Microsoft ExcelSometimes abbreviated as SW and S/W, software is a collection of instructions that enable the user to interact with a computer or have it perform specific tasks for them. Without software, computers would be useless. For example, without your Internet browser software you would be unable to surf the Internet or read this page and without a software operating system the browser would not be able to run on your computer. In the picture is a Microsoft Excel software box and an example of a software program.

How do you get software?

Software can be purchased at a local retail computer store or online, usually in a box that contains all the disks (floppy diskette, CD, DVD, or Blu-ray) required for the program, manuals, warranty, and other necessary documentation.

Software can also be downloaded to a computer over the Internet. Once downloaded, setup files are run to start the installation of the program on your computer.

Free software

In addition to purchasing software, there are also millions of free software programs available that are separated into different categories.

  • Shareware or trial software is software that gives you a few days to try the software before you buy the program. After the trial time expires you'll be asked to enter a code or to register the product before you can continue to use it.
  • Freeware is completely free software that never requires payment, as long as its not modified.
  • Open source software is like freeware but not only is the program given away, but the source code used to make the program is as well, allowing anyone to modify the program or view how it was created.

How is software created?

A computer programmer or several computer programmers write the instructions using a programming language that tell the software how to work. Once the program has been completed it is compiled into a language that the computer can understand.

Examples of types of software

Below is a list of the different varieties of software that a computer may have installed with examples. Click the links for additional information.

Note: Although software may be thought of as a program, it can be anything that is run on your computer, which is why we also included a program column to help clarify what examples are software but not programs.

Software Example of Software Program?
Antivirus AVG Yes
Audio / Music program iTunes Yes
Database Access Yes
Device drivers Computer drivers No
E-mail Outlook Yes
Game World of Warcraft Yes
Internet browser Firefox Yes
Movie player VLC Yes
Operating system Windows XP No
Photo / Graphics program CorelDRAW Yes
Presentation PowerPoint Yes
Programming language Perl Yes
Simulation Flight simulator Yes
Spreadsheet Excel Yes
Utility Compression, Disk Cleanup, Encryption, Registry cleaner, and Screensaver No
Word processor Word Yes

Related pages

Also see: Hardware, Software terms