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What are Software Programs?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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Software programs, computer programs, or computer software, are programs or routines for a computer system or part of the system itself. Application programs are often add-ons, specially made for the operating system, and designed to add various types of functionality for the user. Software of many different types is made for users with different aims. Categories frequently used for these programs include design and publishing software, games, educational software, music and audio software, productivity software, reference software, personal finance software, utilities, and security software.

Design and publishing software programs provide contexts in which users can create illustrations, edit photographs, and lay out documents for publication. Illustration software includes drawing and painting tools, shapes, and clip art that can be combined and layered with lettering and enhanced with special effects. Peripherals such as a stylus and tablet for entry may give the user finer control for illustration and photograph editing. Photographs can be touched up, cropped, and altered in other ways. Simple and complex documents, including those that combine text and images, can be created with the elements locked into position for certain results.

Games and educational software programs can have some overlap, as some games are educational. There are also games that are strictly for fun, however, and educational programs that do not take the form of games. Instruction ranges from pre-kindergarten material to typing programs to sophisticated language courses for adults. Test preparation for college entrance exams and other assessments is also available. Games include many varieties of solitaire, as well as multi-player games in which there is a narrative thread.

Various forms of music and audio software allow the user to create, edit, and play multimedia, while productivity software is designed to get work done. Productivity programs include word processing software, spreadsheets, slide presentation software, and software for dictating and taking notes and creating footnotes. Reference programs put dictionaries, encyclopedias, magazine collections, and other valuable resources at the user’s fingertips, and personal finance software helps users create and maintain a budget, as well as figure their taxes.

Utilities are often programs that extend the functionality of the operating system. For example, some software allows Macintosh® computers to load Windows® programs. Other software makes it easy to compress and decompress files, while programs are also available for burning CD-ROMS and DVDs. Automated backup software is also available. Security software is designed to both clean existing viruses and malware from computers as well as prevent future attacks.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for EasyTechJunkie, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By John57 — On Nov 08, 2012

I think it is really important to keep up to date with current security software. I know some people don't like to spend the money on the current version but I think there is too much to risk there.

I have a lot of personal and important information stored on my computer and want to take every precaution I can to prevent a virus or attacks on my computer.

There are security software programs that work better than others so I do a lot of research to make sure I have one that is really efficient. I also like to use one that doesn't slow my system down while it is running in the background.

By Mykol — On Nov 07, 2012

@Illych -- I just had to upgrade the iOS system on both my iPhone and iPad. I haven't noticed any differences but thought it was important to have the latest version of software that was available.

I never really thought about all of the "apps" as being software programs but it makes sense. Many of our technical gadgets that we love so much wouldn't be nearly as appealing without all the extra software features that are available. Whether they are free or something you have to pay for, there is no limit to all the interesting and valuable software programs you can have for both pleasure and business.

By sunshined — On Nov 06, 2012

My daughter is an excellent photographer and takes a lot of photos for weddings and graduation. She has some expensive photo editing software on her computer. Most computers automatically come with some kind of editing software, but the one she uses is professional and really does a great job. It isn't cheap, but she says it pays for itself over and over again when it comes to editing photos for her clients.

By bagley79 — On Nov 05, 2012

There wouldn't be much I could do on my computer without the software programs I have installed. Most new computers only come limited software programs, and downloading appropriate software is one of the first things I do when I get a new computer.

One of the very first things I do is buy the current Microsoft Office software that contains the Excel spreadsheet software. I heavily rely on this for my business and would be lost without it. I know there are other office software programs out there, but this is the only one I have ever used and am most familiar with.

My kids like certain game software programs that they also have on the computer. While a few of them are educational, most of them are just for fun.

By anon242701 — On Jan 24, 2012

I want to make an events calendar but cannot find any program that lets me input text in the daily cell.

By goldenmist — On Apr 23, 2011

@Engelbert - Professional video editing software tends to be quite pricey, so if you're just looking to get started you should try the free options that are often already installed on your operating system. For Windows, try Windows Movie Maker and for Mac OS X you can use iMovie. These software programs should be fine for simple video editing and are perfect for people who want something easy to use so they can show their videos to their friends or on YouTube. Add music, text, fades, wipes, it's all pretty easy and fun, too.

Once you've got your head wrapped around the basics you can consider upgrading to something like Avid for Windows or Final Cut Pro for OS X, although these software programs will require a much faster computer and are more suited for more complicated projects such as short or full length films.

By Engelbert — On Apr 21, 2011

I'm looking into editing my own videos. What editing software programs would be suitable for a beginner?

By Illych — On Apr 19, 2011

Software programs aren't limited to computers -- your cell phone runs a type of operating system and has it's own software programs on it. For example, an iPhone runs iOS and has countless "apps" (software programs) which are usually just scaled down versions of the types of software you'd see on your computer at home, like drawing software programs, photo software programs, internet browsers, you get the idea.

By elizabeth23 — On Apr 19, 2011

When I was little I did not know the difference between hardware and software. Of course, it makes sense to me now- hardware are the big, hard things like the computers themselves, while software make the programs run.

It's weird, though, how even a few decades ago these were not even really terms, and now almost everyone has some idea of what computer programs are, and even some of the top software programs for various types of work, like internet use, word processing, et cetera.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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