Selection of the appropriate FE program for the task-in-hand can be difficult given the wide choice available. Information provided in this document is designed to aid the selection process, but comparative (benchmark) studies are probably most useful. An informal source of information is the various UseNet newsgroups (qv) which often contain discussions of this or that FE package. Personal preference plays a large role here.
Another source of information is the NAFEMS website. Their publications include a series of HOWTO booklets ("HOWTO Choose an FE System", "HOWTO Choose an FE Pre- and Post-Processor") and numerous benchmark studies.
The PDE Software Project is a comparison of several programs which solve elliptical PDEs.
The Handbook of Finite Element Software (Mackerle and Fredriksson) is probably the most complete reference to FE software. The Finite Element Handbook (Kardestuncer and Norrie) is widely available and contains a detailed comparative study of 14 major FE packages. Both these books were published about 10 years ago.
Further review material (of books dealing with FE software) can be found in Jaroslav Mackerle's FE book database http://ohio.ikp.liu.se/fe/soft.html His software database MAKEBASE also contains on-line information about existing FE software.
Dr. Mackerle writes "Most information about [commercial FE programs] has been written as books during the 80's. In the 90's not many commercial FE programs have been developed but well-known programs have been essentially improved... another source of information about software is the book series edited by Pilkey, Structural Mechanics Software Series, and later books edited by Niku-Lari, Structural Analysis Systems. The following list provides information about FEM programs published from 1990".