Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Now Get Win 8

I used to be a Microsoft employee so there is always a little bit of excitement when Microsoft ships something new.  (I think the brainwashing takes a really long time to wash through ones veins after leaving.)  There was a little bit of that excitement when I installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview a few months ago on an old desktop PC I had at home.  That excitement quickly left because it was a really crappy experience.  Now I was familiar with Windows 8 because I had been running it for awhile when I worked at Microsoft so I kind of new what it was going to be like but I always assumed that the Metro and Desktop worlds would be polished up and would be made to mesh together well by the time it shipped.  I was surprised to see that it was pretty much the same Windows 8 I had used a year earlier when I worked at Microsoft.  The Tiled Metro world seemed foreign to the desktop world.   Clicking in various hidden regions would pop up Metro looking toolbars from the side, top, bottom and they looked totally out of place in the desktop world.  My biggest pet peeve was that Microsoft decided to  take out the Start menu from the desktop experience and instead brought up the heavy and full screen metro UX that looked entirely different.  I hated the whole experience.  To me Microsoft had crippled the Windows desktop experience by trying to weld on the tablet UX and it just didn't work.

So fast forward to today.  This afternoon I walked into my local Microsoft Store to check out the Surface tablet and a bunch of the other Windows 8 machines.  First off to my surprise the place was as crowded as your typical Apple Store.  People were really excited.  I'm not sure if this is true across the country but I live in Silicon Valley and people are little more tech happy here.  As I waited to check out the Surface I looked around the store and to my surprise all of the Win 8 all-in-one desktop and laptop stations were also busy and being used.  People were touching the screens and swiping and having fun trying out the computers.  This is when it hit me. Win 8 sucks on a desktop computer with a mouse but it's pretty great with a touch screen.  Windows computers finally had a cool, demonstrable and clear advantage over a Mac.  I finally got to try Surface and it surprised me.  Using it felt different than an iPad because of the keyboard built into the Touch Cover.  It felt much more like a really really light, mini-laptop especially when you launch MS Office and I found myself using it propped up with the keyboard out.

In conclusion I've changed my opinion about Windows 8.   Before today I thought it was going to be a complete failure because of it's weird Jekyll and Hyde tablet/desktop UX but I'm now thinking it may do pretty well.  I don't think iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire, or Nexus 7 have anything to worry about but my bet is that corporations will look really seriously at Surface and the other Win 8 convertible machines.  Having a full version of Office (not a dumbed down tablet version) and being able to run corporate legacy applications on a tablet is a pretty cool proposition.   Also, from what I saw in the Microsoft Store today I think the touch screens built into the new Windows 8 systems have enough sex appeal to convince people to upgrade their Windows XP systems and may even get some people who were thinking of moving to a Mac to stay with Windows.  

The bottom line is that Windows 8 with a touch screen is kind of cool and cool is not a word that people would have associated with Windows computers in the past.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mint QuickView Comes Up Blank or Gets Stuck Downloading Data

We've been seeing a number of reports via support and in the App Store regarding Mint QuickView not working and launching with a blank screen or getting stuck on Downloading Data.  Clearly we would never have shipped the product this way so this has made us feel terrible that a number of people were running into this issue.  What a truly horrible experience.  We tried everything we could to reproduce it in house and we just couldn't figure it out so we asked a number of people who reported the issue to help us out and a number of really great customers installed special versions of the software on their machine and we were finally able to track it down.  The issue: fonts.  Mint QuickView uses Helvetica Neue and Georgia as the main fonts in the UI.  This gives it that unique Minty look and feel.   Well if you disabled either one of these fonts on your system using Font Book or some other Font management app then QuickView would hang when it tried to use those fonts.  We didn't have font substitution support.  We had this thing beta tested within Intuit for 2 months and never ran into this issue.  Who knew so many people disabled fonts.  In any case, we should have caught it before it went out and I'm truly sorry for those of you that have run into this issue.  Hopefully you'd be willing to give us another try.

