What is Software? Definition, Types and Examples & Facts
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The term “software” refers to a collection of instructions, data, or programmes that are utilised to control computers and carry out particular activities. In contrast to hardware, which refers to the tangible components of a computer, this refers to the software that runs on the device. The phrase “software” refers to apps, scripts, and programmes that can be executed on a device. Software is a generic term. One way to think of it is as the variable component of a computer, in contrast to the hardware, which is the fixed component.
Application software and system software are the two primary classifications of computer programmes. A piece of software designed to address a particular requirement or carry out a series of functions is known as an application. System software is programmed to control the hardware of a computer and also serves as a foundation upon which programmes can be installed and operated.
Other types of software include programming software, which supplies software developers with the necessary programming tools; middleware, which is software that sits between the operating system and applications; and driver software, which is software that operates computer devices and other computer peripherals.
The earliest software was created for certain computers and packaged together with the hardware it needed to run. It wasn’t until the 1980s that people started selling software on floppy discs, and then subsequently on CDs and DVDs. The vast majority of software is purchased and then downloaded electronically through the internet today. You can acquire software by visiting the websites of the respective vendors or application service providers.
Different kinds and examples of software
The following are some of the most prevalent forms of software, which can be found across many different categories:
The software for making applications. Application software is the most frequent sort of software and refers to a computer software package that carries out a particular function for the benefit of a user or, in some situations, for the benefit of another application. An application may be self-contained, or it may be a collection of applications that work together to provide the user with the functionality of the application. Office suites, graphics software, databases and database management programmes, web browsers, word processors, image editors, communication platforms, and database management programmes are all examples of modern applications. Other examples of modern applications include database management programmes and software.
The software for the system The application programmes and hardware of a computer rely on these software packages in order to function properly. The operations and functions of the hardware and other software are synchronised and coordinated by the system software. In addition to this, it manages the activities of the computer’s hardware and creates an atmosphere or platform in which the activities of the various other kinds of software can be carried out. The operating system is the best example of system software because it is responsible for managing all of the other programmes on the computer. Other types of software that are considered to be examples of system software are firmware, computer language translators, and system utilities.
The programme for drivers. This form of software, which is sometimes referred to as device drivers, is typically categorised as system software. The devices and peripherals that are linked to a computer are given the ability to carry out their designated functions thanks to software known as device drivers. In order to function properly, each and every device that is linked to a computer needs at least one device driver. Examples of this include software that comes bundled with nonstandard hardware, such as specialised game controllers, as well as software that enables standard hardware, such as USB storage devices, keyboards, headphones, and printers. Other examples include software that allows standard hardware to function.
Middleware. The word “middleware” refers to software that acts as a mediator between “system software” and “application software” or between two distinct categories of “application software.” For instance, Microsoft Windows is able to communicate with Excel and Word thanks to middleware. A remote work request can also be sent from an application running on a computer with one kind of operating system to an application running on a computer with a different kind of operating system using this method. It also makes it possible for modern programmes to interact with older ones.
Putting together software programmes. To develop code, computer programmers utilise special software designed specifically for that purpose. The ability to build, write, test, and debug other software programmes is made possible for developers by programming software and programming tools. The terms assemblers, compilers, debuggers, and interpreters are all examples of different types of programming software.
How does the software work?
All software gives computers the instructions and data they require to function properly and to fulfil the requirements of their users. Application software and system software are two distinct forms of software, and their methods of operation are quite dissimilar from one another.
The software for applications
Application software is made up of numerous smaller programmes that work together to carry out particular tasks for end users. These tasks include things like composing reports and surfing websites. Applications are able to assist one another in completing a variety of activities. Applications on a computer are unable to run alone; in order to function properly, they need the operating system (OS) of the computer, in addition to other applications that are used for supporting system software.
Desktop apps are software programmes that are designed to run on a personal computer and are typically downloaded and installed by users. They do not require an active internet connection to function, but they do take up storage space on the hard drive of the computer. Desktop apps, on the other hand, are obligated to conform to the requirements of the physical devices that they run on.
Web applications, on the other hand, need nothing more than access to the internet in order to function; they do not depend on the computer’s hardware or software in order to function. As a direct result of this, users are able to start web apps from any device that has a web browser. Users can launch the application from Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, or any other operating system because the components that are responsible for the application functioning are located on the server.
