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Application software


Application software (app for short) is software designed to perform a group of coordinated functions, tasks, or activities for the benefit of the user. Examples of an application include a word processor, a spreadsheet, an accounting application, a web browser, an email client, a media player, a file viewer, an aeronautical flight simulator, a console game or a photo editor. The collective noun application software refers to all applications collectively. This contrasts with system software, which is mainly involved with running the computer.

In information technology, an application (app), application program or software application is a computer program designed to help people perform an activity. An application thus differs from an operating system (which runs a computer), a utility (which performs maintenance or general-purpose chores), and a programming tool (with which computer programs are created). Depending on the activity for which it was designed, an application can manipulate text, numbers, audio, graphics, or a combination of these elements. Some application packages focus on a single task, such as word processing; others, called integrated software include several applications.

The delineation between system software such as operating systems and application software is not exact, however, and is occasionally the object of controversy. For example, one of the key questions in the United States v. Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial was whether Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser was part of its Windows operating system or a separable piece of application software. As another example, the GNU/Linux naming controversy is, in part, due to disagreement about the relationship between the Linux kernel and the operating systems built over this kernel. In some types of embedded systems, the application software and the operating system software may be indistinguishable to the user, as in the case of software used to control a VCR, DVD player or microwave oven. The above definitions may exclude some applications that may exist on some computers in large organizations. For an alternative definition of an app: see Application Portfolio Management.

Some applications are available in versions for several different platforms; others only work on one and are thus called, for example, a Geography application for Microsoft Windows, or an Android application for education, or a Linux game. Sometimes a new and popular application arises which only runs on one platform, increasing the desirability of that platform. This is called a killer application or killer app. For example, VisiCalc was the first modern spreadsheet software for the Apple II and helped selling the then-new personal computers into offices. For Blackberry it was their email software.

Public-domain software is a type of FOSS, which is royalty-free and - openly or reservedly- can be run, distributed, modified, reversed, republished or created in derivative works without any copyright attribution and therefore revocation. It can even be sold, but without transferring the public domain property to other single subjects. Public-domain SW can be released under an (un)licensing legal statement, which enforces those terms and conditions for an indefinite duration (for a lifetime, or forever).

Since the development and near-universal adoption of the web, an important distinction that has emerged, has been between web applications â written with HTML, JavaScript and other web-native technologies and typically requiring one to be online and running a web browser, and the more traditional native applications written in whatever languages are available for one's particular type of computer. There has been a contentious debate in the computing community regarding web applications replacing native applications for many purposes, especially on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Web apps have indeed greatly increased in popularity for some uses, but the advantages of applications make them unlikely to disappear soon, if ever. Furthermore, the two can be complementary, and even integrated.