Buying software used to mean going to a software store and purchasing discs. These days software stores are just about nonexistent. Many devices don’t even have CD/DVD drives. The method for acquiring software depends on the system you’re using. Many are now only available as subscriptions, like Adobe Photoshop. But the lighter version of Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, is still available as a one-time purchase. I’ll use it as an example of your options.

For Windows 10, you can go to the App Store. Just click the icon that looks a bit like a shopping bag.

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Search for the program in the search box and click on the results.

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You can click the Buy or Free trial buttons to install on your PC. If you don’t already have payment info entered with Microsoft, you’ll be prompted to enter your method of payment.

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Before purchase, you can scroll down to take a look at reviews, system requirements, and screenshots for the program.

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As soon as checkout is complete, you may begin the installation.

If you’re using a Mac, you’ll want to click the icon for the Apple App Store.

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The store will open.

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Type the name of the program in the search box and click on the result.

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Click on the price of the app to purchase. If you haven’t already entered payment information with Apple, you’ll need to provide it.

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As with the Windows Store, you can scroll down to read reviews and system requirements.

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One thing to keep in mind is that the version available in the app store may not be exactly the same as the version available from the software company. You may want to take a moment to compare features before buying.

If you’re using Windows 7 or would just prefer not to purchase through the Windows or Mac App Stores,  you could click here and head to Adobe’s site to download. Finding the individual products on Adobe’s site can be a bit of a challenge and they’re keen to sell you their subscription services.

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Scroll down and you’ll see the options to buy. Note that the Adobe site has the same pricing as the Windows Store. Software developers often make sure that prices are the same across buying platforms. Adobe’s site also tells you about an additional deal available on a bundle of Photoshop and Premiere elements that you don’t see in the Windows Store. And, of course, you can buy a Mac version from the Windows Store, but can from Adobe.

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Another alternative is to purchase from a third-party retailer like Amazon. 

If Amazon already has your credit card info, this can save you the step of entering it on another site. Note that the sale prices are the same.

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You may also be able to purchase a CD version of the program if downloading is an issue due to your Internet connection. But, if you want a CD, make sure it actually says that you get physical media. Sometimes companies just ship a card with your download key on it.

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There are still some retail locations that might have a box with this software on the shelf as well. Often times, there’s just a card with a download key. So, if you want a disc, make sure the box says one is included.

All of the versions we’ve looked at here are desktop versions designed to work with laptop or desktop computers. For some apps, there may also be mobile versions available in the app store for your phone or tablet. Typically, mobile versions aren’t as powerful as desktop or laptop apps.