Software is now ubiquitous in our daily lives, with applications in almost every field imaginable. From the smartphone in our pocket to the car we drive and the computers we use at work, software has become an integral and indispensable part of our lives.
In this in-depth article, we will discuss software, the different types, how it works, how software is created, different licensing options for software, how it differs from hardware, how to download and the history of software. After reading this article, you’ll have complete knowledge of the Software.
What is Software?
Software is a set of instructions that tell a computer what, when, and how to do a particular task. It consists of programs, procedures, rules, and data that tell a computer how to work. It is the logical instructions that enable the computer to perform specific tasks.
Since a computer is a machine and cannot perform any tasks on its own, it needs instructions to complete a task. Software is a collection of these computer instructions (programs), which the computer uses to carry out the user’s commands. These programs are written in a particular computer programming language.
Writing software typically involves using high-level programming languages, which are designed to be more akin to natural human language than machine language. The code written in these languages is then converted into low-level machine code via a compiler or interpreter, which allows the computer to understand it. Although it is possible to write software in low-level assembly language, this is less common.
Without software, computers would not be able to execute functions or instructions. Software is a set of instructions that a computer can use to perform tasks, such as word processing, web browsing, or gaming. Without software, a computer would have no way of performing these tasks and, therefore, would be useless.
For example, if you tried to type a document without a word processing program, you would not be able to save the document, nor could you perform any editing functions such as copy and paste.
Similarly, without a web browser, you would not be able to access the websites, and without gaming software, you would not be able to play any video games.
Types Of Software
Computer software is broadly divided into two categories:
- System Software
- Application software
System software is a type of software that is designed to run a computer’s hardware and application programs. System software coordinates the activities and functions of a computer system’s hardware and software components. It controls the hardware, executes user commands, and manages system resources such as memory, processor time, and input/output devices. The system software also helps to provide a platform for applications software to run.
Examples of system software include operating systems, device drivers, diagnostic tools, and system utilities.
Types Of System Software
System software is divided into the following categories:
An Operating System (OS) is a type of system software that acts as the interface between a computer’s hardware and its applications. It is responsible for managing the resources of a computer, such as memory, processor, and other hardware components, as well as providing an environment for applications to run. It also provides a graphical user interface (GUI) so that users can interact with the computer’s hardware and software. Commonly used operating systems include Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
To learn more about OS, read our detailed article on Operating Systems.
A device driver is a type of system software that enables the communication between a computer and a specific device. It acts as an interface between the device and the operating system, allowing the device to be recognized and used by the system. Examples of device drivers include drivers for printers, sound cards, network adapters, and USB devices. Device drivers are essential for a computer to be able to adequately and effectively interact with other connected devices.
Without a device driver, the computer would not be able to recognize the device or understand how to interact with it. Device drivers are responsible for translating the computer’s instructions into a format that the device can understand and then translating information from the device into a format that the computer can understand. Without a device driver, the computer would not be able to send or receive information from the device.
Utility software is a type of system software that provides basic system functionality and helps maintain a computer’s performance. Examples of utility software include operating system utilities, disk defragmenters, antivirus programs, and system maintenance tools. Utility software helps make computer operations easier and more efficient by automating routine tasks, such as cleaning up temporary files, checking for viruses, and optimizing system performance. Utility software can also help diagnose and repair problems with the computer, as well as make sure that the system is running securely and efficiently.
To learn more about the Interpreter, Compiler, and Assembler, read our in-depth guide on the Language Processor.
Application software is a type of software designed to help the user perform various tasks and is not limited to one particular function. Application Software helps solve real-world problems.
Examples of application software include word processing, spreadsheet, database, web browsers, media players, and other programs.
Types Of Application Software
Applications Software can be split into two different categories – general-purpose application software, which is designed for a wide range of tasks, and special-purpose application software, which is designed for specific functions.
