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Getting Off the Sunset Train
Getting Off the Sunset TrainApril 30th, 2008 · stk
Today, because of the Intuit "Sunset Policy", Quicken Deluxe 2005 will lose certain functionality. It's a blatant money grab by Intuit, confident I've grown used to the functionality and will purchase a new version ($89). Sorry guys, I'm getting off the Sunset Train. Read how I'll regain the lost functionality (and actually improve upon it)
Shame on Intuit's Sunset Policy, which disables certain software features after three years, effectively forcing customers to purchase an "updated" version (containing few substantive improvements).
I've been using Quicken since 1990 (18 years). I'd say that makes me a long-time customer. I used to upgrade every year and drool over the new features like a kid looking through a confectioner's window. As the product matured, I noticed that the new, must-have features became fewer and farther between. The software also became more expensive and so, I stopped purchasing yearly upgrades.
Apparently, I wasn't alone. When Intuit noticed this shift in consumer behavior they countered it with a planned obsolescence of their products, in the form of a Sunset Policy. By disabling certain features every three years, they could generate revenue by forcing users, dependent on those features, to upgrade.
This first happened to me in 2005, with my Quicken 2002 version. At the time, I didn't object too loudly, because I found a way to upgrade for free! Fast forward to 2008 and now it's Quicken 2005 that that is being crippled - today. Intuit says, "Buy Quicken 2008 Premier or lose certain online features."
Well, this time Intuit, I'm getting off the Sunset train. I've found a simple work-a-round for downloading multiple, daily stock and mutual fund quotes, which is the only feature I use that's going to be disabled today. And thanks to my mate, I now have mQuote, which is actually superior to the historical quote retrieval "service" that I'm losing inside Quicken!
For more about why the Intuit sunset policy sucks and my stock quoting work-a-round, read on.
The Intuit Sunset Policy - A Big Step in the Wrong Direction
I understand Intuit's desire to generate steady revenue from a mature, flagship product. It raises an important question for the software industry as a whole. Should a software company generate continual revenue from a mature (relatively non-changing) software product?
Historically, people don't rent software, they buy it. Such a purchase may come with "free" or "limited" support, but those days are changing. (One of the things that is getting axed at sunset time is support for a particular version and this is fine. If you need support after three years, you should be able to turn to forums, other users or the manual. It costs money to develop updates and such and to this extent, sure ... Intuit should be able to cut-bait and run.)
However, Intuit's decision to disable certain software features (which they call "services") is a bit different. Personally, I think the tactic is unethical and short-sighted. They're setting a precedent that borders on software rental. At the very minimum ... they're making their customers unhappy, as they grumble about having to buy the new version, even if they end up doing so. Not a good way to win the loyality of customers and build their faith, eh?
The name they chose - "Sunset Policy"- is misleading. The word sunset evokes thoughts of warming evening rays from a golden sun, setting on the horizon (while sipping Mai Tai drinks in a beach chair, preferably). Far from this, Intuit has used is a euphemism for 'planned obsolescence' and rather than warm fuzzies, it often generates surprise to new customers and anger from older ones, like me. It may be legal (although disclosed on the retail box in print so small that most customers can't see it) and it may succeed in generating short-term revenue, but I think it's an unethical, underhanded business practice that erodes consumer loyalty and drives many away to find less annoying, competing financial software solutions.
Having used Quicken for nearly twenty years, I'm not really in a position to start anew, but I'll be darned if I'm going to let Intuit dictate to me, when to upgrade. I'll upgrade when I see improvements to the software which will actually improve the way I track my finances, not when features are crippled. This year, I'm getting off the money grabbing, Sunset train. I'll save my $89 USD (discounted to $69 USD for being a "loyal user" ) that they're wanting for the upgrade from Quicken 2005 Deluxe to Quicken 2008 Premier (required to retain like capabilities).
What's on the Chopping Block
In an email on March 12th, Intuit outlined the features that would no longer function in Quicken Deluxe 2005, as of April 30, 2008:
- Downloading financial data from your bank, credit union, credit card, brokerage, 401(k), or mutual fund accounts
- Online Bill Pay
- Downloading stock quotes, news headlines, and other financial information into Quicken
- Uploading portfolio information from Quicken to Quicken.com
- Access to the investing features on Quicken.com, including portfolio tracking, any watch lists you have created, One-Click Scorecard™, Stock Evaluator, and Mutual Fund Evaluator
Fortunately for me, I never became reliant on anything on the list, other than item #3 (downloading stock quotes, predominantly). I do my online bill payments through my bank (who is more than happy to provide these services free of charge, because it saves money over paper checks). I did try downloading financial bank and credit card data, but never liked the way it populated the fields, so elected to continue manual entry (I don't have many transactions per month anyway).
