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Articles from Information and Software Technology

What is Software?

Software refers to a program or a set of instructions and applications used to manage and control various functions of a device such as a computer. Unlike hardware, which represents a physical part of a device, software is virtual.


arrow Software Categories:

There are two main categories of computer software: system software and application software. System software is a basic requirement for any computer, as it controls all main functions and integrates all parts into a unitary system. An example of a system software is an operating system.


Application software serves more specific purposes, such as creating databases and spreadsheets or processing images. Application software is available as single programs, software packages or software suites.

For example, word processors, spreadsheets, and database management systems fall under the category of applications software.


arrow How is software created and how does it work?

A computer programmer (or several computer programmers) write the instructions using a programming language that tell the software how to function and what to do. Once the program has been completed, it is compiled into a language that the computer can understand.


At the lowest level, executable code consists of machine language instructions specific to an individual processor-typically a central processing unit (CPU). A machine language consists of groups of binary values signifying processor instructions that change the state of the computer from its preceding state. For example, an instruction may change the value stored in a particular storage location in the computer-an effect that is not directly observable to the user. An instruction may also (indirectly) cause something to appear on a display of the computer system-a state change which should be visible to the user. The processor carries out the instructions in the order they are provided, unless it is instructed to "jump" to a different instruction, or interrupted.


arrow Some general kinds of application software include:
  • Productivity software, which includes word processors, spreadsheets, and tools for use by most computer users
  • Presentation software
  • Graphics software for graphic designers
  • CAD/CAM software
  • Specialized scientific applications
  • Vertical market or industry-specific software (for example, for banking, insurance, retail, and manufacturing environments)

The majority of software is written in high-level programming languages that are easier and more efficient for programmers, meaning closer to a natural language. High-level languages are translated into machine language using a compiler or an interpreter or a combination of the two. Software may also be written in a low-level assembly language, essentially, a vaguely mnemonic representation of a machine language using a natural language alphabet, which is translated into machine language using an assembler.