What is Software? Explore Software Basics with Examples

The term software is in quite a use in this era of technology as everything is getting digital. And the core of these digital things on which it functions is software. It helps them to function and perform the tasks they were designed for.

In simple words, the software is the script that tells the computer how to perform tasks. It acts as a mediator between the user and the computer hardware. Furthermore, without computer programs, a user cannot interact or perform any task on the computer.

From every little game we play to huge operating systems, everything is a software program. For example, You cannot access the internet without an internet browser or you cannot process word documents without a word processor. Therefore, it is a core and essential part of a computer that helps it function optimally.

There are various kinds of software on a computer to perform different tasks. They handle different segments of the computer’s functionality to make sure it performs as fast as possible.

So let’s get started.

What is software?

Software is the set of programs, instructions, or data that are used to operate the computer. It guides the computer to perform tasks according to user input.  A user cannot perform any task without these programs. Basically, a system without software is a useless, inanimate object.

As we live in an era of technology and information, a clear picture of software is a must. It is used to describe all the functional aspects of a computer that do not refer to its physical components i.e.Hardware. Scripts, applications, programs and a set of instructions are all terms often used to describe software. 

So now you might have a shallow understanding of what actually software is. Let’s know how this software is developed. The software is written by the developers in high-level programming languages like C and python and then converted into low-level machine language understood by the computer. Machine languages are hard to understand and hence other programming languages are used by the developers to develop the software.

You can design any type of software you want with the knowledge of software development but check once before starting to develop. Because of the development in the computer system over years, there is plenty of software developed and available out there.  

History of software

The software requires the concept of a general-purpose processor known as a Turing machine these days along with computer memory in which programs can be stored stopped and started individually. The first modern theory of software was proposed by Alan Turing in the early 19th century. Then in the 1950s, the term software came into use.

In earlier days the software used to be specific to a system and task and wasn’t even commercially available. Therefore, companies had to write programs themselves. This helped them to operate the system according to their needs as the program was designed by them. This also had a disadvantage that each company had to hire a programmer to write computer programs for them and these programs could also not be sold to others as it was built for a specific system.

In the 1960s the term “software” was introduced by John Tukey-a statistician. Then as the availability of the computer increased, software was more preferred in the 1970s. Every computer user could not develop computer programs and hence operating systems were made which ran the computer. This gave users the ability to add different types of software to it. 

During the 1970s and 1980s, software gets a hit with the appearance of PCs. The computer programs were then written in some specialized assembly languages. Various applications for 3d printing and accounting like AutoCAD, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel came into the picture later. Since then the development of computer programs continues and various operating systems, application software, and much other software are developed.

What is the difference between Software and Hardware?

Software is the set of instructions or programs that operates the computer and enables the user to perform specific tasks. It’s a virtual set of programs that’s present inside the computer written in various languages like machine language. We cannot touch or feel software.

Hardware is the device that lets the user interact with the computer and perform various tasks. These are physical devices that can be touched and felt. Basically, the physical devices that are present outside the computer like the keyboard, monitor, hard drive, etc. are recognized as the hardware of the computer.

For instance, the web browser that helped you to browse this website and the operating system of your computer that the browser is functioning on are considered software. The computer screen you’re currently using to read this text and the mouse you’re using to navigate this web page is computer hardware.

Software and Hardware are collectively required for a computer to function. Computer hardware and software require each other and neither can be realistically used on its own.

Types of Software

Software often seems to be complex for us to deal with. Though it is complicated to understand we almost interact with it every day easily. Sending mail, browsing, or just printing out a document, we are interacting with software in any of these cases.

While we use numerous different software, each of them is rooted in the basic kinds of software. Knowing this basic software would help you to select the most suitable software for your personal and business use. 

Generally, the software is classified into two main software.

  • System Software
  • Application Software

Except for these two, there are programming software, driver software, SaaS software, and on-Premise Software also.

Application software

Application software can be classified as the end-user programs that assist the user in performing various tasks like making notes, maintaining accounts, browsing, or playing games. Basically, it directs the computers to execute the commands passed by the user with the help of various programs.

They lie above the system software and also perform operations that are beyond the basic operation of the software. The system software is essentially needed for application software to function properly. It uses system software like a computer’s operating system and other programs to perform special functions that are beyond the basic operations of the computer.

There is a wide range of application software available in the market to satisfy all kinds of user requirements. As the range of tasks that can be performed with a modern computer is large, we can say that there is a software developed for every task a user wants to perform. Unlike old times when people had to build software according to their needs, there are lots of application software already developed in today’s information age. You just need to install the software on your computer to use it.

Application software includes a database, word processors, graphic designing tools, web browsers, Microsoft office suite, and many more. Some application software might come pre-installed with the computer while other software can be installed later on the computer.

Programming software

With the advent of technology, there are lots of new software designed to meet the requirements of the users. Therefore, there is also software designed for programmers which helps them to program and develop other software making their tasks easy. Such software is known as programming software.

Programming software is typically built to assist you in making programming more fast and easy. It helps you to create, debug and maintain other programs and applications.

