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How to Buy Computer Software

Follow the steps on this page to purchase off-the-shelf software for your department.

If you want to contract for custom software, see Custom Software Overview.

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1. Determine if off-the-shelf software will meet your needs.

Off-the-shelf software, also known as "shrink-wrapped" or "canned" software, refers to standard (not custom) software applications. When you take off-the-shelf software out of the package, you automatically agree to the terms and conditions of the software license agreement.

Off-the-shelf software is available from:

For a list of software recommendations, see:

2. Decide how you will purchase the software.

  • If your supplier is on campus and you are using the recharge method, proceed to Step 3.
  • If your supplier is off campus, or you are not using the recharge method, proceed to Step 4.

3. To make the purchase by recharge, follow these steps.

  • Check with your department's financial administrator to be sure you are authorized to recharge for your department. If you are, obtain the index for the recharge.
  • Make sure you are purchasing software from a recharging department, such as UCSD Bookstore or Educational Technology Services, when you place your order.
  • Provide the recharging department with the proper accounting information.

4. Choose the correct method for your purchase.

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Notice: Each copy of software used at UCSD must be covered by a license agreement. If you buy packaged software, the license agreement is included. Software obtained in other ways must be covered by a department, campus, or university agreement, or its use is illegal. Exceptions include: shareware (whose use should be registered as specified by the owner), public domain software, and software developed by the University.