Types of software

Software can be divided into different categories depending on the functions it fulfills and how it is used. We explain what is behind the individual terms and how they relate to each other.

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Software is the driving force behind modern technology and is present in almost every aspect of our lives. However, not all software is the same. It has different functions and is used for specific tasks accordingly. To help you better understand and evaluate these functions, this article provides an overview of the main types of software and various examples.

Application Software

Application software is the software that users interact with directly to perform specific tasks. It can be further divided into:

Programming Software

Programming software supports developers in creating, maintaining, and optimizing software applications. The main types include:

  • Code Editor: A text editor specifically designed for writing and editing source code, e.g., Visual Studio Code.
  • Debugger: A tool that helps programmers find and fix errors in the code, e.g., GDB (GNU Debugger).
  • Compiler: Software that translates written source code into executable machine code, e.g., GCC (GNU Compiler Collection).
  • Low-Code & No-Code Applications: Platforms that enable the creation of software applications with minimal or no coding effort, e.g., Microsoft Power Apps.

Standard Software

Standard software is pre-built software developed for a variety of tasks and industries. It is further divided into:

General-Purpose Standard Software

This type of software can be used in many different contexts and is not limited to a specific industry. Examples include:

  • Word Processing: Software for creating and editing text documents, e.g., Microsoft Word.
  • Spreadsheet: Software for creating and managing spreadsheets, e.g., Microsoft Excel.
  • Databases: Software for storing and managing data, e.g., Microsoft Access.

Industry-Specific Standard Software

This software is developed specifically for certain industries and meets the specific requirements of those industries. Examples include:

  • BIM (Building Information Modeling): Software for the construction industry to plan and manage construction projects, e.g., Autodesk Revit.
  • Semiconductor Manufacturing Automation: Software for automating semiconductor production.

Application-Specific Standard Software

This software is tailored to specific applications within an industry or company. Examples include:

  • Accounting Software: Software for managing financial accounting, e.g., DATEV.
  • CAD (Computer-Aided Design): Software for creating precise drawings and models, e.g., AutoCAD.
  • Production Planning and Control Systems: Software for managing and optimizing production processes.

Custom Software

Custom software is developed specifically for the needs of a single company or organization. This tailored software can significantly enhance efficiency and productivity. Examples include:

  • Machine Control: Software for controlling and monitoring machines in manufacturing.
  • Data Warehouse: Software for centrally storing and managing large amounts of data.
  • Data Mining: Software for analyzing large datasets to identify patterns and relationships.

System Software

System software forms the foundation of any computer system and enables communication between the hardware and application software. The main categories of system software are:

 Middleware / Cloud & Infrastructure Software

Middleware acts as an intermediary between different software applications, facilitating their communication and data management. Cloud and infrastructure software allow companies to efficiently manage and scale their IT resources. Examples include:

  • WebSphere Application Server: A platform for hosting and managing web applications.
  • Fusion Middleware: A suite of middleware products from Oracle.

Operating Systems

Operating systems manage the basic functions of a computer, such as file storage, program execution, and peripheral device control. Well-known operating systems include:

  • iOS: Apple’s mobile operating system.
  • Windows: A widely used operating system from Microsoft.
  • Ubuntu: A popular Linux distribution.


Firmware is a special type of system software that is directly integrated into the hardware. It controls basic hardware functions and ensures their proper operation. A well-known example is:

  • BIOS (Basic Input/Output System): The fundamental firmware that is initialized when a computer starts.


The variety of software types reflects the complexity and different requirements of modern computer systems. Application software is used directly by users for specific tasks, while system software provides the fundamental infrastructure that allows computers to operate. Programming software supports developers in creating new applications, and custom software offers tailored solutions for specific needs. These different software categories are crucial for the efficient and effective use of technology in various fields.

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This article was created as part of NEXT “In the spotlight: Software”.

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