CS5: Computer Software

This unit explains Computer Software

System software

System software refers to the files and programs that make up your computer’s operating system. System files include libraries of functions, system services, drivers for printers and other hardware, system preferences, and other configuration files. The programs that are part of the system software include assemblers, compilers, file management tools, system utilites, and debuggers.

The system software is installed on your computer when you install your operating system. You can update the software by running programs such as “Windows Update” for Windows or “Software Update” for Mac OS X. Unlike application programs, however, system software is not meant to be run by the end user. For example, while you might use your Web browser every day, you probably don’t have much use for an assembler program (unless, of course, you are a computer programmer).

Since system software runs at the most basic level of your computer, it is called “low-level” software. It generates the user interface and allows the operating system to interact with the hardware. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about what the system software is doing since it just runs in the background. It’s nice to think you are working at a “high-level” anyway.

System software is a type of computer program that is designed to run a computer’s hardware and application programs. If we think of the computer system as a layered model, the system software is the interface between the hardware and user applications. The operating system (OS) is the best-known example of system software. The OS manages all the other programs in a computer.

Other examples of system software include:

  • The BIOS (basic input/output system) gets the computer system started after you turn it on and manages the data flow between the operating system and attached devices such as the hard disk, video adapter, keyboard, mouse and printer.
  • The boot program loads the operating system into the computer’s main memory or random access memory (RAM).
  • An assembler takes basic computer instructions and converts them into a pattern of bits that the computer’s processor can use to perform its basic operations.
  • A device driver controls a particular type of device that is attached to your computer, such as a keyboard or a mouse. The driver program converts the more general input/output instructions of the operating system to messages that the device type can understand.

Additionally, system software can also include system utilities, such as the disk defragmenter and System Restore, and development tools, such as compilers and debuggers.

System software and application programs are the two main types of computer software. Unlike system software, an application program (often just called an application or app) performs a particular function for the user. Examples include browsers, email clients, word processors and spreadsheets.

The Five Types of Systems Software

The five types of systems software, are all designed to control and coordinate the procedures and functions of computer hardware. They actually enable functional interaction between hardware, software and the user.

Systems software carries out middleman tasks to ensure communication between other software and hardware to allow harmonious coexistence with the user.

Systems software can be categorized under the following:

  • Operating system: Harnesses communication between hardware, system programs, and other applications.
  • Device driver: Enables device communication with the OS and other programs.
  • Firmware: Enables device control and identification.
  • Translator: Translates high-level languages to low-level machine codes.
  • Utility: Ensures optimum functionality of devices and applications.

1. Operating System (OS)

The operating system is a type of system software kernel that sits between computer hardware and end user. It is installed first on a computer to allow devices and applications to be identified and therefore functional.

System software is the first layer of software to be loaded into memory every time a computer is powered up.

Suppose a user wants to write and print a report to an attached printer. A word processing application is required to accomplish this task. Data input is done using a keyboard or other input devices and then displayed on the monitor. The prepared data is then sent to the printer.

In order for the word processor, keyboard, and printer to accomplish this task, they must work with the OS, which controls input and output functions, memory management, and printer spooling.

Today, the user interacts with the operating system through the graphical user interface (GUI) on a monitor or touchscreen interface. The desktop in modern OSs is a graphical workspace, which contains menus, icons, and apps that are manipulated by the user through a mouse-driven cursor or the touch of a finger. The disk operating system (DOS) was a popular interface used in the 1980s.