The Fix
The fix is pretty easy.  Just enable the Helvetica Neue and Georgia fonts and QuickView will work without a least it won't be blank or get stuck downloading data.   If you don't want to turn on these fonts, we're working on a permanent fix that won't get hung up on fonts but I'm not sure when we'll be ready to release this version.

I'd like to express a big thank you to our customers that helped us find this issue.  Thanks for being patient with us and helping us test various things to figure out the root problem.

Now we're trying to find an issue with passwords.  For some reason there are a few people who enter in correct passwords for the web site but for some reason it's getting rejected by  Hopefully we'll figure out something shortly.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mint QuickView Questions and Answers 2

We're avidly and some could argue psychotically monitoring the comments in the Mac App Store and the feedback emails people have been posting regarding Mint QuickView.  I'm posting a bunch of stuff to this site.  Other than this post, I also have the following other posts:

Here are more answers to your questions.  

Q: What is the point of Mint QuickView when I can just go to
A: We love that you like  There is absolutely no reason to use Mint QuickView if you don't see a need.  Personally, there are a few reasons we built it and use it daily that you might want to consider.

  1. Mint QuickView updates throughout the day and will notify me when a new transaction has arrived in my account without me having to lift a finger or click on a browser tab.
  2. Auto-login.  I hate typing in a user name and password every time I go to the site and I even use 1Password so it really isn't that painful.  I find myself going to QuickView just to launch
  3. Mint QuickView has less stuff.  Most of the time I just want to do a quick look to see what's new in my account, check that a check has been posted, or see if I should be laying off the credit cards a bit.  I typically don't need the full power of the site.  Sometimes less is more.
Q: What does the number in the menu bar badge refer to?
A: The number displays the count of anything new in your account.  Specifically it tracks updated transactions, new alerts or advice.  We identify the new items in 2 different ways.  For transactions there is a blue dot next to the each transaction item.  For alerts and advice there is a blue ellipse with the words NEW in the title to let you know which of those are new.  

Q: When does the number in the menu bar badge get cleared?
A: This is a little tricky because it's different for different things.  Transactions get cleared once you open QuickView and dismiss it. When you open QuickView again, the blue dots go away.  Alerts and Advice are different and this is where the number in the menu bar may not match what you think it  should be.  Alerts and Advice don't clear until you actually see the alert and advice.  So to clear these you have to go through the alerts and advice to clear them.  These clear as you view them and the number in the menu bar will decrement at this time.

Q: Why is it that sometimes the same transaction will appear new twice?
A: We are basically tracking when transactions have been updated so sometimes you'll see a transaction when it's pending and we'll identify it as being new.  Then your bank will clear the transaction and it moves from being pending to being real and so we'll flag it as being new again.

Q: Can you add a feature so the icon only appears in the menu bar and not the dock?
A: We already have it.  Go to the Gear icon and launch preferences.  Under the General tab you'll see a checkbox for Show in Dock.  Uncheck this and it won't Show in the Dock anymore.  But you do lose some capabilities like you won't be able to CMD+TAB to it and there won't be any menus.

Q: When will you make it possible to edit a transaction in QuickView? 
A: We hear you loud and clear.  This is the number one feature request from everyone including the Vice President of our division, my manager and lots and lots of you.  We'll see.  We wanted to release a really solid read only app to get feedback, to understand any issues people are finding, and to learn about how people are using it.  There are lots of things to consider when allowing people to edit heir account in QuickView so we'll continue to look at it but I just wanted to let everyone know that we've heard you and are thinking about it.

Q: Can you add Net Worth?
A: We already show you your current Net Worth when you look at the Accounts view.  That big number or possibly small number in my case is your Net Worth.  It's the summation of all your checking, savings, investments, property minus all of your loans and credit card.  If you're asking about a Net Worth chart, we probably won't be doing that for awhile.  It's technically possible but there are technical reasons we'd rather not tackle this any time soon so don't hold your breath on this one.  

