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How do you choose new software? For many people for many years it’s been pretty simple – go for whatever Microsoft does and get on with it. However some problems just can’t be solved that easily, like buying a website or database, which are more about buying a service than a product. And the growth of open source has also shifted the goalposts, as has the rapid growth in online services, such as Google Docs or online meeting planners such as Doodle.ch. So is there a simple process everyone could can follow?

It very much depends on what you want, when you want it and who you’re asking, but US-based IdealWare has suggested six simple steps for when you’re in a hurry and have specific needs – “something that’s neither a big investment nor particularly strategic”. It offers a very useful starting point, and I particularly like the fact that Step 2 suggests that you investigate whether your current software can do the job.

This is a really useful point, especially given the wealth of features in Microsoft Office. So as well as suggesting you check out their Six Steps I would add that it’s always helpful to have reference books available, especially books such as Office 2003 Timesaving Techniques in the Dummies series. This goes beyond the basics and includes tips for Excel, Word and the rest of the Office suite and I use it at least once every month for fiddly things I don’t do very often.

Of course for more advice on just about every topic I’d always recommend looking at LASA’s ICT Knowledgebase, especially for larger projects such as websites and databases.

Idealware: Selecting Software on a Shoestring

How do you choose new software? For many people for many years it’s been pretty simple – go for whatever Microsoft does and get on with it. However some problems just can’t be solved that easily, like buying a website or database, which are more about buying a service than a product. And the growth of open source has also shifted the goalposts, as has the rapid growth in online services, such as Google Docs or online meeting planners such as Doodle.ch. So is there a simple process everyone could can follow?

It very much depends on what you want, when you want it and who you’re asking, but US-based IdealWare has suggested six simple steps for when you’re in a hurry and have specific needs – “something that’s neither a big investment nor particularly strategic”. It offers a very useful starting point, and I particularly like the fact that Step 2 suggests that you investigate whether your current software can do the job.

This is a really useful point, especially given the wealth of features in Microsoft Office. So as well as suggesting you check out their Six Steps I would add that it’s always helpful to have reference books available, especially books such as Office 2003 Timesaving Techniques in the Dummies series. This goes beyond the basics and includes tips for Excel, Word and the rest of the Office suite and I use it at least once every month for fiddly things I don’t do very often.

Of course for more advice on just about every topic I’d always recommend looking at LASA’s ICT Knowledgebase, especially for larger projects such as websites and databases.

Idealware: Selecting Software on a Shoestring

When times are tough do you cut your communciations budget first or last? Is this the time to get out and tell people how great you are to raise funds, or keep your head down, rein in all your costs and hope for a big bid to come through pronto? The people at NGO.Media have spoken to specialist communications staff at various charities have produced a list of five top tips:

  • Outsource to save money
  • Stick to timescales so everyone knows what they’re doing
  • Get service users and volunteers involved
  • Focus clearly on your key aims
  • Manage your time and projects extra carefully.

A lot of the examples given are from larger, higher profile national charities, but it is a useful glimpse into the work of professional charity communications workers during very uncertain times. Read the full story at http://icanhaz.com/creditcrunchcomms

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Jill Ferguson at Hastings Voluntary Action [HVA] has posted a useful reminder that grant funding from Government remains a vital part of the funding mix at a local level. She welcomes a recognition of the role of grassroots activity at a neighbourhood level but fears that the emphasis on contracting services and tendering for funds will undermine funding for work which is best delivered on a small, very local scale.

This echoes a campaign being led by NAVCA called Sustaining Grantswhy local grant aid is vital for a healthy voluntary and community sector and thriving local communities.

Jill’s article can be found on HVA’s website: HVA – paper_030

More details of the NAVCA Campaign can be found on its site http://www.navca.org.uk/publications/sustaininggrants/

Drupal is a powerful open source tool for creating websites that can be managed by people without a high degree of technical skills. It is a very popular tool with a large community of users, and it is free.

Drupal logoMany people around the world use Drupal to set up sites for not for profit organisation – we’ve been using at SCIP for several years, including our own site at www.scip.org.uk. The initial set up stage still requires a specialist web developer, but once it’s in place it can offer very powerful features to anyone with basic keyboard and mouse skills.

These sites are becoming increasingly popular for small and medium sized community organisations, alongside the growth of personal sites such as Blogger. You can change content quickly and easily, add photographs and useful links to other sites, add news stories and tidy up loose ends, such as when staff or job titles change.

Drupal has developed thanks to the commitment and collaboration of a wide range of people across the world. This conference in Coventry in late August is for web developrs with a specific interest in creating sites for the voluntary sector. It’s just £15 and is being organised by Illuminate ICT.

Our Drupal Conference | www.illuminateict.org.uk

Win £2,000 for your technology related project. Talk Talk logo

TalkTalk Innovation in the Community Awards

Quickbooks is a very popular accounting package, often used by organisations that have graduated from using spreadsheets but who don’t need the full power of Sage.

Given its popularity it’s interesting to see 12 out of 12 stinking reviews on Amazon, including one that simply says ‘Whatever you do don’t upgrade to Quickbooks Pro 2008′. Take a look at the reviews to see why not.

Amazon.co.uk: QuickBooks Pro 2008: Software

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