Different Types of Software with Examples

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
Types of software

Whenever we use our computer systems, we interact with different types of software. These programs are what increase efficiency and help us complete our tasks. They range from the video player we used to watch movies to the web browser used in making queries on Google.

You might be wondering, how does software work? The software provides a set of programs, data, and instructions to the computer, which is used to execute specific tasks. The software cannot function without the hardware, and vice versa.

There are different types of software that meet our needs in different ways, and we’ll explore them in the guide below.

Different Types of Computer Software

There are two main types of software: application software and system software. 

Types of Software - Application Software and System Software

Application Software 

Application Software

Application software is a series of programs or a single computer program built for end-users. This is why it's also called an end-user program or productivity program. 

  • Application Software is Non-Essential: The apps that fall under application software are called non-essential computer software. Users decide whether they need the application, and their presence or absence on the computer will not affect the device’s functioning, unlike system software that the computer cannot do without. For example, just because you don't have video conferencing software on your computer doesn't mean it won't work the way it was built. 
  • Application Software is Specific: What makes applications different from other types of software is how specific they are. They are built for a particular job or functionality. For instance, if you use MS PowerPoint, you can only create and make presentations. On the other hand, if you use video editing software or photo editing software, you know it’s only for creating and editing images and video files. 
  • Application Software Adds Value to Devices: The computer software is what makes our digital devices worth using. Whenever a business needs a digital solution, they provide it in the form of an app. Application software is used to solve different problems that end users have. They add value to a computer system and are helpful in various fields.

Word Processing Software 

Word processors are applications used to create, document, store, format, and print files. You can categorize some of the best document management software as tools for word processing. The most popular is Microsoft Word, but other word processors include the following.

  • Google Docs
  • Apple iWork
  • Corel WordPerfect
  • WordPad
  • Notepad 

Presentation Software 

Presentation software is one type of application software used to create and make a presentation of ideas by organizing them in slides. Microsoft PowerPoint is the most popular computer software, but there are different presentation software alternatives, including: 

  • Google Slides
  • Visme
  • Zoho Show
  • Keynote 

Spreadsheet Software 

Spreadsheet software is a computer application used to organize, display and manipulate data. The app is often arranged in rows and columns and found on personal computers. The best spreadsheet software is needed in any business setting, from creating budgets and generating reports to making a to-do list and organizing data. Some examples include:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Google Sheets
  • iWorkNumbers
  • OpenOffice
  • Lotus Symphony

Database Software 

If you want to create and manage a database, you need database software, also known as a Database Management System. They are used for data entry, updating, reporting, editing, storage, backup, security, and more. You can find databases for specific needs, like customer database software. Some examples of database software include:

  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Knack
  • Improvado
  • MySQL
  • Amazon Relational Database Service

Multimedia Software 

Multimedia software is an application program used for image, audio, video editing, creation, and management. They can include video editing software, photo editing software, animation software, compression tools, and media software. Other top examples of multimedia software are:

  • Picasa
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • Adobe Photoshop 
  • VLC Media Player
  • Windows Media Player

Graphics Software 

Some apps are designed to help users to design graphics and manipulate visual data. Graphics software can include picture editors, drawing software, and illustration software. Famous examples include: 

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • CorelDRAW
  • PaintShop Pro
  • Blender 

Education and Reference Software 

These are computer software and platforms designed to teach others about different subjects. Educational software provides learning on a particular topic, like dictionaries, mathematical apps, online course platforms, and others. Some examples are:

  • Google Earth
  • Google Classroom
  • Jumpstart titles
  • NASA World Wind

Web Browsers 

Web browsers are application software used to browse the internet. We use web browser software every day to locate data across the internet, make queries, and find information. Examples include 

  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Opera
  • Internet Explorer
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • UC Browser
  • Safari

Enterprise Software 

Enterprise software is a broad category of application software. The software cuts across various tools that benefit small businesses. They include:

Communication Software 

Communication software is application software used to pass information from one person to another through a computer system. We use communication software programs every day when sending and receiving data from others. Different computer programs are used to communicate, from online collaboration tools to conference call software. Popular examples are:

  • Dropbox
  • Google Workspace
  • Zoom
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack

Information Worker Software 

Information worker software can be seen as the opposite of enterprise software. It is an application that allows users to create and manage information within a particular department. They cut across resource management software, task management software, collaborative software, work management software, analytical software, and documentation tools. 

