Understanding the Characteristics of Software

Understanding the Characteristics of Software

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Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content
Updated on Nov 16, 2023 18:07 IST
Software refers to a set of instructions, data, or programs used to operate computers and execute specific tasks. It is the non-tangible component of computers, in contrast to the hardware which refers to the physical components of a computer system. Let us explore the characteristics of software.

Table of Contents

What is software?

Software is a set of computer programs and associated data, as well as documentation. It comprises procedures, programs, and routines that are associated with computer system operations. The set of instructions that direct the hardware of the computer for performing a task is known as a software program. System software and application software are the two main types of software.

Software systems are developed in integrated development environments (IDE) to simply process and compile the software. It is stored on an external long-term memory device such as a magnetic disk or hard drive. When a program is being used, the computer reads it from the storage device and temporarily places instructions in RAM. Software and procedures are permanently stored in the memory of a computer using ROM technology called hard software.

Most computers have several types of software within them, where electronic hardware is at the core. BIOS (basic input/output system) is the simplest bot of software that is written in the processor of the computer that loads the operating system. On the top of the operating system

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Software Development Process

The following processes are followed while developing a software:

  1. Establishing a framework in which software development steps are applied. In this process, an overall work process is described. Agile development, Rapid Application Development, Scaled Agile Framework, and Waterfall are the methodologies that are applied
  2. Requirements are gathered for understanding and documenting what is required by users and stakeholders. 
  3. Building an architecture as underlying structure within which software will operate.
  4. Developing designs around solutions for problems presented by requirements that involve process models and storyboards.
  5. Using modeling tools to build a model using modeling languages such as UML or SysML for conducting prototyping, validation and design simulation. 
  6. Constructing code in an appropriate programming language. This involves peer and team review to eliminate issues with the designs and produce quality software. 
  7. Testing with pre-planned scenarios and conducting performance testing to simulate the application’s load testing.
  8. Managing configuration for understanding all software artifacts and building distinct versions of software.
  9. Deploying software for use and resolving user problems.
  10. Migrating data to a new or updated software from the existing applications or data sources when necessary. 
  11. Managing and measuring projects for maintaining quality and delivering over the application lifecycle. 

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Types of Software

There are two main types of software, including system and application software. 

  1. System Software: This software is used for managing hardware. This software provides basic functionalities required by the user as well as other software to run properly. It provides a platform to run application software, operating systems, device drivers, and malicious software. 
  2. Application software: It directs the computer to execute commands given by the user and includes programs that process data for the user. This includes spreadsheets, database management, inventory, payroll programs, and other applications. 

Classification of Software

Software is categorized based on its usage, functionality, and purpose. This classification helps users and professionals alike to understand and choose software that best fits their needs.

System Software

System software forms the bedrock of computer operations, bridging the gap between hardware and user applications. This category includes:

  • Operating Systems like Windows, macOS, and Linux. These systems are the commanders of your computer, managing both hardware and software resources.
  • Utility Software encompasses tools like antivirus programs and disk management tools, ensuring your system remains optimized and secure.
  • Device Drivers are the unsung heroes, allowing your computer to communicate effectively with hardware devices.

Application Software

Application software is designed to assist users in specific tasks, enhancing both productivity and creativity. This category includes:

  • Productivity Software including Microsoft Office and Google Workspace, aiding in word processing, creating spreadsheets, and crafting presentations.
  • Graphics Software, including Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk AutoCAD, caters to your creative needs for image creation and editing.
  • Database Software like MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server, essential for data management and organization.
  • Web Browsers (Chrome, Firefox) serve as your gateway to the vast world of the internet.
  • Entertainment Software, encompassing video games and multimedia applications, adds leisure and fun to our digital experience.

Development Software

This category is for the creators and maintainers of software. It includes:

  • Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) such as Visual Studio and Eclipse, providing comprehensive tools for developers.
  • Tools like Compilers, Interpreters, and Debuggers are crucial for translating and refining code.
  • Version Control Systems (Git, SVN) play a pivotal role in tracking changes and facilitating collaboration in software development.

Business Software

Specifically designed for business operations, this category includes:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems (SAP, Oracle), which streamline and manage business processes.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software (Salesforce, HubSpot), key for managing customer interactions and relationships.
  • Software for Supply Chain Management and logistics, crucial for overseeing operations.

Educational Software

This software is tailored for educational purposes:

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Moodle and Blackboard are vital for educational institutions.
  • Educational Games and Simulations offer interactive and engaging learning experiences.