General Purpose Application Software
General purpose application software is application software that is designed to be used for a variety of tasks on a computer system. This type of software includes word processors, spreadsheets, web browsers, email programs, and other programs that are used for everyday tasks. These applications are designed to make it easier for users to complete their tasks quickly and efficiently.
General Purpose Application Software can be divided into the following categories:
- Productivity Software: Productivity software is designed to help people become more efficient and organized in their day-to-day activities. Examples of productivity software include word processing applications such as Microsoft Word, spreadsheet applications such as Microsoft Excel, presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, database management programs such as Microsoft Access, and multimedia software such as Media Player. These types of applications can help users become more organized, efficient, and productive in their work and personal lives.
- Business Software: Business software refers to any program or application that assists in the management of a business’s operations. Examples of business software include accounting software, customer relationship management (CRM) software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, human resource management (HRM) software, marketing software, payroll system, inventory control system, accounting software, and project management software. Business software helps businesses automate processes, track data, and manage customer relationships. By streamlining processes, businesses can increase efficiency and reduce costs.
- Entertainment Software: Entertainment Software is any type of software that is created to provide users with an engaging, interactive and entertaining experience. Examples of entertainment software include video and computer games, music and video streaming services, virtual reality and augmented reality applications, as well as interactive art and educational software. These types of software can be used to create a more enjoyable and immersive experience for users, allowing them to escape from everyday life and explore new worlds and activities.
- Educational Software: Educational software is a type of application software designed to help students learn a particular subject or skill. Examples of educational software include programs for math, language arts, reading, science, and social studies. Educational software can be used to teach both basic and complex concepts and can be used in classrooms, homes, or even for self-learning. Educational software often includes features such as interactive quizzes and games, animations, and tutorial videos.
Special Purpose Application Software
Special Purpose Application Software is software designed specifically to meet a particular user’s or organization’s needs. Special Purpose Application Software is sometimes referred to as Custom Software. This type of software is tailored to solve a specific problem or to perform a specific task. Examples of special-purpose application software include accounting systems, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, point-of-sale systems, and medical practice management software.
Software is a software type that acts as a middleman between two distinct types of application software or between an application. Middleware, for instance, enables Microsoft Windows to communicate with Excel and Word. A remote work request can also be sent from a program running on one type of Operating system computer to another application running on a different OS. It also makes it possible for newer programs to communicate with older ones.
How Does a Software Work?
The software works by following a set of instructions, which are known as code. Code is written by software engineers or programmers in a programming language such as Java, Python, C, or C++. This code is then translated into machine language, which is a language that computers understand.
Software is then compiled and linked together to form an executable program which is the software ready to run. Every time the program runs, it follows the instructions that have been written in the code.
For example, if you are using a word processing software like Microsoft Word, it will display a blank document on the screen. When you type something in the document, the software will run the code that is responsible for displaying the text you have typed on the screen.
Another example is when you are playing a video game. The video game software will run the code that is responsible for displaying the graphics, playing the sound effects and controlling the game’s characters.
Software programs must be installed on a computer to run; they require the use of a computer’s operating system (OS) and other supporting system software. They take up space on the computer’s hard drive and typically do not need an internet connection to work, but some software on a computer requires an internet connection to work properly. However, they must meet the requirements of the hardware they are running on.
Software Development Life Cycle
The software development life cycle (SDLC) is a methodology for designing, developing, deploying, and maintaining software applications.
The SDLC is used by organizations to ensure that their software projects are successful and cost-effective. The SDLC consists of several phases, including:
Planning is the first phase of the software development life cycle and involves determining what the software should do, who will be involved in the development process, and how long it will take. It also includes creating a project plan, setting goals, defining tasks and resources, and estimating costs and timelines. Planning is essential to ensure the project is completed on time and within budget.
The analysis is the third phase in the software development life cycle (SDLC). It is the process of gathering and understanding the project’s requirements and creating a plan to develop the software. This phase focuses on understanding the customer’s needs and wants, researching the available solutions, analyzing the data, and creating a design document that outlines the software requirements. The analysis is an important step in the SDLC as it helps to ensure that the final product meets the customer’s needs and is of high quality.
