What is software? Understand what your role is and the types that exist

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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What is software and what is its function? What types are there? What is the difference from the hardware? prepared a guide to answer the main questions about the topic and help you understand the concept. Check out!

What is software anyway?

Software is the generic term given to programs, applications, operating systems, scripts, etc. present in computers, smartphones, video games, smart TVs, among other electronic devices.

The pronunciation of the Portuguese term of our country is something like sofitiuér. But it might be easier to call it by its specific function or even the name of the program or app. For example: antivirus, operating system, text editor, browser, etc.

The more technical explanation defines software as a set of instructions responsible for allowing communication between the user and the machine. He acts as a mediator, capable of interpreting and transforming these commands into action.

A simple example: a person wants to do a search on the internet. For this, you will need to open the browser, type text about what you want to search for, press enter. What for the user are just touches on the screen or clicks, for the machine are dozens of codes, which must be transmitted and interpreted.

In this case, the software's job is to ensure that you have what you need, in this case, do a search on the internet, in a practical and intuitive way. No need to understand programming.

What is the difference between software and hardware?

You already know that software is the programs or instructions that allow the user to communicate with the machine. Such a “machine” is what is called hardware. That is, they are all the physical components of an electronic device.

It's the HD, the memory, the graphics chip, the motherboard and the processor. But also the monitor, mouse, keyboard, printer, flash drive, webcam.

In a very generic but didactic way, hardware is basically all those items that you can touch on an electronic. Software, on the other hand, would be the opposite, those intangibles, which cannot be physically touched.

software types

There are several ways to classify software, whether according to functionality, type or field of application. However, they are often divided into two broad categories: System (or Basic) Software and Application Software.

System Software (or basic)

System software is software that runs in the background, supporting other software to work. They are not used directly by users, but by the system.

Also known as Base or Basic Software, they can be divided into subcategories.

  • Operational system: is a program or a set of them, whose function is to manage system resources. It works as an intermediary between the components of the device and the programs used by the end user. Examples: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS.

  • driver: Allows communication between specific hardware and the operating system. Components such as sound card, hard disk, monitor, webcam, mouse, among others, may require the installation of their driver in order to function properly.
  • firmware: is a type of software permanently embedded in ROM memory (read-only memory, in free translation). It cannot be deleted or changed by the end user. Basically, it keeps constant information, which does not change, but is essential for the functioning of a hardware.
  • Utility: this is what software with optimization and system analysis functions is called. This is the case with programs such as antivirus, disk management and cleaning, file decompressors, among others. Examples: WinZip, Windows File Explorer, CCleaner, Norton Antivirus.

application software

Application software is what end-user programs and apps are called. They are basically all those applications that we can control while using a cell phone or computer.

These software are developed to meet specific needs and are classified according to their functionality.

There are, for example, text, spreadsheet, image and audio editors. Internet browsers, video players, messaging and social networking apps, camera apps, among others, also fall into this category.

Other software classifications

In addition to the above classifications, the division of software according to the license of use is also quite common. The main ones are the following.

  • Free software: its developers allow the software to be used, copied and distributed, with or without modification, by anyone.
  • proprietary software: its copying, modification and distribution are prohibited by the author. Only those who are authorized (whether by purchase or any other reason) can have access to it.
  • Open source software (open source): is one whose source code is made available to authorized persons to be modified, either for improvement or error correction, in accordance with the terms of use.
  • Freeware: is one that, despite being freely available, cannot be modified.
  • Shareware: it is available for free, but with some limitation, such as restricted usage time or in a test format. If you want full access, you need to pay.

Why should I keep software up to date?

Periodically, developers release updates to their software. These updates may contain security improvements, bug fixes, and even the inclusion of new features.

Security flaws can be exploited by cyber criminals to infect your computer or smartphone. And in doing so, they can gain valuable information or take control of the device.

Therefore, when an update is released to fix a security hole, it is best to install it as soon as possible. Thus, your device is less vulnerable to possible malicious agents.

However, it is still common for people to receive notifications about program and app updates, but leave it for later and end up forgetting. If you are part of this group, the ideal is to change this habit.

Some platforms allow you to schedule automatic updates. It is even possible to request that it be done only when connected to Wi-Fi, in the case of smartphones.


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