That's if for now.  Again I send out tips and tricks and Q&A stuff via twitter so follow me if you're interested.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mint QuickView Questions and Answers 1

All of us on the Mint for Mac team are really excited that customers appear to like the Mint QuickView product.  The reviews have been great on the Mac App Store with around 98% of customers rating the product a 4 or 5 stars.  We're the number one free app in the store at least for now and there have been lots of Twitter traffic.   I'm posting a bunch of stuff to this site.  Other than this post, I also have the following other posts:
But of course customers have questions and so I've got answers...

Q: Hope they can add an option to make the notification badge black and white too?
A: Oops.  Quite honestly we just missed this.  We will update the graphics in our next update.  The badge should be black and white when the menu bar icon is black and white.

Q: Not updating
A: Unfortunately Mint QuickView went live a few hours before we expected and this was during our regular server maintenance when the servers go offline.  If you tried QuickView between 10 and 12pm PST on 7/10, please try QuickView again. It will work now.  If this continues to be an issue, please send us email at so we can work with you to try to figure out the issue.

A: Yuck.  It would be great if you could send us an email to so that we can gather more information regarding why QuickView crashed.

Q: What I'm not so happy about:  This app just sitting in the menu bar is using 160-180mb of RAM.
A: Wow, that doesn't sound right.  On my machine it's using 34.5 MB.  It's a really small app.  Please check back and see if it continues to be that large.  Possibly you caught QuickView during a data refresh.  Someone else reported this in the Mac App Store comments so it's definitely happening but it shouldn't.  It would be good if you can contact us via the Feedback item in QuickView under the Gear icon so we can work with you to figure out why it's happening.  Do you have a really large data set?

Q: The Trends and Investment page doesn't look like the website.
A: QuickView doesn't support Flash so the charts won't work when using the built-in QuickView browser.  However, we're about to roll out a hot new Trends page on that will start to be migrated to users theoretically next week.  This doesn't use Flash and will work great in QuickView.  Unfortunately investments will continue to be without it's charts.

Q: Export to CSV doesn't work from the QuickView browser
A: Unfortunately this is true.  However, QuickView itself has Export to CSV built into the product. Just do a search of what you want to export and then right click on the transaction list and select Export Transactions.  This will export the current transaction list to CSV.

Q: The issue I have is that...I have to click the little gear icon in the bottom right-hand corner to make the app prompt me for my passcode.
A: The passcode stuff is a little confusing.  Here's how it works.  If you have a passcode and the timer set which is the default we give you a grace period before showing you the passcode again based on the time set in the timer.  The reason we do this is so you can go to using our built-in browser and then go back to QuickView without being prompted for the passcode.  The default timer setting is 5 minutes.  What this means is that if you walk away from for your desk, someone theoretically can open QuickView without being prompted for 5 minutes.  After the 5 minute time is reached then the prompt will appear.  If this is too long, then you can change the timer and make it 1 minute so that it's a much shorter grace period or you can click on the lock icon and the prompt will be forced immediately.

Q: The app appears to hang at times when you click on a feature that requires the full window to appear.
A: The performance of launching the built-in QuickView browser and actually seeing the site isn't great.  Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be a way we can speed this along.  This might be a reason you're seeing a slight stutter when launching the browser window.

Q: Why do you have the built-in browser?  Why not just launch Safari?
A: We did this so we can auto-log you into the site.  We think this is one of the key benefits of QuickView.  There currently isn't a way we could implement auto-login with a default browser from QuickView today.  We hope in time this can be improved.
Hopefully this helps answer a few questions.  Thanks again for all the great comments in the app store and use the feedback email address to give us your feature requests.  You can find it under the Gear icon.

If your interested in getting these tips and tricks via twitter, follow me at @mint4mac.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mint QuickView Tips and Tricks 1

Today's a really exciting day.  My team at Intuit just launched our first app called Mint QuickView for Macintosh.  This is a huge milestone for us because we're all new to the company and one hasn't really earned their stripes until they ship something.  Click here to download it.

What is Mint QuickView? Mint QuickView is a companion app to the website that works on your Mac and provides you a snapshot of what's going on with your personal finances.  It updates through out the day and lets you know when something new hits your account.  There are also handy little charts that let you see your spending, net income and account balances.  If you like to keep tabs on your money, this is the app for you.