Downloading stock quotes is a biggie for me, however. How was I going to replace this functionality?
Downloading Stock & Mutual Fund Quotes - Simple Solution
As with most things today, I searched for a solution by turning to Google. One of the results was a GetStockQuotes script, which was published in the Quicken forum. I didn't use/test the script, but it was intriguing, as it pointed the way to using Yahoo Finance as a data source for price quotes.
Turning to Google again, I turned up a couple of links that hinted at the wealth of data that Yahoo Finance provides:
Obtain daily price quotes for multiple tickers, preformatted for Quicken import, by creating a bookmark.
- Getting Yahoo Finance Prices into Excel (The brainstorm)
- Yahoo Finance Tags (The details)
- Yahoo Stock Quotes (Confirmation)
The first page reveals that it's possible to obtain daily price quotes, for multiple tickers and save the result. The resulting file can be directly imported into Quicken.
To create such a bookmark in Internet Explorer, right click this page and add it to your favorites, giving it the name "Stock Prices". Copy the code below (swipe and cntl-c or right-click copy), then go to the IE "favorites" menu and click "organize favorites". At the bottom of the resulting list, will be your "Stock Prices" favorite. Right click that and go to "properties". The URL should be highlighted automatically, just paste in the code below (cntl-v or right-click paste).
The next step is to customize it, using your own ticker symbols. To do this, just remove the highlighted tickers and replace them with your own.
After you've added your own tickers - there's a limit to the number and if you hit it, let me know ... you must be rich! - just hit "OK" and "Close". BOOM! You've now got a spiffy stock-fetching favorite URL!
You can test with your new URL or by hitting my test one.
The results will vary, depending on your browser and its settings:
- In FireFox:
- Hitting the link should yield a pop-up dialog box asking if you want to "open with" or "save to disk" the resulting quotes.csv file. If the file already exists, it'll create a "quote(#).csv" file. (It's best to delete the old one first).
- In Internet Explorer:
- Hitting the link should yield a pop-up dialog box asking if you want to "open" or "save" the resulting quotes.csv file. Save it (to the C: drive) as quotes.csv, overwriting the old file, if one already exists.
- Hitting the link might automatically open the results in Microsoft Excel. You don't want this. To change the behavior, right-click the "Start" button, select "Explore", then "Tools" and "Folder Options". Click the "File Types" tab and locate the XLS extension. Click "Advanced" and put a check by "Confirm open after download". Then exit by clicking "OK" & "Close". Repeat hitting the link, which should now yield the save dialog mentioned above.
After obtaining your golden current-day stock quote file, to get it into Quicken is easy. Just open Quicken, head to your portfolio, then hit "File" -> "Import" -> and "Import Prices". In the box that comes up, type in the full path of the quotes.csv file you just downloaded. (The easiest to type is C:quotes.csv, which is why I recommend IE users download the file to the root of the C drive).
The instructions here are detailed, but once you get the workflow down, it's really only a two step operation. Hit the link -> save the file -> open Quicken and import the data. Bing-batta-boom!
Downloading Stock & Mutual Fund Quotes - More Complex Solution
Using the single URL above is easy, but you can only get the current day (or last day's) prices. It means you have to hit the URL every day if you want to consistently update your stock, mutual fund or exchange tranded fund prices. What about historical prices?
Yahoo Finance has an online solution for historical prices, but unfortunately, it's a single-quote-at-a-time solution. Fine if you're doing year-end filling, perhaps, but not good if you want the last week, month or smaller time chunks.
Quicken can handle historical price data for multiple quotes, but only up to a point (it gets daily data for only a month - any longer than that and it's once-a-week data)
I really wanted to get historical price data and thanks to my mate, I can!
The solution required quite a bit of coding, but is something that I plan on using for years to come (certainly longer than Quicken lets me use their - less robust - solution)! It's called "mQuote" and you can access it here, once it's out of alpha testing.
It's the first-of-it's-kind solution that I've found on the Internet and I'm trying to make it available to anyone. However, in order to make sure that it works into the future, we're going to have to limit access. For that reason, mQuote will have a restricted demonstration mode, limited "free" mode and a monitored, but "full benefit" mode.
It's all up in the air, at the moment, but promises to be a boon for anyone who regularly wants to import daily historical quote data into Quicken, whether it's a week or several years, all in one fell swoop!
Thanks Quicken! As of today, I feel somewhat liberated. I'm getting off your Sunset train!