A Software or Application or a Computer Program is basically a set of instructions that tells the computer what to do. There are many types of software, and they can be classified based on their usage, interaction level with the hardware, licensing, etc.
System software can directly talks to the hardware on behalf of the user. When a user gives an instruction, or wants to start a task, system software tells the hardware to do so.
Operating System is a system software. What is an operating system? Well, a computer is like a command obeying soldier, it can fulfil any task, but it cannot think on it own (yet). Apart from that, a computer does not understand human language, or intentions. Operating system conveys the user instructions, given through applications, to the hardware. Operating System or OS gives users an interface to use, and connects all the different hardware to work together. To learn more about operating system, click here.
A computer, to its core, only understands 0 and 1. 0 and 1 are off an on state respectively. But a human programmer cannot write applications in this manner. That is why various assembly languages and high level languages have been developed. On the contrary, a computer does not understand such high level language and assembly language. That is why language processors are necessary. So, a language processor works to convert high level language used by user into machine language understood by the computer. There are various types of language processors – Editor, Translator, Assembler, Compiler, Interpreter.
Application software is used by the end users. You may also know these as App (Plural – Apps), Software, Application etc. There are of many types, and they can be classified in different ways.
Classification by property and rights
Open Source: Open source software is free to use. Free in the sense of both price and freedom. Freedom in software? Yes, that means anyone can take the source code, modify it, use it, contribute to it, develop it and distribute it in any way. For example, Linux and Android are examples of open source software. Anyone can take the source code of Linux or Android and tweak it in his/her own liking and use or distribute it. That is why there are so many Linux distros and android phones of different aesthetics (in terms of software).
Closed Source: Closed source (also known as ‘proprietary’) software in mainly developed by businesses and companies, and they cannot be developed or used by others without the owner’s permission. For example, Apple’s operating systems (iOS, macOS) are closed source software.
Free and premium software: These are basically non paid and paid software. Open source software is usually free. Other than that, there are paid software (Such as Microsoft Windows, Adobe Photoshop and many more). Some developers choose to follow a Freemium model, where they let users use the software for free for a limited period of time, or with limited functionality. Freemium software is more common in mobile devices.
Classification by Usage
If you have seen a software store, you have seen a software category. That is the classification by usage or purpose, which may be as follows:
- Media: It plays media on your computer or device. Movies or music stored in your are opened with media players. Photo viewers are also media applications.
- Internet Access: It lets you use to access the Internet. In a computer, a browser can fulfil all your internet needs, but on mobile devices, popular websites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail have their own apps.
- Communication: The chat services you use require their own applications, because some chat services use certain processes to keep your communication secure and a browser cannot do such. Applications like WhatsApp, Signal, iMessage are communication applications.
- Creative: Content creators, movie studios, photographers use graphics applications to edit videos, photos, music etc. Some popular examples are Adobe Suite (Photoshop, Premiere, Lightroom, Final Cut Pro etc.
- Productivity: Office suites are examples of such productivity applications. Microsoft Office, Google Office Suite, LibreOffice etc let users edit and write documents, create spreadsheets and presentation slides etc. Other that that, to-do lists, calendars etc can be considered productivity applications.
- Education: Education applications are used by students in school and college to improve and help in their studies.
- Games: Games are entertainment applications. Games used hardware to render an interactive 3D or 2D space where users can have fun playing it.
- Development: Developers use such applications to do coding or developing applications.
- Utility: It is used to analyze, maintain, or configure a computer.
- There are many system utilities, such as antivirus programs, system diagnostics, system settings or control center, registry cleaner/editors, resources monitors, etc.
- Other than system utilities, there are storage managers; such as backup tools, partition editors, etc.
- There are also file/data management applications. File compressor, data recovery applications, disk cleaners, etc are examples of data management utilities.
This is a simple classification of software with limited examples from the sea of applications on the internet, They can be placed in various sub categories, and one cannot possibly list and categorize all of them in a simple article. But hopefully this article has given you a basic concept of what software is and what its different types are.
For Wikipedia entry on Computer Software, click here.
For more posts on Computer basics, click here.
For more posts in The Cyber Cops project, click here.