What is Software



Software primarily combines instructions, data, or programs to operate computers and perform specific tasks. It is the opposite of hardware, which refers to the physical components of a computer. Software is a general term for device apps, scripts, and programs.

There are two main categories of software: applications and system software. An application is software that provides a specific function or performs tasks, while system software is designed to control the hardware of a computer and provide a platform on which apps can run.

Types of Software

There are many types of software, with application and system software being the most important. Below are the most common types.

Application software

This is the most common type of software. It performs a specific function for a user or, in some cases, for another app. An application can stand alone or be a group of programs that perform the application for the user.

System software

These software programs are designed to control the applications and hardware of a computer. System software coordinates the activities and functions of the hardware and software, regulates the operation of the hardware, and provides a platform in which all other types of software can work.

Driver software

Also known as "device drivers," this software is often seen as a type of system software. It controls the devices and peripherals connected to a computer so that they can perform their specific tasks.


Middleware is a type of software that acts as a mediator between system software and applications or between two different applications. Its purpose is to facilitate communication and data exchange between different software components, often in complex distributed systems.

Middleware can also provide additional functionalities such as security, transaction management, and messaging services, making it an essential component of modern software architectures.

How does Software work?

Understanding how software works involves understanding the differences between application software and system software.

Application Software

Application software comprises programs that perform specific functions for end-users, such as writing reports and navigating websites. These programs cannot run by themselves and require a computer's operating system and other supporting system software programs to function.

The user installs these applications on their computer, taking up space on the device. Some applications do not require an internet connection, while others, like web apps, do require internet access. Web apps are not dependent on user hardware or software and fall under the Software as a Service (SaaS) category.

System Software

System software operates in the background and handles the basic functions of the computer. It is the mediator between computer hardware and application software, allowing users to run high-level applications to perform specific actions.

Users do not interact directly with system software, which runs when a computer system starts up and continues to run as long as the system is on.

Software vs Hardware

Computer hardware and software are interdependent and necessary for a computer to function. Without software, hardware is like an empty canvas waiting for paint. In contrast, software is the intangible component that provides the functionality and meaning to the hardware.

There are significant differences between hardware and software. Hardware is a physical device like a motherboard, whereas software is not tangible. Hardware cannot perform tasks without software, and software cannot perform tasks without hardware. Additionally, hardware wears out over time, while software does not.

Hardware understands only machine language, but software takes input in human-readable languages and converts it into machine language. Software can be easily created, modified, or removed, while replacing hardware requires more technical skills and is often more expensive. 

Frequently Asked Questions
What is software?

Software refers to a set of instructions or programs that are designed to perform specific tasks on a computer or any other electronic device.

What are the types of software?

There are mainly two types of software: system software and application software. System software includes operating systems, device drivers, and utilities. Application software includes programs such as word processors, spreadsheets, and games.

What is open-source software?

Open-source software is software that is available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. The source code of open-source software is freely available, allowing users to modify it to suit their needs.

What is proprietary software?

Proprietary software is software that is owned by a company or an individual and is not available for free. Users need to purchase a license to use the software and are not allowed to modify or distribute it.

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