Application Software programs are written to solve specific problems (or to handle the needs) of the end-user in particular areas.
They interface between the user & system programs to allow the user to perform specific tasks.
Application software helps to solve the problems of the computer user, and are therefore said to be user-oriented.
They are designed specifically to carry out particular tasks. For example, they can be used to type & create professional documents such as letters, solve mathematical equations, draw pictures, etc.
- Application programs can be written by the user, programmers employed by the user, or by a Software house (a company specializing in writing software).
- Application programs can be written with very little knowledge of the hardware details of a specific computer, and can run on several different computers with little or no modification.
Application software falls into 2 main categories/groups: –
- General-purpose packages (Application packages).
- Special-purpose applications (User programs).
General-purpose packages (Application Software packages).
They are usually pre-written programs made for non-specialists, in the home or business, and may be used for a wide variety of purposes.
They are off-shelf programs that are developed & supplied by manufacturers, Bureaux & software houses at a price.
They provide a general set of facilities that are used in dealing with similar types of tasks, which arise in a wide variety of different application problems.
The range, quality and variety of the packages are continuously changing.
Examples of Application packages are: –
* Word processors * Spreadsheets.
* Databases * Graphic packages, etc.
Package – a set of fully described & related programs stored together to perform a specific task. They are developed to solve particular problems in one or more organizations with little or no alterations.
Advantages of Application Software packages as compared to other forms of applications.
- Packages save a lot time & programming effort, because the company buys the software when it is ready-made.
- Are relatively cheap to the user. These programs are usually sold in large numbers. Again, the cost of developing the programs is effectively shared between the purchases.
- They are appropriate for a large variety of applications.
- Most packages are menu-driven, i.e., the user is provided with a set of options displayed on the screen; hence, they are easy to learn & use, making them suitable for people with little or no computing knowledge.
- Packages are extensively/thoroughly tested & debugged (has all errors corrected), i.e. if it is a popular package, it is usually tried & approved by a large no. of people. The testing is done by a pool of professional programmers and analysts.
- Are usually provided with extensive documentation to help the user.
- Relatively quick results are obtained.
- The packages are generally portable. In addition, there is usually a maintenance agreement between the supplier & the buyer.
- Application packages can be rented, especially by users who might require to use them only periodically, hence cutting on costs, e.g. maintenance.
Disadvantages (drawbacks) of Application Software packages.
- The package is produced to meet general needs (a wide variety of user’s needs) & therefore, may not be ideal for a particular customer/ company.
- The purchaser has no direct control over the package, because he/she is not involved in developing it.
- Packages cannot be modified.
The user may not be free to correct any routines/ functions of the package, because there is always a maintenance guarantee & the application of the developer’s copyright acts.
- A package may include extra facilities, which are not required by an individual user or company.
- Sometimes, the package will allow only a clumsy solution to the task at hand.
- In the case of Spreadsheet or Database, the user must still develop the application, which requires a thorough knowledge of the capabilities of the package, which are usually quite extensive.
- The user must still provide documentation for the particular application that he/she has created.
- It is quite easy to forget the commands to use the package, especially if it is not used frequently.
Special-purpose applications (User-developed/ in-house programs).
They are written to meet the specific needs of an organization.
They are usually customized (modified/ tailored) programs written by the user or a Software house under contract, to perform a specific job.
They are developed by users to solve only the specific processing tasks in one organization, and may not suit the needs of other organizations, hence the name In-house or Tailor-made programs.
They are designed for a particular identifiable group of users such as Estate agents, farmers, Hoteliers, etc.
They are usually aimed at providing all the facilities required for particular class of application problem such as Payroll / Stock control.
Since the programs are occupation- specific; they sell fewer & tend to be more expensive.
Advantages of Special-purpose applications.
- The user gets a well tried & tested program, which he/she is able to use with confidence.
- The user is able to quickly implement the results obtained from the use of the package.
Disadvantages of Special-purpose applications.
- Purchaser has direct control over the package, as he is involved in its production.
- Are very expensive.
Factors to consider when buying an Application package.
