Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Continuing with Windows Vista - Pocket PC support with Vista

Update: 5th December

A couple of weeks using Windows Vista, and the only thing annoying me is the mobile device support. About a week ago I did a clean install of vista. It's taken a couple of attempts to get the Money for the Pocket PC software running properly.

I had existing databases on the PocketPC device which weren't removed, and so I did a couple of reinstalls to try and ensure the software was on properly. I then managed to clean the database on the mobile device and get it working.

Of course, now it's working, I just can't work out when the device is synchronizing or not. Most of the time I have to hope that the data is being synchronized properly. The interface doesn't strike me as that intuitive - too much emphasis on the design and collapsible options, not enough on user functionality.

I'd like to see it made obvious when it is synchronizing, what is failing etc. I know the mobile device window shows it, but it just doesn't cut it with me. Hopefully by the time the Mobile Device Center software comes out of beta (this is beta 3), it'll be better and I'll be able to see just what Microsoft Money for the Pocket PC is doing.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Starting with Vista

I installed the RTM version of Windows Vista a couple of days back (obtained through filing a number of bugs on the beta, just in case you're asking).

I did an upgrade installation, and have Money 2006 installed on my machine. After the installation, everything continued to work. However, Money 2006 is slightly odd around the edges, as can be seen below:

Instead of getting the glass edge to the window, I get a gray line. No problems for me though.

The next thing I ran into was how do I synchronize my Pocket PC with the system. The only reasons I ran into this were that my device wasn't detected, and when I did manage to get it detected, it wasn't that clear what to do. For the latter, I put a new article on the Money FAQ site at FAQ Article 447.

The former required me to download some beta drivers from the MS Downloads Site. These pre-release drivers should hopefully be replaced soon with some released ones, especially if people are going to start using Vista shortly.

And what do I think of Vista - well, the interface is very nice :-)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Money 2007 Service Pack 1

Microsoft have released Service Pack 1 for Microsoft Money 2007. You can find more details about this service pack at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927811.

Included in this service pack are fixes to OFX version 2.03, some investment download information, errors with Mnyob99.dll and some crashes with Internet Explorer 7.

Microsoft Money should automatically download the update, which will have a version number of 1024 (if you look at the details through Help->About in the program).

Friday, October 06, 2006

MVP status for another year

Having been away for a few days, I came back to the news that my MVP status continues into the 2006/2007 award year. I've now had the award from mid-summer 1998, so that's over 8 years.

Question: What is the Microsoft MVP award?

Answer: The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award is an annual award that is given to outstanding members of Microsoft's peer-to-peer communities, and is based on the past year's contributions those members make in those communities online and offline.

You can find more details about the award on the Microsoft MVP site at http://mvp.support.microsoft.com.

In the United Kingdom, there are two of us for Microsoft Money - myself (Glyn Simpson) and Bob Peel. Both of us have the same length of award.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Microsoft Money 2007 UK

Bob Peel and myself (Glyn Simpson), in our MVP capacity, went to see the United Kingdom Product Manager for Money on 29th September 2006.

We were just catching up with a few things, as we tend to approximately once a year. However, this time, the question of Money 2007 in the UK was raised.

The result was that there won't be one.

It does raise questions on the future - no Money 2006, no Money 2007 - does this mean no more Money?? Well, that is a question that can't be answered unfortunately. I'd like to see one, but I have no power to influence it.

Some of the Money community in the UK have been quite vocal about this version. At least it will put some minds at rest, until we have the debate next year!!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Dual category control

A summary of the dual category control in Microsoft Money:

FAQ Article 434

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Training guides

Microsoft released some Money 2007 training guides on their website. I took the opportunity to consolidate those additional ones I had with them, to make a new article - FAQ Article 433.

Unfortunately, I could only find the Money 2003 training/support document. This used to live on the 'marketing' page, but this seems to be a better location now.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A few new articles, a few updates

Over the last couple of weeks, external pressures have caused me to cut back on the Microsoft Money FAQ website and support in the newsgroups. I don't expect this to change for a while.

However, I did manage to squeeze in a few new articles. One article turned into two and another one was on my to-do list, ever since I was asked about viewing data in high contrast by a partially blind person.

So, there is now a very short article showing what the 'patterns for chart views' option does (FAQ Article 432). Along with this are two articles on the sanitize.exe program (FAQ Article 430 - what the tool does, and FAQ Article 431 - how to do it).

I've made some updates to a couple of other articles - this I do on a pretty regular basis, if only to rephrase parts of an article, add newer information (which I do quite a bit for the Premium Bonds (UK) article) or change something based on user feedback.

As always, updates are listed on the recently updated page, along with an RSS feed at http://moneymvps.org/faq/recentlyUpdatedRSS.aspx.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How it works: IP address filtering

When I started this site, I thought i'd occasionally post some code samples on how I actually do things on the site, just in case others needed the information.

I haven't done very many of these, and so here is the next one.

