The Differences Between Application Software and Computer System Software
Software is simply a series of instructions which tell a computer how to perform a specific task. This is opposed to hardware, where the actual device is created and then actually does the work itself. Both can be complex and time consuming to develop and use for a specific application. Many individuals are often unsure about the differences between hardware and software, or how to choose between them. For those who are curious about this topic, it is helpful to understand exactly what each category means and how they interact with one another. Software tends to be far less complicated than its more expensive counterpart, while still providing the same function.
Hardware on the other hand is much more detailed and complex, often requiring the use of programs to allow a machine to communicate with external devices or to control internal functions. Traditionally, hardware was used to allow computers to communicate with other machines or to control internal elements of the operating system such as a keyboard or mouse. Modern systems software has allowed for the expansion of hardware into much more complex and useful areas such as digital photography or medical imaging, making it a growing source of revenue for programmers who write these programs.
While both hardware and software can be developed by large corporations, the term “application software” is generally used to describe any type of program which a business utilizes to operate their business. Examples of typical application software include spreadsheets and word processing applications, as well as more complex examples such as operating systems, application security systems, and database management systems. These examples can be very broad and are not limited to just the aforementioned categories. In fact, many smaller companies utilize some form of application software as part of their marketing campaigns, as well as providing support to employees during setups, upgrades, and troubleshooting. The terms “hardware” and “software” can also be used to describe entirely different products or services, or even the exact same product or service taken from one category and bundled together in another. For example, many laptop manufacturers bundle their operating systems along with printers, cameras, and other related components, while other laptop vendors provide the exact same components as the manufacturer of the laptop, but also include sound card, a disk drive, and a keyboard and mouse.
Applications or computer software include all types of computer software which a user uses to accomplish his or her own tasks, whether these tasks are related to standard desktop applications or involve specialized hardware. Some examples of typical application software include web browser software, productivity programs, office suite software, and game software. A typical aspect of application software is that it can change how a computer system operates by loading different types of code into computer memory during start-up or shutdown, and as new tasks are entered, the previous task’s code is run again. Examples of such programming software include drivers, which load specific device drivers into memory at start-up time and allow software to share information among programs, and operating system software, which controls how the computer system will run.
Computer software consists of both hardware and software. Hardware devices, such as printers, disk drives, and keyboards, are part of application software. On the other hand, operating systems control how applications on a computer work, and are generally composed of several programs themselves, each executing in its own sub-process. For example, Windows, which is one of the most popular operating systems, contains many examples of common software, such as Windows Explorer, Word processing software, and Internet Explorer, while Microsoft Windows Operating System, which is generally referred to as Windows 95, contains many examples of hardware, such as peripheral devices, printer drivers, and random access memory (RAM).
While most applications and computer system software examples function identically, not all examples are written the same. As an example, Windows cannot be written to operate on any hardware that is specific to Microsoft Windows, as each version of Windows requires its own set of hardware drivers. However, there are a number of companies that have created special-purpose solutions for Windows that are compatible with just about any computer system. Some examples of this type of product include XoftSpy for Windows 95, and PC Mantra for XP.