Email Software 

Email software is an application program with functionality for sending and receiving electronic mail. An example is email marketing software that allows businesses to promote their goods and services to customers through the mail. The email newsletter software is for sharing information with readers or customers. Other email software types include mass email software and email tracking software

Application Suites 

An application suite is a group of interrelated application software with different functions usually packaged together. Famous examples include 

  • Microsoft Office365
  • Oracle E-Business Suite
  • G-Suite
  • Apple’s iWork
  • Apache OpenOffice
  • LibreOffice

Simulation Software 

Simulation software is a computer program used to evaluate and compare different plans, designs, and policies. It is usually used to guide decision-making. Examples of this computer software include flight and scientific simulators. 

Software for Product Development and Engineering 

These are application software programs built for product development and engineering. A good example is product roadmap software, which is used to plan and track the stages of product development. Also, there is enterprise resource planning for product development, computational science software, programming language translators, and more.

Content Access Software

Then, we have content access software. These applications allow you to access content through web browsers, media players, and the likes. You can access content without editing, and it meets the needs of those who want to consume digital content and entertainment. For example, Google Docs allows you to view documents only if you have access. 

Aside from the different types of software listed above, any other software built for a specific purpose falls under the category of application software. 

System Software

System Software

The second type of software is system software that drives the computer hardware devices and users to interact with each other. It provides a platform for the software and programs that manage the computer, like the file management utilities, the operating system, or the disk operating system.

  • System Software is Essential: System software is important to your computer system and can even shut a device down if you uninstall it, making it different from application software. From the moment you turn on the computer, the system software boots up and is loaded into the computer memory. The system software only functions in the background and cannot be accessed by the end-user, unlike the application software.
  • System Software Manages Computer Behavior: System software is used to manage the behavior of the computer’s hardware so that you can get the basic functionalities that the laptop is meant to provide. It acts like a middle person between the hardware devices and the computer user. The system software creates the environment for the other software in your computer to work.

The files on a system software include drivers for hardware, libraries, system services and preferences, and configuration files. It has different programs like debuggers, compilers, system utilities, assemblers, and file management tools. Here are the types of system software.

types of system software

Firmware

Firmware is system software stored on the chipset or motherboard of a computer. Its primary function is to make sure the entire computer is working correctly. Firmware consists of different instructions stored permanently on the hardware and will guide how the computer should interact with other hardware.

The Basic Input Output System or BIOS kicks in when you turn your computer on. This will check the computer drive for errors, then hand it over to the operating system. Aside from the BIOS, other examples of firmware include computer applications, UEFI, computer peripherals, and embedded systems. 

Driver Software

Driver software is another type of system software. The device driver communicates with the control devices, peripherals, and hardware connected to desktop computers. Gathering input from the OS instructs the computer hardware to carry out specific tasks.

A device driver can be network cards, graphic cards, a keyboard, or a mouse. Whenever you insert a USB into your desktop computer, it is recognized as a new device, and the driver software is installed so that it can work. 

Hardware manufacturers usually make driver software. Kernel device drivers are classified under driver software.

Middleware

Middleware is any system software that mediates between the system and application software or two types of software in the same category. For instance, middleware allows communication between Microsoft Excel, Word, and Microsoft Windows.

Middleware can send remote work requests from an application on one computer to another computer, even if both computers have different operating systems. With middleware, new software types can seamlessly work with legacy apps. 

Utility Software

Utility software is another type of system software, and this is used in analyzing data and optimizing a device. They usually come with the operating system and track the computer's performance and other software programs. Whenever there is a problem, the utility software alerts the user. There are different benefits of utility software, as they help keep your computer stable, scan for malware and prevent overheating.

A good example is the Windows Task Manager, which comes with all computers with a Windows OS. It shows all the open processes on the system, the performance, and how much memory the applications are using. They include anti-virus software and backup apps. 

Programming Software

Programming software is a system software used to develop computer software. They consist of writing codes in English using syntax or particular programming languages and assist a software developer when creating and maintaining applications.