The following are some of the factors that a buyer who is intending to acquire an Application package should consider: –
- Cost of the package in relation to the expected benefits against the cost of developing in-house programs.
- Compatibility: – (fitting) of the package with/within the existing computer resources, e.g., hardware, software, etc.
- Whether there is maintenance support from the suppliers.
- Whether there is accompanying documentation (the descriptions), which helps in using, maintaining & installing the package.
- The portability of the package, i.e. whether the package can be used on different families of computers.
- A good package is that which is easy to learn & use. This helps to determine the duration of training that might be involved & the subsequent cost of training.
- Before buying a particular package, its current users should be interviewed to find out whether the package is successful and famous in the market.
- (a). What do you mean by Application software?
(b). Describe the main forms of Application software.
EXAMPLES OF APPLICATION SOFTWARE PACKAGES.
A Word processor is a computer system with a special piece of software used for the production of documents.
Word processors can be used to prepare & produce letters, documents, books, articles, mailing lists and any material that involves text.
Common examples of Word processors: –
* Microsoft Word. * WordPerfect.
* Lotus Word Pro. * WordStar.
* Wang writer.
Depending on the task & the type of output required, either Text Editors or Word processors can be used.
A Text editor is the simplest Word processor. Text editors are mainly used to write small notes, memos and programs.
A Text editor is used to type text without any special formatting; however, the document can be saved, retrieved and modified at will.
The 2 types of Text Editors.
- Line Editors – allow users to work with one line of text at a time.
An example of a line editor is the DOS COPY CON.
- Screen Editors. These are full screen editors that allow users to work with large files of up to 64 KB in size.
They use Special keys that can be used to Cut, Copy, Paste & Delete blocks of text.
They also have a Search & Replace facility, which can be used to easily search for a specific text and replace it with something else.
Spreadsheets are application packages used for manipulation of figures. A spreadsheet application lets the user enter numerical data.
A Spreadsheet usually consists of a series of rows & columns in which data entries can be made. The figures or text are inserted into the Cells. A cell is referred to by the column letter and row number (e.g., A1 refers to the first cell).
The package is suited for Accounts oriented work since it has in-built formulas that enable users to perform complex calculations.
- Spreadsheets provide an easy & streamlined means for financial planning.
- Using Spreadsheets, Sales & purchases can be recorded, Invoices produced and statements compiled.
- The management can keep track of the current state of payments from customers in relation to goods dispatched.
- Researchers can compile and analyse their results.
- Teachers can compile their students’ marks and produce results.
- Clerks and secretaries can easily create tables of figures and manipulate them quickly as required.
Examples of Spreadsheet packages in the market today: –
* Microsoft Excel. * Lotus 1-2-3.
* Quattro Pro.
DATABASE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS (DBMS).
A Database is a tool that is used to store large volumes of data in a compact & well-organized manner.
A Database application can be used to store, track and manage files/ records containing related information.
They generally allow users to create database files, enter data, organize that data in various ways, and create reports.
You can create a database for customer’s records, financial records, library records, personal records, etc. The database will help you sort through your records & compile lists based on any criteria you like to establish.
Examples of Database management system programs;
* Microsoft Access. * FoxPro.
* Dbase. * Paradox.
Graphics applications are used to create artwork that can be printed or incorporated into other applications such as, Desktop publishing packages and Word processing programs.
They can be used to create simple line drawings, charts or presentations.
There are different kinds of Graphics programs, all designed to help the user create drawings and illustrations that can be used for different purposes.
Some of the basic categories of Graphics programs include: –
- Clip Art Programs that come with pre-drawn artwork that you can simply copy into any document.
- Draw & Paint programs that have tools you need to create your own artwork.
- Computer Aided Design (CAD) Programs, which are sophisticated versions of draw and paint packages that you use to create detailed images, such as schematics and Blueprints. CAD programs often include 3-D imaging.
- Presentation Graphics software.
Presentation Graphics software is mainly used to create & design outputs (usually Slides) for presentations. They can be used, for instance, by an advertising agency for creating advertisements for Television. These could be sales presentations, management reports and product demonstrations.
Features of a Presentation program.
