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2.1: Software Types

Exam Board:



2016 - Unit 1 

Software refers to the programs and applications that run on a computer system. 

Open Source Software

Source code is the software code written by programmers.

If the software is open source it means that users can view and modify the code.


Linux, Python and Firefox are examples of open source software.

Programming Console



Because the source code is available to edit, it can be customised to the organisation's needs.

Often shared in the public domain so users can work together to modify, debug and improve a product.

Unwanted features can be removed to make the software run faster.

There are security risks - some editors may add malicious code to the program.

Open source software is often low in price and sometimes free.

It may be difficult to receive support as development is often distributed between people in different locations.

The code may be prone to errors as it may not have been tested fully.

It requires technical skills to be able to adapt source code efficiently and to maintain the code.

Closed Source Software

If the software is closed source it means the code is restricted for users to view or modify.


You buy the right to use the software but you don't actually own it. Microsoft Office, Fortnite and Spotify are examples of closed source software.


Closed source software is also known as proprietary software because it is another company's property and protected by law.

Programming Console



The code is well tested and has been professionally developed. Updates will generally be secure.

Users must rely on the company to provide updates and fix issues. This might be infrequent or stop completely.

The company can be held to account if it does not perform as listed in the terms and conditions upon purchase.

Often not free (see Freeware below for free closed source software).

Most developers will provide some form of help/support.

Users cannot modify, debug or improve the code for their own benefit.

Off-the-Shelf Software

This is any software made for general use, with features that can be used in different ways and for different purposes.


Examples include office software (e.g. Microsoft Office), video games (e.g. Minecraft) and image editors (e.g. Adobe PhotoShop).

Back before internet downloads, people had to actually go to shops and buy software off the shelf and install it at home, hence the name.



Should have been tested thoroughly so users can be confident that features will work as expected. Secure updates will be regular.

It can be expensive to purchase some software, especially for a single user rather than a business. Some software, such as anti-virus protection, requires yearly licenses.

It can be cheaper to purchase than bespoke software as it is not customised for a specific user or organisation.

The software may contain additional features that the user / organisation doesn’t need which can reduce the performance of the system.

The end users might be familiar with the software and trust the company (e.g. Microsoft Word).

Bespoke Software

This is any software that has been custom made for a specific organisation or user. For example, programmers might be hired by a company to create software for a specific task. Hospitals and schools use bespoke software to track and manage patients / students. 

It can be expensive to commission bespoke software as programmers and user interface designers need to be hired and there could be issues with rights to any created software.



The software is built to the company's requirements, it is unique to their needs.

Unwanted features can be removed to make the software run faster.

Bespoke software is expensive to develop because it is tailor-made for the company.

Staff may require training on using the system because it is unique.

The look of the software (e.g. design & layout) can be customised to fit the company's image.

Because it has been custom-made, the original programmers may be needed to maintain the software and fix errors.


This software allows the user to trial the program for a limited time before forcing them to buy the product or stop using it.

For example, WinRAR is utility software that asks the user to buy the full version after 40 days. This allows the user to get a taste of what the software offers before choosing whether to buy it fully or not.


This is software that is freely available to download and use. These are usually closed-source software that earn money through adverts or additional purchases. Rights to the software remain with the author despite the free access.


App developers may release their app as freeware to allow users to try the software and then encourage them to purchase a full version with more features. Unlike shareware, the user should be able to keep using the product for free indefinitely, though their version may have features restricted or adverts enabled.


Examples of freeware software include iTunes, Clash of Clans and Adobe Acrobat Reader (for PDFs).

Embedded Software

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An embedded system is when a smaller computer system is installed within a larger device, such as a washing machine, traffic light or car.


Embedded systems have a dedicated purpose and often run in real-time. Because of the small size, the embedded software will usually have memory and storage restrictions.

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Questo's Questions

2.1 - Software Types:

1. Describe the 7 types of software, listing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

      a. Open Source

      b. Closed Source

      c. Off-the-Shelf

      d. Bespoke

      e. Shareware

      f. Freeware

      g. Embedded    [6 each]

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