Software

A diagram showing how the user interacts with application software on a typical desktop computer.The application software layer interfaces with the operating system, which in turn communicates with the hardware. The arrows indicate information flow.

Computer software, or simply software, is a generic term that refers to a collection of data or computer instructions that tell the computer how to work, in contrast to the physical hardware from which the system is built, that 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 level, executable code consists of machine language instructions specific to an individual processor—typically a central processing unit(CPU). 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 (indirectly) cause something to appear on a display of the computer system—a state change which should be visible to the user. The processor carries out 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. (By now multi-core processors are dominant, where each core can run instructions in order; then, however, each application software runs only on one core by default, but some software has been made to run on many)

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