Information provided by programs and data is known as software. Programs are sets of instructions that make the computer execute operations and tasks. There are two types of software:
-- The system software refers to all the programs which control the basic functions of a computer. They include operating systems, system utilities (e.g. an anti-virus program, a back-up utility) and language translators (e.g. a compiler – the software that translates instructions into machine code).
-- The applications software refers to all those applications – such as word processors and spreadsheets – which are used for specific purposes. Applications are usually stored on disks and loaded into the RAM memory when activated by the user.
The operating system is the most important type of system software. It is usually supplied by the manufacturers and comprises a set of programs and files that control the hardware and software resources of a computer system. It controls all the elements that the user sees, and it communicates directly with the computer. In most configurations, the OS is automatically loaded into the RAM section when the computer is started up.
System utilities are small programs which improve a system’s performance and help users take advantage of the computer’s capabilities. They are often desk accessories that can be called up while you’re working in another application. They can also be INITs – i.e. system extensions which are activated when you turn on the computer; control devices which you adjust in the control panel, or even stand-alone programs that run when you need them. Utilities are available for back-up, file search, virus protection, disaster recovery, and so on.
Spreadsheets* are application programs for financial planning which allow the user to analyse information presented in tabular form, by manipulating rows and columns.