Although we classify programming software under system software, there's a debate concerning this. This is because programming software is usually used to create other applications with tools for machine code or programming language translators.

Some examples of programming software apps include GitHub, Android Studio, Eclipse, GitLab, Atom, Notepad++, Visual Studio Code, Microsoft SQL Server, and XCode. They are defined as integrated development environments.

Programming software is essential because we use it to create, maintain, and debug applications.

Operating System

The most famous example of system software is the operating system. All desktop and mobile computers have an operating system, a collection of computer software that provides services for other applications and handles resources in the whole computer system. All operating systems provide a graphical user interface that a person uses to perform specific tasks on their computer.

Every device needs an operating system before doing even the most basic functions. How a person interacts with their computer system depends mainly on the operating system. There are different software types, including real-time, single-user, multi-user, mobile, embedded, internet, and distributed.

Famous examples of operating systems include MS Windows, iOS, Mac OS, Android, Linux, and Ubuntu. 

Difference Between Application and System Software

Application SoftwareSystem Software
Specific software built to meet the user's needs. General software that manages computer resources and processes.
Does not interact directly with hardware or take it into account.Interacts closely with hardware and is designed to meet hardware needs.
The user triggers the program for it to work.It works whenever the computer is on.
Needs system software to run.Runs independently.
Written in high-level languages.Written in machine code or low-level assembly language
Installed by the user or admin.Installed by the manufacturer along with the OS.
Works directly with the user in the foreground. Works in the background with limited access to the user.
Isn’t needed for the computer to function.Is necessary for the computer to function.

Types of Software by Availability and Shareability

Types of Software by Availability and Shareability

Aside from application and system software, there's one more classification to consider. These types of software are categorized based on their shareability and availability. 

Freeware 

Freeware software is any software available to others on the internet without any cost. Users can download it from the internet and use it without paying any fees. But, the freeware does not allow its users to modify the software or distribute it at a price.

Free software is not the same as open-source software. Freeware does not share its source code with others; it only allows people to use it for free. Freeware licenses are different, so it's essential to read the terms and conditions and know who can use them and share them.

The main benefit of freeware software is that you don't have to pay. If you're not pleased with it, you can delete it. Examples include Adobe Reader, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Audacity, Recuva, and Team Viewer. 

Shareware 

Shareware is a bit similar to freeware. It is free for anyone to use and can be shared with others, but this is available only for a short time. The software is distributed to others on a trial basis with a time limit.

When the time limit expires, the user will have to pay for the services for it to continue. It gives you a chance to try all the features before you can purchase. The main advantage is that it offers the software free before buying the full license.

You can check if the software will meet your needs and then pay for it later or opt-out with shareware. Some examples include Winzip, Adobe Acrobat, PHP Debugger, and Getright.

Open-Source Software 

Open-source software is a type of software that allows its users to check out the actual code used to write the software. Although there will be regulations on what users can do with the source code, the primary purpose of open-source programs is to encourage software development, evolve the code and help developers learn.

Open-source software can be distributed and modified, and the users can add extra features to it. It can be free or paid for. Examples include the Linux OS, which allows people to download the source code and edit it the way they want.

Others are Mozilla Firefox, Apache Web Server, Moodle, Thunderbird, and GNU Compiler Collection. Also, repositories are open-source software tools, allowing the software developer to share their own software with others.

Closed Source Software 

This is the most common type of application. Closed source software doesn't expose the original code and has strict rules against copying and cracking without any authorization. It can be private or commercial software.

Any app that hides its source code or encrypts it is closed source software. Closed source software is proprietary software, and since the software publishers want to make a profit, they can't allow others to copy their source code without any compensation. 

These are all closed source software, from Facebook and YouTube to Twitter and Microsoft Windows and any other type of system or application software since you can't copy their code and use it. 

Software in Our Daily Life

Although software sounds like a technical term, it is something that we use in our everyday life to make tasks more convenient. With computer software, we can easily connect with others, whether at work or in our social life. 

Software is now becoming a massive part of appliances and electronics, such as GPS software in cars and virtual assistant software in our homes. From our digital alarm clocks and traffic lights to the parking meters and printers, software is integrated into the different systems we use today.

Based on this, one can say that software will remain an essential part of our life and continue to simplify daily challenges. 

Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.