The issue I see is that for some IP addresses, I need to perform certain tasks (such as blocking them, showing the site without advertising, enabling me to administer the site etc).

Each of these tasks has an XML file dedicated to it, which is read at least once each page request. These operation needs to be lightning fast, and initially, it wasn't. A typical XML file will look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>


<url ip=""></url>

<url ip=""></url>


After getting some help, I learnt using an XPath query seemed to be the best solution.

I created a generic function to parse the XML for me, and return a boolean value if a match was found. This function is below

Public Shared Function parseXMLIP(ByVal XPathString As String, ByVal XMLfile As String, ByVal cachename As String) As Boolean
Dim parseResult As Boolean = False
Dim xpdocument As XPathDocument

If HttpContext.Current.Application.Item(cachename) Is Nothing Then
xpdocument = New XPathDocument(HttpContext.Current.Server.MapPath(XMLfile))
HttpContext.Current.Application.Add(cachename, xpdocument)
xpdocument = DirectCast(HttpContext.Current.Application.Item(cachename), XPathDocument)
End If

Dim Navigator As XPathNavigator = xpdocument.CreateNavigator()
Dim Iterator As XPathNodeIterator = Navigator.Select(XPathString)

If Iterator.Count > 0 Then
parseResult = True
End If
Catch ex As Exception
End Try
Return parseResult
End Function

Because I have the individual operations and the generic function, I pass certain parameters to the function so I don't have it in triplicate :-)

Dim showData as boolean
showData = myFunctions.parseXMLIP("//block[@ip='" & ipaddr & "']", "~/App_Data/ipblock.xml", "ipBlockListXML")

And that's all there is to it. Maintenance is a matter of adding, changing or deleting a line in the XML file and uploading it to the site (and deleting the cached version).

Friday, August 04, 2006

Website Problems and Performance

Over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed that some of the performance of the website has been going downhill, especially in the generation of statistics (such as the most popular pages). In addition, a number of errors have been cropping up when people view the FAQ List or individual category pages.

The former appears to be down to a database issue where the page impressions are stored. I think I have managed to solve that this morning by building new indexes on the impression table (the impression table is getting rather large, as I see a lot more hits than I did a year ago).

The latter seemed to be a problem with the ASP.net Atlas implementation. I'm currently redesigning the FAQ list page and the category page (they are interlinked) because the FAQ list page is getting rather big. I was intending on using the Atlas Control Toolkit for this, and more specifically the Collapsible Panel. For the time being, I've removed the updates I was gradually feeding into the FAQ page, so that it is more stable again. Problems were being seen where the language being sent from the user browser wasn't liked by the Atlas extension (e.g. sending "en_us" instead of "en_US").

Hopefully things will settle down and work a bit better now.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A view of Ultrasoft Money

Mike Featherstone, who is a user of Ultrasoft Money, and has put in a few replies to postings on this blog, has provided an article for the Money FAQ Website, which I have placed on the site at FAQ Article 421.

This article is on Ultrasoft Money - a product I cannot use (due to the fact I have a Pocket PC device, and not a Palm device). However, it is a product that links into Microsoft Money in a similar way that the Microsoft Money for the Pocket PC software does.

I hope you find it useful.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ultrasoft MoneyLink out in record time

Ultrasoft MoneyLink for Microsoft Windows 2007 is out today in record quick time. In previous years we've waited a few weeks for it, but it's out in a few days this year.

It is available from the Ultrasoft site, or from my MoneyLink Downloads site where all of the previous versions are also listed.

I don't think there are too many differences compared to last year, the standard functions are just what is needed to analyze and link to your Microsoft Money data.

You can find more information on UltraSoft MoneyLink at FAQ Article 30 on the http://moneymvps.org site.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

New Budget option (60% Solution)

Back in February, I mentioned The 60% Solution in a short article. Well, this is in the recently released US version of Money 2007.

It is called the 'Savings and Spending' budget in Money 2007.

If you don't know about this budgetary method, then basically it says that you should use 60% of your income on committed expenditure, and then divide up the rest into Irregular Expenses, Long-term saving/debt, retirement and 'fun' money.

I'll probably write some FAQ articles on the http://moneymvps.org site in future, but it's nice to see now.

It's not mandatory though - you can continue to use an existing budget mechanism (advanced or essential) if you like. Also, it is version 1 of the budget. There are some things I would have liked to see in it (for example, if you don't allocate all spending, then assign the remainder, for example, to 'long term savings/debt' or 'fun money'.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Microsoft Money 2007 is now available

Microsoft Money 2007 is now available in the US. I've updated the system requirements page (FAQ Article 407) and will be updating the rest of the site over the weekend.

One thing to note is that there is NO Microsoft Money for the Pocket PC (see FAQ Article 415).

The trial versions can be obtained through the Trial Download page.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Microsoft Money 2007 Box Shots

The box shots for Microsoft Money 2007 are now available. Larger ones can be found on the Money FAQ site through the marketing page.