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Software for the system
The application software is located on the opposite end of the software stack from the system software. Users do not have to interact directly with the system software because it manages the fundamental operations of the computer while it is running in the background. This software makes it possible for users to run higher-level application software on their computers in order to carry out a variety of tasks by coordinating the system’s hardware and software components. When a computer system starts up, the software is known as “system software” begins to operate, and it continues to do so for as long as the machine is powered on.
The planning and execution of the project
A project manager can use a framework known as the software development lifecycle to describe the stages and duties associated with designing software. The planning of the effort, followed by an analysis of the requirements of the people who will be using the software and the creation of detailed requirements, are the initial steps in the design lifecycle. Following the preliminary examination of user requirements, the design phase will attempt to specify how those user requirements can be satisfied.
The development work is finished before moving on to the following step, which is called “implementation.” After that, the software is tested. During the maintenance phase, all actions that are necessary to maintain the system operation will be completed.
A description of the structure of the software that will be developed is part of the software design, along with data models, interfaces between system components, and possibly the methods that the software engineer will use.
User requirements are translated into a format that is usable by computer programmers for the coding and implementation stages of software development during the software design process. The software designers use an iterative process to construct the software design, during which they add more information and make adjustments to the design as they work.
The following are some examples of the various forms of software design:
Design of buildings and structures. This is the foundational design, which makes use of architectural design tools to determine the general structure of the system, its primary components, and the interactions between those components and one another.
High-level design. This is the second layer of design, and its purpose is to determine how the system and all of its components may be actualized in the form of modules that are sustained by a software stack. A high-level design details the relationships that exist between the flow of data and the many modules and functions that the system possesses.
Detailed design. This third layer of design concentrates on all of the implementation specifics that are required for the architecture that has been established.
How to maintain software quality
The quality of software can be determined by examining whether or not it satisfies both the software’s functional and non-functional needs.
The functional requirements outline what the software should be able to accomplish. They include technical details, data manipulation and processing, calculations, or any other specialised function that outlines what an application seeks to do in a more precise manner.
The functionality of the system is defined by its nonfunctional requirements, which are also referred to as quality attributes. Portability, disaster recovery, security, privacy, and usability are some of the non-functional requirements that must be met.
In software testing, technical problems in the source code of the software are found and fixed, and the product’s overall usability, performance, security, and compatibility are evaluated to guarantee that it satisfies its requirements.
The following attributes are included in the categories that define the quality of software:
Accessibility is the degree to which a wide variety of users, including those who require assistive technology such as screen magnifiers and voice recognition software, are able to use the software without difficulty.
Compatibility. The capability of the software to function properly in a number of settings, including those involving a range of operating systems, devices, and web browsers.
Efficiency. The capacity of the software to carry out its tasks effectively without wasting any of the following: power; resources; effort; time; or money.
Functionality. The capacity of software to perform the functions for which it was designed.
Installability. The capacity of the software to be installed in a particular setting. Availability in a particular environment.
Localization. The many different languages, time zones, and other similar aspects that software is able to operate in.
Maintainability. How simple it is to make changes to the software in order to add new features, improve existing ones, correct errors, and so on.
Performance. How quickly the software operates when subjected to a particular load.
Portability. The capability of the software to be simply moved to another site from its original position.
The capability of the programme to successfully carry out a predetermined task under specified conditions and for an allotted amount of time without making any mistakes is referred to as its reliability.
Scalability. The degree to which a piece of software is able to adjust its level of performance in response to shifts in the requirements placed on it by its processor.
The capacity of the software to provide protection against unauthorised access, invasions of personal privacy, theft, loss of data, and other forms of harmful software, among other threats.
Testability. How simple it is to put the software through its paces.
Usability. How intuitive and simple the software is to operate.
After a piece of software is released into production, its quality must be continually improved by its developers in order to satisfy new client requirements and solve problems reported by consumers. This involves enhancing functionality, repairing faults, and modifying software code to avoid problems in the future. The ability of the developers to keep up with the necessary maintenance requirements will determine how long a product will remain available on the market.
When it comes to providing maintenance, developers have the ability to make four different kinds of adjustments, including the following:
Corrective. Users frequently discover and report flaws to developers, which the developers then need to repair. These bugs can include coding errors and other issues that prevent the product from meeting its requirements.
Adaptive. The software must be updated on a regular basis by its developers so that it remains compatible with ever-evolving hardware and software environments. One example of this is when a new version of the operating system is released.
Perfective. These are improvements that improve the functioning of the system. For example, upgrading the user interface or modifying the software code to improve performance are both examples of these types of adjustments.
