7 Different Types of Software

Computer Software

7 Different Types of Software

When you hear the word software, a business program like Microsoft Word or Excel is probably the first to come to mind. But there is a whole world of different software to explore. In reality, everything that runs on a computer is technically software. The computer itself and all its physical components are hardware.

From the operating system to annoying bloatware, it all falls under the software umbrella. But you don’t always see the software on your computer because much of it operates in the background. Security software is a great example, as it runs in the background. Now, let’s take a look at seven different types of software.

System Software

Windows 11
Windows 11 by Microsoft is the latest release of its NT operating system.


System softwacally an operating system that computers run on. Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s macOS command the lion’s share. Both have their pros and cons, and enthusiasts vehemently defend their favorite. macOS can only run on Apple devices.

On the other hand, nearly any computer can run a version of Windows. But more importantly, it is widely accepted, and most people can walk up to a Windows computer and navigate their way around with ease. However, there are other operating systems, with being another strong option. While few people actually run Linux on their PC, many mobile and special-purpose devices run custom versions of Linux.

Steam Deck runs on Linux and has a modified user int, making makes the device more user-friendly. Another example of a mobile operating system is A, commonly only used on mobile phones and tablets. Of course, Apple has its own mobile software, which is known as ios, that runs its iPhones and iPads.

Application Software

Application software is what enables you to read this article online. It refers to all the software that people use on a computer. An application is simply a program that allows an end-user to complete a task. The charge can be anything from reading to writing, image editing, or video calling. Some even make multitasking possible by operating in conjunction with other applications.

As mentioned, the web browser you are using is a type of application. Other popular applications include word processors, photo editing, video playback, and communication apps. Software suites like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite bundle apps that perform specific tasks.

However, a lot of software handles multiple processes at once. For example, Fusion 360 (modeling software) allows for design, testing, and machine all in one application rather than three. But it’s also worth noting that video games fall into the application category. Similarly, mobile apps are considered application software.

Driver Software

Driver software is a type of software that enables your device to function correctly. Unlike system and application software that you control, driver software is limited to providing support for external devices. Common examples of external devices include a mouse, keyboard, printer, and even monitors, speakers, and trackpads on laptops.

Drivers are essential as the operating system cannot contain information for every device ever made, let alone predict potential future developments. When you plug a new device, such as a mouse, into a computer, it will automatically install the necessary drivers. Most of the time, you won’t need to manually install the drivers as they are stored on the device or in application software.

Utility Software

This type of software carries out a distinct function that the user controls. Common examples of utility software include antivirus and backup programs. Utility apps help keep your computer safe from threats. However, data backup is also an important part of protecting yourself when on the computer.

Today, backup software typically uploads data to cloud storage, but there are also tools for local backup too. One of the more controversial types of utility software is computer cleanup programs. By itself, these programs can remove junk, organize files, and even optimize your hard drive. The problem is that brands use them to upsell a service.

Programming Software

This type of software does exactly what it sounds like. It gives programmers the tools they need to write and edit code. A better way to explain this is that programming software is how back-end work gets done. As an average PC user, you may never encounter or use programming software.

Programming software is diverse, with some specifically made for uses like designing video games, debugging code, or even writing custom applications. In essence, programming software acts as a translator between the language the programmer enters and one an application can read. Programs like Java and Arduino IDE are helpful in coding.


PDF file converter
Adobe Reader is a popular, downloadable freeware.


Any application shared freely for anyone to use is known as freeware. Common examples of freeware are open-source programs like VLC media player. Not familiar with open-source content and applications? It is actually a type of license that allows anyone to modify the source code and adapt the content for their own needs. But not all freeware is open source since it often has some form of monetization behind it.

For years, freeware was seen as nothing more than e-waste, with companies bundling useless free software with other paid content. But that’s no longer the case, as most freeware is actually useful. A good example of freeware is Adobe Reader, which lets users read PDF documents. Adobe typically uses this freeware to join the Acrobat program.


Shareware is best described as being in-between freeware and a traditional application. With shareware, the content is freely delivered to a mass market as part of a free trial. The company hopes users either pay for the software once the trial ends or forget about signing up, so they end up getting charged for it.

If you lived through the 90s and early 2000s, then you probably remember CDs for applications like AOL. They were given out like candy and contained an allotment of free hours, but users had to enter a credit card to take advantage of the offer. Once the user burned through all of their trial offers, they were automatically billed for a subscription.

Many companies used this strategy and hoped users never realized the charge or bothered to cancel. But that is the negative side of shareware. With the prevalence of software as a service (SaaS), many companies like Adobe offer a free trial of their products. They then turn it into a subscription. Even streaming services like Netflix fall under the shareware umbrella.

7 Different Types of Software FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How do you add a driver to a computer?

Drivers are usually added automatically, but you can also find a driver on the device website and run it to install. However, if you just need to update a driver, you can do that from the “Device Manager” in Windows.

Are there any free operating systems?

Yes, Linux is a free operating system that you can install on almost any device. This is in stark contrast to Windows which has a license fee and macOS which only runs on Apple devices.

What is bloatware?

Bloatware is a catch-all term that refers to software that serves little purpose other than taking up space. New computers often come with a lot of extra programs packed in that are completely unnecessary and are the most common forms of bloatware.

Should you use a PC cleanup program?

PC cleanup software isn’t inherently bad. However, some programs are filled with upsells while the application itself does little to clean your computer. Instead, you manually delete your cache, empty the Recycle Bin, and clear your browser.

What is open-source software?

Open-source software falls under applications but also overlaps freeware. The difference is that freeware is free software, but it has use limitations. In comparison, anyone can modify the code and use open-source software with few restrictions.

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