Clicking on the images below should take you to the amazon site where you can pre-order them. According to Amazon, the products are released towards the end of the month, about 12 days away.

Microsoft Money Home and Business 2007

Microsoft Money Premium 2007

Microsoft Money Deluxe 2007

Thursday, July 13, 2006

No broadband. No service from ISP

Well, I had some updates to put to the Money FAQ site, but my broadband supplier (Plusnet) have decided to unilaterally migrate my line to another telco. They're unbundling the line from British Telecom (BT), although i must say I haven't had any issues with BT. Something called LLU (local loop unbundling). It's a nightmare.

The effect of this is that I've had no broadband since Saturday afternoon (8th July), when I was in the middle of updating the usage figures in the database behind the site.

Customer service from PlusNet has been appauling. No idea when it will be fixed. If it's not sorted out soon, my Media Center machine will not have any route to get the TV guide listing updates, and I'll loose the easy recording capability that that provides me. I'll have to look at a TV listings paper to find out what's on too!

I've just got an Xbox360, and have a free month of Xbox Live (Gold). That's being lost.

Perhaps I rely on technology too much.

Normal service should resume sometime..... i hope....

Thursday, June 29, 2006

MSN Money Plus service ended

As mentioned in my earlier posting (The end of MSN Money Plus), the MSN Money plus service has now terminated. The service ended yesterday on the 28th June.

There is still the MSN Money service, which appears support accounts, so this could be a replacement - see https://moneycentral.msn.com/my/default.asp?SSL=1 (You'll need to use a Microsoft Passport to login).

In MSN Explorer, the service has also been updated to be identical to the MSN Money experience on Internet Explorer. Moneycentral provided the following information to enable the servce to work:

To verify that you have the latest version of MSN Explorer:

  • In MSN Explorer, click Help and Settings
  • Click About MSN
  • Click the More Info button
  • Scroll to the top of the page and verify that you have at least version 9.20.0029.3000

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What-ifs and lifetime events modeller

I've recently rediscovered the "what if" scenario tool in MS Money. I've known about it for a while, but never really had the need to use them.

I've added a couple of articles to the site to show what they do:

I had cause to use the tools today, to try out some scenarios which may affect me in the next months and a couple in the next few years. It's quite illuminating. The cash flow what-if scenario tool is of more immediate use to me, as I use the cash flow extensively in my day to day use of Microsoft Money.

The lifetime events modeller is the longer term planning tool for Money. It's a little more difficult to place oneself in the longer term view - as it can only be a rough guide to the future. I use that tool mainly for making sure the future looks bright, and I'll have enough money for University fees in the future for my son.

Both of these tools are found easily in the program (see the articles). They're definitely something you need to keep in the back of your mind when using the program for planning purposes.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Recent site updates (FAQ Articles)

Since I last wrote to this site with the latest FAQ article, I've added a few more. These are as follows:

With the imminent release of MSMoney 2007, I'll be creating a couple of new articles relating to that product shortly, when I can get my hands on a release copy.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Top of the flops - Microsoft Money in position 5?

Mary Jane Foley writes
If antitrust fears hadn't put the kibosh on Microsoft's plans to buy Intuit back in 1995, Microsoft might have been able to buy Quicken and turn its online banking product into a market leader. Instead, the Redmondians had to plod along with Microsoft Money, which seems to garner more wrath than praise from its users.
I'd agree with the appearance that Microsoft Money gets more wrath than praise, especially in the newsgroups - after all, they're for peer to peer support, so it would, wouldn't it.

Quicken and MS Money are still the two major personal finance products, and Money does have a good market share (and in the UK, MS Money is the only product that is currently sold).

So, I'm not sure there is enough evidence it should be in her list - I'm not sure why she calls it a flop - Microsoft keep producing the versions, and people keep buying them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Money 2007 SKUs and System Requirements

I have added the SKU information for Microsoft Money 2007 to the US SKU page on the website at http://moneymvps.org/faq/article/138.aspx. As mentioned before, just the three products so far. No standard version, although it could be that this is related to the end of MSN Money Plus - perhaps the Standard version will be totally online? We'll need to wait and see how Microsoft address this end of the market.

Details for Microsoft Money 2007 features etc will be added across the site as I find them, so I've also added a placeholder page for the system requirements, which will be filled in when I have that information available. [Update 3rd July 2006 - corrected link, which was erroneously pointing to the Money 2008 timeline page, instead of the 2007 System Requirements Page]

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Microsoft Money 2007 on Amazon

On June 5th, amazon.com added to their listings three Microsoft Money 2007 products. These are:

There is NO standard version listed, and the Business SKU has been slightly renamed (from Deluxe and Business to Home and Business).

Update: The Home and Business product is now available for pre-order. There are not that many details listed though.

Update 2: (18 June): The Deluxe and Premium SKUs are also available for pre-order.

