A Definitive Guide to Types of Software


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Toluwani Folayan

June 16, 2023

We live in a world that is technologically driven. This means we can use technology to achieve any task. Do you want to manage the data in your organisation? There is an application for that. Do you want to predict the weather? There is Software for that. There is literally Software for achieving virtually almost all tasks. 

Therefore, having this in mind, it has become essential to understand the functionality of the different types of Software to determine which is suitable for a particular task or requirement. 

This article will explain the different types of Software with examples to help you understand better. Reading this article will help you make a better-informed decision when selecting Software and establish a foundation for effective decision-making, problem-solving, communication, and career development.

Let's get started!

What you will learn:

What is Software? With examples

A simple analysis of how software works

Types of Software with examples

What is Software? With examples

Software refers to a set of instructions or programs that tell a computer or electronic device what to do and how to execute specific tasks. It acts as the brain of a computer allowing it to perform various functions such as execution of applications, data processing, information presentation, or internet connection. It takes many forms, such as operating systems, apps, or programs, and enables productive interaction with technology.

A Simple Analysis of How Software Works

Software fundamentally functions by a well-ordered series of events. Input is the first thing it gets, and this could include either human commands or data from numerous sources. 

 This input serves as the foundation for further operations. Then, the Software processes the input by following instructions and algorithms. 

These instructions (written in a code that the computer can understand) define how the Software should handle the input data, perform calculations, make decisions, and execute specific actions. 

After this, the Software manipulates and transforms the data as needed through this processing stage, applying various operations and rules.

Finally, the Software produces output, which can be in the form of information displayed on a screen, data saved to a file, or an action performed by the system.

Types of Software With Examples

1. System Software

System software is a group of applications that help a computer or other computing device run efficiently and manage resources. It acts as a bridge between a computer system's physical parts and users' software programs or apps.

Some essential system software components include operating systems, disk management, device drivers, utility programs, firmware and other operational necessities.

Essentially, system software serves as the backbone of the computer.

Additionally, Driver Software can be considered as a subdivision of system software. It interacts with the hardware, peripherals, and control devices connected to a computer by receiving input from the operating system and instructing the hardware to carry out a specific operation or other predetermined tasks.

Examples of Driver Software include::

  • Printer driver
  • Mouse driver
  • Network Card

The mouse, keyboard, and printer drivers are typically included by default with the operating system. In many cases, they don't need installs from third parties. However, you may need to install the drivers externally for advanced devices. 

Types of System Software With Examples

1. Operating Systems- Windows, Linux

2. Firmware- BIOS, Router Firmware

3. Device Drivers- NVIDIA Graphics Driver, Printer Driver

4. Utility Software-anti-virus software, disk cleanup, system optimisation software such as CCleaner

5. Virtual Machine Managers-Oracle Virtualbox, VMware workstation

6. Compiler and Interpreter Software- Python Interpreter, GCC (GNU Compiler Collection)

7. File Management Tools- File Explorer (Windows), Finder (macOS)

8. Backup and Recovery Software- Acronis True Image, Time Machine (MacOS)

The system software on desktop computers, tablets, and laptops includes Microsoft Windows, GNU/LINUX, and MacOS. In contrast, phone system software includes Apple's IOS, Windows Phone OS and Google's Android. 

2. Programming Software

Programming software is a group of tools and programs that help programmers create, edit, test, and manage computer programs and software applications. It offers a setting where programmers can write code using a variety of programming languages, test their code, and facilitate the development of software solutions.

Some essential components of programming software include text editors, compilers, Integrated Development Environments (IDE), Version Control Systems (VCS), libraries, and frameworks.

Types of Programming Software With Examples

1. Code Editors- Brackets, Notepad++

2. Text Editors- Sublime Text, Atom, Visual Studio Code

3. Integrated Development Environments (IDE)- Visual Studio, Eclipse, PyCharm

4. Version Control Systems- Git, SVN Subversion

5. Debuggers- Xcode, gdb (GNU Debugger)

6. Profilers-Xdebug, JetBrains dotTrace

7. Testing Frameworks- JUnit, Selenium

8. Integrated Development Environment (IDE) Platforms- Xcode, Android Studio

3. Application Software

Application software is a term used to describe a group of computer programs or software applications created to carry out particular functions or offer consumer capabilities.

Users engage with this program directly to complete various tasks, such as communication, work, entertainment, or problem-solving. Some more examples of these forms of application software comprise productivity tools, communication applications, educational Software, entertainment and media applications, and many more. 

In summary, application software helps users perform tasks.