Types of Operating Systems

  • Real-Time OS: Is installed in special purpose embedded systems like robots, cars, and modems.
  • Single-user and single-task OS: Are installed on single-user devices like phones.
  • Single-user and multitask OS: Are installed on contemporary personal computers.
  • Multi-user OS: Is installed in network environments where many users have to share resources. Server OSs are examples of multi-user operating systems.
  • Network OS: Is used to share resources such as files, printers in a network setup.
  • Internet/Web OS: Is designed to run on the browser that is online.
  • Mobile OS: Is designed to run on mobile phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Functions of Operating Systems

  • They provide the interface between the user and hardware through GUI.
  • Manages and allocates memory space for applications.
  • Processes the management of applications, input/output devices, and instructions.
  • Configures and manages internal and peripheral devices.
  • Manages single or multi-user storage in local and network computers.
  • Security management of files and applications.
  • Manages input and output devices.
  • Detects, installs, and troubleshoots devices.
  • Monitors system performance through Task Manager and other tools.
  • Produce error messages and troubleshooting options.
  • Implement interface for network communication.
  • Manages printers in single or multi-user systems.
  • Internal or network file management.

Examples of Operating Systems

Popular OSs for computers are:

  • Windows 10
  • Mac OS X
  • Ubuntu

Popular network/server OSs are:

  • Ubuntu Server
  • Windows Server
  • Red Hat Enterprise

Popular internet/web OSs are:

  • Chrome OS
  • Club Linux
  • Remix OS

Popular mobile OSs are:

  • iPhone OS
  • Android OS
  • Windows Phone OS

2. Device Drivers

Driver software is a type of system software which brings computer devices and peripherals to life. Drivers make it possible for all connected components and external add-ons perform their intended tasks and as directed by the OS. Without drivers, the OS would not assign any duties.

Examples of devices which require drivers:

  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Soundcard
  • Display card
  • Network card
  • Printer

Usually, the operating system ships with drivers for most devices already in the market. By default, input devices such as the mouse and keyboard will have their drivers installed. They may never require third-party installations.

If a device is newer than the operating system, the user may have to download drivers from manufacturer websites or alternative sources.

3. Firmware

Firmware is the operational software embedded within a flash, ROM, or EPROM memory chip for the OS to identify it. It directly manages and controls all activities of any single hardware.

Traditionally, firmware used to mean fixed software as denoted by the word firm. It was installed on non-volatile chips and could be upgraded only by swapping them with new, preprogrammed chips.

This was done to differentiate them from high-level software, which could be updated without having to swap components.

Today, firmware is stored in flash chips, which can be upgraded without swapping semiconductor chips.


The most important firmware in computers today is installed by the manufacturer on the motherboard and can be accessed through the old BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) or the new UEFI (Unified Extended Firmware Interface) platforms.

It is the configuration interface which loads first when the computer is powered up and is going through POST (Power On Self Test).

The motherboard firmware starts by waking up all the hardware and ensures that components like the processor, memory, and disk drives are operational. If all the crucial components are fine, it will run the bootloader, which will load the operating system. If the random-access memory is faulty, the BIOS will not allow the computer to boot up.

The user can change the BIOS and UEFI settings by pressing special keys (a function key, delete, or the esc key) at boot-up to load the configuration page. The user can configure security, boot order, time, and other options in the page that pops up.

Though they work differently, firmware compliments drivers in a few ways. Both give identity to hardware devices, with the latter making the operating system see the device.

The major difference between the two is that firmware will always reside within devices while drivers will install within the operating system.

Firmware upgrades come from the device manufacturer (not the OS manufacturer). They’re necessary if the user wants computer hardware to receive new hardware and software support. Firmware will make it possible for devices to work better with old and new operating systems and applications.

Almost all devices and peripherals are embedded with firmware. Network card, TV tuner, router, scanner, or monitor and examples of devices which have firmware installed on them.

4. Programming Language Translators

These are intermediate programs relied on by software programmers to translate high-level language source code to machine language code. The former is a collection of programming languages that are easy for humans to comprehend and code (i.e., Java, C++, Python, PHP, BASIC). The latter is a complex code only understood by the processor.

Popular translator languages are compilers, assemblers, and interpreters. They’re usually designed by computer manufacturers. Translator programs may perform a complete translation of program codes or translate every other instruction at a time.

