Computers cannot do anything on its own. It is the user who instructs computer; what to do, how to do and when to do. In order to perform any task, you have to give a set of instructions in a particular sequence to the computer. These sets of instructions are called Programs.
Software refers to a set of programs that makes the hardware perform a particular set of tasks in particular order.
When you switch on the computer, the programs stored in ROM are executed which activates different units of your computer and makes it ready for you to work on it. This set of programs can be called system software.
System software are sets of programs, responsible for running the computer, controlling various operations of computer systems and management of computer resources. Operating System (OS) falls under this category.
An operating system is a system software that provides an interface for a user to communicate with the computer, manages hardware devices (disk drives, keyboard, monitor, etc), manages and maintains disk file systems and supports application programs. Some popular Operating systems are UNIX, Windows and Linux.
Although operating system provides all the features users need to use and maintain their systems, inevitably, they still do not meet everyone’s expectations. This has led to another type of system software called Utilities. These are programs that bridge the gap between the functionality of an OS and the needs of users. Utility programs are a broad category of software such as compress (zip)/uncompress (unzip) files software, anti virus software, split and join files software, etc.
Application software is a set of programs, which are written to perform specific tasks. For example, an application package for managing library known as library information system is used to manage information of library such as keeping book details, account holder details, book issue details, book return details, etc. Another application package for managing student details is called student’s information system, manages student’s roll number, name, parents name, address, class, section, processing of examination results, etc. Application software can be broadly classified into two types:
- Generalized packages
- Customized packages
These are user friendly software written to cater to user’s very general needs such as preparing documents, drawing pictures, database to manage data/information, preparing presentations, play games, etc. It is a group of programs that provide general purpose tools to solve specific problems. Some of the generalized packages are:
- Word Processing Software (for preparing documents): Word Perfect, MS-Word, OpenOffice.org Writer
- Spreadsheets (Data Analysis): Lotus Smart suites, MSExcel, OpenOffice.org Calc, Apple Numbers
- Presentations: Presentation Graphics, MS-PowerPoint, OpenOffice.org Impress
- Database Management System: MS-Access, OpenOffice.org Base, MS-SQL Server, ORACLE
- Graphics Tools: Paint shop pro, Adobe Photoshop
These are the applications that are customized (or developed) to meet the specific requirements of an organization or institution. For Example, Student information details, Payroll packages, inventory control, etc. These packages are developed using high-level computer language.