Software: Applications

What you will be doing -
  • Learn about application software
  • Install, uninstall, configuration of application software


Discussing software in general is like discussing "books" or "music". There are many, many categories and the potential for new types is unlimited. This is a very broad overview of some of the current software.

Attributes of Software

As we look at various software programs, the important attributes will be pointed out.

  • Category - What is the purpose of the software.
  • License - Freeware, Shareware, Commercial, Open Source
  • Distribution - Download, Shrink-Wrap, On demand
  • Version - Software is continually updated to add new features or fix bugs. Most software will show the verison using the Help, About menu choice. There is usually a major and minor version number (ex. 2.4 means minor revision 4 of major version 2) and perhaps additional detailed version information as well.
  • File Types - A program may have a proprietary file format or may be able to open and save in a variety of formats. The file extension is used to indicate the file type, and the default program that should open the file.

Office Suite

One of the main applications in the last 2 decades has been a suite of office productivity applications. This is so common that many people equate using a computer with using this kind of suite (and Microsoft® has managed to dominate the market to such an extent that most people . These typically include

  • word processing
  • spreadsheet
  • presentation graphics
  • database
  • and perhaps additional applications such as email, scheduling, etc.

Some suites-

  • Microsoft® Office - The standard. Only the "Professional" includes Access database.
  • StarOffice - By Sun, reasonably priced
  • OpenOffice - An Open Source solution, free
  • WordPerfect Office - An alternative to Microsoft®


  • Desktop Publishing - used to create brochures, catalogs (Microsoft Publisher, Adobe PageMaker)
  • Web Page Publishing - used to create websites (Dreamweaver, Frontpage, etc.)


This is perhaps the decade of multimedia - where the computer is used more for editing images, video and sound than it is used for traditional office applications.

As a demonstration of this kind of software, Microsoft® MovieMaker 2 will be shown.

The point of this is to understand that using complex software requires not just learning the menu choices and techniques within the application, but also the concepts relating to that particular task. Editing movies requires an understanding of things like movie clips, transisitions, audio and music.

Complex software tends to be complex because the tasks themselves are complex. You might need training to learn to use the application, but you cannot just learn the application, you must also learn the task area as well as develop skill and talent over a period of time.

Viewer/Editor concept

In many cases there are 2 parts to an application

  • Viewer - displays the content but does not allow editing
  • Editor - can create or edit the content

    (With older applications such as word processing, the viewer was normally the printed page.)

For example, on the web in this course, Internet Explorer browser is the viewer of web pages, and Mozilla Composer is an editor of web pages. For images, Microsoft Office Picture Manager in the classroom is the the basic viewer and editor combined.

In general, the viewer is registered as the default application when you double-click a file with the extension for that kind of application.

The point to note here is that you can be a passive viewer (like current TV) but you can also be a content creator. Current computer power and the Internet provide the opportunity.



This refers to the software that comes in a box (usually with shrink-wrap plastic sealing it). The software itself is usually on a CD-ROM (or possibly DVD-ROM).

This is usually commercial software with stringent licensing and registration agreements.

Shareware, Freeware, Open-Source

These are normally distributed by free download. Shareware is often limited by time or capability to encourage you to purchase. Freeware has no cost (although there may be a "pro" version or support that does cost), but the copyright remains with the developer. Open-source refers to the source code being made available for free along with the right to alter, typically with particular license agreements (see The OpenSource agreement typically encourages developers to make any modifications readily available to others at no cost.

Installation and Configuration

Software generally must be installed. This is a process of copying files to the hard disk, inserting values into the registry, and registering your copy online.

Software may be distributed as a set of files that have been zipped into a single compressed file. This is expanded and a file called setup.exe or something similar is used to install the software.

Learning Applications

Although there is much talk about user-friendly applications, the reality is that applications that are used to accomplish complex tasks, will be complex to learn.

Here are some tips to help you learn applications.

Keep it simple

Start by doing something very, very simple to make sure you understand the basic techniques.

Programmers, for example, when they learn a new programming language or environment, start by writing a program that displays "Hello, World!". By doing so, they verify they can get a simple program to work, before they start creating more complex programs.

Learn as you need it

Don't spend time learning aspects of the program you will never use.

Use the menus to see what else might be useful

Most software has shortcuts that help the experienced user accomplish tasks quicker. Do not use these when learning! By looking through the menus, you will understand better how the task fits in to the overall structure of the application, and you will discover other menu choices that you may want to investigate further.

Use the Help

Applications usually have extensive help included. Get familiar with the format of the help, and use it to read about any new concept you are learning.

Get a book and/or take a class

Popular applications will have many books about them. I suggest using library books, if available, to avoid being stuck with a book that does not meet you needs or learning style.

Classes can be useful, because the instructor will have extensive experience with the application and be able to direct your study, and provide

Web Page Images

Not just any old image can be included, saved and displayed in a web page. The only image formats that can be used in web pages are: GIF, JPG and PNG images.

Developed: 2005-02-14 © Gene Vershum