Software can be classified into two categories, namely, system software and application software. ‘System software’ is a generic term for referring to any computer program whose purpose is to help the user to run the computer system, whereas ‘application software’ employs the capabilities of a computer directly to a task that the user wishes to perform. As an analogy, one can equate an electric bulb to an application and the electric power generation plant with system. The power plant merely generates electricity. It is not really of any use until harnessed to an application such as the electric bulb, which performs a service that the user desires.

System Software

It consists of several programs, which are directly responsible for controlling, integrating and managing the individual hardware components of a computer system. A new computer system is always accompanied with some software either stored in a CD or DVD, which is supplied by the manufacturer. This software manages and supports the computer system and its information processing activities. System software is more transparent and less noticed by the users, as it usually interacts with the hardware or the applications. This software provides a programming environment in which programmers can create applications to accommodate their needs. This environment provides functions that are not available at the hardware level and performs the tasks related to the execution of an application program. Hence, system software acts as an interface between the hardware of the computer and the software applications. In simple terms, system software makes the computer functional. It provides basic functionality such as file management, visual display and keyboard input and it is used by application software to accomplish these functions. Some examples of system software are operating system (OS), device drivers, language translators and system utilities.

Application Software

It is used to accomplish specific tasks rather than just managing a computer system. For a user, the computer system has no specific use without the application software. It may consist of a single program, such as Microsoft’s Notepad (for writing and editing simple text) or a collection of programs, which work together to accomplish a task such as database management software. Application software may also include a larger collection of related but independent programs and packages (a software suite), which have a common user interface or shared data format, such as Microsoft Office Suite. However, application software is dependent on system software. Thus, system software (such as operating system) acts as an interface between the user and the computer hardware, while application software performs specific tasks. Application software ranges from games, calculators and word processors (documentcreating programs), to programs that paint images on screen (image editors). Some examples of application software are word processors, spreadsheets, image editor, database management system, presentation applications and desktop publishing software.