Differences Between System Software & Application Software | SYSTEM SOFTWARE VS. APPLICATION SOFTWARE

As you already know, all computers require software in order to operate and perform basic tasks. For instance, software is needed to translate your commands into a form the computer can understand, to open and close other software programs, to manage your stored files, and to locate and set up new hardware as it is added to a computer. The type of software used to perform these tasks is system software—the focus of this chapter. System software runs in the background at all times, launching other software when needed and making it possible for you to use your computer.

Computers run two types of software: system software and application software.

System software consists of the operating system and utility programs that control a computer system and allow you to use your computer. These programs enable the computer to boot, to launch application programs, and to facilitate important jobs, such as transferring files from one storage medium to another, configuring your computer to work with the hardware connected to it, managing files on your hard drive, and protecting your computer system from unauthorized use.

Application software includes all the programs that allow you to perform specific tasks on your computer, such as writing a letter, preparing an invoice, viewing a Web page, listening to a music file, checking the inventory of a particular product, playing a game, preparing financial statements, designing a home, and so forth.

In practice, the difference between system and application software is not always straightforward. Some programs, such as those used to burn DVDs, were originally viewed as utility programs. Today, these programs typically contain a variety of additional features, such as the ability to organize and play music and other media files, transfer videos and digital photos to a computer, edit videos and photos, create DVD movies, copy CDs and DVDs, and create slide shows. Consequently, these programs now fit the definition of application programs more closely. On the other hand, system software today typically contains several application software components. For example, the Microsoft Windows operating system includes a variety of application programs including a Web browser, a calculator, a calendar program, a painting program, a media player, a movie making program, an instant messaging program, and a text editing program. A program’s classification as system or application software usually depends on the principal function of the program, and the distinction between the two categories is not always clear cut.

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