How to run a computer software program

Updated: 08/31/2020 by Computer Hope
Excel program box

After a computer program is installed onto a computer, it can be opened at any time. Below are the steps on how you can open a computer software program on your computer in all operating systems.

Tip

When you want to "open" a program, you can use "open" or "run." However, to "open" a file, see: How to open, view, and edit the contents of a file on a computer.

Opening a program in Microsoft Windows

Run a program in Microsoft Windows

In Windows, to run a program, double-click the executable file or double-click the shortcut icon pointing to the executable file. If you have a hard time double-clicking an icon, you can click the icon once to highlight it and then press the Enter key on the keyboard.

Tip

If you cannot find a program's icon in Windows 7, Vista, 8, or 10, click Start and type the name of the program you want to open. For example, you could type notepad, excel, or word and click the icon in the search results, or highlight the program icon and press Enter. If the program does not appear make sure the program is installed.

Bonus Tip

In Windows 8 and Windows 10, you can also right-click the icon and choose the option pin to taskbar to add the program icon to your Taskbar for easier future access.

Note

If a program is in the Start menu or Taskbar, it only requires you to click the icon once.

Note

If a program is not installed in the computer, it cannot run. For example, you can only run Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel if you have installed it on the computer.

Run a program on an Apple computer

In Apple macOS, double-click the program icon to run the program. If you have a hard time double-clicking an icon, you can click the icon once to highlight it and then press the Return key on the keyboard.

Tip

If you are having a hard time opening a program because you cannot find the icon, you can use Spotlight to search for the name of the program. Once found, double-click the icon to open the program.

Bonus Tip:

Once a program is running, right-click the icon in the Dock and click Options and Keep in Dock for easier future access.

Note

If a program is in the Dock, it only requires you to click the icon once.

Run an app on an Apple iPad and iPhone

On the Apple iPad and iPhone, you can run a program by tapping with your finger once on the icon.

Tip

If you cannot find a particular program icon, using your finger, swipe down from the top-middle of any screen showing icons to start a search. You may need to swipe right after swiping down to see the search field. In the search, type the name of the program you want to open and then click the icon.

Run an app on an Android phone or tablet

On all Android smartphones and tablets, you can run a program by tapping with your finger once on the icon.

How to close a program

If you open a program, at some point you will likely want to close it. Many programs have a red Close icon close icon in the upper-right corner of the screen. If not, you can push the keyboard shortcut key combination Alt+F4 to exit.

Additional information