Anyone can use the programming software as most of them are open-source and available to everyone. It might be tough to get used to these on the first go but once you get a grasp of them you’ll realize that it makes your programming so easy and fast.

The most basic programming software tool is the code editor. It’s a simple text editor designed for writing and editing codes. Some other examples of programming software are interpreters, compilers, debuggers, linkers, and GUI designers. All of these collectively form an integrated development environment(IDE).

System software

System software is the basic software that is required to operate and extend the processing capabilities of your computer. It controls the internal functions of your computer but also controls other peripherals’ devices. It builds the core of your computer software on which other software can run.

System software helps the user and hardware to interact with each other and lets the user perform various tasks. Therefore, it acts as a coordinator between the hardware and other software to coordinate their functions as per user requirements. It provides a platform for all the other software like application software to work and also controls the hardware operations.

The system software is usually provided by the computer manufacturers themselves. The system software is always running in the background of your device, but it is never something you will use directly. In fact, the only time most people remember it’s there is when it is time for an update.

The most widely used system software is an operating system that is the core software and maintains everything and communicates with the hardware. Windows, macOS, and Linux are some examples of operating systems.

Driver software

This type of driver also known as a device driver is a set of program files that enables the hardware device connected to your computer to function properly. For the operating system to access the hardware devices they need a software interface. Such a software interface is provided by device drivers.

The main purpose of drivers is to translate between the hardware and the software or the operating system that uses it. Without driver software, the hardware devices cannot transfer data properly. Basically, driver software helps the hardware device communicate with your computer.

These drivers are operating system specific as well as dependent on the hardware. Most of the drivers are already present on your operating system. As soon as you plug in a device, the operating system installs the required drivers and you can then use your device. Such drivers are preferred over manually installed drivers and are known as plug-and-play.

Some of the device drivers are motherboard drivers, USB drivers, display drivers, and ROM drivers. Every hardware on a specific computer requires a unique driver. Though the function of some two hardware might be the same it would require different drivers for both of them to function.

What are SAAS Software and On-Premise Software?

SaaS means Software as a Service and as the name suggests is providing the software as a service to the end-user over the internet. You don’t need to install that software on your computer. You can directly access it over the internet through your web browser and release yourself from the hardware and software complexities. Internet is all you need to access such software.

SaaS software is a step ahead in the field of cloud storage services. This saas software is effective for small companies to access advanced technologies as they are priced on monthly basis and can be accessed from different devices. So such companies can get their required software within their budget. As saas software is web-based, you don’t need to worry about the software updates. The provider manages the software, updates, security, performance, and availability.

In contrast to the SaaS software, On-Premise software is the software that is installed locally on the computers of the premise of a person or organization. This proprietary software is developed to meet the requirements of large organizations. On-Premise software is installed along with all the hardware required for it and used on the premises of the organization for the development of a business automation system.

Photo management software and live chat tools are very good example of SaaS as it allows users to write and edit files and also supports collaborative communication and editing over the web. It allows users to work offline and even support various other formats. Dropbox is another good example of SaaS-based document management software. Microsoft office package and SAP are well-known On-Premise software.

Why do Businesses need Software?

Whether you have a huge company or are a small startup company, the software is a must-need in today’s digital world. As the business world grows continuously, your company also needs to be in the limelight and not left behind. You can automate your company through custom-made software and cope with upcoming trends. 

The software is secure, time-efficient, cost-efficient as well as user-friendly. Plus, it would save much of your time to complete the company’s day-to-day tasks so that you can focus on your company’s development. The software would even help you to maintain your accounts well. Chances of error decrease in accounts maintained by the computer software.

The software would help to simplify your team’s work resulting in more productive work. Custom software can be specially designed for your company, so it meets your requirements and also might cost you less compared to paid membership software. Understand your company’s needs well before having custom software developed for your company.

Was there any software concept I did not explain? Let me know in the comment section below. 

More from SmashitbuckTo check out my other articles on the ERP software, CRM software, and Best CMMS Software to read this year.

Commonly Asked Question


Where do we use the software?

We use the software in almost all of our day-to-day tasks. Cellphone, the most frequently used device in our day-to-day life also works on software. They are not only limited to computers these days, the scope of software has gone wider. We now use virtual reality and smart televisions which are developed through software.

When should you use the software?

The software should be used to save time and complete complex tasks that would be time-consuming and difficult to solve with the human brain. It reduces the complexity of your work. You can use it for your work, programming, or even for entertainment purposes.

Should I go for Free Software or Paid Software?

Free software would provide you with their basic functionalities and works great. Whereas paid software provides some extra functionalities to their subscribed user and would also be available for customer support. For some, the free subscription would work great sometimes but paid subscription would always work and provide quality. Hence, decide according to your needs.

Are there any alternatives other than using Software?

There are no alternatives to the use of the software. In this era, almost everything is digitalized and these things function on computer programs. You’ll have to use these programs to access your computer, phone, or any other smart device.
You can find a wide range of tools and choose according to your requirements but there is no alternative to the use of the software.

Authored By Amey Sarode
Amey Sarode is a Lead Web Developer in GOMO Group with expertise in multiple software verticals. Before starting this blog, Amey managed multiple projects for startups and now reviews the best software to run your online business.

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