Computer software is defined as a set of programs and procedures that are intended to perform specific tasks on a computer system. A software program is a set of instructions that are aimed at changing the state of computer hardware. At the lowest level, software is in the form of an assembly language, a set of instructions in a machine-understandable form. At the highest level, software is in the form of high-level languages, which are compiled or interpreted into machine language code.
Major Types of Software
Computer software systems are classified into three main types, namely, system software, programming software and application software. System software comprises device drivers, operating systems, servers and other such software components, which help the programmer abstract away from the memory and hardware features of the system. Programming software assists a programmer in writing programs by providing him/her with tools such as editors, compilers, linkers, debuggers and more. Application software, one of the most important types of software, are used to achieve certain specific tasks.
What is Application Software?
Application software utilizes the capacities of a computer directly for a dedicated task. It is able to manipulate text, numbers and graphics. It can be in the form of software focused on a certain single task like word processing, spreadsheets or playing of audio and video files. Here we look at the application software types along with some examples of the software of each type.
Different Types of Application Software
Word Processing Software
This software enables users to create and edit documents. The most popular examples of this type of software are MS-Word, WordPad and Notepad among other text editors.
Database is a structured collection of data. A computer database relies on database software to organize data and enable database users to perform database operations. Database software allows users to store and retrieve data from databases. Examples are Oracle, MSAccess, etc.
Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 and Apple Numbers are some examples of spreadsheet software. These software allow users to perform calculations using spreadsheets. They simulate paper worksheets by displaying multiple cells that make a grid.
They allow users to create and play audio and video files. They are capable of playing media files. Audio converters, audio players, burners, video encoders and decoders are some forms of multimedia software. Examples of this type include Real Player and Media Player.
The software that is used to display information in the form of a slide show is known as presentation software. This type of software includes three functions, namely, editing that allows insertion and formatting of text, methods to include graphics in the text and a functionality of executing slide shows. Microsoft PowerPoint is the best example of presentation software.
It deals with the needs of organizational processes and data flow. Customer relationship management or the financial processes in an organization are carried out with the help of enterprise software.
Information Worker Software
Individual projects within a department and with individual needs of creation and management of information are handled by information worker software. Documentation tools, resource management tools and personal management systems fall under this category of application software.
It has the capabilities of running tests and tracking progress. It also has the capabilities of a collaborative software. It is often used in teaching and self-learning. Dictionaries like Britannica and Encarta, mathematical software like MATLAB and others like Google Earth and NASA World Wind are some of the well-known names in this category.
Used to simulate physical or abstract systems, simulation software finds applications in both, research and entertainment. Flight simulators and scientific simulators are examples of simulation software.
Content Access Software
It is used to access content without editing. Common examples of content access software are web browsers and media players.
An application suite is an important type of application software. It consists of a group of applications combined to perform related functions. OpenOffice and Microsoft Office are the best examples of this type of application software. These application suites, as you know, come as bundles of applications like word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software, etc. Applications in the suite can work together or operate on each other's files.
Software that aid Engineering and Development of Products
These software are used in the design and development of hardware and software products. Integrated development environments (IDE) and computer language editing tools fall under this type of application software. Interestingly, software products are developed using other software, and software communicate with one another through software. Application programming interfaces which aid the communication of two or more software, are examples of this application software type.
Application software are available in different forms such as these.
A majority of software applications are licensed and not sold. In this case, a user purchases a software license and not the software itself. The vendor allows for the installation of this software on a specific number of machines. Sometimes, the license is limited to a certain number of users. Most software licenses allow you to run the application on only one machine, although you are allowed to copy the software on other machines for backup purposes. Licenses disallow the resale of software.
As opposed to licensed software, these software are sold to users. You need to purchase this type of software from the vendor in which case, you own a legitimate copy of the software. This allows you to resale the software.
Application software that can be downloaded, used and copied without any restrictions is known as freeware. Generally small programs are released as freeware and are open for use.
These application software can be downloaded but you need to pay some amount for using them. Generally, mid-size software developed by software companies are made available as shareware.
Open source software, as their name suggests, are made available with their source code. The code is open for modification and use. People mistake open source software for free. But note that here, 'free' refers to the freely available source code, thus making the software open for further development by users.
Needs to be Installed
This is true with many application software; for example spreadsheet software, word processors, data management software, etc. They need to be installed on your computer hard drive for use.
Antivirus software runs online. Similarly, Internet games that you can play online and which don't need to be downloaded fall under this category.
Simply put, application software are those designed for specific purposes, or meant for specific applications. Application software are of great use in completing individual and organizational tasks, as they have user-friendly features and are easy and interactive to use.