10 Types of Application Software With Popular Examples

1. Word-Processing Software-Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Zoho Docs, Wordpad, Notepad

2. Presentation Software-Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi

3. Database Software-MySQL, Oracle, FoxPro

4. Spreadsheet Software- Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel

5. Music streaming software-Apple Music, Spotify

6. Graphics Editing Software-Adobe Photoshop, Figma

7. Enterprise Software- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software(such as Hubspot), Project management software (Jira), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software (SAGE)

8. Communications Software- Google Meet, Zoom, Skype, Slack

9. Anti-virus Software- Norton, Kaspersky, Avast

10. Email Software- Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail, Zoho mail

Other Types of Software

As discussed earlier, there are three major types of Software. These are System, Application, and Operating Software. However, asides from these, there are other subdivisions for types of Software. They include:

1. Freeware

Freeware refers to Software that is available for use at no cost. Just like the name implies, it is like getting a gift from the software developer, allowing you to use and enjoy the Software without paying anything. Freeware can be downloaded and installed on your computer or other devices like any other software.

Freeware, as opposed to demos or trial versions, is often available for unlimited usage. Although, it could sometimes have constraints or limitations, including few features, sporadic adverts, or the inability to use more sophisticated features only available in a premium version.

Examples of Popular Freeware include:

  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Google Chrome
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Skype
  • Google reader

2. Shareware

Shareware is a type of Software distributed on a trial basis, allowing users to try it out before deciding whether to purchase the full version. In layman's terms, it's similar to renting an item to test it before deciding whether to purchase it.

Shareware often lets you download and use the program briefly or with a few features. This allows you to assess its operation and decide whether it fulfils your demands. The complete version of shareware is frequently available for purchase to unlock all features and remove any restrictions.

Examples of popular Shareware include:

  • WinZip
  • WinRAR
  • Power ISO
  • Snagit
  • PaintShop Pro
  • Internet Download Manager (IDM)
  • Total Commander
  • PaintShop Pro

3. Utility Software

Utility software is a category of Software that performs specific tasks to help manage, optimise, and maintain a computer or device. It's like a set of handy tools that assist in computer operation.

Think of utility software as tools you use in everyday life, such as a wrench, a vacuum cleaner, or a flashlight. Each utility software serves a specific purpose and helps keep your computer running smoothly.

For example, anti-virus software is a utility that protects your computer from viruses and malware, like a shield that defends against harmful intruders. Disk cleanup tools help you tidy up your computer by removing unnecessary files and freeing up storage space, similar to decluttering your living space.

Examples of Popular Utility Software include:

  • Anti-virus software such as Kaspersky, Norton
  • Data backup recovery tools such as Acronis True Image, Windows Backup
  • File Compression tools such as WinRAR, 7-Zip
  • Password managers such as LastPass
  •  Firewall Software such as Windows Firefall
  • Disk Cleanup Tools such as Windows Disk Cleanup

4. Open-source Software

Open Source Software is any software with openly accessible source code that anyone may review, alter, and improve. The source code here is the building block of a program. It refers to that section of Software most users do not see and which allows programmers to edit or alter how their application or program works. They often do this by adding features or fixing components that do not always function properly.

Examples of open-source Software include:

  • Linux Operating system
  • LibreOffice
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • VLC Media player
  • WordPress
  • Apache Web Server
  • MySql

Learn about: Everything You Need To Know About Proprietary Software With Examples

5. Closed-source Software

Closed-source Software or Proprietary Software is Software that belongs exclusively to a creator and has restrictions on its use and dissemination because the publisher or creator has the legal copyright and intellectual property law preventing anyone from using the Software as they like.

Such recipients of the Software cannot modify or sell the Software. They only get to buy a license (a prerequisite before usage) and use it under predefined conditions. The ownership right of the Software still belongs to the creator. They also have the right to revoke your license if you do not comply with their usage rules. You also cannot resell or modify the Software because you do not own it.

Closed-source Software can also be called Non-free, Proprietary, or Commercial Source Software.

Examples of Proprietary Software include:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Salesforce
  • Sales CAD
  • Oracle Database
  • QuickBooks

Read: What is Off-the-Shelf Software? With Examples


Understanding the different types of Software is essential for users to make informed choices and leverage the right tools for their needs.

For instance, from this article, we have learnt that Application software caters to specific tasks, offering a wide range of options from productivity suites to entertainment and creative applications. On the other hand, system software forms the foundation of a computer system, enabling efficient management and operation.

Programming software empowers developers to create new Software and applications, driving innovation and technological advancements. Freeware and shareware provide alternative software distribution models, offering free or trial versions for users to explore before committing to a purchase.

Utility software enhances system performance, security, and maintenance, providing valuable tools for optimising computer functionality. Finally, open-source and proprietary software offer distinct approaches, with open-source promoting collaboration and transparency, while proprietary Software provides commercial solutions with specialised features and support.

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