I would speculate we're looking at a month to six weeks, thinking back to last years timescales before it is widely available. Pre-ordering I would expect to be available before the end of June for all SKUs.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Microsoft® Money 2007 Internet-Based Services Policy

Microsoft have published their online services policy for Money 2007. The wording is exactly the same as the 2006 policy, with the following exceptions:
  1. All references to Microsoft Money 2006 are now Microsoft Money 2007
  2. The expiration date is 1st September 2009, instead of 1st September 2008.

There are no other changes in the text.

Friday, June 02, 2006

FAQ Article 400 and Balancing accounts in Microsoft Money

Well, I finally have got to FAQ article 400. It's not really 400 FAQ articles, as the first one is number 11, but it feels like a bit of a milestone. There are now maybe, 550 or more pages on the site - in the last 18 months I seem to have added and added lots of things.

Anyway, on my list of things to add were some short descriptions of balancing accounts. I dare say they need more work though.

There are two articles:
  1. Balancing a Microsoft Money account against a paper statement
  2. Balancing cash accounts

Both just highlight the options available to balance accounts.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The end of MSN Money Plus

The message below was posted on the MoneyCentral website - the additional help mentions something called the MSN Money Service, which appears to be some sort of replacement

An important change is coming to the MSN Money service. MSN Money Plus will be replaced by the MSN Money service, starting early in July. After the transition, much of the account information you currently have stored by MSN Money Plus will be available through the MSN Money service.

The message itself said:

After June 28, 2006, significant changes will be made to your access to data on this website

If you are an MSN Money Plus user: MSN Money Plus will be discontinued on June 28, 2006.

You will still be able to view your accounts and pay bills through MSN Bill Pay on http://moneycentral.msn.com, but your budget, spending, and bills to-do list will no longer be available. To track the information that you used to track in MSN Money Plus,
try a free 90-day trial of Microsoft Money Deluxe
Learn more

If you are a Microsoft Money user: All of your information will continue to be available on your local computer. On this website, you will still be able to view your accounts and pay bills through MSN Bill Pay. You will no longer be able to edit your account data or view your spending and budget data.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Brief foray into Atlas

I made a brief look at Atlas (http://atlas.asp.net) for the Money site earlier in the week. Actually, most of my use will be behind the scenes in administrating various parts of the site, rather than standard user use.

I did look at the Atlas Control Toolkit, specifically the TextBoxWatermark. As an experiment, I added it to the Contact Page, so it is a little more obvious what to type in where.

I don't know enough about the platforms it supports, but it does seem to work on Internet Explorer 6 and 7 (beta 2).

Over time, I will probably add more Atlas and AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) things to the site. THis may be more obvious in places like the FAQ list, as the page is starting to get very long and unwieldy.

Welcome to the new MSN Money! - MSN Money

Updates were made to MSN Money in a number of regions yesterday. The updates include the following:
  • Message Boards
  • Improved Site Search
  • Redesigned Article Templates
  • RSS Feeds
  • New Weekend Edition
  • Quote Watchlist
  • More CNBC Video
Plus other stuff - finance tips, news, account tracking etc.

The full details can be found at Welcome to the new MSN Money! - MSN Money

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Turning off download of stock or fund prices for specific stocks or funds

A couple of people have asked me how to stop Microsoft Money downloading particular fund or stock price prices, without disabling all of them. This is especially pertinent, given the posting I made yesterday - MSN Money UK Fund Prices 100x too low.

So, I created a new article - Turning off download of stock or fund prices for specific stocks or funds [Microsoft (MS) Money FAQ and Help].

I've followed my own advise here and temporarily turned off downloaded prices for the funds that I have that are experiencing this problem.

Friday, May 12, 2006

MSN Money - UK fund prices 100x too low

I'm back after a nice long vacation. Always good to recharge the batteries and take time out.

I come back to a problem with the UK fund feed. It appears that prices are being downloaded into Microsoft Money with their values divided by 100.

From the information I have seen, in the limited time since I returned, it appears that Morningstar, who provide the feed for MSN Money are now providing prices in pounds, rather than pence as they did previously. I have not checked this to verify it though.

If this is true, then one of the following scenarios would need to take place - firstly, Microsoft would have to change the MSN Money feed to cope with this pricing change. Or, Microsoft would need to change the Microsoft Money software so that downloads do the conversion (don't expect this to happen for older versions of Microsoft Money though!), or Morningstar would need to change the feed back to how it was before, before they changed it (at least for the MSN Money site).

It is unclear whether Microsoft knew of this change before it happened. They do know about it now, as can be seen on the network status page (MSN Money - Network Status) - this page is mainly geared up for US users, but does have this fault on it. You can find links to other status pages via FAQ Article 254 on the Microsoft Money FAQ site.

Monday, April 17, 2006

And two more....

A new article added yesterday, and another today.

Firstly, changing the credit limit for credit cards in Microsoft Money Standard 2005 and 2006. Bizarrely, this is not possible in Money standard, although this article explains a workaround to do it (changing the account type).

Secondly, adding a new account when the financial insitution name is missing. A really simple solution - use the Skip option - it doesn't mean that you can't download transactions from your bank. I have seen a number of people asking about this one.

