Sometimes abbreviated as SW and S/W, software is a collection of instructions that enable the user to interact with a computer, its hardware, or perform tasks. Without software, most computers would be useless. For example, without your Internet browser software, you could not surf the Internet or read this page. Without an operating system, the browser could not run on your computer. The picture to the right shows a Microsoft Excel box, an example of a spreadsheet software program.
The computer programmer (or several computers programmers) write the instructions using a programming language that tell the software how to function and what to do. Once the program has been completed, it is compiled into a language that the computer can understand.
Application software, or simply applications, are often called productivity programs or end-user programs because they enable the user to complete tasks, such as creating documents, spreadsheets, databases and publications, doing online research, sending email, designing graphics, running businesses, and even playing games! Application software is specific to the task it is designed for and can be as simple as a calculator application or as complex as a word processing application. When you begin creating a document, the word processing software has already set the margins, font style and size, and the line spacing for you. But you can change these settings, and you have many more formatting options available. For example, the word processor application makes it easy to add color, headings, and pictures or delete, copy, move, and change the document’s appearance to suit your needs.
Microsoft Word is a popular word-processing application that is included in the software suite of applications called Microsoft Office. A software suite is a group of software applications with related functionality. For example, office software suites might include word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentation, and email applications
Systems software includes the programs that are dedicated to managing the computer itself, such as the operating system, file management utilities, and disk operating system (or DOS). The operating system manages the computer hardware resources in addition to applications and data. Without systems software installed in our computers we would have to type the instructions for everything we wanted the computer to do!