Computer softwareSometimes abbreviated as S/W, software is a collection of instructions that enable the user to interact with a computer or have the computer perform specific tasks for them. Without software, the computer would be useless. For example, without your Internet browser software you would be unable to browse 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 to the right, is an example of what a Microsoft Excel software box looks like and is another example of a software program.

How do you get software?

Software can be purchased at a local retail computer store and online and is usually included 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 the setup file can be 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 broken into different types of 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 the program.
  • Freeware is completely free software that never requires pay as long as its never 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 also given away, which allows anyone to modify the program or just view how it was created.

Examples of types of software

Below is a short list of the different types of software that a computer may have installed as well as an examples of each program. Clicking on any of the links below open a page with additional information about that software or program.

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.

Related pages

Also see: Hardware, Software terms