Network software

It is an important type of software in the management and operation of computer networks. It includes various types of programs and systems that are essential for organizing, controlling, and maintaining communication between different networked devices. The two primary components of network software are Network Operating Systems and Network Management Software.

1. Network Operating Systems (NOS): These are specialized operating systems that manage network resources and enable communication between networked devices. Unlike standard operating systems, which manage the resources of a single computer, NOS is designed to handle data, applications, security, and communication over a network of computers.

2. Network Management Software: This software is crucial for monitoring and maintaining network performance. It provides administrators with tools to oversee network operations, diagnose problems, and ensure that the network is running smoothly and efficiently. This includes features for traffic analysis, performance monitoring, fault diagnosis, and configuration management. 

Embedded Software

Embedded software is specifically designed for control functions within hardware devices, like software in cars and appliances. Embedded software is a specific type of software designed to operate and control machines and devices that are not typically considered computers. It is 'embedded' directly into the hardware of these devices and is integral to their functioning. 

Open Source Software

This type of software includes source code which is open for inspection and modification, encouraging innovation and collaboration. Linux operating system and Apache web server are examples of open source software.

Freeware and Shareware

Freeware is software that's available to users without any monetary cost. It's a model where the essence of accessibility takes the forefront. Freeware often comes without any time restrictions or feature limitations, allowing users to fully engage with the software's capabilities from the get-go. Examples of freeware include applications like Adobe Reader and VLC Media Player. 

Shareware is a type of software is freely distributed for a trial period, allowing users to test its features before making a purchase decision. During the trial period, users might encounter some limitations in functionality, which are lifted upon purchase of the full version. Examples include software like WinZip and Nero, which have used the shareware model to provide users with a hands-on evaluation before purchase..

Characteristics of Software

There are special economic features of software that differentiate its design, creation, and distribution from most other economic goods. Let us now discuss the characteristics of software: 

  • It is intangible in nature which means it cannot be touched.
  • Software must be able to perform every function for which it has been designed. It should be able to perform all the features that have been integrated. 
  • It should be user-friendly and should require less effort for the user to operate it. A good user interface and smooth design flow help in better navigation through the software. 
  • The software in computers must be efficient since it allows the system to perform tasks much faster.
  • Most types of software in computers are flexible, due to which they can adapt to changes as per the requirement. This helps in adding, modifying and removing features without the need to interfere with current operations.
  • It is important that the software must be reliable in a manner that it operates without failure in most conditions. Software must quantify reliability metrics such as MTTR, MTTF and MTBR.
  • Software integrity is associated with security, that makes it resistant to hacks and privacy violations. It also means that the software is resistant to modification without authorization. 
  • The software has a set of attributes that can be transferred from one environment to another with minimal or no changes. 
  • It should be easily maintainable, which means it should easily allow modification of errors and slight moderations to the software code. This also involves maintaining the functionality and services of software.  

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Hope that you have learnt what is software and its characteristics in detail through this article.

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What role does efficiency play in software characteristics?

Efficiency refers to the software's ability to use system resources optimally, ensuring faster execution and reduced resource consumption.

How is software portability defined?

Portability refers to the ease with which a software can be transferred from one particular computing environment to another.

Why is software usability crucial?

Usability ensures that software is user-friendly, easy to learn, and efficient to use, enhancing user satisfaction.

What is software reusability?

Reusability is the ability of software components to be used in multiple applications, reducing development time and costs.

How do software characteristics impact software quality?

The characteristics of software directly influence its quality, determining how well it meets user needs and performs in real-world scenarios.

How can software security be ensured?

Software security can be ensured through practices like code review, regular security audits, encryption, user authentication, and access control. Staying updated with security patches and following security best practices is essential.

What is software usability testing?

Usability testing is a process where real users interact with the software to evaluate its user-friendliness, navigation, and overall user experience. It helps identify areas for improvement and ensures that the software meets user expectations.

What is software maintainability, and why is it crucial?

Software maintainability is the ease with which software can be updated, modified, or repaired. It's crucial because software evolves over time, and maintenance is necessary to fix bugs, add new features, and adapt to changing requirements.

About the Author
Jaya Sharma
Assistant Manager - Content

Jaya is a writer with an experience of over 5 years in content creation and marketing. Her writing style is versatile since she likes to write as per the requirement of the domain. She has worked on Technology, Fina... Read Full Bio