The different types of application software programs can be categorized in many ways, but the most common breakdown includes seven groups: Internet, productivity, communications, graphics, multimedia, games and utilities. Increasingly, only one piece of application software is really necessary to meet most of our computing needs: the Web browser, a type of Internet software. However, other types remain important, and they are most likely on your computer in one form or another.
Internet applications, including Web browsers, BitTorrent clients, FTP clients and other programs that allow you to access online data, are the most important applications on any modern computer. With a Web browser, a computer can not only access the vast amount of information available on the World Wide Web but can also use the stunning array of online apps covering all the other categories of application software with just one program.
Productivity software is a catch-all phrase for applications that have traditionally been crucial to the office environment, including word processors, spreadsheet programs and database programs. This category also can include communications software and graphics software. Despite the reliability of online productivity suites like Zoho, even the most advanced online suites do not deliver the same professional quality that desktop application software does. However, online apps are unparalleled for their collaborative capabilities. If getting a group to work on a simple script is more important to you than creating a document with elaborate formatting, then a Web browser might be all you need.
Communications applications software, sometimes grouped with Internet applications or productivity applications, include e-mail, chat and other programs that enable you to interact with other individuals online. With the prevalence of superior Webmail services like Gmail and GMX, using a separate e-mail client like Thunderbird or Outlook is becoming a thing of the past, and online chat apps like Meebo are similarly making otherwise excellent programs like Pidgin less useful.
Graphics programs provide users with tools to view and edit image files. While most operating systems include basic graphics programs, more advanced options like the GIMP or Photoshop are necessary for serious photographers and graphic designers. Image editing apps are currently the cutting edge of online apps, with a number of options vying for primacy in this wide open market arena. Vector editing programs like Adobe Illustrator also fall into this category, along with desktop publishing programs like Adobe InDesign or Scribus.
Multimedia software includes any programs that enable your computer to play back, create and edit audio and video files. Most users need only the playback function, so a program like iTunes or DoubleTwist might be all you need. Online apps like Pandora and Last.fm can expand your music library in ways a desktop application can't, and, for some people, these programs are a primary source of music. Musicians and movie makers use more advanced software for their multimedia needs and are unlikely to find alternatives online ... yet.
Games probably came with your computer out of the box, and, while they might be fun, they barely scratch the surface of a computer's gaming capability. Unfortunately, most hard core gamers probably think that your computer cannot scratch the surface of what a real computer can do when it comes to gaming performance, which is why gamers are among the most knowledgeable computer purchasers out there. The tremendous selection of computer games continues to expand with ever greater demands on system resources.
Utilities are programs that allow you to interact with system software and manage your computer's resources. Some utilities, like CCleaner, remove unnecessary files from your hard drive, while others, like WinPatrol, allow you to control the services and programs that start when you log in.