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As you know computer cannot do anything without instructions from the user. In order to do any specific job you have to give a sequence of instructions to the computer. This set of instructions is called a computer program. Software refers to the set of computer programs, procedures that describe the programs, how they are to be used. We can say that it is the collection of programs, which increase the capabilities of the hardware. Software guides the computer at every step where to start and stop during a particular job. The process of software development is called programming.
You should keep in mind that software and hardware are complementary to each other. Both have to work together to produce meaningful result. Another important point you should know that producing software is difficult and expensive.

Computer software is normally classified into two broad categories.

  • Application Software
  • System software(Operating System)

Application Software

Application Software is a set of programs to carry out operations for a specific application. For example, payroll is an application software for an organization to produce pay slips as an output. Application software is useful for word processing, billing system, accounting, producing statistical report, analysis of numerous data in research, weather forecasting, etc. In later modules you will learn about MS WORD, Lotus 1-2-3 and dBASE III Plus. All these are application softwares.
Another example of application software is programming language. Among the programming languages COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) is more suitable for business application whereas FORTRAN (Formula Translation) is useful for scientific application. We will discuss about languages in next section.

System Software  or Operating System(OS)

You know that an instruction is a set of programs that has to be fed to the computer for operation of computer system as a whole. When you switch on the computer the programs written in ROM is executed which activates different units of your computer and makes it ready for you to work on it. This set of program can be called system software. Therefore system software may be defined as a set of one or more programs designed to control the operation of computer system.
System software are general programs designed for performing tasks such as controlling all operations required to move data into and out of the computer. It communicates with printers, card reader, disk, tapes etc. monitor the use of various hardware like memory, CPU etc. Also system software are essential for the development of applications software. System Software allows application packages to be run on the computer with less time and effort. Remember that it is not possible to run application software without system software.
Development of system software is a complex task and it requires extensive knowledge of computer technology.  Due to its complexity it is not developed in house. Computer manufactures build and supply this system software with the computer system. DOS, UNIX and WINDOWS are some of the widely used system software. Out of these UNIX is a multi-user operating system whereas DOS and WINDOWS are PC-based. We will discuss in detail about DOS and WINDOWS in the next module.
So without system software it is impossible to operate your computer.

System management software is a collection of programs which is responsible for the management and functioning of a computer. There are three types of system management software.

  • Operating System Software
  • Device Drivers
  • Utility Software

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