Not sure which program to buy for notation - do you recommend one in particular, or do they all do the same job?
Which notation software?
It's a bit like buying a car: they all get you from A to B, but it's what you want to do along the way that matters.
If you are doing very basic pieces, Avid Sibelius First would suffice, with the opportunity to upgrade to the full version later. A cheap alternative.
If you are composing for small to large ensembles and want some more comprehensive features, with good sounds for playback, a nice mixing section, the ability to import and work to video, Notion 5 from Presonus would do the job nicely (they use a sound library sampled from the LSO). Very reasonably priced. I do like Notion’s ability to share with its iPad version, for notating or sight reading on the go.
If you are composing or arranging for an orchestra and your manuscript authenticity/accuracy is paramount, you probably need the full Sibelius or Make Music’s Finale - they offer a depth of features not found on cheaper alternatives, such as the ability to scan in music, and many more bells and whistles, with a price tag to match.
These software programmes all have trial versions, so download and test, consider prices, and read some on-line reviews. There are also comparison charts to check the difference in features between the Sibelius versions.