Designed to store data, a computer is able to function in different and desired ways only due to a number of software applications that empower it. Various types of computer software help it execute a variety of operations every day. Computer software is available in different forms and types.
Broadly, computer software can be classified into three categories. One, system software is the most important component for running a system or computer. System software is also known as operating system which helps start a computer and works as a main platform in order to run any application. A number of operating systems are in vogue that empower systems globally. However, these operating systems have a category of server and personal computer operating systems.
One of the most popular operating systems, of course, is Microsoft's Windows OS. Other known names are Linux, iMac, UNIX and DOS, among others. Secondly, application software plays an important part in helping users execute different tasks using computer. It is the name computer programs are designated with. Quite a few known application software are known as word processor and web browser.
Among the word processors, while all of us have certainly seen or used Microsoft Word or Open Office, etc, web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome, are among others are types of widely used tools that help users to access the Internet. But application software goes a little further with industry specific applications and design tools that help in designing documents or sometimes products with computer-aided design tools. Manufacturing activity, which these tools play a critical role from designing to innovating, is heavily reliant on them.
The third category constitutes computer programming tools for instance, compilers and linkers. These tools are used to translate and combine computer program source code. This category is at the core of vastly changing software development field.
While system software is at the core of running a computer and putting it to life, it further helps drive operations and has become the lifeline of organizations and governments globally. A number of changes have taken place in computer software in last one century as it has evolved significantly and allows users to multitask, to share/store data on-the-move and improves connectivity between different computers around the globe.
Living examples of application software that drive businesses, banks and governments on daily-basis are ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and BI (business intelligence) applications. Thousands of businesses around the world operate seamlessly using ERP and CRM applications. These are heavy-duty software that boast agility and seamless performance in any organization. Enterprises with thousands of employees and millions of customers rely on them for faster delivery of services and reduce leakages in the system.
Customization vs Off-the-shelf software
In addition, any individual software package, which may fall into any of the above categories, can be either 'off-the-shelf' or custom-built. Both are different and address different levels of user demands. Applications such as ERP, CRM and BI, when implemented into any enterprise, are usually customized in order to make them gel with the business processes of that enterprise. It usually happens because of the scale and nature of a business.
The experts often justify customization with 'one size does not fit all'. While off-the-shelf applications are primarily system software or in some cases application software which are deployed to execute basic tasks that do not need to gel into specific user environment. However, the classification and definition might differ. And there are broader dimensions to computer software that can further give insights into their function and role.
To briefly understand, 'off-the-shelf' software packages, you can check out software packages such as 'Microsoft Office Suite' which include Word Processor, Spreadsheet and presentation tools that are ready to use and need no changes. But this is a small example. In bigger scenarios, 'off-the-shelf' software packages are the ones which are made to run in specific industries such as 'retail' where processes in every organization are similar.
Last Updated : May 18, 2016