- You can create slides, which can be used in a slide show.
- You can incorporate ClipArt pictures in a slide (ClipArt is a collection of ready-made graphics you can add to your presentation).
- Presentation Graphics software allows the user to draw charts, graphs & other pictorial data using in-built objects such as, rectangles, ellipses, lines, etc. The user can also add text, and scanned images/ photographs. All the objects can be transformed by sizing, rotating & flipping.
The pictures can be decorated using different colours & shadings, making the presentation look great.
To create a Slide show, all the pages/ slides required should be created first. The user can then arrange them in the desired sequence to form a complete presentation (or Slide show). Special effects can be added to each slide as it is activated & deactivated during the presentation.
Examples of Presentation Graphics packages: –
* Microsoft PowerPoint. * Corel Draw.
* Adobe Photoshop. * Harvard Graphics.
* Lotus Freelance Graphics. * Adobe Illustrator.
DESKTOP PUBLISHERS (DTP).
Desktop publishing is used to create documents that look like typeset professional publications.
Usually, Desktop publishing programs combine data from other applications such as, text from Word processors and artwork from a Graphics package.
DTP is used to handle documents involving printed text, diagrams and images.
DTP programs can be used to create Newsletters, Reports, Books, & any other documents that may require page layout.
Common features of a Desktop publishing package.
- Page formatting features that are used to set Margins, Headers, Footers, Columns, and other page design features.
- Templates that save a page layout for use in other documents.
- Text editing features that enable the user to make changes to text, set fonts & styles, move and position text on a page.
- Built-in fonts that give the user printed materials a unique and original appearance.
Examples of Desktop publishing packages: –
* Adobe PageMaker. * FrameMaker.
* Microsoft Publisher.
COMPUTER AIDED DESIGN (CAD).
CAD is mainly used in Engineering design & Architectural drawings. It is used by engineers, scientists, architects to speed up their design process.
CAD is widely used in Computer simulation.
Computer simulation involves trying to predict what will happen in a real-life situation from a model of that situation.
For example,a CAD program may be used by;
- An Architect to ‘try out’ various designs of a building.
- CAD is widely used in the design of electronic circuits, ships, roads & cars.
- When designing a bridge, an Engineer would like to know the effects of various loading conditions on the bridge without actually having to build the bridge.
- An Aeronautical engineer to determine how a different tail design will affect the performance of an aircraft.
The Aircraft designer would like to know the effect on lift, say, of changing the shape of the wings or the tail without having to build an aircraft with these changes.
A computer is a useful tool in providing answers to these questions.
- It is used in computers in the manufacture of industrial products, in what is referred to as Computer Aided Manufacturer (CAM).
- CAD programs are also used to simulate the timing of traffic lights or a nuclear attack for testing national defenses.
CAD makes it easy to make drawings & modify them at will, allowing the designer to focus more on the actual design, the specifications and functionality of the final product.
Note. The results obtained depend heavily on the models used. The more accurate the model, the
more reliable the results will be.
Examples of CAD packages: –
* AutoCAD. * ArchCAD.
* Architectural Desktop. * Planix Home Designer 3D Deluxe.
* SoftPlan. * Draffics.
Multimedia refers to a combination of text, graphics, sound, animation and video.
Multimedia is essential in many software applications. For example, Word processing and Desktop Publishing documents can be enhanced with graphics, photos and charts. Sound and animation can be added to make presentations exciting.
Multimedia subjects include; children’s learning, History, Geography, hobbies, sports and games.
Multimedia software comes on a Compact Disk (CD-ROM), because they require a large storage space.
The minimum requirements for Multimedia software as set by the Multimedia Personal Computer (MPC) Marketing Council include: –
- CD-ROM Drive.
- Hard disk drive with sufficient storage capacity.
- A 486, or Pentium processor.
- At least 4, 8, or 16 MB of RAM memory.
- A 256 colour or a better Video Adapter.
- A Sound card with Speakers or headphones. A Microphone (is optional) if you want to record your own sounds.
Examples of Multimedia packages: –
* Animation Master 99. * 3D Studio Max.
* Extreme 3D. * Morpher.
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