Machine code is written in a number system of base-2, written out in 0 or 1. This is the lowest level language possible. While seemingly meaningless to humans, the zeros and ones are actually sequenced intelligently by the processor to refer to every conceivable human code and word.

Besides simplifying the work of software developers, translators help in various design tasks. They;

  • Identify syntax errors during translation, thus allowing changes to be made to the code.
  • Provide diagnostic reports whenever the code rules are not followed.
  • Allocate data storage for the program.
  • List both source code and program details.

5. Utilities

Utilities are types of system software which sits between system and application software. These are programs intended for diagnostic and maintenance tasks for the computer. They come in handy to ensure the computer functions optimally. Their tasks vary from crucial data security to disk drive defragmentation.

Most are third-party tools but they may come bundled with the operating system. Third-party tools are available individually or bundled together such as with Hiren Boot CD, Ultimate Boot CD, and Kaspersky Rescue Disk.

Examples and features of utility software include:

  • Antivirus and security software for the security of files and applications, e.g., Malwarebytes, Microsoft Security Essentials, and AVG.
  • Disk partition services such as Windows Disk Management, Easeus Partition Master, and Partition Magic.
  • Disk defragmentation to organize scattered files on the drive. Examples include Disk Defragmenter, Perfect Disk, Disk Keeper, Comodo Free Firewall, and Little Snitch.
  • File Compression to optimize disk space such as WinRAR, Winzip, and 7-Zip.
  • Data backup for security reasons, e.g., Cobian, Clonezilla, and Comodo.
  • Hardware diagnostic services like Hard Disk Sentinel, Memtest, and Performance Monitor.
  • Data recovery to help get back lost data. Examples include iCare Data Recovery, Recuva, and EaseUs Data Recovery Wizard.
  • Firewall for protection against external threats, e.g Windows Firewall.

Application Software

Application software is a term which is used for software created for a specific purpose. It is generally a program or collection of programs used by end users. It can be called an application or simply an app.

In fact all the software other than system software and programming software are application software.

Application software uses the capacity of a computer directly for specific tasks and are used to manipulate text, graphics and numbers.

The different types of application software include the following:

Application Software Type Examples
Word processing software MS Word, WordPad and Notepad
Database software Oracle, MS Access etc
Spreadsheet software Apple Numbers, Microsoft Excel
Multimedia software Real Player, Media Player
Presentation Software Microsoft Power Point, Keynotes
Enterprise Software Customer relationship management system
Information Worker Software Documentation tools, resource management tools
Educational Software Dictionaries: Encarta, BritannicaMathematical: MATLABOthers: Google Earth, NASA World Wind
Simulation Software Flight and scientific simulators
Content Access Software Accessing content through media players, web browsers
Application Suites OpenOffice, Microsoft Office
Software for Engineering and Product Development IDE or Integrated Development Environments

There are various different types of application software such as licensed, sold, freeware, shareware, and open source.

Application software’s either need to be installed or can run online. Application software’s can also be distinguished on the basis of usage into the following:

  • Utility programs
  • Generic programs
  • Integrated programs
  • Specific software
  • Bespoke software
  • Word processing software
  • Desktop publishing software
  • Spreadsheet software
  • Database software
  • Presentation software
  • Internet Browsers
  • Email Programs
  • Graphic Programs (Pixel based)
  • Graphic Programs (vector based)
  • Communication software: Communication through audio, video or chat based means

I. Basic Software Application Types

Word Processing Software: Flexible Tool

If the pen is mightier than the sword, the word processor is even better. Word processors create text based documents. This set of software tools is most flexible and widely used. Word processors are used for creating memos, faxes and letters. Word processors are also used to create reports and personalized pages on the Web.

Top 3 Word Processing Softwares: Microsoft Word, Lotus Word Pro and Corel WordPerfect

Word processors provide numerous features making entering, editing and formatting written documents quick and precise.