Requirement Engineering is the process of understanding and specifying the requirements of a software system by gathering, analyzing, and documenting user requirements. This process helps to identify and prioritize user needs and create a detailed system design that meets those needs. It is an important part of the software development life cycle as it ensures that the software meets user requirements and is designed to meet the needs of the customer.
Design is the process of creating a blueprint or plan for a product or service. This includes deciding how the product or service will look and function and developing the architecture and components required to build it. Design is a phase in the Software Development Life Cycle where the ideas are generated, and the project’s overall scope is established. A well-thought-out design ensures that all stakeholders have a clear idea of what the final product will look like and how it will function.
Coding is the process of writing code in a programming language to create software applications. It is the most important part of the software development life cycle and is the step where developers create the actual functioning of the software. During coding, the developers use various programming languages and software development tools to develop a product that meets the customer’s specifications and requirements. They also take into account the user interface design, data structure design, database design, and other aspects of software development.
Testing is the process of validating and verifying that a software product, system, or component meets the business and technical requirements that guide its design and development. It involves the execution of a software component or system to evaluate one or more properties of interest. These properties may include functional behavior, performance, reliability, scalability, security and usability. Testing is a key part of the software development process, as it helps to identify potential issues and bugs within the software. Testing also helps ensure that the software meets the user’s needs and is fit for purpose.
Deployment is the process of making software or application available for use in a production environment. It involves the installation of the software on the server, configuring the environment and connecting it to the existing systems and networks. Once completed, the software or application is ready for use by the end users. Deployment is an important step in the software development life cycle as it ensures that the software works as expected in the production environment and is ready for use by the end users.
Maintenance is the final stage of the software development life cycle and involves ensuring that the software continues to meet the requirements of the user. It involves bug fixes, software updates, and providing technical support to users. Maintenance is necessary to ensure the software remains operational, secure, and up-to-date with the latest technology. Regular maintenance is also important to prevent potential problems and ensure the software meets the user’s needs.
The benefits of following a Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) are numerous. A few are discussed below:
1. Clear Understanding of Requirements: Following an SDLC helps ensure that all stakeholders clearly understand the requirements and that any expectations are managed and communicated to all parties throughout the process.
2. Quality Assurance: An SDLC provides a framework to address all quality requirements. This ensures that the end product meets customer expectations and is fit for purpose.
3. Cost Effective: Following an SDLC helps reduce development costs by streamlining processes, reducing wastage and ensuring that all resources are used efficiently.
4. Improved Productivity: Following an SDLC, the development process is organized and structured, leading to improved productivity and increased efficiency.
5. Risk Management: An SDLC provides a framework to identify and manage risks throughout the development process. This helps to reduce the risk of problems, delays, or cost overruns.
Licensing For Software
Licensing for software is the process of granting permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute a particular software product. It is an important part of protecting the intellectual property associated with the software and providing a framework for how the software can be used. Software licensing is important in developing and maintaining software products, ensuring that all parties involved in the software’s development and distribution are protected.
Common Software Terminologies include:
Licensed or Proprietary Software
Licensed or proprietary software is software that is distributed under a license agreement with the owner of the copyright. The license agreement grants the user the right to use the software in accordance with the specified terms and conditions. Licensing software is an important way for software companies to protect their intellectual property and ensure that users pay for the use of their software.
Examples of this type of software include Windows, Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and other commercial software. These software products are typically sold as a single license or a subscription license. The single license allows the user to install and use the software on a single computer for an indefinite period of time. The subscription license typically provides access to the software on multiple computers for a specified period of time.
In some cases, users may purchase a perpetual license that never expires, allowing them to continue using the software indefinitely. In other cases, users may purchase a one-time license that allows them to use the software for a specific period of time and then purchase a renewal or upgrade license when the license period expires.