Preventive. These modifications, which include tasks such as code rearrangement and optimization, are done in order to prevent software failures from occurring.
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Patents and software licencing agreements
A software licence is a document that is legally enforceable and places limitations on how the software can be used and distributed.
Users are typically granted permission to make one or more copies of the software under the terms of their software licences, provided that they do not violate any copyright laws. The licence details the responsibilities of each party that enters into the agreement and may impose limitations on the ways in which the software can be used.
The terms and conditions of software licencing typically contain provisions for “fair use” of the software, limitations on liability, warranties, disclaimers, and protections in the event that the software or its use infringes on the intellectual property rights of third parties.
The two most common types of software licences are proprietary software, which does not leave the ownership of the company, group, or individual that developed it, and free software, which allows users to run, study, modify and distribute the software. Open source software is a type of software in which the source code is made freely available to users and the product itself is produced through a collaborative process. Open source software licences give users the same rights as those granted by free software, allowing them to run, copy, share, and modify the software.
The practice of selling software licenses on a one-time basis has been replaced by the software-as-a-service subscription model among software suppliers over the course of the past two decades. Customers pay the software suppliers a subscription fee in order to use the software once it has been hosted in the cloud by the software vendor. Customers access the programme through the internet.
Even though copyright can ban other people from copying a developer’s code, it can’t stop them from independently producing the same software without duplicating it. A patent, on the other hand, enables a developer to restrict another person from utilising the functional parts of the software that the developer claims in a patent, regardless of whether or not the other person independently developed the programme.
In general, the level of technical complexity that a piece of software possesses correlates to the likelihood that it can be copyrighted. For instance, if a piece of software generates a novel kind of database structure or improves the overall performance and functionality of a computer, then the programme might be eligible for a patent.
The evolution of computer software
It wasn’t until the late 1950s that people started using the term “software.” During this time period, despite the fact that numerous varieties of programming software were being developed, the majority of them were not normally available for purchase. As a consequence of this, users, who were mostly scientists and major businesses, were required to frequently create their own software.
The following is a condensed version of a timeline detailing the evolution of software:
June 21, 1948. Tom Kilburn, a computer scientist working at the University of Manchester in England, is the one who produces the very first piece of software ever created and instals it on the Manchester Baby computer.
In the early 1950s The very first operating system (OS) was developed by General Motors for the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine. The official name for this system is GM OS, which stands for General Motors Operating System.
- John Tukey, a statistician, first uses the term “software” in an article he has written about computer programming.
Late 1960s. The distribution of software on floppy discs becomes common in the 1980s and 1990s after their initial introduction.
Nov. 3, 1971. The initial version of the Unix operating system is distributed by AT&T.
- After the advent of the Apple II, consumer software becomes extremely popular.
1979 saw the first ever piece of spreadsheet software for personal computers, VisiCalc, being released by VisiCorp for the Apple II.
1981 marks the debut of MS-DOS by Microsoft, an operating system that was used by many early IBM computers. When IBM started selling software, it marked the beginning of the availability of commercial software to the common consumer.
1980s. The incorporation of hard drives into personal computers (PCs) and the beginning of the practice of including bundled software by computer manufacturers
Richard Stallman’s GNU (GNU is not Unix) Linux project kicks off the free software movement in 1983. The goal of this project was to build a Unix-like operating system with source code that could be freely copied, updated, and distributed by anybody.
1984 marks the launch of Apple’s Macintosh operating system (Mac OS).
Mid-1980s. The first versions of important software products like AutoDesk AutoCAD, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel are made available to the public.
1985 marks the release of the first version of Microsoft Windows.
In 1989, CD-ROMs became the industry standard; they held significantly more data than floppy discs did at the time. Large software packages are able to be transmitted in a timely manner that is also reasonably simple and economical.
Released in 1991, the Linux kernel is the fundamental component of the open-source Linux operating system.
- As a result of the introduction of DVDs, which have a greater capacity for storing data than CDs, it is now possible to store many software suites, such as Microsoft Office, on a single disc.
- Salesforce.com was an early pioneer in the delivery of software over the internet by utilising cloud computing.
- The phrase “software as a service” (sometimes written as “SaaS”) is becoming increasingly popular.
- The iPhone is released, and mobile application development gets off the ground.
from 2010 until the current day Users increasingly purchase and download the software through the internet and the cloud, rendering DVDs increasingly outdated. The use of subscription-based business models by vendors and SaaS as a standard practice is becoming more widespread.