals.

I recognize, however, that we have not always delivered on this promise to Quicken Mac customers.

As you may know, Quicken for Mac 2007 does not currently work on Apple's latest operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). I understand the frustration this may have caused you and have put a team in place to address this issue. I am happy to announce that we will have a solution that makes Quicken 2007 for Mac "Lion-compatible" by early spring. There are still details to be worked out, so I ask your continued patience as we work through these. In the meantime, you can find more information on our Mac FAQ page.

Working toward a Quicken for Mac 2007 solution is just a first step in winning back your confidence.

We are expanding our development team to continue our renewed focus on personal finance solutions that suit the needs of our Mac customers. As we develop solutions, we'll be looking to you and the rest of our Mac customers for ideas and feedback.

I understand we have a way to go, but I wanted to start by communicating our commitment to Mac and look forward to sharing the details with you as they emerge.

Thank you for your continued loyalty to Quicken.

Aaron Forth
General Manager, Intuit Personal Finance Group

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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