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What is Software?

What is Software?

In this blog, we will learn everything about software starting from what it is to its types, along with examples of each category. Moreover, we will also explore how the software works and the lifecycle of software development.

Table of Contents

heck out this video to know about the different stages of software development lifecycle:

What is Software?

In a computer system, software refers to a set of instructions, data, or programs that enable computers to function and perform specific tasks. Essentially, it’s a program that offers instructions to carry out user commands and directs the computer on what tasks to perform. Examples include applications like MS Word, MS Excel, PowerPoint, and others. Unlike hardware, which relates to the physical components of a computer, i.e., hard drive, CPU, RAM etc., software is a more general term that includes applications, scripts, and programs running on a device. Consider software as the adaptable aspect of a computer, while hardware remains the unchanging part.

Types of Software

Types of Software

There are two main types of software: Application software and System software. Application software is designed to fulfill specific needs or tasks, while system software runs a computer’s hardware and provides a platform for applications to operate. Apart from these two categories, there is another type of software, i.e., programming software, also known as an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) or development environment. This software is mainly used by programmers to write, test, and debug code. All of these types are discussed below in detail.

Application Software: Application software, commonly known as apps, is a type of software designed to perform specific tasks in a range of industries, including education, business, and entertainment directly, for the end user. Its main purpose is to assist users in completing designated activities.

For example, individuals can efficiently create and manage data using application software, i.e., Microsoft Excel. It is one of the most widely used software by companies to handle datasheets. Other examples of application software include web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Additionally, smartphone apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, along with games such as PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty: Mobile, fall into this category. There are also app versions of essential services like weather or transportation information, as well as apps connecting users with businesses, making them part of our everyday routines.

System Software: System software is like the backstage manager for your computer, making sure all the hardware parts collaborate seamlessly. It serves as the base on which other software, like the applications you use, can operate efficiently.

To understand it in a better way, think of system software as the project manager on a construction site. Similar to a project manager overseeing the entire project and ensuring effective collaboration among different teams, system software ensures smooth coordination among various hardware components of your computer.

There are various types of system software, such as Windows, Linux, and MacOS X. Each type has its own distinct characteristics. For instance, Windows XP is created to work seamlessly with Microsoft products, while Ubuntu is specifically designed for GNU/Linux applications.

Programming Software: Programming software, also known as programming tools or development environments, are specialized software applications designed to assist programmers in creating and maintaining computer programs. They provide a range of features and functionalities that make the process of writing, debugging, and testing code more efficient and effective. Programming software typically includes integrated development environments (IDEs), debuggers, compilers and interpreters, and source code editors. Some examples of programming software include Visual Studio Code, Notepad++, and CodeBlocks.

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Examples of Different Types of Software

Technology is continually evolving, leading to the emergence of new software categories to meet the changing needs of users in various industries. Here are some examples of each type of software:

Examples of Application software:

  • Productivity Software: Helps users create, edit, and manage documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Examples include Microsoft Office Suite and Google Docs.
  • Communication Software: Enables communication through email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and social media. Some examples are Microsoft Outlook, WhatsApp, and Zoom.
  • Web Browsing Software: Allows users to access and navigate the internet. Some of the web browsing software is Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
  • Multimedia Software: Enables playing and editing audio, video, and image files. VLC Media Player and Adobe Photoshop are some examples of multimedia software.
  • Games Software: Allows users to play video games. For example, Steam and Nintendo Switch.
  • Security Software: Helps to protect computers and networks from viruses and malware. Examples include Norton Antivirus and Windows Defender.
  • Educational Software: Aids in learning new skills and knowledge. Examples include Duolingo and others.
  • Business Software: Assists businesses in managing operations and making informed decisions. Examples include Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

Examples of System software:

  • Operating Systems: An operating system (OS) is a system software that manages and coordinates computer hardware and software resources, enabling various applications to run on a computer. It acts as an intermediary between the computer’s hardware and the user’s applications. Examples of operating systems include Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Unix.
  • Utilities: System utilities are like helpful computer tools that do specific jobs to ensure smooth and secure working of your computer. These tools help you take care of both the hardware and software parts of your computer. Some examples of these tools are Macrium Reflect, Windows Defender Firewall, Defraggler, and CCleaner. They all work together to keep your computer stable and secure.

Examples of Programming software:

  • Text Editors: Text editors are lightweight software (simple and fast) for editing code, offering features like syntax highlighting and code completion. Examples of text editors include Sublime Text and Atom.
  • Integrated Development Environments (IDEs): This software combines various development tools into a single environment, including code editors, debuggers, and compilers. Some examples of IDEs are Visual Studio, Eclipse, and IntelliJ IDEA.
  • Compilers: Software that translates high-level programming code into machine code or an intermediate code for execution. Some examples are GCC (GNU Compiler Collection), Clang, and Microsoft Visual C++ Compiler.
  • Debuggers: This type of programming software is used to identify and fix errors or bugs in code by allowing developers to step through code execution. Some examples of this software include GDB (GNU Debugger), WinDbg, and Xcode Debugger.

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Different Distributions of Software

Different Distributions of Software

Software can be categorized in different ways on the basis of different factors. Some common distribution mechanisms are as follows:

  • Open Source Software: Open-source software refers to computer programs or applications whose source code is made available to the public, allowing anyone to view, use, modify, and distribute the code. The term “open source” emphasizes transparency, collaboration, and community-driven development.
    Open-source software is often free to use. People can download, use, and share it without having to pay for licenses. However, in some cases, there might be costs associated with support or extra services for certain open-source projects.
  • Commercial Software: Commercial software refers to computer programs or applications that are developed and sold by a company or individual for profit. Unlike open-source software, the source code of commercial software is typically not freely available to the public, and users usually need to purchase a license to use the software. Commercial software often comes with customer support, regular updates, and additional features or services, depending on the licensing agreement.

