Computer Software Category

What is a computer software category? There are three types, or categories, of computer software:

  • Application software
  • System software
  • Programming software / Middleware

Application software is what most people think of when they think of software. It is a program or set of programs that fulfills a business requirement, such as Word processors, Excel, payroll software, computer games, graphics and music.

System software is any computer software which manages and controls computer hardware so that application software can perform a task that enable the end-user to perform specific, productive tasks, such as operating systems.

Programming software, or middleware, usually provides tools to assist a developer in writing computer programs in a more convenient way. The tools include text editors, compilers, interpreters, linkers, debuggers, etc.

Application software is a 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 which is involved in integrating a computer’s various capabilities.

Typically the software 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. 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.

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. It is important to note that this definition may exclude some applications that may exist on some computers in large organizations.