You have seen that hardware alone doesn’t do much of anything. PC hardware must work under the control of the operating system in order to accomplish work. The work that the hardware or operating system can do on its own is very limited, however. Their jobs are focused mostly on running the computer itself, not helping the user perform tasks.
Application software shifts this focus from the computer to humans. Application software is designed to help users be productive, which is why one class of it is called productivity software. There are as many different types of application software as there are different tasks to accomplish on a PC.
This lesson introduces you to some of the most commonly used types of application software -the programs that millions of people use each day to accomplish routine tasks. Although you might think of a computer as being a highly specialized machine, in fact it is most often used for basic, everyday tasks at home, school and work. By applying computers and application programs to these mundane tasks, people can be more productive, creative and efficient.
As there are hundreds of different types of software applications, there are a number of different ways for users to obtain the software they need. Sometimes, individuals create the special software they need, but commercial products are what the vast majority of people use. These products are designed to perform the work that most people need to do.
The term commercial software refers to any software program that must be paid for in some way. Commercial software programs come in several different forms:
- Stand-Alone Program. A stand-alone program is an application that performs only one type of task, such as a word processing program, a graphics program, or an e-mail program. Of course, such a program might have many tools and features, but it basically focuses on one type of task or a range of related tasks.
- Software Sites. Software programs that are very commonly used -such as word processing software, spread sheets, web authoring tools, and email programs -are often packaged together and sold as software suites. A software suite is a set of carefully integrated tools that are designed to work together seamlessly. This includes the popular Microsoft Office family of products -word, excel, outlook, powerpoint, access -as well as more special purpose suites, like the corel family of graphics software.
- Shareware Programs. One very popular type of commercial software is called shareware. Shareware gets its name from the fact that its developers encourage users to share it with one another, and to try out the software before purchasing it. Typically, the user is allowed a certain number of days to work with the software before registering and/or paying for it (Many shareware authors ask for payment, but many others only require the user to register the program.)
Freeware and Public Domain Software
A close cousin to shareware is freeware. Freeware is any software that is made available to the public for free, the developer does not expect any payment from users. This may sound like public domain software, but it is not.
In the case of shareware and freeware, the original author maintain an ownership interest in the product, even thought the software may be given away at no charge. If you use shareware or freeware programs, you must abide by the terms of a license that prohibits you from making changes to the software or selling it to someone else.
In the case of public domain software, no compensation is usual expected and the source code is free for anyone to use for any purpose whatever. You may be familiar with the concept of public domain form literature. If a publisher determines that a market exists for a new book of classic fairy tales, there is no need to hunt down the heirs of Mother Goose to negotiate a royalty, or to get permission to change the stories. It is the same with public domain software.
sometime software is designed for users who need to customize the programs they use. This programs they use. This special need is often met by open-source software. Open-source software is software of any type whose source code is available to users. Source code is available in editable formats, as are the many development libraries that are used to create applications. Users or other software developers can modify this code and customize it, within certain guidelines set forth by the application’s creators. Open-source software is often sold commercially, although it is sometimes available for free. A company may release an open-source version of a product it’s developing to build interest in the product before it is sold. The developer also may benefit from the comments and experience of many users who don’t work for the company but freely give their thoughts in an informal exchange for the software being available.
Many kinds of open-source programs are available, from standard productivity programs to high-level network administration tools.