The term software refers to the programs or sets of instructions that tell the computer what to do and how to do it. These instructions are written in codes which are understood by other programs which act as interpreters to the computer. Few people understand how vitally important software is to the usefulness and functionality of the computer.
Software is very necessary for computers because they serve as a link between the human being and all the machine parts assembled to from a computer. Without software, the computer will just be a dumb bunch of plastics and metals together. Computers cannot function without the programming that gives them life.
What is a software package?
Types of Software Packages
A collection of instructions with a common purpose is called a program, and a collection of related programs for performing some specific function is called a package. A software package is useful to more than one computer use, it can be used on another computer system with a different configuration.
The various common categories and types of software are discussed below.
System Software VS Application Software Packages
This is the most common categorization of software. System software operate the physical components or hardware of the computer. They are a collection of programs that manage the hardware resources of the computer system and enables it to function. System software usually consists of three kinds of programs or components.
- Operating System : Operating system packages operate a microcomputer by coordinating and managing its resources such as memory, disk space, files, etc. They also provide a link between users and the computer, and
run applications. Examples of operating systems include MS-DOS, Windows 10, Ubuntu, Mac OS, UNIX, and many more.
- Device Drivers : A device driver, commonly referred to as driver is a computer program that operates or controls a particular type of device that is attached to the computer.
- Utility Programs (Utilities) : Also known as service programs, perform specific tasks related to managing computer resources or files. (These components of system software will be thoroughly dealt with in a later post).
Application software packages on the other hand, provide instructions to the computer to perform special activities aimed at solving a specific problem. Application software is designed to enable the user perform specific tasks with the computer.
There are different types of application software which include word processors (example MS Word, WordPerfect), spreadsheets (example MS Excel, Lotus 123), graphic design (example CorelDraw, Photoshop), and many more.
Proprietary and Open Source Software
Aside system software and application software, software can also be categorized based on their source. Two categories that emerge are proprietary software and open source software.
Proprietary software are programs which are privately owned by an individual or a company and is under strict license. These software are developed by reputable organizations who register them with their trademark. Because proprietary software are legally protected under copyright laws, several rules and regulations are observed when they are released. Users who obtain these software are required to register them with the organization when installing them on their computers. Another thing about proprietary software is that a user cannot redistribute it to friends and other people freely, and the program source codes cannot be modified by the user.
Examples of proprietary software include Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Photoshop, CorelDraw Application, iTunes, WinRAR, etc.
Open source software on the other hand, are programs developed and freely distributed for use. Their source codes are available to the general public and individuals and businesses are allowed to modify and redistribute free of charge. Open source programs can be copyrighted. The only restriction is that changes must be shared with the open source community and the original copyright notice must be intact. These programs are not distributed with any trademarks and customers who obtain them are not expected to register with the organization when installing them.
Examples of open source software include Linux Operating Systems, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Mozilla Firefox, VLC Media Player, etc.
Generic and Custom Software
Another category of software is generic/packaged/mass-market software and custom software. Generic software are stand-alone programs developed by an organization and sold on the open market to customers who are interested and able to buy them.
These types of software are generally designed for specific purposes. For example PC software such as Databases, Office packages, Drawing Packages, Media players, Browsers, Accounting systems, Library information systems, and many more. The organization that develops this type of software controls the software specification.
Custom software, also known as bespoke or tailor-made software on the other hand, is specially designed and developed just for a specific individual or organization to perform tasks specific to their needs.
For example a Control system for an electronic device, software to support particular business processes and air traffic control systems. Since custom software is developed for a single customer it can accommodate that customer’s particular preferences and expectations. For custom products, the specification is usually developed and controlled by the organization that is buying the software.
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