    These software products are created with the intention of generating revenue for the developers or the company that created the software. Examples of commercial software include operating systems like Microsoft Windows, productivity suites like Microsoft Office, graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop, and various business applications.
  • Freeware: Freeware is software that you can use without a payment. You’re free to download, install, and use it without needing to purchase licenses. Unlike open-source software, the detailed instructions that make freeware work are usually not shared with the public, and users typically can’t modify or share the software.
  • Shareware: Shareware is a kind of software that is usually given out for a trial. This means users can download and use the software for free for a short period of time to see how it works. They usually have to buy a license or register the product if they like it and want to keep using it after the trial.

Working of Software

The software serves the purpose of executing commands provided by the user, known as inputs. These inputs, initially given in a complex language that humans understand, undergo a conversion process into binary language, which is the language the software comprehends. The software processes these inputs and, based on the nature of the command and the functionalities of the software, generates output for the users. This output is a result of the software’s interpretation and execution of the provided commands.

Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)

SDLC is a systematic and structured process that guides the development of software from its initial concept to its deployment and maintenance. SDLC involves a series of well-defined steps or stages that help ensure the quality, reliability, and efficiency of the developed software.

The objective of SDLC is to produce high-quality software that meets or exceeds customer expectations, on-time delivery, and stays within budget constraints. The life cycle approach provides a framework for the development team to plan, design, build, test, and deploy the software while considering factors such as risk management, quality assurance, and project management.

By following the SDLC, organizations can minimize risks, reduce errors, and ensure that the developed software aligns with business objectives. It also provides a clear structure for communication and collaboration among the development team, stakeholders, and end-users throughout the software development process.

There are seven phases involved in SDLC. These phases are are explained one by one in the following section:

Certainly, here’s a brief overview of each phase in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC):

  1. Planning: This is the first phase of SDLC. In this phase, project goals, scope, timelines, and resources are defined. In other words, this phase is all about answering the question “What do we want?”.
  2. Requirement Analysis and Gathering: In this second phase client requirements are gathered and understood. The purpose of this phase is to define the software specifications. The documentation  of client requirements is involved in this phase.
  3. Designing the Software Model: The goal of this phase is to create a blueprint of the software based on the gathered requirements. Here data structures and algorithms of the program are designed.
  4. Development: In this phase, the actual coding of the software is done based on the design specifications. It involves activities including writing, testing, and debugging the code.
  5. Testing: In the testing phase software is tested to identify and fix defects or issues. Unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and user acceptance testing are some testing activities that are performed during testing.
  6. Deployment or Implementation: This phase involves releasing and handing over the software to the client for use.
  7. Software Maintenance: This is the last phase of SDLC. This involves addressing issues in the software(bug-fixing), making updates, and ensuring the software remains functional and up-to-date.

Software Development Process Models

The above-mentioned phases collectively guide the development process, ensuring a systematic approach from initial planning to the maintenance of the software throughout its lifecycle. There are models called “Software Development Process Models” which are used in the different phases of SDLC. 

These models include:

  • Waterfall Model:
    • This model uses a sequential and linear software development approach.
    • It is divided into distinct phases, such as requirements, design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance, with each phase strictly building upon the completion of the previous one.
  • Rapid Application Development (RAD) Model:
    • It is an iterative and incremental software development model.
    • It focuses on rapid prototyping, user feedback, and quick iterations, which allows faster development and adjustments based on user input.
  • Spiral Model:
    • It is an Iterative and risk-driven software development model.
    • Steps followed in this model include multiple cycles or spirals, each involving planning, risk analysis, engineering, testing, and evaluation, allowing for continuous improvements and adaptation.
  • V Model:
    • It is also known as the Verification and Validation model.
    • This model represents a parallel development and testing approach, with each stage having a corresponding testing phase to ensure that the product meets the specified requirements.
  • Incremental Model:
    • In this model software development process is divided into smaller, manageable parts called increments.
    • Each increment represents a portion of the complete system and is developed, tested, and integrated incrementally, allowing for early delivery of partial functionalities.
  • Agile Model:
    • It is an iterative and flexible software development methodology.
    • The highlights of this model include collaboration, adaptability to change, and the delivery of functional software in short, incremental cycles known as sprints.

Software Patents and Licensing

Software patents provide legal protection for innovative software inventions, granting exclusive rights to the patent holder. This exclusivity aims to encourage innovation, but it is a subject of debate due to concerns about stifling competition.

On the other hand, software licensing involves defining terms and conditions for software use and determining the rights and restrictions for end-users. Licensing is crucial for software distribution, offering developers a means to control their intellectual property while allowing users to utilize, modify, or distribute software within specified parameters. Both software patents and licensing play vital roles in shaping the legal landscape of the software industry, balancing innovation, protection, and user accessibility.


Starting as basic lines of code, software has grown into a powerful force that shapes our interconnected digital environment. Software quietly empowers our digital journey, connecting us through invisible lines of code. Understanding software is essential for developers and professionals who maintain computer systems. While hardware is important, software is the key to making a system function. It’s like the brain that follows instructions and gives us the results we see on our computers. Without software, using a computer would be nearly impossible.

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About the Author

Senior Consultant Analytics & Data Science

Presenting Sahil Mattoo, a Senior Consultant Analytics & Data Science at Eli Lilly and Company is an accomplished professional with 14 years of experience across data science, analytics, and technical leadership domains, demonstrates a remarkable ability to drive business insights. Sahil holds a Post Graduate Program in Business Analytics and Business Intelligence from Great Lakes Institute of Management.