Basic Features: Word Processing Software

  • Word processors have word wrap which move the insertion point to the next line when the current line is complete. This saves time and effort.
  • Editing precision and efficiency is also offered by this software. Consider the Thesaurus which provides synonyms, antonyms and related words for chosen word or phrase. Find and replace feature enables users to scan and replace selected words or phrases.
  • There are inbuilt spelling and grammar checkers which make it easy to locate words with spelling issues or capitalization, sentence structure or punctuation problems.
  • AutoCorrect feature can be used to make corrections in a thrice of a second. AutoText inserts words or sentences into the document at the exact point one wants.
  • AutoComplete even ensures the user does not even have to type the complete word to include it in the document.
  • If looks matter, can your word processor be far behind? Numerous features within the word processor can improve the format or appearance of any document in seconds. This includes font appearance, font size, character effects such as bold, italic, colors and shadow, alignment and lists.
  • Allowing multiple users to edit the same document using a feature called collaboration is another beneficial feature of word processors.
  • Another feature is tracking changes which let you identify modifications to an original document made by others, whereby their changes and comments are visible.
  • Word processing software involves creation of text based documents which can be stored, edited and formatted with ease.
  • Additional word processing features include WordArt to modify titles, hyphens, columns and text boxes for critical information
  • Most word processing software also generates reports and comes equipped with tools to create figure captions, tables, headers, footers, endnotes and more.
  • For web pages, word processors include predefined templates, hypertext links and support for Web pages.

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Web Based Applications: The Miracle of Application Service Providers

Application programs were initially owned by organizations or individuals while users are owning and storing applications now using Web based apps.

How it Works: USP of ASPs

Special websites referred to as application service providers or ASPs enable users to access their application programs.  Access is generally provided for a nominal fee.

Web applications provide a collection of graphic illustrations including clip art drawings, diagrams and photos. One can also select items or portions of documents which can be removed from one item to another. From handwriting recognition to spelling checker and task panes, templates  as well as Wizards for specific tasks and voice recognition, web based applications provide everything needed to make creating documents an easy process.

Precise, error free content is possible through spelling and grammar checkers.

The ASP downloads or sends across a copy or part of the application onto the user where it is stored in his or her hard disk drive ready to be run. Copy remains there for some time until the program is run and exited. There are even fee- free ASPs.

Web Based Applications: Making IT Work Well

Free general purpose applications can be accessed from any point in the globe.   Another added benefit? You can access data files from any location.  We based applications include notes, calendars and personal information managers as well as numerous games. Web based applications may even outperform traditional application software as time goes by. The only drawback? Well, privacy and security of personal data stored at the ASP is a concern. So is the rapid rate at which the Web changes. But an advantage is that users no longer need to upgrade software on hard disks with the availability of newer versions.

Spreadsheets: Organizing Digits in the Digital World

  1. Spreadsheets are used to create documents and perform calculations for example Excel, Lotus 1-2-3 and more.
  2. Spreadsheets were initially only used by accountants; now they are used by marketing professionals, students, teachers and financial analysts.
  3. Most common spreadsheet programs used include Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel and Corel Quattro Pro.

Spreadsheet: IT Figures

  1. Spreadsheets organize, analyze and chart/graph numerical data such as financial reports and budgets.
  2. Spreadsheet programs are responsible for manipulation of data and creation of workbook files comprise one/more related worksheets
  3. A worksheet or spreadsheet is a rectangle grid of rows and columns intersecting to create cells
  4. Text entries or labels provide a structure to the worksheet through descriptions
  5. Numeric entries can be a number or a formula for calculating and processing information; functions are prewritten formulas to perform calculations.
  6. Spreadsheets involve ranges, text and numeric entries, functions, formulas, charts, calculations and what if analysis.  There are different chart types including line, pie, column and bar which form part of the spreadsheet. They also provide other benefits like titles, legends and data labels.

Database: Relational Data

Database is a collection of relational data, which is an electronic equivalent of a filing cabinet.

