Application software is computer programmes written to perform a specific task. Popular application software includes:

  • Word processors
  • Spreadsheets
  • Databases
  • Web browsers
  • Security packages
  • CAD design packages
  • Desktop publishing
  • Graphics and design packages
  • Personal information managers
  • Enterprise resource planning software
  • Customer relationship management software

Application software traditionally ran on desktop computers running operating systems such as Microsoft Windows or Apple's MacOS.

With the rising power of portable computing devices such as tablet PCs and mobile phones, application software is now increasingly popular on these mobile devices. Apple has popularised the use of Application Software though the use of iPhone Apps. The iPhone's Apps have proven to be wildly popular with iPhone users, and Apps are now being developed for use on many other brands of mobile computing device.

The Internet has also lead to a second revolution in application software - the concept of Software as a Service (SaaS). This generally works by allowing users to access application software through a standard web browser. An example of SaaS application software is the software products that are very popular with businesses. The great thing about SaaS solutions is that there is no software to install on the user's PCs, and the vendor is responsible for managing upgrades, data backups and all the other essential tasks involved with owning software. SaaS solutions are also great in that they allow users to access them from any mobile Internet enabled device, which is fantastic for companies with mobile sales teams or maintenence engineers who spend the bulk of their working time away from the office.

Application Software Niches

Specialist application software can be found in many different niches, including:

  • Educational software
  • Scientific and technical software
  • Industry control sytems such as software used in air traffic control systems, power station monitoring and traffic control

There is a wide range of application software available in every niche. Most application software is off the shelf, that is it cannot be extensively customised and all the end users of that software are largely using the same versions of the software. Examples include the Microsoft Word word processor. By comparison, some application software can be extensively customised. Customised software is usually used by companies to manage their essential business processes. Customer relationship management software (CRM) is a type of software that is often extensively customised to fit in with the company's business processes.

How to Buy Application Software

Traditionally software came in a box with a set of installation disks, a printed manual and sometimes a letter that you could post back to the software vendor in order to register for product updates and special offers.

Now that the Internet is so popular, it's possible to buy a lot of software online then download it to your computer. While this has made software cheaper by reducing distribution costs, it means that you can sometimes lose the software you bought if you're not careful to back it up after purchase.

Application software price varies enormously. A software package to manage air traffic may cost tens of millions of dollars. By comparison a small mobile app that can be used on an Apple iPhone can cost less than a dollar. In general the less specialised and more mass market a software package is the less it will cost. Application software is also much cheaper if the end user of the software doesn't require it to be customised.

An increasing amount of application software is now sold on the shareware basis. This usually allows a user to download and install a trial version of the software. Trial versions are sometimes time limited or there may be a limited set of functions available in the trial version. There are a lot of companies like RegNow, Clickbank or PayPal that allow shareware authors to allow users to pay for and register the full versions of their products. Shareware may be found online via the software developer's own website or via download sites like SharewarePlaza.