What is computer application software, and how does it differ from other categories of software? This lesson introduces you to some examples of application software and how they are used.
The term ‘software’ refers to the set of electronic program instructions or data a computer processor reads in order to perform a task or operation. In contrast, the term ‘hardware’ refers to the physical components that you can see and touch, such as the computer hard drive, mouse, and keyboard.
Software can be categorized according to what it is designed to accomplish. There are two main types of software: systems software and application software.
Systems software includes the programs that are dedicated to managing the computer itself, such as the operating system, file management utilities, and disk operating system (or DOS). The operating system manages the computer hardware resources in addition to applications and data. Without systems software installed in our computers we would have to type the instructions for everything we wanted the computer to do!
Application software, or simply applications, are often called productivity programs or end-user programs because they enable the user to complete tasks, such as creating documents, spreadsheets, databases and publications, doing online research, sending email, designing graphics, running businesses, and even playing games! Application software is specific to the task it is designed for and can be as simple as a calculator application or as complex as a word processing application. When you begin creating a document, the word processing software has already set the margins, font style and size, and the line spacing for you. But you can change these settings, and you have many more formatting options available. For example, the word processor application makes it easy to add color, headings, and pictures or delete, copy, move, and change the document’s appearance to suit your needs.
Microsoft Word is a popular word-processing application that is included in the software suite of applications called Microsoft Office. A software suite is a group of software applications with related functionality. For example, office software suites might include word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentation, and email applications. Graphics suites such as Adobe Creative Suite include applications for creating and editing images, while Sony Audio Master Suite is used for audio production.
A Web browser, or simply browser, is an application specifically designed to locate, retrieve, and display content found on the Internet. By clicking a hyperlink or by typing the URL of a website, the user is able to view Web sites consisting of one or more Web pages. Browsers such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari are just a few of the many available to choose from.
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