Walt Mossberg

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Converting Quicken Files to a Mac

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about converting financial records from a PC to a Mac, scheduling anti-spyware scans and burning home videos in VCD format.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

I am thinking of converting to an Apple machine, to replace my ancient Dell. However, all my financial records are in the Windows version of Quicken, and I need to keep using Quicken to have access to many years of records. I recall you writing earlier that Quicken was one of the products that didn’t convert well to a Macintosh environment. Do you still feel that would be the case?

There is a Macintosh version of Quicken. However, unlike most other software publishers, Intuit, the maker of Quicken, chose to create a Macintosh edition that is very different from its Windows product and uses a different file format. It is possible to convert Windows Quicken files to work on the Mac version, and some readers have reported it went well. But many more have reported problems with the process, which is very time-consuming and can be error-prone. Therefore, I regard Quicken on the Mac as best for somebody who is starting fresh with financial software, and can’t recommend it for somebody like you, who is converting from the Windows version.

As an alternative, you could keep around your old Windows PC for using Quicken. Or, you could try a program called Moneydance (www.moneydance.com), which has compatible versions for both Windows and Mac, claims to be completely portable between platforms and claims to import Quicken data with ease. I haven’t tested Moneydance and can’t verify these claims, or say how it compares with Quicken. But there’s a free trial available.

You suggested running anti-spyware and anti-virus scans nightly. Is there some way to arrange these to run automatically?

Yes. Most such programs have a built-in scheduler where you can specify a frequency and a time of day — say, every day at 4 a.m.

I transfer my home videos from a camcorder and burn them into CDs in the VCD format. My problem is that the video quality deteriorates significantly. The movie looks like an old home video. How do I improve the quality?

It’s difficult because of the format you are using. The VCD format was designed to squeeze large video files, which would normally require the capacity of a DVD disk, into the much smaller space available on a CD. To accomplish this, the format encodes the video at much lower quality than DVDs typically use. As a result, home videos on VCDs can look much worse than they do on camcorder tapes, or than they would if you burned them to DVD, in the format common on DVDs. So, if video quality is important to you, the best suggestion I have is to buy a DVD burner.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com

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