Monday, April 5, 2010

Reports in Quicken Essentials for Mac

This is the latest in our series deconstructing Quicken Essentials for Mac.

Quicken Essentials for Mac comes with a significantly reduced set of reports, as compared to previous versions of Quicken. There are essentially three different types of reports:

  • A monthly summary of transactions
  • A category summary report
  • A "spending cloud"

I've already given my opinion on the spending cloud. Let's focus on the other two reports.

Monthly Transaction Reports

There are two reports on the monthly summary of transactions: one for the current month (to date), and one for last month. These reports show every transaction for the state time period, organized first by account, and then into three areas:

  • Income
  • Scheduled expenses
  • Other expenses

This report is analogous to Quicken 2006's "Transaction Detail" report.

For each transation, the date, payee, tag/category, and amount is shown. You can sort by any of those column headers, and click on a transaction to show it in the appropriate register. Subtotals for income, scheduled expenses, and other expenses are shown as well.

These reports are of somewhat limited utility, and no customization is available. Improvements that could be made include:

  • Customizable time frames. If you want a report of year-to-date, or of just the last two weeks, or of the current quarter, you're out of luck.
  • Grand totals. The report shows the subtotal of income, and subtotals of expenses, but not an overall total. That's just dumb.
  • Including/excluding accounts. It would be handy to be able to ignore individual accounts.
  • Scheduled vs. other transactions. I'm not sure why they've decided to separate scheduled expenses vs. other expenses. Worse, a scheduled deposit that I set up (my paycheck) shows up under scheduled expenses.

Category Summary Report

The Category Summary report is more useful, but is still not great. There's at least some customization available. The report is analogous to Quicken 2006's "Category Detail" and "Category Summary" reports.

As its name implies, the Category Summary report shows income and expenses broken down by category. Each transaction shows the date, payee, and amount. Subtotals are shown by category and sub-category, although again no grand totals are shown.

The Category Summary report has some customization. The initial report shows all dates, all categories, all accounts, and all tags. Use the Settings button to change these defaults. You can save the resulting report under a different name.

The other customization that you can work with is the amount of detail to display. Three options are available:

  • Details for all categories. This shows every transaction.
  • Summary of all categories. This collapses the report into categories and sub-categories. For example, this would show a line for "Auto", but also lines for "Auto:Fuel" and "Auto:Service"
  • Top-level categories only.

You can also click on individual categories to collapse or expand that category. That's what I've done for this screenshot, where the Auto:Fuel subcategory is collapsed:

There is still room for improvement with this report:

  • Sticky detail preferences. Every time you open a category summary report, it defaults to "Details for all categories". There is no way to set one of the other two as a default.
  • Subtotals by category that show both income and expense. For example, let's say that you buy pants, get them home, realize they won't work and return them. You've now got an expense and a credit to the same account. While you can give them the same category, the two transactions are shown on different parts of the report, and you can't see that the two transactions cancel each other out. Getting this put together would be a big step towards being able to use QEM for envelope budgeting.
  • Smart date ranges. The date range customization requires you to type in a specific start and end date. It would be nice to be able to specify things like "this month", "last month", "year-to-date", where the reports would automatically update.
  • Report names. When you save a customized report, QEM oddly doesn't ask you for a name for the report. Yes, you can rename it, but why not ask first?

What's Missing

Quicken 2006 had several other reports that are missing from Quicken Essentials for Mac:

  • Possibly the most glaring omission is the comparison report, where you could compare income and expenses between two date ranges.
  • The Budget Month-by-Month and Budget Summary are inadequately replaced by QEM's budget page.
  • Completely missing are the Net Worth, Reconciliation, Tax Schedule, and Tax Summary reports

And, as I've mentioned, the other big thing that's missing is the customization. Reports in Quicken Essentials for Mac is pretty much a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.

1 comment:

mozart_darwin said...