The terms and conditions of the license agreement often include restrictions on how the software may be used and redistributed. For example, the license may prohibit the user from making copies of the software or selling it to other users. It may also specify the number of users that may use the software at any given time, or it may limit the number of computers on which the software may be used.
Software licenses can also dictate how the software may be modified or updated. Many software companies require users to accept the terms of their license agreement before they are allowed to use the software. This helps to ensure that users are aware of their rights and obligations when using the software.
Open Source Software
Open source software is a type of software that is released with its source code and made available to the public to use, modify, and share freely. It is often developed collaboratively by a community of developers. Open-source software is usually free to download, use, and modify. Examples of open-source software include the Linux operating system, the Firefox web browser, and the Apache web server software.
Open source software is different from traditional, proprietary software in several important ways. First, the source code of open-source software is freely available for anyone to view, modify, and distribute. This allows developers to add new features, fix existing bugs, and customize the software for their own needs.
Second, the license for open-source software often allows users to freely redistribute the software in whole or in part. This means that users can share the software with others without having to pay a fee.
The license for open-source software usually requires that any modifications made to the software be released back to the community. This encourages collaboration among developers, as they can all benefit from any improvements or enhancements made to the software.
Open-source software is an important part of the software industry, providing a way for developers to create, share, and collaborate on software that is free and easily accessible to anyone.
Shareware is a type of software licensing that allows users to download and use a program for free on a trial basis. If the user decides to keep the software, they must purchase a license to continue using it. Shareware is commonly distributed via the internet and can be downloaded easily.
Shareware is an attractive option for users who don’t want to pay a large upfront fee for a product or who want to try out a program before committing to a purchase. It is also attractive to software developers, who can make money from a shareware product without having to invest in expensive marketing campaigns.
Shareware is typically released under a variety of licensing models. The most common model is the pay-what-you-want model, where users are encouraged to donate to the software. This model is often used by independent developers who don’t have the resources to offer a full commercial product. Other models include the time-limited trial model, where the user is allowed to access the entire product for a limited amount of time before they must pay for a license; the feature-limited model, where the user is given access to a limited set of features unless they pay for a license; and the subscription model, where the user pays a set fee each month to access the software.
Examples of shareware include Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office Suite, and the video editor Filmora. All of these products are available for free but for a limited time. After that, users would have to purchase a license to continue using the software.
Freeware is a type of software that is distributed for free without the requirement of a license or payment. Freeware software (not all) is typically limited in functionality and does not include technical support. Popular examples of freeware include web browsers, media players, file compression tools, and games. Freeware is often used as a marketing tool to introduce users to a product or service with the hopes that they will upgrade to a premium version of the product. For example, the popular web browser Mozilla Firefox is free, with a premium version available for purchase.
How To Get Software For Your PC/Laptop?
There are several options available to get software for your PC or laptop.
1. Download from a Website: It is recommended to download the software from its official website. For example, if you need Adobe Photoshop, you should visit Adobe’s official website to get the genuine version. Alternatively, you can download software from websites such as CNET, FileHippo, Softonic, and many more. Many of these websites have free versions of software that can be downloaded. Be sure to use a secure and trusted website, read the reviews, and check compatibility with your device before downloading any software.
2. Install from CD/DVD: Some software comes with a physical CD or DVD that can be installed on a computer. This is a good option if the software is not available online or if you want to install the software without an internet connection.
3. Purchase from a Store: You can purchase software from an online or brick-and-mortar store. This is a good option if you’re looking for a specific type of software or need help with installation.
4. Use Pre-Installed Software: Many computers come with pre-installed software that is ready to use. This is a great way to get started with basic software that may be all you need.
5. Use Free Software: There are many free software programs available online. These programs often have limited features but can be a great way to start. Be sure to read the license agreement before downloading any free software.
