Stox 1.0, by JoeSoft
Posted: 4-Jun-2008

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: JoeSoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Peter Whitehead Class: UTILITY

Overview
Stox is an investment tool designed to help you manage and evaluate your stock portfolio. According to Joesoft (a Prosoft company), the software is designed to meet the needs of students, business people, retirees or wall-street moguls. Stox works with hundreds of online resources and compiles color-coded charts, market specific news items, detailed trade parameters, analyst opinions and performance reports. You can create virtual portfolios, define watch lists and import existing portfolios.

Requirements

  • Mac OS X: 10.4 or higher
  • Internet Connection
  • 256MB RAM


I ran this test on an Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. When I first loaded Stox, I was running OS 10.4. I have since upgraded to OS 10.5 and it has shown no change in compatibility.

Price
$49.95

Setup
Pop the program DVD of JoeSoft's Stox into your Mac and you get the following window:


Installing Stox

Drag the Stox icon to your Applications folder and you are ready to start using the program. As you can see in the image above, the Stox manual is accessible online via your Internet browser.

I tested version 1.0. As of late March 2008, there have not been any program updates, but I have been assured that there are updates in the pipeline. I noticed a full page ad in this month's MacWorld.


In Use
Before diving into the main features of the program, Stox leads you through a couple of steps to get your initial portfolio set up. First you select your currency type, which I selected U.S. dollars. Next, you use the portfolio wizard to enter investments. The Portfolio Setup Wizard has two fields for adding stocks to your portfolio. The first field is for the ticker symbol for the stock, and includes a lookup tool. The second field is an optional scroll-down menu of Exchanges (American Stock Exchange, Barcelona Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, Jakarta Stock Exchange, New York Stock Exchange, etc.). For common US exchanges such as American Stock or NASDAQ, you will see the simple symbol added to your portfolio. If you select one of the uncommon exchanges, such as Chicago Board of Trust, a suffix is added to your symbol (e.g., FJIJ.CBT).


Portfolio Wizard

Once you click on done, it asks you to name your portfolio and then takes you to the portfolio's main window.


Portfolio Window


At this point you are all set to start using the main features of the program. The portfolio display is the meat of the program, providing you instant access to stock quotes, charts, and news for each stock listed in your portfolio. Click on the stock symbol to generate the details in the bottom pane of the window. Double clicking a symbol opens a browser window of Yahoo Finance for that particular stock or fund.

Stox does not offer trading. It is intended to be a portfolio tool for tracking information on stocks you either own or are interested in. When a portfolio represents a brokerage account where you have active dollars invested (whether it is managed by a stock broker or yourself, online or through an in-person brokerage account), you will enter each of the symbols into that portfolio, and then you will add transaction amounts (shares and price) that represent activity in your account (this includes your initial cash deposit, which would likely be your first transaction).

Stox does not replace your online brokerage account (if you have one), not does it access your online account. The advantage of accessing the account would be to obtain all of your transaction data automatically. The disadvantage would be that you may not wish to share your login information with a standalone application. Clicking on the trades tab will show all the trades you historically made for the selected stock, including details such as cost per share and effective gain. Of course, you manually entered these transactions, so the data is only as accurate as what you entered. Note, also, that funds such as mutual funds that pay off periodically and reinvest will require manual entry of each transaction.

Once you have started Stox, you will have the option of having a little stock ticker on your desktop.


Stox Desktop Ticker

Alternately, you can choose to use a wider stock ticker to see more.


Stox Desktop Ticker (wide version)

You have a number of options for customizing the Stox ticker using the Ticker Preferences.


Ticker Preferences


You can choose to have stocks show up that are in your portfolios, in certain indices (including news), or a combination of both. Each portfolio or index chosen is displayed on its own row, and you can specify the background and text color as well as the scrolling speed. You can have the ticker display titles, names, and closed positions, as well as whether you want the ticker to be always visible or not. The ticker can be changed to include only the items in the selected portfolio. To do so, you have to go into the Preferences, find the Ticker Preferences panel, add an index, and find your portfolio.


