Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate - Information Technology/Fundamentals of Software
Computer software, or just software is a general term used to describe a collection of computer programs, procedures and documentation that perform some tasks on a computer system. The two categories of software are:
- System Software
- Application Software
System software, more commonly known as Operating system, is any computer software that provides the infrastructure over which programs can operate, ie it manages and controls computer hardware so that application software can perform. Operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, are prominent examples of system software.
System software is software that basically makes the computer work. Beside operation systems, other examples are anti-virus software, communication software and printer drivers. Without the system software the computer doesn't work. In contrast to system software, software that allows you to do things like create text documents, play games, listen to music, or surf the web is called application software.
In general application software are programs that enable the end-user to perform specific, productive tasks, such as word processing or image manipulation. System software performs tasks like transferring data from memory to disk, or rendering text onto a display device.
Types of System Software
System Software can be classified as operating system,device drivers and utility softwares.
Operating system creates an interface between user and the system hardware. System software helps run the computer hardware and computer system. It includes operating systems, device drivers, diagnostic tools, servers, windowing systems, utilities and more. The purpose of systems software is to insulate the applications programmer as much as possible from the details of the particular computer complex being used, especially memory and other hardware features, and such accessory devices as communications, printers, readers, displays, keyboards, etc.
Specific kinds of system software include:
- loading programs
- Operating systems
- device drivers
- utility software
If system software is stored on non-volatile memory such as integrated circuits, it is usually termed firmware..
Application software is any tool that functions and is operated by means of a computer, with the purpose of supporting or improving the software user's work. In other words, is the subclass of computer software that employs the capabilities of a computer directly and thoroughly to a task that the user wishes to perform. This should be contrasted with system software (infrastructure) or middleware (computer services/ processes integrators) is involved in integrating a computer's various capabilities, but typically does not directly apply them in the performance of tasks that benefit the user. In this context the term application refers to both the application software and its implementation.
A simple, if imperfect analogy in the world of hardware would be the relationship of an electric light bulb (an application) to an electric power generation plant (a system). The power plant merely generates electricity, not itself of any real use until harnessed to an application like the electric light that performs a service that benefits the user.
Typical examples of software applications are word processors, spreadsheets, and media players, database applications.
Multiple applications bundled together as a package are sometimes referred to as an application suite. Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org, and iWork 08, which bundle together a word processor, a spreadsheet, and several other discrete applications, are typical examples. The separate applications in a suite usually have a user interface that has some commonality making it easier for the user to learn and use each application. And often they may have some capability to interact with each other in ways beneficial to the user. For example, a spreadsheet might be able to be embedded in a word processor document even though it had been created in the separate spreadsheet application.
User-written software tailors systems to meet the user's specific needs. User-written software include spreadsheet templates, word processor macros, scientific simulations, graphics and animation scripts. Even email filters are a kind of user software. Users create this software themselves and often overlook how important it is.
In some types of embedded systems, the application software and the operating system software may be indistinguishable to the user, as in the case of software used to control a VCR, DVD player or microwave oven.