Types of Software: Definition & Examples

While working on a computer, we come across various computer software which helps to ease our tasks and increase the overall efficiency of the work process. Anything from creating a simple document to surfing the Internet on a computer system is done using the software. 


In this digital or technological era, we are surrounded by different software, which is even increasing rapidly day by day. No matter what operating system or platform we use, we are leveraging software and making our lives easier. Without software, a computer is nothing but a set of different hardware components.

In this article, we are discussing the different types of software used on computer systems. However, they are quite similar to each other electronic devices. Before we discuss the software types, let us understand a quick introduction to computer software along with its definition:

What is Software?

By definition, “Software is defined as a collection of data, instructions, programs, and rules that instruct a computer system or other electronic device to work efficiently, perform, and carry out specific tasks.

In other words, software is a general term that refers to any application, program, or script running on computer devices to help them perform specific tasks or process them. It is considered to be the variable part of the computer system, while the other major part is the hardware which is the invariable part.

How does Software work?

Computer software is nothing but a separate term for the computer program, which means some specific set of instructions. Instructions are written in different languages that can be understood by the computer. Instructions (commonly called codes) help in giving instructions to the computer to work and feed data to do the work and satisfy the needs of the users.

The basic logic of all software is to take inputs, process them and provide output, i.e. Input > Process > Output. For example, consider clicking the Print button on a computer. The computer takes the document as an input, then asks users to adjust certain preferences. Thereafter, the given set of rules is processed and output is provided from the printer as a printed document on paper.


How many types of Software are there in computers?

There are different types of software based on their classification. However, if we broadly classify the types of software in a computer, there are two major types as listed below:

System Software
Application Software


Types of Software

These are the two primary types of software and all other types of software are served under them. Let us understand both system software and application software in detail with their types and examples:

What You Will Learn


System Software

System software is usually defined as a set of various programs or instructions that help to control or manage the hardware devices connected to the computer and other important resources of the system. Specifically, it helps in making the working of the computer efficient, enables faster performance in a secure manner. In addition, the system software also establishes a platform to run the application software.

System software allows users a variety of options to interact with basic settings and to give commands to the computer using a graphical user interface. Users can only interact with general system settings and services. In addition, the core services and programs of system software automatically work in the background to manage system processes and performance.


Characteristics of System Software

The following are the main characteristics or features of the system software:

System software is more closely related to system or hardware components rather than users.
System software is much faster in performance or processing.
System software is usually written or developed in a low-level language so that it can interact with machines at the maximum possible speed.
System software does not interact much with the users as compared to application software. They usually work in the background.
It is comparatively difficult to manipulate system software as it is complex to understand or design.

Types of System Software

Now, we already have an idea of what is system software and what are its features. Let us now understand the different types of system software and examples, which will help us to understand a little more about system software:

Types of System Software

Operating System: An operating system, commonly referred to as an OS, is one of the primary types or examples of system software. It consists of a set of software designed to handle computer resources and services and provides a platform for running other applications/software. 

Although each operating system operates on programming code and instructions, most operating systems include a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that helps users to interact with the OS easily without using coding directly.

Every electronic device, be it a desktop, laptop, or mobile phone, needs to have an operating system installed on it to function and provide basic functionality. The operating system is the first program that runs after the computer system is booted. The operating system takes control of the entire computer and efficiently manages all services and resources, such as CPU, memory, storage devices (HDD or SSD), printers, etc.

Some of the popular examples of Operating Systems are listed below:

MS-Windows
Android
macOS
iOS
Linux
Ubuntu
Unix
CentOS

Device Drivers: A device driver is specialized computer software primarily designed to control specific hardware of a computer system. Computers use different hardware devices, and each device requires a driver to function properly. 

The most common hardware devices that require device drivers are displays, graphic cards, sound cards, hard disks, printers, mouse, and keyboards. Users may need to manually install device drivers for some hardware devices, while for others, the operating system automatically installs a supported driver. There are two different types of device drivers, namely Kernel Device Drivers, and User Device Drivers.

Some of the popular examples of Device Drivers are listed below:

BIOS Driver
Motherboard Driver
Display Driver
Sound Card Driver
Graphics Card Driver
USB Driver
Printer Drivers
VIRTUAL Device Drivers
ROM Drivers


Firmware: Firmware is known as permanent software or instructions stored in the motherboard storage or ROM (read-only memory) of the computer system. However, it is not actually stored permanently as most current computer systems allow users to update the firmware using a firmware updater. 

