Computer software, or simply software, is a collection of data or computer instructions that tell the computer how to work. This is in contrast to physical hardware, from which the system is built and actually performs the work. In computer science and software engineering, computer software is all information processed by computer systems, programs, and data. Computer software includes computer programs, libraries and related non-executable data, such as online documentation or digital media. Computer hardware and software require each other and neither can be realistically used on its own.
At the lowest programming level, executable code consists of machine language instructions supported by an individual processor — typically a central processing unit (CPU) or a graphics processing unit (GPU). A machine language consists of groups of binary values signifying processor instructions that change the state of the computer from its preceding state. For example, an instruction may change the value stored in a particular storage location in the computer—an effect that is not directly observable to the user. An instruction may also invoke one of many input or output operations, for example displaying some text on a computer screen; causing state changes that should be visible to the user. The processor executes the instructions in the order they are provided, unless it is instructed to "jump" to a different instruction, or is interrupted by the operating system. As of 2015, most personal computers, smartphone devices, and servers have processors with multiple execution units or multiple processors performing computation together, and computing has become a much more concurrent activity than in the past.
The majority of software is written in high-level programming languages. They are easier and more efficient for programmers because they are closer to natural languages than machine languages. High-level languages are translated into machine language using a compiler or an interpreter or a combination of the two. Software may also be written in a low-level assembly language, which has strong correspondence to the computer's machine language instructions and is translated into machine language using an assembler.
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F.A.Q about Software
What is software?
Sometimes abbreviated as SW and S/W, software is a collection of instructions that enable the user to interact with a computer, its hardware, or perform tasks. Without software, most computers would be useless. For example, without your Internet browser software, you could not surf the Internet or read this page. Without an operating system, the browser could not run on your computer. The picture shows a Microsoft Excel box, an example of a spreadsheet software program.
How do you get software?
Software can be purchased at a retail computer store or online and come in a box containing all the disks (floppy diskette, CD, DVD, or Blu-ray), manuals, warranty, and other documentation.
Software can also be downloaded to a computer over the Internet. Once downloaded, setup files are run to start the installation process on your computer.
There are also a lot of free software programs available that are separated into different categories.
- Shareware or trial software is software that gives you a few days to try the software before you have to buy the program. After the trial time expires, you'll be asked to enter a code or register the product before you can continue to use it.
- Freeware is completely free software that never requires payment, as long as it is not modified.
- Open-source software is similar to freeware. Not only is the program given away free, but the source code used to make the program is also, allowing anyone to modify the program or view how it was created.
How do you use computer software?
Once the software is installed on the computer hard drive, the program can be used anytime by finding the program on the computer. On a Windows computer, a program icon is added to the Start menu or Start screen, depending on your version of Windows.
How to maintain software?
After the software is installed on your computer, it may need to be updated to fix any found errors. Updating a program can be done using software patches. Once updates are installed, any problems that may have been experienced in the program will no longer occur.
How is software created and how does it work?
A computer programmer (or several computer programmers) writes the instructions using a programming language, defining how the software should operate on structured data. The program may then be interpreted or compiled into machine code.