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This is a lesson in the course Introduction to Computers, which is a part of The School of Computer Science


Software enables computer hardware to perform specific tasks. Software, commonly known as programs or applications, consists of all the electronic instructions that tell the hardware how to perform a task. The program you're using right now to view Wikiversity is a type of program called a browser. A browser contains all the instructions that tell your computer how to display a web site. Software is capable of performing many different specific tasks, as opposed to hardware which only perform mechanical tasks that they are designed for. There are three major types of software:

  • Operating System software:
Helps run computer hardware and computer system. Computer software includes the operating system, device drivers, diagnostic tools and more; the stuff that makes your computer useable by most people.The most commonly used operating systems software are:
Mac OS X
  • Application software:
Allows users to accomplish one or more tasks; browsing the internet or writing a text document, for example:
Word processor
Graphics software
  • Programming software:
Software that assists a programmer in writing more computer software. Programming software makes it easier to come up with ideas for a program and make them a reality. Programming an application is done with a special language that the computer understands, called a programming language.

Software for Wikiversity participants[edit]

There are several types of software that you can use to make the most of your participation at Wikiversity.

Operating systems[edit]

The most commonly used operating systems are:

Internet browsers[edit]

Three of the most used internet browsers are:

Other popular ones include Opera and Safari. For a more expansive list, see List of web browsers on Wikipedia.

Email clients[edit]

Popular email clients include:

See Comparison of e-mail clients for other popular ones. Also, Webmail is a very popular way to send and receive emails.

Webfeed aggregators[edit]

  • Ogg-format file play
  • Image creation
  • Ogg file creation
  • Internet Relay Chat

Popular IRC clients include:[edit]

For a more comprehensive list see Comparison of Internet Relay Chat clients on Wikipedia.

Voice chat[edit]

Software Licenses[edit]

A software license (or software licence in commonwealth usage) is a legal instrument (usually by way of contract law) governing the usage and/or redistribution of software. All software is copyright protected, except material in the public domain. Contractual confidentiality is another way of protecting software. A typical software license grants an end-user permission to use one or more copies of software in ways where such a use would otherwise potentially constitute copyright infringement of the software owner's exclusive rights under copyright law.

Some software comes with the license when purchased off the shelf or an OEM license when bundled with hardware. Software can also be in the form of freeware or shareware. Software licenses can generally be fit into the following categories: proprietary licenses and free and open source licenses, which include free software licenses and other open source licenses. The features that distinguishes them are significant in terms of the effect they have on the end-user's rights.

A free open source license makes software free for inspection of its code, modification, and distribution. Some free licenses, such as the GNU General Public License (GPL), allow the product and/or derivative to be commercially sold.

See also[edit]