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The 4 Main Types of Software

POSTED BY The Prim Pack | Jul 10, 2020

When most of us think about software, we usually think about how complex and complicated it is. We might even think that understanding it is unattainable or too abstract for us. Without a doubt, software is intricate and nuanced, but it is something that all of us use and interact with on a daily basis. Whenever you open an app on your phone, speak to your Alexa, or send an email, you are working with a type of software.

While we use software in many forms, each of these forms can be traced back to four main types of software. Having a basic understanding of these software types can give you a glimpse into how they work, and how they could be used for your business. 

What is Software?

Before we dive into the four types of software, let’s briefly look at what software is. Obviously, if you were to ask your favorite computer programmer for a definition of software, it would be much more complex than this, but at its core, software is a computer program or an application that provides instructions to execute a user’s commands. Every time you check the weather on your phone, you are using software. Whenever you open a message on Facebook, create a budget spreadsheet, or join a Zoom call, you are using software.

What Are the 4 Main Types of Software?

Now that we’ve covered the basic definition of software, let’s look at the four main types of software and how they are used in life and in business. 

Application Software

This is the most common type of computer software, and can be defined as end-user programs that help you perform tasks or achieve a desired outcome. The end-user is the person who is actually using a product or program. (They are the one for whom the “end result” is designed.) Some examples of application software include internet browsers, a CRM tool like Hubspot, a photo-editing software like Adobe or Lightroom, or a word processing application like Microsoft Word. Application software is installed on a computer or mobile device based upon a user’s need. Because this is the most common type of software, there are many options available and users can choose the one that best fits their needs, budget, and expectations. (For example, anyone wanting to look on the internet could use Chrome, Safari, or even Firefox.)

System Software

System software helps the user, the computer or mobile device, and an application all work together seamlessly. This makes system software crucial to running any kind of application software as well as the whole computer system. 

Think about when your laptop or phone has an update. This is system software in action: there is a tweak made to the system software that helps your computer or phone continue to work well and keep applications running. Apple’s iOS is an example of system software, as is Microsoft Windows. System software is always running in the background of your device, but it is never something you will use directly. In fact, the only time most people remember it’s there is when it is time for an update.

Programming Software


While application software is designed for end-users, and system software is designed for computers or mobile devices, programming software is for computer programmers and developers who are writing code. These are programs that are used to write, develop, test, and debug other software programs. It’s helpful to think of these programs as a translator of sorts: they take programming languages like Laravel, Python, C++, and more and translate them into something a computer or phone will understand. 

Driver Software

This software is often considered to be a type of system software. Driver software operates and controls devices that are plugged into a computer. These drivers make it possible for devices to perform their necessary functions. A very good (and practical) example of this is your printer. When you are first setting up your printer to work with your computer, you have to install software to connect the two so that they communicate and print anything you need. 

It Takes Four to Make a Thing Go Right

Software isn’t just for browsing funny face filters or learning new dance moves. It can help your team increase their efficiency and become more productive and capable in their work. A custom software solution can help you eliminate the bottleneck of tracking personnel receipts and expenses, or can make it easier for your team to manage marketing contacts. 

And custom software can also serve as a solution for your customers. For example, a live chat option on your website provides immediate contact for customers or prospects with an urgent need or who are ready to make a purchase. A custom software could also help your customers track their service rep en route to their home, or submit a request for technical support.

Understanding the different types of software can help you identify which type could best serve you and your company. Interested in learning more about how software can benefit your business and serve your customers? Set up a consultation with us today!

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About the writer, The Prim Pack

I'm Buffy the Bison! When I'm not strolling through the plains of West Texas, I am proud to represent Primitive and the digital craftsman it is home to.