Application software: An Overview

Application software ( also known as an application or an app) is computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks. Examples include enterprise software, accounting software, office suites,graphics software and media players. Many application programs deal principally with documents. Apps may be bundled with the computer and its system software, or may be published separately.

Application software is contrasted with system software and middleware, which manage and integrate a computer’s capabilities, but typically do not directly apply them in the performance of tasks that benefit the user. The system software serves the application, which in turn serves the user.

Application software applies the power of a particular computing platform or system software to a particular purpose. Some apps such as Microsoft Office are available in versions for several different platforms; others have narrower requirements and are thus called, for example, a Geography application for Windows or an Android application for education or Linux gaming. Sometimes a new and popular application arises which only runs on one platform, increasing the desirability of that platform. This is called a killer application.

Application software classification

Application software falls into two general categories; horizontal applications and vertical applications. Horizontal applications are the most popular and widespread in departments or companies. Vertical applications are niche products, designed for a particular type of business or division in a company.
There are many types of application software:

  • An application suite consists of multiple applications bundled together. They usually have related functions, features and user interfaces, and may be able to interact with each other, e.g. open each other’s files. Business applications often come in suites, e.g. Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org and iWork, which bundle together a word processor, a spreadsheet, etc.; but suites exist for other purposes, e.g. graphics or music.
  • Enterprise software addresses the needs of organization processes and data flow, often in a large distributed environment. (Examples include financial systems, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and supply chain management software). Departmental Software is a sub-type of enterprise software with a focus on smaller organizations or groups within a large organization. (Examples include travel expense management and IT Helpdesk)
  • Enterprise infrastructure software provides common capabilities needed to support enterprise software systems. (Examples include databases, email servers, and systems for managing networks and security.)
  • Information worker software lets users create and manage information, often for individual projects within a department, in contrast to enterprise management. (Examples include time management, resource management, documentation tools, analytical, and collaborative. Word processors, spreadsheets, email and blog clients, personal information system, and individual media editors may aid in multiple information worker tasks.)
  • Content access software is used primarily to access content without editing, but may include software that allows for content editing. Such software addresses the needs of individuals and groups to consume digital entertainment and published digital content. (Examples include media players, web browsers, and help browsers.)
  • Educational software is related to content access software, but has the content and/or features adapted for use in by educators or students. For example, it may deliver evaluations (tests), track progress through material, or include collaborative capabilities.
  • Simulation software simulates physical or abstract systems for either research, training or entertainment purposes.
  • Media development software generates print and electronic media for others to consume, most often in a commercial or educational setting. This includes graphic-art software, desktop publishing software, multimedia development software, HTML editors, digital-animation editors, digital audio and video composition, and many others.
  • Product engineering software is used in developing hardware and software products. This includes computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided engineering(CAE), computer language editing and compiling tools, integrated development environments, and application programmer interfaces.

Applications can also be classified by computing platform such as a particular operating system, delivery network such as in cloud computing and Web 2.0applications, or delivery devices such as mobile apps for mobile devices.

The operating system itself can be considered application software when performing simple calculating, measuring, rendering, and word processing tasks not used to control hardware via command-line interface or graphical user interface. This does not include application software bundled within operating systems such as a software calculator or text editor.

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