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You need hardware to have a computer, but without software, the hardware is pretty useless. In fact, the rest of this book is largely about different types of software. We start in this module with a broad survey of types of software and key terms and then go into more detail as you tackle the following modules.
The first way to think about software types is by their function: Is the software there to make the computer run or to do something useful for you?
Distinguish between operating systems software and applications software. Understand the reasons for software versions.
Broadly speaking, software can be divided into operating system software and application software . Operating system software is the software that controls the basic operations of the computer, such as where data is stored and how it is displayed onscreen or communicated to other computers. Microsoft Windows is the most common operating system that you'll find in a business setting. Application software is software that is used for a particular task, such as writing a letter, displaying a file, or composing music.
Most software exists in multiple versions. For example, Microsoft has released eight different versions of its Access database software over the course of the last decade or so. This happens because software is constantly under development, rather than a static thing. Just as automobile manufacturers release new models of their cars , with some improvements, every year, software manufacturers release new and improved models of their software. But with software, these new releases are called "versions" instead of "models."
Operating system software is the software that provides the basic functions of the computer. You need to know what an operating system does, and know the most common operating systems, to pass the exam.
Describe the main functions of an operating system and name some common operating systems.
The operating system has two main functions. The first is to act as a sort of caretaker for the computer, making sure that all the information held by the computer ends up in the right place. This process includes loading other software programs into memory so that they can run, keeping the files on the computer's hard drive up-to-date, and allocating resources to other applications.
You need to know what an operating system does, and know the most common operating systems, to pass the exam.
But the operating system also acts as a sort of traffic cop, directing data between the various parts of the computer. For example, typing on the keyboard can cause a program to be loaded from the hard drive into memory and then display information on the screen. The operating system is the software that controls the flow of information between all these disparate components of your computer.
There have been dozens or hundreds of operating systems created over the past few decades. But only a few of these operating systems are in common use in business settings. Common operating systems include the following:
DOS, which most commonly refers to Microsoft's MS-DOS, is a text-only operating system. Several other manufacturers have released DOS versions as well. DOS is largely obsolete, but you'll still find it on some older computers.
Microsoft Windows is the most common graphical (that is, able to display pictures, text in multiple fonts, and other types of information) operating system. Microsoft has released a number of versions of Windows over the years . Windows versions commonly used in current business environments include Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows XP.
Linux is a popular open -source operating system; that is, it is available for free. Originally used mainly by computer hobbyists, recent versions of Linux are becoming more popular in the workplace.
Solaris is a graphical operating system developed by Sun Microcomputers for use on its own computers. You'll find Solaris in some academic and business settings.
BSD is another open-source operating system that is popular in some circles. You probably won't encounter BSD on your desktop, but it is widely used on servers and in networks.
Mac OS X is the most recent operating system developed by Apple for its Macintosh computers. If you're using a Mac, you will be using some operating system direct from Apple.
In this book, we'll be using Microsoft Windows XP for all our examples. The skills you'll learn will apply to all common operating systems, although the details will be different.
The second major class of software is application software . There is a wide variety of application software in the world, from Web browsers to football simulations. You should know about the major types of application software that are often used in business.
List some common software applications such as: word processing, spreadsheet, database, Web browsing, desktop publishing, accounting, together with their uses.
It's impossible to list all the different types of application software. But you should know about some of the major types of application software that are commonly used in business:
Word processing software is used to write letters , reports , and other documents. Microsoft Word and Corel Word Perfect are examples of word processing software.
Spreadsheet software is used to carry out financial, engineering, and other calculations. Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3 are examples of spreadsheet software.
Database software is used to store information such as sales, customer addresses, and inventory for future use. Microsoft Access and Borland dBASE are examples of data access software.
Presentation software is used to create slide shows and other speakers ' aids. Microsoft PowerPoint is an example of presentation software.
Web browsing software is used to view the contents of Web sites. Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firebird are examples of Web browsing software.
Desktop publishing software is used to create newsletters, magazines, and other documents suitable for printing. Microsoft Publisher is an example of desktop publishing software.
Email software is used to send, receive, and store electronic mail. Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express are examples of email software.
Accounting software is used to track credits, debits, and other accounting data. Intuit Quicken and Microsoft Money are examples of accounting software.
Almost certainly , you'll be working with a graphical user interface (GUI) on your computer. It is one of the key terms that you need to understand.
Understand the term graphical user interface (GUI).
A graphical user interface (GUI) allows you to interact very flexibly with your computer. A GUI is called "graphical" because it uses color , pictures, and text to convey information, unlike older operating systems that were limited to text only.
Figure 2.4 shows a GUIin this case, Windows XP. There are two open applications: Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Each application has menus and toolbars to let you control it. GUIs also feature other graphical cues such as the Recycle Bin icon in the background. You'll learn much more about manipulating the parts of a GUI starting in Chapter 3.
GUIs are much more than just a decorative way to display information. GUIs offer several advantages to the computer user:
You can work with more than one application at the same time. This advantage is useful when you must share information between applications or perform multiple tasks as part of your job.
Most operations can be accomplished with either the keyboard or the mouse, leaving you to choose the way of interacting with the computer that works best for you.
You can adjust colors and font sizes to get more information on the screen at one time or to make it easier for visually impaired users to work with the computer.
Graphics can convey information with a richness that purely textual interfaces cannot match.
Software doesn't come into being by spontaneous generation. Instead, it must be developed for specific uses. You need to understand a little bit about the process of software development.
Understand how computer-based systems are developed. Know about the process of analysis, design, programming and testing often used in developing computer-based systems.
There are two major types of application software. The first is shrink-wrapped software : applications purchased from a company such as Microsoft, Borland, or IBM. General-purpose applications such as word processors and databases are usually shrink-wrapped software. But your business might demand its own peculiar software as well. For example, if you work at an animal shelter, you probably have special custom software to keep track of the animals in the shelter.
Custom software is typically developed by IT workers on your company's staff (you might know them as computer programmers ) or by outside consultants hired for the purpose. There are many ways in which software is developed, but in general it's a four-step process:
Analysis In the analysis phase, the software developer discusses the functions of the proposed software with those who need to use the software. This phase is concerned with determining the requirements for the new software application.
Design In the design phase, the software developer creates a plan for building the desired software. Design can include such activities as planning the steps that the application will take and drawing the interface that will appear on the screen.
Programming In the programming phase, the software developer uses a computer language to build the software according to the design.
Testing In the testing phase, the software developer and the end users verify that the software fulfills the requirements that were specified during the analysis phase.
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