A DBMS or database management system is a program for setting up or structuring database. Databases are used in offices, educational settings and organizations of different types. 3 of the most widely used DBMS designed for microcomputers include Corel Paradox, Microsoft Access and Lotus Approach. Relational database is used most widely as a database structure.  Every field in the database is assigned a field size and data type. DBMS offers numerous tools to create and use databases such as filter or criteria.

Features include tools for sorting, filtering, creating forms, defining criteria and authoring reports. DBMS is able to bring information stored in separate tables through queries, forms and reports.

Query is a question or request for certain data contained in the database while queries are used for viewing data in differing ways to analyze and change existing data. Database forms replicate traditional print forms. DBMS are used chiefly for listing reports such as sales summaries, mailing labels and phone lists.

DBMS is created through a plan where you design the basic structure of the system and employees can create table structure through specification of fields, data types as well as primary key fields.

Presentation: Pixel Perfect Pictures

Information is presented visually through presentation graphics that combine numerous visual objects for creating interesting and attractive presentations. These tools are also used for communicating persuasive messages.

Slides are used for electronic presentation and there are layout, normal and slide show views.  You can choose color schemes, slide layouts, special effects, animation, transitions and builds.

Integrated Packages: All in One Program

An integrated package provides the functionality of a word processor, database manager, spreadsheet and much more. The drawback is that capabilities of each function are not as extensive as individual programs. An integrated package is a single program and using and switching between functions is quite convenient. Most common integrated packages are Microsoft and Apple Works.

Software Suite: Application Software in a Group

  1. Software suite is a group of application programs and the 4 different types are productivity, specialized, utility and personal.
  2. Software suite is a collection of separate application programs bundled and sold as a group.

Business Matters: Productivity Suite

Productivity or business suites contain professional grade app programs such as spreadsheet, DBMS, word processors and more. Best known productivity suites are Lotus Smart Suite and Corel WordPerfect Office Suite.

Built for Home: Personal Suite

Personal or home suites contain personal software applications, programs intended for domestic or personal use. Some of the best known home suites include Microsoft Works Suite.

Specialized Suites: Specific Apps

These suites focus on specific applications including graphic suites, financial planning suites and much more.

Utility Suite: Making Computing Easier

These suites are designed to make computing safer. It includes the Norton Antivirus System and Norton Internet Security Suite.

Multimedia Software: One of a Kind

Multimedia software allow users to create images, audios and videos. Examples of these include Media Player.

II. Ownership Rights and Delivery Methods: Another Criteria for Distinguishing Application Software

Commercial Software: This has been installed in numerous computers by software vendors and providers. Only license is to be purchased for using it. Software is generally installed in more than one machine. Demo versions of software may also exist.

Shareware: This is either free of charge or a nominal fee is charged. This type of software can be downloaded from online sources Example: MP3 player.

III. The Many Different Wares: Where Application Software is Negative

Just like there are positive softwares, there are also negative forms of application software used for nefarious purposes. Applications software can carry the following hidden programs or utilities:

Malware: This stands for malicious software. Most common forms of malware are Trojan horses, worms and viruses.

Adware and Spyware: Adware and spyware are other common types of software. Adware includes sponsored freeware available when you register. Sometimes, adware tracks internet surfing habits to become intrusive and change into spyware. It then keeps a record of all the sites you have surfed and comes up with ads which it feels are relevant to you. Unlike adware, spyware has a negative connotation.

Greyware: This is a term used to categories all the software falling between malicious software and other codes including track-ware and spyware.

Nagware: This refers to software that comes in the form of pop ups asking users to register for a product or purchase an app

Bloatware: Software which has so many different features that it requires considerable disk space and memory resources to run

Slime ware: This refers to software which interferes with user experience by changing principal settings.

Abandonware: Software which is no longer sold or supported by publishers.

Dribble ware: Software which has too many updates and patches.


ASSIGNMENT : CS5: Computer Software Assignment MARKS : 10  DURATION : 1 week, 3 days


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