Stox Portfolio Overview

When you select the Overview Tab, the window displays the general performance of the selected portfolio. At the top it shows the long and short-term performance of the overall portfolio. Below the performance are links to news about specific portfolio items, and below that are the market indices and market news links. You can change the source for market news using the scroll down menu where it shows "CNN Money" in the image. Other sources include Google Finance, MSM Money, Reuters and Yahoo Finance.

Clicking on the Portfolio Tab gives you current data on the individual items in your portfolio based on the data you have manually entered. Selecting one of the items listed (e.g., Apple, Inc.) provides you with access to charts and news specifically about that financial item.


Charting the stock "AAPL" (Apple, Inc)


As shown above, the charts can be changed using the parameters on the left for Type, Range, Start Date and End date. Additionally, you can choose to view more data related to the stock, such as Bid information, volume, EPS, etc. (see below).


Details for the stock "AAPL"

For one of the stocks I put in my portfolio, MERKX (Merk Hard Currency), the program would track the day to day changes, but it never was able to produce a chart (see below).


Would not product chart for "MERKX"

The Transactions Tab shows an historical record of all transactions entered into the portfolio. You have to manually enter every purchase with cash deposits. I found the transactions section to be the source of some confusion and not very intuitive. Because I track my accounts online, I didn't feel the need to also track my account balances with Stox.


Portfolio transactions


One of the issues I had using Stox is upon opening the software in subsequent sessions, I would encounter an error dialog. This dialog would report errors that occurred while fetching news or other information related to certain portfolio items.


Errors when opening Stox portfolio


This would prohibit me from viewing the data or news about a certain stock for that day. If I restart the program, the missing stock would often come back. After contacting tech support, they asked me to download updated software from the web, and that resolved this problem.

During the initial entry of my portfolio, I also encountered an error when attempting to save. I had to recreate the portfolio in a subsequent session, and the next time there was no error, and the portfolio was successfully saved.

I found the news links to be interesting. I especially enjoyed one called "The Laptop and the Notebook, a Fable," from an
Apple Corporation Stock link. There is also a profit/loss report function that will summarize all the profits and losses from a portfolio. This could be useful, but again it requires manual effort to make the calculations correct. For example, if I am tracking a fund on my investment web site, my cost basis is always automatically updated. In other words, the $2000 that I invested in 2003 is not my cost any more - I'll spare the reader the economics lesson. Stox, on the other hand, does not do this - or if it does, I couldn't find it in the user manual.

Starting off the review, I hit a few stumbling blocks. In the beginning, after I would return to the software the following day, the program would not start up. This led me to re-installing the software, which also led to having to re-enter the serial number. This particular problem was cleared up when I first spoke to tech support and they provided an updated serial number. Another problem is that, after initially creating a portfolio, I received an error during save, and the portfolio would be gone when I started up Stox again.


Unexpected Error

Due to the problems I experienced, I contacted JoeSoft tech support to try and resolve them. The support line, open during Pacific Coast business hours, was always very patient and helpful.

Summary
JoeSoft Stox offers some useful comparison tools and easy access to some useful news links. Stox does a nice job of assembling tracking and graphing applets with links to some open source trading advice. It does a good job of integrating financial information from a variety of sources. There's a desktop ticker that looks cute and will make your less savvy neighbor think you're a junior Wall Street broker. The news comes from sources like Yahoo and Fortune/CNN. The graphics and overall interface looks very nice. However, you must manually enter your transactions to keep your portfolios updated and current. If you already use an online brokerage website, a lot of this input may feel redundant. I also experienced a number of problems with the software, many resolved with an updated serial number, and other issues are reported to have been resolved with the Stox 1.1 update (which I have not had the chance to try yet). Stox, when working properly, does integrate some useful stock reporting features in one place, and is a nice tool to have for those that regularly watch stocks.

Pros

  • Integrates financial information from different sources
  • Nicely organized stock reports and graphics
  • Helpful tech support

Cons

  • Some intermittent software bugs (such as losing portfolios)
  • Must balance cash flow manually (no integration to online accounts)
  • Initial startup problems (resolved with an updated serial number)


Overall Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice