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What is Application Software? - Definition, Examples & Types

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Christine Curley

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.

Software Types

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

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 (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!

Software

Applications Software

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, do online research, send email, create graphics, run businesses, and even play 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 have many more formatting options available, and 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.

Office Applications

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.

Demand for mobility in computing as led to the development of smart phones, tablets, and other handheld mobile devices. Mobile software applications, or simply apps, are available to perform in much the same way as their full-blown computer software counterparts do: they are designed for specific tasks and functions (games, GPS, music, etc.). Some mobile apps are downloaded from Internet sources such as Apple's App Store, Google Play, and Amazon and are installed on the mobile device. Other apps are accessible from the Internet using cloud computing technology. Cloud-based apps are accessible by the user but use information that is stored on a central computer server. Virtual office suites, web-based email, online or mobile banking, and Facebook are just a few examples of cloud computing apps you may already use.

Cloud Computing

For most of us, software applications enable us to use and enjoy our computers and mobile devices. Whether we use them for work, school, or entertainment, they enhance our productivity and fun!

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