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What is Application Software?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated May 16, 2024
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Application software is a type of computer software that is designed to be employed by end users to accomplish specific tasks such as writing a letter, editing a photograph or playing a video file. The term refers not only to the software program itself but also to the implementation of that program and to the use of the capabilities and power of the computer platform running the operating system under which the application software runs. For example, the act of installing a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) web design program, configuring it and using that program to create web pages is the essence of this type of software.

There are certain characteristics that are seen with this type of software that are not seen with system programs. Among those characteristics is the presence of some type of user interface, which generally is a graphical one, hence the term "graphical user interface" (GUI). These types of programs often offer end users the freedom to create what is known as user-written software in the form of templates used for word processing and accounting, word processor macros that automate small tasks and even filters for the management of electronic mail. Text editors figure among the long list of the different types of application software and are probably one of the best examples of how these programs allow for the development of more programs.

A web developer could be the end user of a text editor in which he or she can code client- and server-side scripts to accomplish a wide variety of functionality for web pages. For example, the developer could write a script in a text editor that pulls content from a database to be the dynamic display of web pages. The text editor is the application software that was employed to create the script, which is itself a small application — but it is not application software, like the text editor is in which it was created.

When application programs are bundled together, the bundle is almost always referred to as an application suite. The programs in the suite generally interact with one another in the fact that they can all be used to create one file that makes use of their various capabilities. For example, an application software suite might be composed of a word processor, a spreadsheet, an image manipulation program and a drawing program. If the user can perform things such as embedding a spreadsheet into a document created by the word processor, there is interactivity in the suite. Application software can be for personal use, or it can be enterprise software that accomplishes many different tasks, such as creating presentations, translating documents into a foreign language or editing video and audio files.

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Discussion Comments
By Logicfest — On Feb 01, 2014

What is very encouraging is how much great applications software is open source. That's right -- free for the asking. If, for example, you don't want Microsoft Office, OpenOffice and LibreOffice are great alternatives that are both free and can both read and write Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point files. The Gimp has emerged as a great, free alternative to Adobe Photoshop and how many Internet sites are built on Wordpress, a free package that users upload to the server space they either own or rent?

Another great thing about open office application software is that it's pretty well platform independent. OpenOffice is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS. Linux users with OpenOffice get the ability to read or write Microsoft Office documents and they would be unable to do that otherwise.

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