For those of you who aren't familiar with is a free website that aggregates all of your checking, savings, credit card, loan, investments and property accounts in one site to allow you to track and analyze your personal finances.  We also have an iPhone, iPad, Android Phone and Android Tablet app which are pretty cool.

A number of friends of mine have expressed concern about entering their financial account information into the website and I totally get that.  I was the same way until I wanted to interview at Mint and thought I better use the product before I chat with them.  The bottom line is that the security is really really tight and to me the benefit out ranks the risk.  I have gained a lot by using Mint.  There's a lot of incite and benefit you receive from having all of your accounts in an easy to track location and it's been tremendously helpful.  First off my wife loves the iPad app and she now actually reviews our finances daily.  She never looked at it before.  Also because we're both looking at this stuff all the time, we actually spend less money because we know the other will spot it instantly.  Finally, I've seen things that I didn't know were occurring in my account like little fees that Fidelity was charging me because I owned a foreign stock.  Suffice it to say that I'm now a believer in Mint and will be a customer for life.  Sorry, I'm not trying to sell it because I work there but I've been really happy with how it's helped me get my personal finances in order.  Also, did I mention it's free?

So with that background you can see why my team and I developed Mint QuickView.  We really designed it for ourselves.  It's a pretty simple product so you may have found all of these tips and tricks already but just in case you haven't...

1) Two Finger Swipable - I'm guessing that's not a real word but QuickView is designed to work with your trackpad.  When your mouse is over the charts use two finger to swipe left and right on your trackpad and you'll get new charts.  you can also use CMD+1, CMD+2, and CMD+3 to go directly to the spending, net income and account charts.

2) Hit space bar in the search field to grow the transaction list - The official way to grow the transaction list is to click on the See More button below the transaction but if that's too much work just add a space in the search field and the list will grow tall and you'll see more of your transactions and you'll get a total.

3) Search for tags, notes and most anything in a transaction - Speaking of search, there's nowhere in the product that tells you what we search on.  Well we search on practically everything in a transaction so go for it.  We even search on the notes field which even the site doesn't do.  We like to rub salt in their wounds on that one.

4) Don't like charts, hide them - When we were building QuickView we had some pretty vocal people internally who hated the charts and felt they took up too much space that would be better served by the transaction list.  Well they are probably right but I like charts and think long lists of text is boring.  But if you are one of those that also hates the charts, you can run QuickView without ever seeing them.  Simply click on See More and leave it up.  QuickView will remember this state.  You can still swipe to different sections and then use the drop down list to filter the transaction list all without having to see a chart.

5) Don't like menu apps, snap QuickView off of the menu bar - We also heard loud and clear from beta customers that some of them don't like menu bar apps.  Gee it's like religion or something to people.  Some love them and some hate them.  Well we built QuickView for everyone.  Just go to preferences under the Gear menu and uncheck "Attach window to menu bar".  Now you'll be able to leave QuickView up all the time and drag it around even to a second monitor.

6) Passcode protect your personal finances - One of the first things we added to QuickView when we were building the app was a passcode feature.  Primarily because we're all running QuickView in the office and who wants to leave it available to anyone to just walk by your desk and find out how terribly poor you are.   By the way, we call it a passcode but it can have numbers, letters, special characters and be any length you want.  It's really a password but we didn't want to confuse people with the password that lets you see your QuickView data and the password to login to your Mint account.  To set the passcode, just click on the lock icon in the bottom right corner.  Once set you can use the lock icon to immediately put QuickView into passcode mode.

7) Edit your transactions - We think one of the first feature requests people will have is to be able to edit their transaction from within QuickView especially when you see that uncategorized transaction appear.  We didn't add it to this first release but we do know it's important.  Just right click on the transaction you want to edit and click on the Edit This Transaction... menu item.  This will bring up the site and will find the current transaction to allow you to edit it.

