If you’re just learning about different types of software, you may be wondering whether Microsoft Word is an example of system software. Being one of the most popular desktop programs, it’s natural to wonder which software category to place it in.
Before understanding whether Microsoft Word is system software, however, it is critical to understand what exactly system software is. It’s also essential to have a good grasp of the various types of software in general.
The two main types of software are system software and application software. First, I’ll explain exactly what software is and the differences between system and application software.
Then, I’ll talk about Microsoft Word and explain why it is not an example of system software. Let’s get into it.
Before we can delve into the differences between system and application software, we need to understand what software is and what makes it different from hardware.
Many people confuse system software and hardware, but they’re two very different things.
Software is a set of code that tells your computer what to do. Think of it as a set of instructions that tell the computer how to run or execute a specific task.
Various programs, applications, and scripts, such as Microsoft Word, fall under the category of software.
The difference between software and hardware is that hardware refers to the physical parts of your computer. That includes your mouse, screen, keyboard, CPU, and any other hard part you can touch with your hand – hence the term hardware.
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However, without software, hardware is useless, like a brick. It’s like a dead body, without any capabilities or functions.
We need system software to get the hardware to operate as a functional computer. System software instructs the hardware how to operate, turn on, show a display, perform tasks, and so on.
It may be helpful to think of system software as the brain and hardware as the body, although it’s not a perfect analogy.
Now that we understand what hardware and software are, it’s time to explain the difference between system software and application software.
As mentioned, system software is code that tells the hardware how to operate. Windows is an example of system software.
If you don’t have Windows, Linux, or another operating system installed on your hardware, you won’t be able to do much with it.
System software provides the platform for application software to run on. It interacts closely with the hardware of your computer, and it’s written in a low-level language, so the hardware can understand its instructions.
System software has a more general purpose – instead of being there to help you perform a particular task, it’s there to help you perform a wide range of tasks.
Application software, on the other hand, has a more specific purpose. Each software has a different purpose and is designed to help you perform a particular task or set of tasks.
Application software is usually written in a high-level language.
That’s because while system software interacts with the hardware, application software provides a program interface for the user (you) to interact with. You don’t interact closely with the system software itself.
Low-level language is written for machines (like your hardware) to understand. High-level language is for programs designed for humans.
You install system software on your hardware when you install an operating system, like Windows or Linux. Once installed, it will run at all times when your computer is on, and it will be interacting with the hardware and instructing it how to operate.
System software is essential; without it, you can’t do much with your laptop. On the other hand, you can uninstall and reinstall application software without impacting the capabilities and functions of other application software.
You’re probably familiar with at least some system software, at least if you have a computer or a phone. For desktop computers and laptops, the most common system software includes Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Lesser-used system software for laptops includes Raspberry Pi and Chrome OS. Chrome OS is the system software used on Chromebooks, and it’s based on Linux.
For mobile phones and tablets, the most common system software are Android and iOS. Windows Mobile was a popular operating system that has since been discontinued, as has the Blackberry OS, which stopped operating at the beginning of 2022.
As you can see, all software have one thing in common: They allow the hardware of the device, whether that’s a laptop or phone, to operate.
Application software programs are more user-specific. Here are some examples of the most popular application software:
- Microsoft Word
- Google Chrome
- Safari Browser
- Windows Media Player
Even applications that come preinstalled on your device don’t necessarily fall into the category of system software. If they can be disabled and not interfere with the functionality of the device, and if they have a specific use case, they’re still application software.
For example, Android phones might come with the Google Maps app installed. However, that’s still application software.
To understand whether Microsoft Word is system software, you only need to know about system and application software. However, other types of software do exist, although many of them fall into either the system or application software category.
- Firmware: Firmware is low-level software embedded into the hardware. Firmware helps tell the hardware what to do and facilitates interaction between the system software and hardware. You don’t need to buy it separately like Windows.
- Utility software: Utility software includes antivirus programs and disk cleanup tools. They help the system operate smoothly, but they aren’t exactly system software. You don’t need an antivirus to run Windows.
- Language translators: Programming language translators translate programs from one code to another, such as from high-level code to low-level code, to make it possible for the machine to read it.
The following types of software can be either system or application software:
- Open-source software: This is software for which the source code is public. Linux is open-source system software.
- Freeware: Freeware isn’t necessarily open source, but it’s free.
- Shareware: Shareware is only free for evaluation – for example, it might have a free trial.
- Proprietary software: Proprietary software isn’t public like open-source software but owned by an entity. It could be freeware, shareware, or paid software.
Now that you have a good grasp of the different types of software and what system software is, let’s go back to our original question.
First, we need to understand what Microsoft Word is. Most of you already know this, but let’s quickly go over it.
Microsoft Word is a word processor application that people can use to write documents, edit documents, check text for errors, and so on.
Knowing what we know about system and application software, here are some questions to ask:
- Is Microsoft Word essential for the operating system? No, it’s not. You can use Windows without it.
- Does Microsoft Word provide an operating system for other applications to run on? No, it does not.
- Is Microsoft Word written in a low-level language? No, Microsoft Office applications like Word are written in C languages, which are high-level languages.
As such, we can conclude that Microsoft Word is not a good example of system software.
So, is Microsoft Word a good example of application software? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does it exist for a specific use case? Yes, it does – it allows users to do specific tasks like writing documents.
- Can you execute it at will, instead of needing it to run at all times the operating system is on? Yes, you can use it only when you need it.
- Does it require system software to operate? Yes, you need a system software like Windows to run Microsoft Word.
- Is it written in a high-level language? Yes, it is.
As such, we can safely conclude that Microsoft Word is a good example of application software. Specifically, it is proprietary software – the source code is not public; it is instead owned by Microsoft.
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The answer to that question is no!
Microsoft Word is not an example of system software. On the contrary, it is an example of application software, which requires system software to function.
Windows, on the other hand, is an example of system software. Windows provides a platform for application software like Microsoft Word to operate.
It’s important to note that both the desktop version of Microsoft Word and the web version are examples of application software.
The difference is that the downloadable desktop version runs on a local server (your device). The online version of Microsoft Word runs on a web server and is accessible through an internet connection and a browser, like Chrome (also an application software).
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.