Software, in broad terms, is a set of instructions (generally referred to as code), that is positioned between you and the device’s hardware, enabling you to use it.
But what is computer software, really? In layman’s terms it’s an invisible component of a computer system that makes it possible for you to interact with the computer’s physical components. Software is what allows you to communicate with smartphones, tablets, game boxes, media players, and similar devices.
It’s important to note that there is a distinct difference between hardware and software. Software is an intangible resource. You can’t hold it in your hands. Hardware consists of tangible resources such as mice, keyboards, USB ports, CPUs, memory, printers, and so on. Phones are hardware. iPads, Kindles, and Fire TV sticks are hardware. Hardware and software work together to make a system functional.
Types of software
The term ‘software‘ refers to the set of electronic program instructions or data a computer processor reads in order to perform a task or operation. In contrast, the term ‘hardware‘ refers to the physical components that you can see and touch, such as the computer hard drive, mouse, and keyboard.
Software can be categorized according to what it is designed to accomplish. There are two main types of software: systems software and application software.
Systems software includes the programs that are dedicated to managing the computer itself, such as the operating system, file management utilities, and disk operating system (or DOS). The operating system manages the computer hardware resources in addition to applications and data. Without systems software installed in our computers we would have to type the instructions for everything we wanted the computer to do!
Application software, or simply applications, are often called productivity programs or end-user programs because they enable the user to complete tasks, such as creating documents, spreadsheets, databases and publications, doing online research, sending email, designing graphics, running businesses, and even playing games! Application software is specific to the task it is designed for and can be as simple as a calculator application or as complex as a word processing application. When you begin creating a document, the word processing software has already set the margins, font style and size, and the line spacing for you. But you can change these settings, and you have many more formatting options available. For example, the word processor application makes it easy to add color, headings, and pictures or delete, copy, move, and change the document’s appearance to suit your needs.
Who Creates Software?
The definition of software implies that someone must sit at a computer somewhere and write the computer code for it. It’s true; there are independent coding experts, teams of engineers, and large corporations all creating software and vying for your attention. Adobe makes Adobe Reader and Adobe Photoshop; Microsoft makes the Microsoft Office Suite; McAfee makes antivirus software; Mozilla makes Firefox; Apple makes iOS. Third parties make apps for Windows, iOS, Android, and more. There are millions of people writing software all over the world right now.
How to Get Software
Operating systems come with some software already installed. In Windows 10 there’s the Edge web browser, for instance, and applications like WordPad and Fresh Paint. In iOS there’s Photos, Weather, Calendar, and Clock. If your device doesn’t have all of the software you need though, you can get more.
One way a lot of people get software today is downloading it from specific stores. On the iPhone for example, people have downloaded apps around 200 billion times. If it’s not clear to you, apps are software (perhaps with a friendlier name).
Another way people add software to their computers is via physical media like a DVD or, back a long time ago, floppy disks.