computer software written on DVD and a package box

Computer software: classification and characteristics

Computer software is a set of instructions that guide a computer on what to do and how to do it. They are programs which means they program computers by giving instructions to the device. Software interface computer hardware with the user. So the software is a step-by-step procedure (algorithm) of how things should happen in the computer when a user or another program triggers it to happen.

Computer programs are categorized into system, utility, application, and programming software. The main characteristics are portability, reliability, user friendly, maintainability, security, efficiency, and future development among others. The software has enabled businesses to automate their operation and cut operational costs.

Characteristics and features of computer software

  1. Portability: This means the software can be moved from one platform to another without having any issues. The computer software can be installed on different platforms and work without problems.
  2. User-friendly: Good software should be simple and easy for users to learn and use. To achieve user-friendliness software can adopt the use of a graphic user interface (GUI) that has commonly known icons. It can also implement common keyboard shortcuts for easy navigation. 
  3. Maintainability: Computer software when developed are not perfect, they have errors. Good software then should allow for updates to remove and deal with bugs.
  4. Security: software should offer maximum security for all data that it uses to analyze. It should be able to withstand hacking or any other type of manipulation to get access.
  5. Reliability: the software should be able to be relied upon given a certain condition for a given period of time. It can deliver required results even under extreme operating conditions.
  6. Software efficiency: good software should be able to optimally use other computer resources well. It should efficiently utilize, a processor, main memory, and storage space.
  7. Flexibility for future growth: software should be flexible in a way that it can be added extra functionality depending on business needs.
  8. Intangible: Software is said to be an intangible part of a computer. They can only be seen but not touched. They can be operated on and used but you cannot be able to say physically this is software. 

Functions of computer software

The main benefit of the software is to interface the hardware part of the computer with the user and other software. Another use of computer software is that it enables the effective utilization of a computer and all its resources. It maximizes the usability of the computer.

Classification of computer software

They are broadly classified in terms of their use, and they include:

  1. System software
  2. Programming software
  3. Application software

System software

These are software that is used specifically to ensure effective and efficient operation of the computer hardware and other software. They are again subdivided into utility, Firmware, drivers, and operating systems software.

1. Utility software

These programs manage the computer infrastructure and operation. They manage files, back up, and scan for viruses, defragment disks, partition disks, and so many other functions. Utilities are not used by the user to accomplish their task but mostly they enable the computer to operate at its optimal hence less computer-related error and problems.

2. Operating System (OS)

This is the fundamental software in the computer which does the real interfacing between the user and the hardware. Unless you are an advanced user of computing you cannot operate a computer without an operating system. There are different examples of operating systems in the market from different companies and developers. Microsoft Window (and all its versions) developed by Microsoft Incorporation, Linux which is an open-source OS, macOS by Apple Inc., and Android OS which are mostly used on smartphones, etc.

The operating system has the following functions:

  1. Management of main memory.
  2. Facilitate communication between user and hardware.
  3. Management of input/output devices.
  4. Management of secondary storage devices.
  5. Management of processor by scheduling what is to be done at what time.
  6. They offer a platform for applications and other software to operate on.
  7. Management of computer files and directories.

3. Firmware

These are types of special software that are inbuilt within the device. They are mostly embedded by the manufacturer of the device and they are not deleted but can be upgraded. They include instructions such as System BIOS.

4. Device driver

These are device-specific types of software that are used to manage, control, and interface device to the hardware. Each and every hardware component on the computer has unique specific drivers.

Application software

They are software that enables users to accomplish a specific task. There are many types of applications software most of which are specific to a certain field. Today almost every field has its own software that they are using to accomplish the task that is specific to the field. There are millions of application software, as long as one can able to write a computer program they can create their application software. The main categories that we have to include:

  1. Word processors
  2. Spreadsheet
  3. Database Management Systems
  4. Presentation
  5. Graphics design packages
  6. Desktop publishing
  7. Web design software
  8. Web browsers
  9. School management systems
  10. Text editor etc.

Programming software

These are computer software that is used to develop and code other software. They can be classified into low-level and high-level languages. There are many programming languages that are there meant for different functions. Some examples of programming languages are python, Java, C++, C#, and Javascript among others.

Advantages and disadvantages of computer software

Computer programs are a major part of any organization today where information and data are key. Computer software is used to manipulate data and they are changing business operations in good and negative ways. Below are some of the benefits and challenges of computer software.

Advantages of computer software

  1. Software help interfaces between computer hardware, other software, and users.
  2. They help solve human problems by utilizing computer resources for operation.
  3. They increase the speed of operation and accuracy.
  4. They help in business process automation.
  5. They reduce operational costs in a business.

Disadvantages of computer programs

  1. They require professionals to develop.
  2. They have errors and bugs.
  3. The accuracy of the software and effectiveness depends on the programmer and developers.
  4. The initial cost of development and maintenance cost is high.
  5. Some programs are not compatible with all systems.
  6. Software is vulnerable to data security issues which is a threat to company business continuity.

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