The volume of new articles is going down. I have some more waiting to be written, but I'll be taking a rest from adding to the site for a few weeks, so don't expect anything new for a little while.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Find (Search) and Replace in Money

Find and replace in Microsoft Money is pretty powerful. The tool gives the ability to fine tune searching to various criteria - be they categories, payees, dates, types or combinations of these.

There are two types of search in Money - a simple search and an advanced search. Both end up at the same screens eventually, although the latter allows this fine tuning.

In this article - Find (Search) and Replace in Money, there is a quick run through of some of the windows and some of the options that are available.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Another couple of new articles

Another couple of articles from my list of articles to add, which I have got around to today.

Firstly, a short walkthrough of setting up a frequent flyer account. I remember when these were first introduced in Microsoft MOney. They didn't go down too well as people thought that Microsoft were putting new 'unneeded' features in Money, without fixing the problems in the program.

However, they remain in the program. I use them as well, but it's not something essential i need - just use it for the convenience.

The second article is one on installing Microsoft Money more than once. The license agreement in most versions of Microsoft Money is very similar, so it's just an article to reference the license and show an example one.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Microsoft Money Backups

Microsoft Money can go wrong at any point. It can happen to anyone.

Even with the tight control I try to have on my file, I once again needed to rely on my backup mechanism for Microsoft Money (i use the UK 2005 version).

On starting the Money file, the CPU went to 100% and stayed there. Money can be slow at times, but after 15 CPU minutes of it, I decided that this definitely was a problem with the file.

A quick repair, then the standard repair didn't seem to make much difference (apart from making the file a lot bigger - nothing too unusual). Time to go back to backups.

Fortunately, the mechanism I use meant I had a set of backups I could use. Once I identified that there was a possible problem, I usually take a copy of the backup file, so I can always use it again, and it won't get overwritten. In any case, I had others to use.

Restoring the backup seemed to fix the problem, and there was little data to add to the file (one transaction). I did notice a side effect, and this was with the data on my Pocket PC. When restoring the file, the account balance of a particular account then went out of sync. Fortunately following my own advice (FAQ Article 180) sorted this issue out.

All is now fine. I don't expect it will be the last time though :-(

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sorting the check register

Two articles yesterday:
  1. Sorting the check register
  2. MSN UK Money Update 19th January 2006
The first one is relevant to virtually all versions of Microsoft Money. In some versions, it is not intuitive to discover how to sort the register, and sometimes people have sorted it accidentally, and not known how to 'unsort' (well, 'resort') it back to the original way it was sorted.

The second article is more for posterity, as the problem is now fixed. However, some users are still seeing the issue. It does show how much MSN Money and Microsoft Money are interlinked, when the navigation is damaged by an online update.

Unfortuately, the problem with the navigation did take a while to fix - hopefully Microsoft will remember to get that working before making changes live in future.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

MoneyLink Deluxe Edition?

David Kendall, from Ultrasoft who provide the MoneyLink software (allowing you to view your Microsoft Money data in Microsoft Excel), has posted to the Ultrasoft support forums to get feedback on a possible 'Deluxe' edition of the software.

In addition, there is a poll to ask whether people would be interested.

Here's what he says:

From time to time, people ask about MoneyLink Deluxe.

We had planned a -Deluxe and Business Edition-, with features driven by
user demand. But interest from the user community never materialized, so
it remains on the on the drawing board.

If you have any ideas for features we could add to a commercial (i.e.
not free) edition of MoneyLink, please post them here!

Where 'here' is the Ultrasoft support forum at: MoneyLink Deluxe Edition - Support Forum

Redirection in the site

The moneymvps.org site uses extensive redirection, as the FAQ items are retrieved dynamically from a database.

The tool I use use UrlRewritingNet.UrlRewrite, which provides me with permanent and temporary redirection, regular expression support, and a number of other things which makes it easier to provide 'nice' URLs (ie, without QueryString parameters).

The UrlRewriting.NET code has just had an update, which will be deployed onto the site shortly.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cost basis in foreign investments

One of perhaps the more annoying issues with Microsoft Money, is when you have investments in a currency which isn't the base currency in the file.

The article: Cost basis in foreign investments, explains an issue where the price will change on a daily basis, because it is recalculated based on the prevailing exchange rate.

IMHO, this could be greatly reduced by remembering the exchange rate at the time of the 'buy' investment transaction, but it's probably a bigger problem than that, as one would need to remember all investment transaction exchange rates, and then do some humongous calculations to get the correct figure out.

However, might be one for lobbying to Microsoft.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Stopping the MoneySide (Money Viewer) opening automatically

Stopping the MoneySide (Money Viewer) opening automatically.

MoneySide (or the Money Viewer) has been removed from Microsoft Money, but for those people still using it, this article says how to stop it opening automatically when using Internet Explorer.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Security in Microsoft Money

New article - Security in Microsoft Money.