Firmware Software, like other software, has a set of instructions. Unlike other software, the primary function of firmware is to check for errors, and ensure that all necessary hardware devices are working properly as soon as the user turns on the computer. If everything is working, the firmware wakes up the system and transfers control to the operating system. 

Some of the popular examples of Firmware are listed below:

BIOS
UEFI
Embedded Systems
Computer Peripherals
Computer Applications

Programming Language Translators: Specifically, system software helps convert high-level language code (human-readable language code) into simple machine-level code and vice-versa. This conversion is usually performed using programming language translators or processors. 

Programming language translators help convert computer programs written in high-level programming languages such as Java, C, C++, Python, etc. (also called source code) into instructions that can be interpreted by machines as object-level code or machine code. 

Despite simplifying the code, programming language translators also help to perform the following tasks: assigning data storage, obtaining diagnostic reports, obtaining source code and other details related to the program, identifying system errors during runtime, or rectify, etc.

Examples of programming language translators are listed below:

Interpreter
Compiler
Assembler


Utility: Utility tool or software is primarily developed to analyze, optimize, configure and maintain a computer system or its resources. This usually helps to support the computer infrastructure smoothly. Utility software monitors how the operating system is performing and then gives suggestions or makes changes automatically to improve the functioning and overall performance of the computer. 

Utility software includes various computer software categories, such as antivirus, disk clean-up, and management tools, performance optimizers, defragmenters, compression tools, etc.

Some of the popular examples of utility tools/software are listed below:

Windows File Explorer
WinRAR
WinZip
Avast Antivirus
McAfee Antivirus
Norton Antivirus 
Directory Opus
Piriform Defraggler
Piriform CCleaner
Razer Cortex

Application Software

Application software refers to a set of programs and instructions that help perform specific tasks, on a computer system. It is mainly designed to meet certain requirements of a particular environment. Application software can be downloaded and installed manually on the computer system and these software have nothing to do with the system core functions.


System software typically runs in the front-end, making it more accessible and intractable to users. It is important to note that application software cannot run on its own; they require the platform established by the system software. For example, any web browser software like Google Chrome requires an operating system to run. Unlike system software, application software is not mandatory for the system. However, they can help perform various tasks on the computer.

Characteristics of Application Software

The following are the main characteristics or features of the application software:

Application software is mainly developed or programmed to complete specific tasks on computers, such as image editing, word processing, gaming, etc.
Application software is mostly bigger in size and hence takes up more storage or space on the machines/systems.
Application software is typically written or developed in high-level languages.
Application software generally interacts more with users, helping them to use the software easily.
Application software is somewhat easier to design and develop than system software.

Types of Application Software

Now, we already have an idea of what is application software and what are its features. Let us now understand the different types of application software and examples, which will help us to understand a little more about application software:

Types of Application Software

Word Processors: Word processors or word processing software are primarily designed to create documentation on computers or other electronic devices. Additionally, word processor software also helps in managing, formatting, and printing documents. 

Some of the popular examples of Word Processors are listed below:

MS Word
Google Docs
OpenOffice Writer
Corel WordPerfect
AbiWord
Apple iWork- Pages

Database Software: Database software is useful computer software that mainly helps in creating and managing databases. It is also called DBMS (Database Management Software). Database software plays an important role when organizing data on a computer or server.

Some of the popular examples of Database software are listed below:

MS Access
MySQL
dBase
Clipper
FileMaker
FoxPro

Multimedia Software: As the name suggests, multimedia software is mainly used to perform tasks related to media files, such as audio or video files. It helps to play, create or modify media files. Multimedia software plays an important role in image editing, video editing, animation, and graphics-related tasks.

Some of the popular examples of Multimedia software are listed below:

Windows Media Player
Windows Movie Maker
VLC Media Player
Picasa
Adobe Photoshop
Media Monkey
Inkscape

Graphics Software: Graphics software is strictly designed keeping in mind the graphics-related tasks. It primarily helps users to design logos, edit images, and make other changes to visual data. Graphics software includes many built-in tools and features to make editing and illustration easier.


Some of the popular examples of Graphics software are listed below:

Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Indesign
CorelDRAW
GIMP
MS Paint
Blender
Autodesk Maya

Web Browsers: Web browsers are mainly used for searching the internet or browsing the internet. It is specialized computer software and helps users to find specific web addresses to retrieve data across the web. 

