4 Main Types of Software: Applications, Systems, Servers, and Cloud

4 Main Types of Software

Whether you check the weather on your phone, create a spreadsheet or join a video call, you’re using software. But what exactly is it?

There are 4 main types of software. These include consumer-focused technologies like virus scanners and apps that perform a single function for users, enterprise solutions that streamline workflows and back-office support.


A broad term, application software fulfills a variety of user needs by intelligently processing data. It is often custom-made for an organization and offers features such as security, seamless management and integration with other tools.

This type of software handles multitudes of standard and specialized tasks that users need to achieve, such as accounting, communicating, or word processing. It includes programs such as word processors, media players, image editors and web browsers, along with communication applications, such as email, text chat and video conferencing.

It also includes a variety of gaming software for various computer consoles and mobile devices, such as PCs, smartphones, and tablets. The system software (or base software) is responsible for managing basic (and invisible to the end-user) computer hardware functions and sanctioning an environment on which application software can work in. This includes device drivers that enable a computer to work with nonstandard hardware, as well as the software that comes with standard devices like keyboards and headphones.


System software is the backbone of computer systems. It creates a platform that apps sit inside and is essential for the device to function at all. It includes the operating system, compilers, assemblers and interpreters, which translate the high-level programming languages like Java, Python and C++ into the low-level machine code instructions (i.e. 1s and 0s) that the hardware can understand.

It’s also the bridge that connects computer hardware, application software and end users. It’s the first thing that loads when you turn on your computer or mobile device.

It manages basic internal functions, such as memory management, process management and task scheduling. It sanctions an environment for other application software to work in and is typically bundled with the operating system. Users don’t interact with it directly but depend on it for their daily tasks. Also, system software is developed in low-level language or machine code for better compatibility with hardware. This is a different approach than application software, which is written in high-level language for more functionality and versatility.


Server software operates computer hardware to power in-network devices, called clients. It supports complex server processes such as responding to user queries in real-time, hosting content-heavy websites and providing shared storage for network devices.

It also incorporates robust security measures to prevent unauthorized access and cyberthreats, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Additionally, servers often use multiple network interface cards (NICs) to offer redundancy and load balancing.

Examples of application server software include email servers, web browsers and file transfer protocol (FTP) servers such as ProFTPD and FileZilla. The data for most of the websites you see on the internet resides on these types of servers.

A dynamic web server, on the other hand, contains an application server and a database that collaborate to produce the final pages you see in your browser. The server software fills in HTML templates using real-time data retrieved from the database. To perform this, it uses structured query language (SQL) or variations of it.


Every time you send a text message, check the weather on your phone or create a budget spreadsheet in Excel, you’re using software. Similarly, when your company uses cloud applications like Salesforce or MailChimp to manage customer relationships and communications, you’re leveraging the power of software.

Cloud-based software works by storing files and programs remotely on a server over the internet, rather than on your own computer. This allows users to access and work on the same documents from any device with a web browser and proper login credentials. It also allows businesses to avoid upfront hardware costs and scale up or down as needed. There are several types of cloud models, including infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS). Some examples of application software in the cloud include online storage, word processing, image editing, communication platforms and business management systems. The back-end layer of cloud computing consists of central servers, which store data securely.

Reverse your steps to the main page