Security is important in Microsoft Money, but is only as good as the weakest link in the chain.

Microsoft are very secretive on their security policies, so it is difficult to ascertain too many details. They do take it seriously though, and use various mechanisms to protect the data that is held on MSN Money servers, as well as to secure your own file.

Some of the security information that I have managed to find is on the article.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Generating 'FAQ Article xxx' links

In the website, i often refer to or cross-reference FAQ Articles. In general, they are linked as "FAQ Article XXX" which will open the link in the browser when clicked.

To ease development and page generation, I use a shortcut to generate these links - I code the FAQ Article number between square brackets [[ ]], which then generates a hyperlink and also adds a tooltip on the link with the title of the article.

ie, [[340]] turns into: FAQ Article 340.

To do this, I use Response.Filter in the Global.asax to utilise some code I found at http://www.codeproject.com/aspnet/WhitespaceFilter.asp

Sub Application_BeginRequest(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As EventArgs)
If Not Request.Url.PathAndQuery.ToLower.IndexOf(".aspx") = -1 Then
Response.Filter = New MyHttpFilter(Response.Filter)
End If
End Sub

The filter itself is as above from the codeproject site. I change the 'Write' function though with my own customization.
Public Overrides Sub Write(ByVal MyBuffer() As Byte, _
ByVal offset As Integer, ByVal count As Integer)
Dim data(count) As Byte
Buffer.BlockCopy(MyBuffer, offset, data, 0, count)
Dim s As String = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8.GetString(data)
Dim myDelegate As New MatchEvaluator(AddressOf MatchHandler)
Dim pattern As String = "\[\[(\d{2,})\]\]"
Dim re As New Regex(pattern, RegexOptions.Multiline _
Or RegexOptions.IgnoreCase)
s = re.Replace(s, myDelegate)
' Finally, we spit out what we have done.
Dim outdata() As Byte = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(s)
_sink.Write(outdata, 0, outdata.GetLength(0))
End Sub 'Write

Private Function MatchHandler(ByVal m As Match) As String
Dim mFaqId As String
Dim faqTitle As String = ""
Dim returnString as string = "<a "
mFaqId = m.Groups(1).Value
Dim c As New cacheClass
Dim dv As DataView
dv = c.getfaqList()
dv.RowFilter = "id = '" & mFaqId & "'"
faqTitle = CStr(dv.Item(0).Item("title")).Replace(Chr(34), "''")
Catch ex As Exception
End Try
returnString += "title=" & Chr(34) & faqTitle & Chr(34)
returnString += " href=" & Chr(34) & "/faq/article/" & _
mFaqId & ".aspx" & Chr(34) & " >"
returnString += "FAQ Article " & mFaqId & "</a>"
Return returnString
End Function

Note how it uses the regular expression to find a match and make the change.

The whole aim is to reduce the time I spend on the site - it does that nicely!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Customizing the home page or default first page in Money

Two new articles on customization of the home page or initial startup page in Money.

If you regularly dip into Money, and all you want to do is enter the account register, then starting in the account list could be for you - should save some initial time.

Another useful starting point is your previous ending point, so you can carry on where you left off the previous time.

In addition, the 'home' page can be customized to one of two options.

Use this account in the budget

A short new article has been added. Use this account in the budget.

Account details allow you to select whether the account is used in the budget. However sometimes the option is not available. In the article, which will undoubtedly expand over time, the criteria for having the option available in Microsoft Money are explained.

More articles relating to the budget in Microsoft Money can be found on the budget FAQ pages.

Money 2007 - no news

I've had a number of questions to me asking about Money 2007.

Firstly, there is no news to report at this time. Any news I do have, that I can pass on, will be put on the money 2007 page on the site, and some will be posted in here too.

It is not clear what versions will be available - will there even be a version or not? What about the UK or other countries that didn't get Money 2006?

There are lots of unanswered questions, that only time will provide us with the answers.

Talking of time, just under a year ago (24 March 2005) the invites for the beta program went out. This acts as a good indicator as to the time the released product comes out (3 months later, based on history).

Perhaps we'll start seeing something soon.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Two new articles

Two new articles for the Microsoft Money FAQ site today, both of which have been on my list to add for quite a while.

The first is Specifications for download formats (OFX, QIF and OFC) - basically a page to provide download and/or reference details for the specifications of these files.

Secondly, a page which shows the Money window (Menus and options in the Microsoft Money Window), showing and explaining the various bits of it. Some of it is pretty obvious, but I have been approached in the past regarding the layout. It is likely that, over time, I'll use the terminology on this page to ensure there is consistency across the site.

Couple of minor formatting updates to some pages today too - nothing worth mentioning here.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Setting high and low balance limits for accounts

A new article has been added to the site: Setting high and low balance limits for accounts.

There are many configurable settings in Microsoft Money, and this is one I use a lot. I try to run my finances quite tightly, and so when I have what could be considered 'too much' money in my current/checking account, I like to move that elsewhere to an account with better interest or a longer term savings vehicle (such as an ISA, Premium Bonds or other investment).