8) Find out what the heck this transaction is - As you may guess, we've been using QuickView internally for the past 6 months and have had quite a few of our own feature requests.  One of the things we've noticed with our own accounts is that there are times you have no idea what a particular transaction is.  There are a few things you can do.  First off there are tooltips for the transactions so just hover over a transaction and the tooltip will tell you the actual bank name for a particular transaction and this is sometimes really helpful.  Mint does a pretty good job of translating these things but sometimes it does a really bad job and so you want to double check the actual name from the bank.  Second, if you right click on a transaction you can use the Search with Google feature.  This simply uses the merchant name and tries to search for it using your default search provider.  Sometimes this can help you identify a strange merchant name.  Third, I think this is the coolest feature, right click on the transaction and select  Send This Transaction.  This will bring up your email an dump a bunch of transaction information into an email so you can send it to your spouse to ask him or her what the heck a particular transaction is.

9) Export Transactions as CSV - As you may have noticed, we have a lot of things hidden on our right click menus.  Here's another one.  If you filter the transaction list or simply want all of your transactions to export to Excel, right click on the transaction list and select Export Transactions.  This will export the current list of transactions into the CSV format which you can then import into Excel or another personal finance application.

10) Change the sort order of Transactions - Another hidden feature is the ability to change the sort order of the transactions.  You change sort by date, merchant, category or amount.  Just make sure you select Reset to Default Sort to get everything back to normal.

Anyway, I hope these tips help you get the most out of QuickView.  Under the QuickView Gear button we have a Send Feedback menu item.  Click that to let us know what features you would like to see in a future version of QuickView or any other Mint product you would like to see on the Mac.  I've also started a twitter account called @mint4mac.  Follow me and get the latest on QuickView and other things we're working on.  Here are some other posts on Mint QuickView to check out:

Monday, June 11, 2012

I Luv the Fitbit

As many of my software colleagues, I'm a do we say it...robust, big boned, a little on the bigger side.  OK, I admit it I'm kind of fat.  What makes it worst is that I'm short and fat so it's really quite an attractive sight.  In any case, I may be shrinking soon.  I just purchased the Fitbit Ultra and the Fitbit Aria Scale.    The Fit Bit Ultra is a cool gadget that fits in your pocket and records your steps, calories burned, activity, flights of stairs, miles walk and sleep.   The Aria Scale does what you expect.  It measures your weight and % Body Fat but the cool thing is that it updates your stats wirelessly over WiFi.   I know what you're thinking.  You dummy you can buy analog tools that do exactly the same thing at less than half the price and I know thats all true but I still love my Fitbit.  The problem is I had some of those pedometers and other gadgets but none of them had a cool website where all of this data is collected.  Fitbit is a start-up in San Francisco and they went to the Steve Jobs school of product development and realized that it's the entire end-to-end experience that matters and not just the individual components of the system.  Sure other products can log your steps but not all of them have a great website where all of this information is stored.  And more importantly, not all of them have the tracking, goal setting and goal keeping tools that Fitbit does.   Plus the fitbit gadgets update the website wirelessly and in a hassle free manner.  The Fitbit Ultra has a base station that can communicate wirelessly to the fitbit so if you're 15 feet from your base station then the stats from your fitbit will automatically get updated to the website.

A number of people at work have bought the Nike FuelBand product which is very cool as well and they like it.   I decided to go with the fitbit because it said it tracks your sleep and also measures going up and down stairs which it does.  I actually use both of these quite a bit since I have stairs in my house and I do sleep.  However, what I learned via my fitbit is that I don't sleep enough.  To measure sleep you attach the fitbit to an wrist band.  There is a little hole in it where you put the fitbit.  You hold down the fitbit button and it starts timing your sleep.  When you wake up, just hold down the button again and it will stop.  It measures how well you sleep and how often you wake up.  I'm not sure it's accurate enough to be used for Sleep Apnea studies but I can tell you that the days that fitbit tells me I slept crappy are the days I feel really tired so it's accurate from that perspective.