Difference Between Hardware & Software
|Hardware refers to the computer's physical components that are required to store and execute software.||Software instructions tell the computer what to do, when to do, and how to do.|
|It's physical.||It's logical.|
|Hardware only understands Binary Data or digits, i.e., 0s and 1s in the form of voltage.||Software tells the Hardware everything in the form of Binary Data or digits, i.e., 0s and 1s only.|
|When software is loaded, the Hardware begins to work.||The software that makes the computer work includes the programs that run on the Hardware, such as Windows or Mac.|
|Hardware faults are physical.||Software faults are logical.|
|It is made at a factory.||It is designed and developed by a programmer.|
|Without software, Hardware cannot execute any task.||Without Hardware, the software cannot run.|
|Computer viruses do not affect Hardware.||Computer viruses affect software.|
|Hardware cannot be electrically transmitted from one location to another across a network.||The software can be electrically transferred over a network from one place to another.|
|Damaged Hardware can be replaced with new Hardware.||If the software is corrupted, it can be reinstalled from a backup copy.|
|It's designed to work with a wide range of computer systems.||Depending on the machine, its built-in functionalities, and the programming language used, it will vary.|
|Only binary codes (1 and 0) are supported by the Hardware.||It can be written in any high-level language, including BASIC, COBOL, C, C++, JAVA, etc.|
|Input, storage, processing, output, and communication devices are the different types of Hardware.||System and Application software are the types of software.|
|LED, Printer, Hard Disk, Scanners, Video Card, Routers, Modems, Mouse, and Keyboard are the most common examples of Hardware.||Windows 11, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, PDF Viewer, Games, and much more are great software examples.|
Read out our detailed guide on the Difference Between Software and Hardware.
Popular Software Companies
Below are the most popular software vendors:
History Of Software
The term ‘software’ wasn’t common until the late 1950s. Although different software programs were being developed during this time, they weren’t widely accessible. This meant people who needed them; usually, scientists and big companies, had to develop their own software.
Below is a brief timeline of the history of software:
-1941: Konrad Zuse designs the first programmable computer, the Z3
-1945: John von Neumann proposes the stored-program concept
-1951: The first commercial computer, the UNIVAC I, is released by Remington Rand
-1952: Grace Murray Hopper creates the first compiler, A-O
-1964: BASIC is developed by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz
-1964: The first time-sharing system is created by MIT
-1964: The first word processor, the IBM MT/ST, is released
-1968: Software patenting is recognized in the US
-1968: The term “software engineering” is coined by Margaret Hamilton
-1969: ARPANET is launched by the US Department of Defense
-1969: The first version of UNIX is released
-1972: The C programming language is developed by Dennis Ritchie
-1974: The first commercial operating system for microcomputers, CP/M, is released
-1975: Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen
-1976: The Apple I is released
-1979: VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet program, is released
-1981: The IBM PC is released
-1981: The MS-DOS operating system is released
-1982: The first commercial PC virus, the Elk Cloner, is released
-1983: The Apple Lisa is released
-1984: The Macintosh is released
-1985: The first version of Windows is released
-1987: The first version of the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) is released
-1989: The World Wide Web is launched by Tim Berners-Lee
-1991: The first version of Linux is released
-1995: Microsoft releases Windows 95
-1996: Java is released by Sun Microsystems
-1998: Google is founded
-1999: The peer-to-peer network Napster is released
-2001: The first version of Mac OS X is released
-2001: Microsoft releases Windows XP
-2004: The first version of Firefox is released
-2004: The social network Facebook is launched
-2005: YouTube is launched
-2008: The first version of the Android operating system is released
-2008: The Chrome web browser is released
-2010: The iPad is released
-2011: Google releases Chrome OS
-2012: Microsoft releases Windows 8
-2012: The Raspberry Pi is released
-2014: The first version of the Swift programming language is released
-2014: The virtual assistant Alexa is released
-2015: Microsoft releases Windows 10
-2015: The first version of Kubernetes is released
-2015: The first version of the Rust programming language is released
-2020: Apple releases its first ARM-based Macs
-2021: Microsoft releases Windows 11