In addition, it is useful to know when I am reaching a low balance, and so I can ensure I have enough money in the account to avoid a negative balance and using an overdraft which costs me money.

The expert assistant or Advisor FYI helps me with this - it provides "in your face" warnings on balances.

Books on Microsoft Money

I just went to Amazon and looked to see how many books there were on it. I was surprised to see >40 when I typed in 'Microsoft Money' in the search.

So, it seemed like quite a good idea to get some of those books, and list them on the MS Money FAQ site. Up until now, I had a link on the left hand side doing a search and taking you to Amazon. Now, those links go to some local pages.

There are pages for the usual products that I list product information on, i.e., US, UK and Canada.

I've tried to list only those which had a picture available when I was searching through the relevant Amazon site otherwise the pages would have been even longer.

Note that Canada has more books, as they have all of the French ones too.

What was interesting to see, is that there are very few Money 2005 and Money 2006 books - I guess the 'for dummies' series may have cornered the market here (I wouldn't imagine that the market is big enough to sustain many books though).

Friday, March 03, 2006

Entering a monthly budget item that doesn't occur every month

I've added a slightly complex article to the site - Entering a monthly budget item that doesn't occur every month.

The scenario is to try and track items that occur monthly, but occasionally you don't have to pay them (e.g. UK Council Tax). If you want to get your budget right, especially in earlier versions of Microsoft Money which use the 'advanced budget' (i.e. from when Microsoft changed from the pay yourself first to the current budget).

Getting the budget right is something many people strive and fail to do - Money does things that you might not expect. Hopefully this will help some people get things closer to figures they can understand and trust.

As for me, bring back the pay yourself stuff, or bring on the 60% solution!!!

Thanks to Rednelle in the UK Newsgroup for most of the contents of the FAQ article

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Newton fund update

Okay, this is coming from Microsoft, not me. I know some people will be unhappy with what I will say next.

There have been problems with the Newton funds since sometime around the start of the year. I reported earlier in the week on the Microsoft Money newsgroups, that Microsoft were working on fixing them, which they have been.

However, Microsoft have identified that the fix for the Newton funds is not trivial, and can not be implemented immediately. What they do say, is that changing it in the live environment now might break other things, and they don't want to risk the whole feed for one set of funds.

The fix should be implemented in a few months, as part of a larger number of changes (I guess the MSN Money updates that they tend to do around May time).

This is going to disappoint some people, I know.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Automatically restarting the Application

The Microsoft Money FAQ site is running ASP.NET 2.0, and is developed on my home machine before being manually copied across to the live site.

One curious thing that has started happening to the site, and I believe it is new to ASP.NET 2.0 in the way that it compiles code, is that I sometimes see errors like this:

Exception information:
Exception type: System.IO.FileNotFoundException
Exception message: Could not load file or assembly 'App_Web_muq0ffjm, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null' or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified.

Over the last week, this error has been logged about 1000 times :-( And they always seem to start in the middle of the night, just when I won't notice....

The most annoying fact for me is that users see just error, even though the error is in the compilation of one minor component which could be safely ignored. I haven't found a solution to this apparent compilation problem, but I have now installed a workaround, so hopefully it should appear a lot less.

The basic premise is this - the Global.asax file has the following code:
Sub Application_Start(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As EventArgs)
' Code that runs on application startup
Application.Item("appErrors") = 0
End Sub

Sub Application_Error(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As EventArgs)
' Code that runs when an unhandled error occurs
Application("appErrors") = CInt(Application("appErrors")) + 1

If CInt(Application("appErrors")) > 10 Then
' restart application
End If
End Sub
The idea is that I have a threshold (I use a setting from web.config, but have used '10' in the example above) when I reach a certain number of errors, the restart application code fires.

The code to restart the application rewrites the web.config file, which forces the application to reload. This code doesn't have to be used in the same application as the one it is restarting, which is good for additional security.
Private Sub rewriteConfig()
Dim cfg As System.Configuration.Configuration
cfg = WebConfigurationManager.OpenWebConfiguration("~")

Dim compilation As CompilationSection
compilation = CType(cfg.GetSection("system.web/compilation"), CompilationSection)
If Not (compilation Is Nothing) Then

compilation.Debug = Not compilation.Debug
compilation.Debug = False
End If
Catch ex As Exception
End Try
End Sub
Only time will tell me whether this will work, but hopefully less errors will now be seen.

If you're having similar problems, then see if this will help you. You may need to use impersonation if your application can't write directly to the web.config file.

It would be nice to use Health Monitoring to do this for me, as that seems to me to be a 'cleaner' way of doing things, but at least this is one step on the way to reducing the occurrence of the error.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How much will this purchase cost

The "How much will this purchase cost" tool is similar to the mini debt reduction planner - so much so, they are in the same place in Microsoft Money.

Another very simple tool which is in certain versions of Microsoft Money, but hard to find, as it is buried within the program.

