Choosing software for work

If you are on a team to choose/implement a new system or software in your workplace, then there are a number of things you shold consider. These are also relevant for your home environment as well.

Sustainability analysis

Make sure to do a proper sustainability analysis.

Will the vendor still be around in five or ten years time?

It is more likely that a larger vendor will still be around compared to a smaller vendor. However, when it comes down to it, even larger vendors can go under.

Will the vendor still support this product?

You don't want to pick a product that the vendor will stop supporting in three years time. Of course, the vendor will claim whatever is needed to get your business, so don't trust them. Look at their history. Alternatively, choose a product that is Free Software. If you have the source code, then the answer matters much less than if you don't; you can always go to another company to support the code.

Total cost of ownership

If you talk to a vendor, they'll probably mention TCO or similar, in an attempt to bamboozle you, or convince you that Free Software doesn't cut it. However, they don't tell you the problems their product has. E.g. that you'll need to train staff for each new version of their product. When MS Office dropped the menu bars and switched to the ribbon, it took me ages to learn the placement of some of the tools that I use regularly. Even if I had looked up where the placement was, it often made no sense in the context. E.g. to insert a new row in a table in MS Word, you have to go to the Design tab. Not the Table tab, or the Insert tab.

Moreover, they don't mention incompatibilities between different versions because they don't use Open Formats.


Consider having software developed for your library. paying someone to develop or customise software, and then share that software with others. You could even work with other libraries to share the costs. A consortium paying $100 000 can develop software to rival the software that the individual libraries are each paying $20 000 for, and it will be suited to them. And it will cost less in the long run.


For many years people said if you are licensing new software you should either use the GNU GPL, or else a licence that was “compatible” with it. This advice is still applicable, and I would strongly suggest that you follow it. Most of the major licenses are compatible with the GPL.

Open Standards

Ensure that the software uses open standards by default.

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