Most computers and electronic devices come preinstalled with a native web browser provided by the manufacturer. However, users can always install desired third-party web-browsers from the App Store using the Internet on their devices.

Some of the popular examples of Web Browsers are listed below:

Google Chrome
Mozilla Firefox
Microsoft Edge
Internet Explorer
Opera
Safari

Education and Reference Software: These are computer software primarily designed to help users learn specific topics on specific subjects. A wide range of educational software is available on the internet and users can facilitate learning through them. This type of software is also known as Academic Software.

Educational software can be free-to-use or paid. Some of the popular examples of Educational or Reference software are listed below:

Delta Drawing
Polarr
GeoGebra
FluidMath
GCompris
Tux Paint
OneNote
Microsoft To-Do

Customized or Specific Purpose Software: Customized or specific purpose software is specialized computer software developed or programmed primarily to perform specific tasks/ functions or designed for specific organizations. All such software that fulfills specific purposes comes under application software.

Some of the popular specific purpose software are Railway Reservation System, Invoice Management System, Airline Reservation System, etc.

Classification of Computer Software

Apart from the classification mentioned above, there exists another popular classification of computer software. This classification is generally based on the availability and shareability of the software, which includes the following:

Freeware
Shareware
Open Source
Closed Source
Middleware

Classification of Software

Let us understand each in detail:

Freeware

Freeware is a type of computer software that is freely available on the Internet. Users do not need to pay anything to use the freeware. They can easily download the freeware from the official sites of their respective developer, and install it on the computer like any other normal software.

Apart from this, the freeware does not allow others to edit or modify the original software without the consent of their owner. Furthermore, no other person or website may charge for the distribution of the freeware. Some popular freeware examples are listed below:

Adobe Reader
Audacity
Team Viewer
Recuva
CCleaner
Skype
Yahoo Messenger
ImgBurn

Shareware

Shareware is a type of computer software that is freely available to be used and shared on a trial basis. This means shareware is provided to the users with a fixed time limit. Once the limit is reached, users will have to purchase the software or pay monthly to continue using the services. 

Shareware may offer all or a limited number of services before the time limit is reached. Similarly, some services or all services may be restricted once the limit is reached. Shareware usually allows users to test the software before purchasing it so that users can check whether the software is right for them or their business needs.

WinRAR is one of the most popular shareware software used on computer systems. Some other popular shareware examples are listed below:

Adobe Acrobat
Winzip
Getright
PHP Debugger

Open-Source

As the name suggests, open-source software is provided to the users with the source code in which the software is written. The source code is shared so that others can modify the code and add additional features in the software according to their needs. 

The main purpose of open-source software is to encourage developers to show their potential and creativity. Specifically, open-source means developing or modifying the code to make it even better for others. Open-source software can be distributed as free or chargeable by its owner. 

Linux OS is one of the most popular free-to-use open-source software. Some other essential open-source software examples are listed below:

Apache Web Server
Mozilla Firefox
Thunderbird
Moodle
GNU Compiler Collection

Closed-Source

Closed-source software (also called proprietary software) is a type of computer software that does not distribute source code or native code. No unauthorized moderation is allowed in closed source software. The source of closed-source software is kept completely private and encrypted.


Most of the software used on computers is closed-source and asks users to pay or purchase them. The developer/owner has all rights or registered patents on the source code of the closed source software. Generally, closed-source software are developed for commercial use; however, they can be both commercial and private.

Skype is one of the most popular closed-source software and typically charges high-volume users money. Some other essential closed-source software examples are listed below:

Google Earth
WinRAR
Adobe Flash
Microsoft Office
Microsoft Windows

Middleware

As the name suggests, middleware is a type of computer software that usually mediates between application and system software, or between two different application software. For instance, middleware helps Microsoft Windows interact with MS Word or MS Excel. 

Middleware can also help send remote work requests between two different computers, from an application with one specific OS to an application with a different OS. Also, middleware plays an important role in making new computer applications/programs work in old or legacy ones.

Some essential middleware software examples are listed below:

Integration
Transactions
Data Access
Application Framework
Device Middleware
Game Engines
Robot Middleware

Summary

As discussed above, the software is a set of programs used on computer devices that help the users to give commands to the computer as well as instruct the computer what to do. The two major types of software include system software and application software. System software is designed to manage system resources or operations, whereas application software helps to meet certain needs of users to perform specific tasks on a computer.


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