4.3. Application Software
The second major category of software is Application Software. Application Software is used to accomplish a specific goal such as word processing, calculations on a spreadsheet, or surfing the internet using a web browser. There are many different types of application software, and they can work on mobile devices or desktop and laptop computers. Typically, software falls into the categories of productivity, multimedia, home, and communication and collaboration. This section will focus on a few of these categories below.
Productivity software is a type of application software that has become a standard tool for the workplace. These programs allow office employees to complete their daily work efficiently. Many times these applications come packaged together as integrated software suites, such as in Microsoft’s Office suite. Here is a list of some of these applications and their basic functions:
|Word processing||Users can create and edit documents using this class of software. Functions include the ability to type and edit text, format fonts and paragraphs, as well as add, move, and delete text throughout the document. Tables and images can be inserted. Documents can be saved in a variety of electronic file formats with Microsoft Word’s DOCX being the most popular. Documents can also be converted to other formats such as Adobe’s PDF (Portable Document Format) or to a TXT file.|
|Spreadsheet||This class of software provides a way to do numeric calculations and analysis, displaying the result in charts and graphs. The working area is divided into rows and columns, where users can enter numbers, text, or formulas. It is the formulas that make a spreadsheet powerful, allowing the user to develop complex calculations that can change based on the numbers entered. The most popular spreadsheet package is Microsoft Excel, which saves its files in the XLSX format.|
|Presentation||Users can create slideshow presentations using this class of software. The slides can be projected, printed, or distributed to interested parties. Text, images, audio, and visual can all be added to the slides. Microsoft’s PowerPoint is the most popular software right now, saving its files in PPTX format.|
|Database management system||This software serves as an electronic filing cabinet for records such as customer lists, employee data, and inventory information. Data can be sorted, manipulated and queried to create reports. (Databases are covered more in Chapter 5.)|
|Desktop publishing||This software combines word processing, graphics, and page layout software to create documents. Allows companies to design and produce sales brochures, catalogs, advertisements, and newsletters in-house.|
|Financial software||This software is used to compile accounting and financial data and create financial statements and reports.|
Some office suites include other types of software. For example, Microsoft Office includes Outlook, its e-mail package, and OneNote, an information-gathering collaboration tool. The professional version of Office also includes Microsoft Access, a database package. Microsoft popularized the idea of the office-software productivity bundle with their release of the Microsoft Office Suite. This package continues to dominate the market and most businesses expect employees to know how to use this software. However, many competitors to Microsoft Office do exist and are compatible with the file formats used by Microsoft.. Microsoft also offers a cloud-based version of their office suite named Microsoft Office 365. Similar to Google Drive, this suite allows users to edit and share documents online utilizing cloud-computing technology.
The “Killer” App: Spreadsheets
When a new type of digital device is invented, there are generally a small group of technology enthusiasts who will purchase it just for the joy of figuring out how it works. A “killer” application is one that becomes so essential that large numbers of people will buy a device just to run that application. For the personal computer, the killer application was the spreadsheet.
The first spreadsheet was created by an MBA student at Harvard University who tired of making repeated calculations to determine the optimal result on a problem and decided to create a tool that allowed the user to easily change values and recalculate formulas. The result was the spreadsheet. Today’s dominant spreadsheet is Microsoft Excel which still retains the basic functionality of the first spreadsheet.
As organizations began to implement networking technologies, information systems emerged that allowed employees to begin collaborating in different ways. These systems allowed users to brainstorm ideas together without the necessity of physical, face-to-face meetings. Tools such as video conferencing with Zoom or WebEx, collaboration and document sharing with Microsoft SharePoint or Teams, and project management with SAP’s Project System make collaboration possible in a variety of endeavors.
Broadly speaking, any software that allows multiple users to interact on a document or topic could be considered collaborative. Electronic mail, a shared Word document, and social networks fall into this broad definition. However, many software tools have been created that are designed specifically for collaborative purposes. These tools offer a broad spectrum of collaborative functions. Here is just a short list of some collaborative tools available for businesses today:
- Google Drive. Google Drive offers a suite of office applications (such as a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing, presentation) that can be shared between individuals. Multiple users can edit the documents at the same time and the threaded comments option is available.
- Microsoft SharePoint. SharePoint integrates with Microsoft Office and allows for collaboration using tools most office workers are familiar with. SharePoint will be covered in greater detail in chapter 5.
- Cisco WebEx. WebEx combines video and audio communications and allows participants to interact with each other’s computer desktops. WebEx also provides a shared whiteboard and the capability for text-based chat to be going on during the sessions, along with many other features. Mobile editions of WebEx allow for full participation using smartphones and tablets.
- GitHub. Programmers/developers use GitHub for web-based team development of computer software.
Utility Software and Programming Software
Utility software includes programs that allow you to fix or modify your computer in some way. Examples include anti-malware software and programs that totally remove software you no longer want installed. These types of software packages were created to fill shortcomings in operating systems. Many times a subsequent release of an operating system will include these utility functions as part of the operating system itself.
Programming software’s purpose is to produce software. Most of these programs provide developers with an environment in which they can write the code, test it, and convert/compile it into the format that can then be run on a computer. This software is typically identified as the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and is provided free from the corporation that developed the programming language that will be used to write the code.
There are hundreds of types of businesses that require systems to facilitate operations. A look at the software providers by category as compiled by Capterra (https://www.capterra.com/categories)_gives you some insight into how expansive the information systems industry actually is.