It’s a term in now almost common parlance that you have no doubt heard before. However, what are we really referring to when we talk about software? Decryption of its meaning.
We speak of “software”, the English equivalent of software from 1953. At the time, it was a question of establishing a difference with the “hardware”, the material part of a computer . We are therefore talking about what can be changed in a computer system. A description that hides multiple realities, however .
What is software used for?
To understand what it is, you need to understand how your computers or mobile phones work. Inside, there are operating systems, such as Windows, MacOs, but also iOS or Android. It’s about software. However, this also concerns the various tools that you can use such as, for example, Word, PhotoShop or even Google Drive which are also software. Every tool you use on your smartphone, computer, or even your smart TV includes or uses software to make it work . Suffice to say that they are particularly essential, even if they are often invisible in your daily use.
Software, from a technical point of view, is a set of instructions that must be followed and executed to make a system work . It is therefore a term which corresponds to a very wide range of tools: it also corresponds to programs, scripts, applications or even macros. They are even found inside the “hardware”. The code instructions that are built into your equipment are described under the term “firmware”.
Three main categories of software
If the term software therefore covers many realities, we nonetheless identify several large families which correspond to the majority of uses that may concern us on a daily basis. Here is what each of them actually corresponds to.
To create software, you need other software. And yes ! This is referred to as programming software. They use different computer programming languages as needed: C, Java, Python, Swift… They then use compilers, interpreters or even debuggers. Note that this category also includes text editors. It is indeed also programming software since you can for example use the notepad to write computer code .
We are talking here about what happens directly in the machine. Out of sight, out of sight, you might not even realize that system software kicks in when you need it. Yet, this is what makes it possible to “translate” your needs and requests into a language that your computer or phone system can understand . It is a kind of “meta-software” that allows others to work. In this category, we also find firmware, industrial automation software or graphics engines for your games.
Here we enter the category that most concerns the majority of users of electronic equipment. When we talk about application software, this concerns for example your Spotify music streaming application, your Word text editor or your Internet browser like Chrome. This therefore also concerns a set of particularly diverse tasks , which may have a global or individual use. We also note that, given the multiplicity of uses that are concerned, the functionalities need to be robust and secure. It is the most visible layer in software, but it is not necessarily the most complex. It is above all that it brings together very many features.