Types of software: an easy run-through

Software is used every day by billions of people across the world. So much of our society now functions via software in its many different forms. But do we all know exactly what these different forms are?

Despite our dependency on software, many of us don’t know what it means and what the different types of software actually are. 

At 6B, we believe in making software development accessible for everyone. We know how powerful and transformative the right software can be, so we want to help make information about the topic free and inclusive for a wide audience.

In this blog, we are going to run through a little more about software, what it means, and what the different types of software are. Starting with a simple definition to kick us off. 

What is software?

It’s important to know the basics before we go any further, right?

Software is, simply, code that tells a computer what to do. It is in direct contrast to hardware, which is comprised of the physical components that make up a computer. Software uses this physical makeup to run processes, routines, and functions by giving it commands.

We use software in every single thing that we do on a computer or mobile device. Everything we use there is made up of different types and layers of software. 

To explain what software does more accurately, we need to move on to look at the essential types of software.

The 3 main types of software 

There are different opinions on what the main types of software are. You may frequently see top two lists, top four, top five, and so on. In our opinion, there are three main types of software and then a list of (still crucial) extras which we will talk about in the next section. 

It is these three main types of software that we can’t live without and that we use on a daily basis. Without these categories of software, we wouldn’t be able to do half the things that we do in a day. That means they’re pretty important to talk about and explore in more detail.

Let’s move on to look at them individually. Starting with:

System software 

System software is kind of like the bottom layer of software within a device’s makeup. It provides a foundation for other software and manages the device’s functioning too. 

Operating systems are examples of system software, such as macOS, Microsoft Windows, Linux and Android. 

System software is essential to how your device works. It contains many different components, including drivers, debuggers, file management systems, and so on. These components are subject to regular updates as the best system possible is put forward by the software development companies behind them. 

System software is the backbone of any device, if something goes wrong in your system software, it goes wrong everywhere.

Utility software

Utility software is an essential but unassuming type of software that does much of its work behind the signs. Utility software runs in the background while we use a range of other types of software and does its job often unnoticed and unmanned. 

Examples of utility software include task managers, anti-virus programmes, file compressors, disk cleaners, backup programmes, and so on.

They might not be the most exciting additions to your computer, but they are certainly necessary. 

Application software 

Application is the third main type of software and, right now, it is the star of the show. Application software is anything that isn’t systems or utility software, really. It is the top layer of software intended to be used and interacted with by users. 

We use application software every single day, from our email apps to our Sudoku apps. Apps are the bread and butter of software development at the moment as they are accessible and highly bespoke. You can have a software development company expertly design any kind of app you want and put it up on the market within months for millions of users to get their hands on.

Pretty cool, right?

Extra categories of software (the ones you may not have heard of) 

There are some more categories or types of software that you might come across less but that are still important to be aware of. We will give you a quick overview of each of these below just so you can add them to your new bank of software knowledge…

  • Driver software

Driver software is attached to a particular piece of hardware. It helps to provide instructions for that hardware on how to work. This includes printers, mouse and keyboard add-ons, graphic cards, USBs, and so on. 

Nowadays, most driver software is installed automatically when a new device is presented to an operating system, meaning you don’t have to do any of the hard work. But it is important to know that if your new mouse or printer isn’t working, it may not be the object itself, it may be the driver software.

  • Freeware

Freeware means software that is free to use by the public. This doesn’t mean copyright free but it does mean fee and cost-free. Lots of companies may choose to release a freeware option of the main software they offer to give customers somewhat of a free trial or taster into their product/service. This freeware may be more limited in function but gives customers an idea of what the main product would be like.

  • Shareware

Shareware is similar to freeware in that it offers users a free trial of a larger software package. The critical difference is that shareware is time-locked and your access to it will run out at a certain point. It is “shared” with you for a period of time, after which you can decide whether you want to opt for a paid version of the software or not.

  • Open source software

Open source software is a treat for developers and people with an interest in the code behind software programmes. Still with licensing restrictions, open source software is that which allows you to peek around the curtain and see the exact code running in software. Linux OS would be an example of this. Many developers will use Linux OS to find the code they need and take it for their own projects. Rather than “stealing”, this is more about learning and sharing throughout the development community.

Why does this matter?

Often we have an idea in our heads of what we want or need. When it comes to software, we might have a dream or vision about something we want to create for ourselves or for our business. Without knowing exactly what type of software we need, it can be hard to make this vision a reality and we can end up stuck in the ideas stage for years on end.

When you know what you want to create and you know what category of software it fits into, it is far easier to get this project created and completed in real life. Knowing what you want means that you can approach a software development company and describe to them what you want to make. 

Having a software development company create bespoke software for you and your goals can make a world of difference. It can be the thing that finally lifts your idea off the ground and turns it into a living breathing programme. This can be the change needed that brings progress, growth, and profit into your life and business. 

The right software can be transformative, so it is worth knowing which type of software you need. 


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