Functions, categories, and advantages of application software

Computer application software is programs that are written to achieve a specific objective that meets end-user operational needs. They can be designed for a specific functional area such as school management or general purpose like Microsoft Office package. 

The most common types of computer application software are word processors, spreadsheets, desktop publishers, graphic design, database email programs Enterprise Planning Resource (ERP) school management among other application areas.

The feature of application programs is that they are designed to offer more interaction to users. They mostly use the same type of icons to represent commands and are designed using high-level languages.

Categories of computer application software 

General purpose or off-shelf software

General-purpose types of application software are those that are designed for a variety of functions. They come as packages which means they include more than one software functionality type. An example of general-purpose software is the Microsoft office package which comes loaded with many software functionalities.

Advantages of off-shelf or general-purpose software

  1. Most off-shelf software is cheaper since they are used by many people who share the cost of development and design.
  2. General-purpose software is used by main people who have created online communities where users can help each other in case of any difficulties.
  3. Software bugs are removed detected and rectified faster since many users are interacting with the software and they can report for action to be taken.
  4. Today many application software use graphic interfaces with icons which makes them user-friendly.
  5. They are simple to acquire when compared to tailor-made ones. 
  6. Off-shelf software shares a common interface that can be compared across. This makes it simple to learn and use.
  7. They come with a user manual on how to install and use them.

Disadvantages of off-shelf or general-purpose application software

  1. Since the software are designed for a variety of functions user may never use some of the functionality. This means the software is underutilized.
  2. The software may not be ideal for a specific organization since they are designed as general-to-use software.
  3. Users have no control over the features and functionality that the software has. They use what is provided but cannot make any changes.

Tailor-made or in-house application software

They are programs that are written to achieve a specific objective that meets end-user operational needs. Mostly they are designed for specific functional areas such as school management, and design among others. They can be developed by company programmers if they have them hence the term in-house or they can outsource a software company to develop for them.

Today almost all the fields have customized application software to meet the needs of that area.

Advantages of in-house or tailor-made application software

  1. They are designed for a specific company to meet a specific objective. This means they are specialized software.
  2. Users have control over what functionality will go to the software. In most cases, users are interviewed to give their views on what they need to be included in the software.
  3. When it comes time for system changeover it becomes simple and effective since users were involved from the designing point.

Disadvantages of in-house or tailor-made application software

  1. Since they are specific to given users or field it means the users are few which raise the cost of development. 
  2. It takes more time to implement and develop since it needs to follow all the steps of software design and development which takes a long time.
  3. Compared to off-shelf they have more bugs since fewer users have interacted with them to identify any errors and bugs.
  4. If you have a challenge using tailor-made software you may not get help outside the organization. This is because there is no community of users to help and if they are there it is a small group only. 
  5. Most of the time when the software is introduced to the organization it will require user training to be carried out intensively until users are comfortable to use them. This is contrary to off-self which most user has a basic understanding of.

Features of computer application software

  1. They are more interactive
  2. Designed using high-level languages
  3. They are simple to design which is a common look
  4. Compared to utility software they require more storage space
  5. Most are graphic user interface

Types and uses of application software with examples

Word processors application software

They are application software used to manipulate mostly text. They started as standalone programs which used the concept of a typewriter. Word processors are characterized by their ability to create a table of contents, mail merging, formatting features, and insertion of various items among other properties.

The applications have a wide range of applications for businesses, schools, homes, personal use, and in so many other areas as long as one needs to manipulate text data.

Examples of word processors 

  1. Microsoft word,
  2. Word perfect,
  3. Openoffice.org writer
  4. Lotus word pro
  5. Wordpad 
  6. AppleWorks 
  7. Work pages, etc.

Spreadsheet application

They are programs used to manipulate mostly number characters and for analysis. They are made up of rows and columns (cells) which are referenced using an alphanumerical character. For example, a B7 is cell referenced which means it can be found in column B and row 7

They have formulae and functions which are used to perform calculations depending on the user’s needs. Charting facilities, filtering and sorting, and formatting features are among other features of a spreadsheet program.

application software  spreadsheet

They are mostly used in business to calculate budgets, financial analysis, and other business mathematics. This does not limit their use to business because they can be used across all the major fields for analysis purposes.

