The most important thing to remember about purchasing software is NOT to pay the full retail price. Charities can get really good deals from software vendors, and not just on Microsoft Office products; many other manufacturers offer their products at discount to charities.

It’s very tempting to buy cheap software from the web, but we would advise you to be wary. There are many reputable online vendors, but there are also many that sell pirate copies of software. Purchasing and installing these copies is illegal, you won’t get any support should you have any problems, and you may even get a virus infection on your computers.

Where To Buy

These are companies we have dealt with in the past and can happily recommend.

There’s an organization based in London called the Charity Technology Exchange (CTX). They offer software from the major manufacturers as cheap as 4% of retail.  If you’re considering buying some software, definitely check them out.  (The only downside to this system is that you can only buy once every two years, so you really have to have a bulk order ready or plan ahead.)

Civica offer PC and Mac software at way below retail prices. The link takes you to their home page. Put “charity” in the search box, and you’ll find a link to the charity sales email address. Not as cheap as CTX, but you can buy when you want to.

Pugh Computers specialise in the education and charity sectors.

What To Buy

Microsoft Project

The obvious choice is Microsoft Project. It has the advantages that it integrates with the rest of MS Office easily and that a lot of people are already using it; that means it’s pretty easy to share your plans. It’s quite easy to learn and to use, and it produces some really pretty pictures (e.g. Gannt charts). If you have a really small project you might consider buying it just for its ability to produce these pretty things. It can handle small and large projects. It’s a good buy.

One snag for you Apple-heads: MSP doesn’t run under OS X. If you want it, you’ll need an Intel-based Mac with Boot Camp or Parallel Desktop or something similar that allows you to run Windows on your machine.

If you do buy MS Project, get a good book to help you use it. Here’s a couple you could try.

Other Project Management Software

There are hundreds of different software packages for the PC. If you’re not going to use MS Project, then make sure you try before you buy. Any decent vendor will allow you a trial period to make sure the software suits you. Try out the scheduling, resourcing and reports before you buy.

Apple Mac users don’t have such a wide choice, but that’s more than made up for the joy of using the beautiful Apple kit (yes – we use Macs).

One solution is to put Windows on your Mac and use MS Project. If that offends, then there is Mac software out there.

Omni do a project management software. ConceptDraw have one too. There is also a package called Project X; we’ve only recently come across it, though. so our review is still currently pending.