The best thing about fitbit is that it has actually made me care about the calories I eat and the exercise I get each day to offset those calories.  I now track all the calories I eat each day religiously.  Fitbit has a food logging module but it's not very good.  I just started using My Fitness Pal on my iPhone and iPad to log in my daily caloric intake.  The best thing about My Fitness Pal is that it has a lot of the food you eat built in to it's database.   Including popular menu items at lot of the fast food and big chain restaurants so you can quickly get calories for when you eat out and we eat out a lot so that's a pretty important feature.  Even cooler is that you can take a photo of the bar code for packaged goods in your home and My Fitness Pal will automatically input the calories, sodium and fat content into the system.  I tried 5 different things in my house and the bar code worked every time from Organic Cut Baby Carrots to the Rotisserie Chicken we bought at Whole Foods.  Very cool.

It's been a few weeks of use and I'm still doing stupid things like watching TV Shows on my iPad and walking around the dining room table just so I can up my step count.  Absolutely weird to watch but it works!  I'm on the easy plan to lose 20 pounds so I don't have to starve myself but I've already lost 3 pounds.

In conclusion, it may have cost me a pretty penny to buy these gadgets but possibly because they are electronic toys that connect to the Internet, I'm totally focused on hitting my step and activity scores to earn badges and hopefully to eventually lose some weight.  It's worth every penny.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Is the MacBook Air 11" Too Small?

Let me tell you right up front that this is going to be a lame blog post because the answer is quite simple -- the MacBook Air 11" isn't too small.  In fact I'm writing this blog post on the MacBook Air 11".   Actually I really debated a long time before I bought this thing so I don't think it's an obvious answer.
I owned the original Air when it first came out and I've used the upgraded MacBook Air 13" at work.  I really liked it and thought the screen was perfect.  So why not just get that computer.  Well for one I'm kind of cheap and the 11" is just a tad cheaper.  The other thing is this is going to be my vacation computer and I don't really want to lug more than I need.  In fact I mostly use my iPad on vacation now but there are still times you need a computer.

Anyway, I took a chance and I've been perfectly happy with the 11".  I haven't taken it on vacation yet and since I just started a new job I probably won't be taking many vacations any time soon.

The 11" Air is small enough for my wife to put in her purse.  Now it's a big purse so I guess it's not that impressive but the main point is that I don't think the 13" Air would have fit.  The speed of the system is fine.  I don't tend to crunch huge spreadsheets or render massive 3D graphics on this computer...or any computer for that matter but the speed has been fine.  I've actually played Civ V on it and it worked even though the Civ V reqs say it shouldn't.  You don't get any fancy effects like clouds and stuff but it played. I also have Parallels running Windows 7 on it too and it also works well.

Anyway, in my opinion the MacBook Air 11" is fine.  And remember I have bifocals so my eyes aren't that good and it's still fine for me.  Definitely go to an Apple Store to check it out before you buy.

iPad 3 vs iPad 2

Well I upgraded to an iPad 3...I just had to because of my bad habit of needing to be on the bleeding edge of Apple tech.  You see I justify it because I work in the software industry.  At least that's what I tell the wife.  Anyway, the bottom line is that it's a great product but it's not really that much better than the iPad 2.  In fact the iPad 2 is better in a number of ways such as longer battery life, runs cooler, it's thinner and now I think it's even cheaper.  In fact they've upgraded the chip in the new iPad 2 so that it's even better than the original iPad 2.  How can you beat that.  Well, the iPad 3 is better in some ways.  The screen is sharper but quite honestly I'm a little bit older and my bifocal enhanced eye's don't really notice the difference.  In fact I tried to brag to my mom and show her how much sharper my brand new iPad 3 was compared to her old school iPad 1so I started up iBooks on both devices and opened the same book and I literally couldn't tell the difference.  Lame.  The iPad 3 also has 4G but I couldn't rest that because I don't have one.  It probably screams but I don't know.

Anyway, if you have an iPad 2, keep it.  If you don't have an iPad, run and get the new iPad 3.  The iPad is a life changing product.  I use it in the morning and in the evening every single day.  I love my iPad.