Examples of spreadsheet programs

  1. Microsoft Excel, 
  2. Google sheets
  3. EtherCalc
  4. Openoffice.org calc 
  5. LibreOffice Calc
  6. Smartsheet etc

Database management systems (DBMS)

They are programs used to manage data and information. They manage by accepting data, manipulating it to get information, and providing means of retrieval of the information in the most basic ways. Most DBMSs have objects which are used i.e. tables, forms, reports, queries, etc. Their main characteristics come from the object available which allow the creation of report and forms from the table where the data was entered from. Queries also allow the retrieval of information depending on certain criteria specified by the user.

They can be used to manage any type of data which gives them a wide area of application, from simply managing individual data to multinational companies managing their client data.

Examples of database management application programs.

  1. Microsoft Access
  2. Oracle RDBMS
  3. Microsoft SQL Server
  4. FileMaker
  5. SQLite
  6. Amazon RDS
  7. PostgreSQL
  8. MongoDB
  9. OrientDB
  10. Hadoop HDFS
  11. MariaDB
  12. MySQL etc.

Graphic design application programs

They are used to design new artwork which can be used in other programs as images to enhance the document. Graphic software range from simple drawing programs like MS paint to more sophisticated ones like Computer-Aided Design (CAD).

These programs have drawing tools that enable the user to draw their art by controlling a pointing device. The tools simplify the drawing work when compare with hand drawings. They improve accuracy and also softcopy allows the production of many copies of the diagram.

They can be used across a range of applications from designing building blueprints to simple sketches on a computer. The drawing tools available dictate how sophisticated the drawing can be.

 Example Graphic design application software

  1. AutoCAD 
  2. Corel Draw
  3. ArchiCAD
  4. Adobe Photoshop
  5. Adobe Illustrator
  6. GIMP
  7. Canva
  8. Sketch
  9. Eagle
  10. Inkscape 
  11. Microsoft paint, etc.

5. Presentation programs

The software is used to create presentations that can be presented on different platforms. It can be done on a computer, LCD projector, etc. They have slides where users add a single concept per slide for an easy explanation during the presentation. They offer slide transition which gives the slide a unique view as it changes from one slide to another.

In business, they can be used to present new ideas, and the analysis of end-year performance and can also be used in any other field where users want to present to a big audience.

Examples of presentation programs 

  1. Microsoft PowerPoint 
  2. Google Slides
  3. Ludus
  4. Visme
  5. Slidebean
  6. Zoho Show
  7. Beautiful.ai
  8. Prezi
  9. FlowVella
  10. Haiku Deck etc.

Desktop publishing software (DTP)

They are used to create a publication that meets the standards for publication. DTP manipulates all the elements of data that are required in a specific publication to ensure it meets the requirement. 

They have many fonts which give the document a unique and original appearance and allow page formatting, and other formatting features to ensure a good publication is produced. Publishing software is used to create newspapers, books, magazines, newsletters, brochures, business cards, etc.

Examples of desktop publishing applications

  1. Microsoft Publisher
  2. Adobe InDesign
  3. Affinity Publisher
  4. QuarkXPress
  5. VivaDesigner
  6. Scribus
  7. iStudio Publisher
  8. VistaCreate
  9. PageStream
  10. Swift Publisher
  11. Adobe PageMaker etc

Email  management programs

Email is the main service that is offered over the internet. To use email users requires to have an account and then get access to an email platform that they can use to access the emails. They are application programs since they help the end-user to communicate using email. You can read more on Email in this other article for more details.

Examples of email management software

  1. Microsoft Outlook
  2. Google workspace
  3. Zoho Mail
  4. Protonmail
  5. Microsoft Exchange
  6. Zimbra
  7. Postbox
  8. Titan
  9. AOL mail
  10. Yahoo Mail

Web browsing application programs

Internet or web browser are used to access online services such as websites and search engines. Internet browser act as an interface between the user and the server computer that has documents over the internet. We have a detailed article on functions and features of internet browsers that you may be interested in reading here.

Examples of internet browsing programs

  1. Google Chrome
  2. Mozilla Firefox
  3. Microsoft Edge
  4. Safari for Apple
  5. Brave
  6. Opera
  7. Chromium
  8. UC browser