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Quicken Family Lawyer v7.0 (CD) 
by Mike Runnels

[Parson's Family Lawyer] Unlike most people, I know I'm immortal; I have no evidence to the contrary. I picked this package for my first review just on the off chance I'm wrong. Anyway, like most others, I don't want to think about what might happen to my family on the off chance that stray meteorite hits me as I cross the street (or, more likely, I get squished on IH-410). I'd been wanting to update my will (it's been a while) so I thought this might be an excellent opportunity.

 "Quicken Family Lawyer," or QFL for short, is an advanced version of one of Parsons Technology's earlier products, "It's Legal." QFL's function in life is to provide personal legal forms and some legal guidance and, overall, it looks like a pretty good package. The target audience here is the adult family members since they'll be making the "grown-up" decisions, but everyone benefits in terms of security and proper planning. There're several ways to get hold of them and here they are:

When I got the package for evaluation, it came minus any retail-style packaging and the only documentation was the equivalent to liner notes in a CD; that is, just the insert to the jewel case. Though there's not a lot you can put in there, at least they gave some system requirements. It started off very generic stating "IBM or 100% compatible" but made no mention of minimum processor type (286, 386, etc.), and said it needed 3-19 MB hard disk space, depending on selected configuration, but it said you needed 6-25 MB during the installation. Even though it didn't mention processor type, your choices were narrowed down by needing to run on Windows 3.1, NT or 95 with 4 MB or more RAM for Windows 3.1 and 8 MB RAM for Windows 95/NT. The notes also mentioned you could use any printer supported by Windows. It may have been obvious, but it never mentioned you needed a CD-ROM player. It also turns out you need a sound card, which they also didn't mention. When I found a boxed version at a local store, it did mention the CD-ROM drive, sound card and speakers, but it also said you'd need 12-16 MB of hard disk space. That was the only real inconsistency I found. I also found a version with 3.5" diskettes; this review is therefore only for the CD-ROM version.

 I checked QFL out on my nice little one-generation-removed 120 MHz AMD 486 running Windows for Workgroups 3.11. A 2 GB Maxtor hard disk and 24 MB RAM surely didn't hurt, I'm sure; though it mentioned 3-19 MB/6-25 MB disk space to install, I used up less than 2.5 MB. BUT ... when I tried to create a document, it told me I didn't have something installed and to run the setup again. The original instructions didn't say anything about loading the forms, so when I selected the option to reinstall, I ended up using a total of 8 MB of space. Coincidentally, I used a 4X CD-ROM drive and have a 16-bit SoundBlaster-compatible sound card.

 Overall, the installation went fairly well for a Windows program. Like so much stuff put out for Windows in the last year-and-a-half, it was Wizard-driven and really quite simple. One thing they didn't mention in the installation, though, is that you apparently have to restart Windows to make it run properly. When I ran the program after it said it was "properly installed," the introduction ran well (it's on the CD-ROM) but when I tried to create a document it kicked me to the DOS prompt. A bit of geeky sleuthing and it turns out it makes changes to WIN.INI. When I restarted Windows (after cautiously rebooting, too), everything ran quite well. Also, I wasn't given an option on where I wanted QFL loaded; it defaulted to C:\QFL7 so I'm glad I had plenty of room. Except for these two little problems and the one mentioned in the previous paragraph, I liked the installation. One thing I really like (and to be WIN95 compliant) is that it also includes its own uninstall utility.

 As I mentioned, hardcopy documentation was rather sparse and the images there appeared to be from an earlier version. On the flip side, though, the online help is very good, from the usual "Press F1" to context-sensitive to FAQs answered by video clips in a section called "Ask the Expert with Arthur Miller" who is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, the legal editor for ABC's Good Morning America and the host of "In Context" on Court TV. Not bad at all.

 With common sense buttons and the online help mentioned above, overall operation was smooth and progressed logically. Like "Ask the Expert," QFL also has an introduction and a tour in video clip format, both of which give a good overview of what QFL is all about.

 One of the things I really liked was the document suggestions section. This area asked things like marital status, children, employment, etc., and then gave you a list of sections and documents that would most likely apply to you. I read it and then printed it out; it appeared to be about 95% correct in applicability.

 QFL, as I received it, has 86 forms in 10 categories. As you go through the list and pass over each form name in that category, a brief description of the form and a good reason to have it shows up on the right side of the screen. This is a good example of the excellent real-time, context-sensitive help throughout QFL. If you're interested, the categories and the number of forms for each category are listed after this paragraph; otherwise, jump to the next paragraph (after you've finished this one, that is). Additionally, similar to the document suggestions, each form you fill out has an "interview" function for filling in the blanks for that particular form; it also has a bare bones "Word-Lite" text editor for "fine-tuning" the appearance of the final product. If you want to, you can print out an interview sheet to complete offline and then come back to input the answers later; very convenient!

To be truthful, it appears to be fully functional; I couldn't find anything that seems like it could be added. I selected the "Simple Will - Adult Children" and worked my way through it. As I mentioned earlier, the questions in the interview function were very in-depth as was the real-time/same-time help provided for each question. I left some parts unanswered (I didn't know some ZIP codes) and the program let me know when I said I was finished and told me the document might not be valid. When I looked at the final product, the language appeared to be legal enough to satisfy the court system but relatively easy enough to understand if read carefully.

 I didn't really have any need to call for support (and it's long distance) but I did go online with their web page. There were some problems getting to their technical support section but it was on their end. Eventually (three tries) I got there and their FAQs looked fairly comprehensive. Then again, like I said, the program worked well enough that I never really needed to ask any questions, neither to people nor web pages.

 While I was on the Parsons Technology web page, I found that you could order their software directly and most, including this one, were $29.00. I went to a few of the computer stores here in town and everywhere I went they sold it, though the prices varied quite widely. The best price was at Office Depot at $19.99 and Computer City had the worst at $32.99. CompUSA was in the middle with $29.99 but they were also the only one that offered a discount to Alamo PC members (bring your member card/magazine and your driver's license). I've seen it at Best Buy before but didn't get the price at the time. As a side note, all of the places visited offer price matching but you've got to ask for it. Inquire at each location for more information.

 Did I like it? Definitely yes. Would I recommend it? Again, yes. Most of all (and to add some credibility), would I buy it? Yes. The reason for all those yes's is that the program is useful, intuitive and comprehensive. In the words of John Dvorak on C|Net Central, I'd give it a "Buy It." I don't think you'll be disappointed.