This one basically gives you a guide on how much something you buy will cost, when you add in interest charges etc.

Mini Debt Reduction Planner

The Mini Debt Reduction Planner tool is a tool buried within Microsoft Money. Often I forget it is there, and so go to Excel or the Web to find one for my needs.

Simple tool within the program, difficult to track down. Hopefully more people will know about this and use the tool.

It is similar to the how much will this purchase cost tool, which is also on the same page.

The mini debt reduction planner is not a substitute for the proper debt reduction planner in the program.

New Article - "Downloaded date on the account register"

I have added a new article - Downloaded date on the account register.

This is a reasonably frequently asked question in the UK newsgroup. It relates to the display of the downloaded date in the top right corner of the account register.

In UK Versions, this is frequently not the downloaded date, but the date the statement is 'valid' from. Occasionally our banks make mistakes with the date too, and you can see a time a few hours ahead of the current time!!

The fact that it is often misleading, causes it to be a question which is often asked.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Update to "Attention Required Message on ActiveSync" article (83)

"You receive the "Attention Required" message in the ActiveSync interface when you try to synchronize Money data files to Money for the Pocket PC on a Windows 98 Second Edition-based computer" - Microsoft have updated/edited KB Article 913094.

Microsoft Money for the Pocket PC 2004 and later are not supported on Windows 98 SE versions. The FAQ Article is updated to reflect that.

New article - OFX Analyzers

I have collected together all of the OFX analyzers for Microsoft Money onto one page (article 366). Previously, some of these were on the OFX Page and versions of the analyzer for Money 98 to Money 2001 were not present.

Microsoft Money only supported OFX from Money 98, so all the analyzers ever produced are in this article.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Update to 'Archiving Microsoft Money Data Files' article (66)

I installed Money 1.0 today, to take a look at it, and produce some screenshots so it would be possible to see how things have changed in the various versions of Money.

I noticed it had the 'archive' function. What didn't surprise me too much, is that it was the same as the current archive functionality in Money 2006.

Because it was a first version of Microsoft Money, it had a definition of what archive is all about - possibly later versions do in their help, but this was pretty clear, and so the FAQ article has been updated to say what archive is first, before suggesting you don't use it :-)

When you archive your file, Microsoft Money backs up the complete file for archival reference, and then removes old transactions from your current file to keep it to a manageable size.

When you remove old transactions from the current file, it will be easier to work with because you work with a smaller number of transactions in your accounts. The transactions that remain are those you are currently working with, and the starting balance of each account in the Account Book is automatically updated to adjust for the deleted transactions.

Monday, February 20, 2006

MSN Money Planner

I came across the 'MSN Money Planner' today. I downloaded it, and checked it out - and I must say I was pretty disappointed.

What I expected to see was a system that I could use to provide a calendar of events - that *I* could change. That didn't appear to be the case - the dates, categories were fixed. So, in the 'your holiday' section it says on July 10th to tell me to get the best deal on currency - my holiday will be long gone by then!! I know I can download to Outlook and then edit, but I would have preferred this in the tool - it could have been a useful little program to have all the dates of financial events in it.

In addition, I would have liked to be able to select one or more categories on the left hand side.

I'm not sure why this was provided as a downloadable application - given the links directly into MSN Money, seems like it should have just been a web page.

So, I uninstalled it pretty quickly - not much value to me.

New article - Tracking a Cash ISA

New article - Tracking a Cash ISA added to site. I need to add one for tracking a Stocks and Shares ISA or PEP, if I don't already have this.

Article is really only for UK users, but as a Cash ISA is a tax free account, then it could be used for reference for any tax free savings.

In the UK, we have something called the Savings Centre, which can be used for this.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Update to 'Customizing the Toolbar' article (345)

Addition of image to show the toolbar, and some minor text updates. I had previously shown just the menu which is used to customize the toolbar, but not the toolbar itself.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The 60% Solution

Twenty years of complicated budget calculations have led me to this one simple conclusion: By limiting all essential spending to 60% of total income, savings will soar.

The 60% Solution article is about dividing up your money, and limiting your essential spending to 60% of your income. This is typically how I want to budget, but find Microsoft Money inflexible in terms of supporting such a solution.

Richard Jenkins explains how to divide your income into 5 categories - Committed expenses, Irregular Expenses, Long-term saving/debt, retirement and 'fun' money.

I doubt this will work for everyone, but it is a worthy idealized budget to aim at.

Friday, February 17, 2006

About the Microsoft Money Blog

This intends to be a infrequently updated Blog relating to Microsoft (MS) Money, and the Microsoft Money FAQ website at http://moneymvps.org.

When I make updates to the Microsoft Money FAQ, I might add some comments here explaining changes or just detailing why a change was made.

In addition, I may sometimes pick up on something which isn't necessarily in the product, but could be interesting. For example, explain some of the workings of the site, which is written using Visual Studio 2005, using VB.NET and a little C#, or an MSN Money or Financial article.