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Application Software


End users use application software to get certain things done on computer systems. It provides specific functionality for a particular area of activity or function.

For example, the browser you use to access this website belongs to the application software category, as do other programs running on your PC or laptop.  

One easy way to think about application software is that “people” are the direct users, as opposed to situations where “software uses other software”.

For example, “printer software” can be used by the “word processor” to print something. Where the “word processor” is application software for a user, the “print software” sits at a lower level, such as the “Middleware” or even the “Operating System” level, to allow software above it to print documents. 

So, application software always provides a particular set of meaningful functions that allow human beings to accomplish something.

Technically speaking, application software is the technology layer that sits closest to the end user, with support from all the layers below it to perform its specific functions. 

Extra Background

Application software is not just software for individual users working by themselves, as is the case with a spreadsheet program or word processor, but companies also have “applications”.

For example, as you may have experienced first-hand, airlines have software to manage flights, passengers, luggage, etc. Likewise, financial service organizations have software to manage client information, accounts, financial transactions, investments, statements, etc.  

IT professionals will also refer to these solutions as Application Software, but it would be better to call them “Enterprise Application Software” as their focus is supporting business processes for groups of users in an organization.  

And how about Apps?

Programs on a smartphone are called “apps” as they are also “applications” that do something useful for the users. Phone apps make it easy to understand that the “application software concept” is the same across all platforms.   

Of course, the rise of smartphones and mobile devices has led to an explosion in the app economy, creating numerous job opportunities for app developers and generating billions of dollars in revenue for app stores and developers worldwide.

The Development Process

The development process for application software typically consists of several stages:

  • Concept and Planning: Business Analysts and Developers develop a vision and outline the application’s objectives, target audience, and functionality.
  • Design: The user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are designed, defining the application’s layout, navigation, and visual elements.
  • Coding: Developers write the application’s source code using programming languages that are compatible with the target platform and the app’s requirements.
    • Developers use various development platforms to create applications, such as Android Studio for Android apps, Xcode for iOS apps, Visual Studio for Windows apps, and IntelliJ for Java applications that run on servers.
    • With tools like React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter, developers can create cross-platform apps that work on multiple operating systems with a single codebase, reducing development time and costs.
  • Testing: The application undergoes various testing phases to identify and fix bugs or issues. These include unit testing for pieces of code, integration testing for how code fits together, and system testing for the complete solution.
  • Deployment: After successful testing, the application is deployed using a software distribution process to users in the organization, deployed to web servers for access via the internet or on app stores that we know all too well, such as the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
  • Maintenance and Updates: Developers provide regular updates, fix bugs, and add new features to keep the app relevant and functional.

Open Source versus Proprietary / Commercial Software

Depending on the group of developers or the organization that creates the software, it can be either open source, where the source code is freely available for modification and redistribution, or proprietary, where a company or individual owns the source code and cannot be freely accessed.

Many high-quality open-source software products are supported by groups of volunteers who are passionate about the applications and contribute to their success.  

Conclusion

Overall, application software continues to play a more prominent role in our lives each year, and we expect to be able to interact with it in more ways.

For example, we now find it normal to ask Alexa, Siri, or Google to do something by talking to a device nearby or in our hands.  

The entire technology stack below the Application Software layer continues to evolve to provide more and more user capabilities in new ways, in more places, and on more devices.

Computer Software Basics – 11 mins

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