Quicken and Nolo Press have put together the 2005 version of Legal Business Pro, with more than 140 legal forms and contracts ready to sign.

The forms include “”Checklist for Starting a Small Business,”” “”Partnership Agreements,”” “”Corporate Tax Returns,”” “”Contracts,”” and a small host

of others. Many of the forms go beyond legal issues and cover things like customer surveys, marketing strategies and questionnaires for suppliers.

What’s really valuable here is that the program asks you questions you probably wouldn’t have thought of. It prompts you for all the information you need to create a document.

In addition to the legal and organizational forms, the 2005 version comes with a couple of extra programs: The first, Office Ready Pro, has over 500 templates for use with Microsoft Office, including newsletters, brochures, expense reports, business cards, etc. These can be published as PDF documents. When you register Legal Business Pro online you get a second program with more than 3,000 business and sales letters.

The boxed edition of Legal Business Pro is $80 from www.nolo.com; the download is $65. We noticed you can buy the 2004 version of this program for $27 from www.bestbuy.com.

SEARCHING THE WEB

Our favorite search engine, the hard-to-type Vivisimo, has morphed into a new clustering engine called Clusty.

Clustering engines gather results to your query in categories. For instance, if you type in “”plants,”” you will see a list on the lefthand side of the screen that has categories such as “”flowers,”” “”garden,”” “”poisonous,”” “”power plants,”” “”house plants,”” etc., all concerned with plants.

You would get this in the earlier Vivisimo engine as well, but Clusty narrows your search up front by allowing you to click on tabs for your category of choice: news, shopping, images, blogs, encyclopedia, etc. A new tab lets you click on the 1,000-page CIA intelligence report on Iraq and “”weapons of mass destruction””: Go to www.clusty.com/wmd.

Many searches come back with pictures. If you search on any of the presidential candidates, for example, you get information plus a picture of the candidate. The same kind of results hold for news and shopping.

In a bow to the new hot topic, one of the search tabs is for “”blogs.”” Blogs were originally called “”Web logs”” and they were simply chains or threads of conversation about one or more subjects. They have become much more than that these days and are a source of current information and comment from many people, some of whom are quite knowledgeable about a topic. Blogs are even thought to be influencing voters in the upcoming national elections. You can get software for creating your own blog at http://blog.tripod.lycos.com, www.blogit.com and a number of other sites. Just do a search on blogging.

JUST BROWSING

The Mozilla Organization’s new Web browser, Firefox, has already had 3.5 million downloads since its release last month (September). The browser is free at www.mozilla.org. Meanwhile, the Norwegian Web browser Opera (www.opera.com) now has a free accessory program intended as a substitute for Microsoft’s PowerPoint. Opera Show Generator turns out to be incredibly simple to use.

The commanding market share of Microsoft’s own browser, Internet Explorer, has been slowly and steadily eroding as millions of users switch to the two browsers mentioned above and any of a half-dozen from lesser-known makers. Internet Explorer commanded a 98 percent share of the Web browser market as recently as early this year, but is now down to 90 percent.

Some estimates put the Microsoft browser share as low as 70 percent, but the reality probably depends on how you look at it. For instance, we have Internet Explorer (IE) and Mozilla both on our machines, but almost never use IE. That might count us as still in the IE column.

LAPPING THE FIELD

Laplink Gold 12 adds virus protection to the oldest and one of the most highly regarded computer linking programs in the business. The program allows you to remotely access files between any computers using the Windows operating system from Win 98 on up.

The virus protection has become increasingly important as the number of viral and stealth spyware attacks has been increasing at an exponential rate. Earlier this year, programmers involved in computer security were estimating that the amount of time between a computer going online and the first attack was less than 20 minutes. Recently that time estimate has been cut to 30 seconds.

Laplink Gold 12 provides secure connections through firewalls without any special configurations or having to open extra ports. File transfers are as fast as the weakest link in your connection. The software is smart enough to update only the changes made in a file since the last update. You can even have a phone conversation over the same line while the files are updating.

This program is practically a standard in the field and is commonly used by help desks to solve problems from users in many areas of a company or offices far afield. The interface used to be a little confusing, but has been streamlined by hiding functions not in use or likely to be used immediately.

Pricing for Laplink Gold 12 is $130 for the boxed version and $110 as a download. Web site: www.laplink.com.

ANCIENT WARFARE

Rome: Total War is an awesome re-creation of the techniques and battles of the Roman Empire’s military machine, a force that ruled the Mediterranean world for 500 years. This is a “”must own”” program for war gamers. It has all the peoples and civilizations the Romans encountered in their imperial conquests. The graphics and technology are so good the game is being used by the History Channel to explore the art of war in Roman times. It’s for Win 98 and up, $50 from EB Games (www.ebgames.com).

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NOTE: Readers can search three years of columns at the “”On Computers”” Web site: www.oncomp.com and can e-mail the Schwabachs at bobschwab(AT)oncomp.com or bobschwab(AT)aol.com.

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