Software for InvestorsIntuit's Quicken: The most popular financial software package, Quicken costs around $60 for the basic version and is great for tracking the trading activity of an investor. But if you start to get fancy, you'll quickly hit some limitations. The
Software for Advanced InvestorsCaptool: "The best software, bar none," raves reader Bob Hockenhull. The package acts like a portfolio manager. It'll help you keep track of your transactions and generate reports and graphs. For $250, you'll get a running tally of your capital gains or losses that you can just plop onto your tax return. Though some day traders love the program, Robert Hobbs, president of Issaquah, Wash.-based Captool, says he discourages them from using it. "We prefer to sell to long-term investors," he says, because day traders expect a level of support the firm can't provide. LiveWire: This program is designed primarily as a research tool for day traders, says Robert Krupnick, president of CableSoft, which makes the $600 program (the price rises to $1,295 on Feb. 1). You can't execute trades with this software, so the hard-core day trader might not be happy with it. But reader Ronald Papa likes the tax reports the program generates. "The Cash Transactions Report is a chronological audit trail that is essentially an ongoing cash balance account, similar to your checkbook, that accounts for gains, losses, interest, dividends, margin interest, and so on," he says. "The Tax Report summarizes your investment transactions, associated gains and losses, dividends and interest. Both reports can be generated for any period stipulated, such as daily, weekly or monthly. It does not account for the wash sale, to my knowledge." The software will generate a Schedule D-like form for you, but it won't differentiate between long-term and short-term trades, adds Krupnick. Neither will it alert you if a transaction is subject to the wash-sale rule. But when you make a sale, you can pick the lot you're selling to avoid violating the rule, he says.