What is computer software?

What is computer software? Every day in one way or another, we use computer to perform our tasks both at the office and home. It is possible to say that today’s world is computer driven world, where every task is done through computer. And without the usage of software, computer does nothing.

Computer software controls how a computer should execute a particular type of task.

Generally, computer systems are categorized into two major parts: Hardware and Software.

In this article we will try to see the basics of computer software and its type.

But first, what is computer software?

Definition of computer software

What is computer software

To put it simply, computer software is a set of instructions that tells a computer what to do. Computer software controls and governs the process of a computer. Without computer software, the hardware part is useless. There is no way to communicate with the computer unless you installed system software on it.

Software is written and developed by computer programmers using programming languages. When we talk about computer software, it includes the two main groups of software.

These are called System Software and Application Software. The other but an optional type of computer software is Programming language.

System Software

Commonly referred as Operating system, System software plays a key role in computer systems. It is responsible for managing and controlling the activities and functions of computer hardware and application software. We can say that operating system serves as an interface between computer hardware and application programs and a user.

To run any type of application program, you must install the right Operating system. What is computer software – continued…

The major functions computer system software

  • Manages computer processing activities
  • Managing files
  • Handle computer memory
  • Serves as an interface between computer user and hardware
  • Providing access to system resources
  • Facilitate the overall activities of each programs installed on it
  • Providing an interface for peripheral devices and network access
  • Allows user to run application programs

In addition to Operating system program, hardware drivers and other system utility programs which assist and maintain the proper function of a computer are also grouped into system software.

Device/hardware drivers control the individual components of computer such as printer, network card, and sound card.

Utility programs help you to maintain computer performance and security. Anti-virus program and registry cleaner are example of system utility programs. What is computer software – continued…

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Example of Operating System Software

MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) is the first operating system introduced by Microsoft, the dominant software producer in the world, in the 1980s. Since then several versions of system programs are developed by Microsoft and other IT companies.

MS-DOS has command line interface unlike the modern operating systems which use Graphical User Interface (GUI). GUI allows a user to interact with a computer/software using graphics and icons.

Operating systems can be categorized further into two categories:

  • Personal computer OS and
  • Enterprise/Workgroup OS.

Some of the popular Personal computer OSs include:-

  • Microsoft products

(research shows 80% of computers in the world installed with Microsoft OSs)

Windows 95, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows Mobile

  • Apple Computer System programs

Mac OS and Mac OS X

  • Linux

It is developed by Linus Torvalds, a student in Finland, in 1991. Linux is an Open-source operating system, means the source code is available freely.

  • UNIX
  • Solaris
  • Red Hat Linux

Enterprise/workgroup operating systems are powerful and sophisticated comparing to Personal computer OS. These types of system programs are developed for computers such as Servers and Mainframes.

Mainframe computers are used in large organizations, governmental offices, military and other business companies where a lot of resource is shared through a network. What is computer software – continued…

The following are the popular enterprise and workgroup operating systems:-

  • Windows Advanced Server
  • Windows Server 2000, 2003 and 2008
  • UNIX - Red Hat Linux
  • MPE/iX are servers software
  • designed for HP Computers

Application Software

Application Software is a type of program which assists a user to execute a specific task on a computer. It helps a user to solve particular problems. Application programs use system resources and hardware through System programs.

In each field of work and industry, several kinds of application software are developed and still new programs are developing.

For example, Peachtree Accounting is a computer application program specifically developed for accountants to manage of financial activity in a given organization. AutoCAD is for Mechanical and Civil Engineers; where as Adobe Photoshop is for graphics designers and photographers.

Some of the tasks of Application programs

  • Word processors, Spreadsheet, presentation (Microsoft Office Suite)
  • Database manipulation
  • Accounting and Financial recording programs
  • Graphics (Adobe Suite) programs
  • Engineering Applications (AutoCAD, ArchiCAD, InRoads, StaadPro, SAP, Eagle point etc..) for designing roads, building and bridges
  • Desktop publishing (Adobe Indesign, Pagemaker)
  • Games


In summary, computer software plays a great role in computer systems. Without it computer hardware does nothing. In this article we have discussed about computer software to answer the question, “what is computer software?”

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