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2.2: Applications Software

Exam Board:



2016 - Unit 1 

What is applications software?

Don't confuse applications software and apps.


Apps generally have a single use, such as Angry Birds or the flashlight tool on a phone.

Applications Software can be used for a number of different functions depending on the user's needs and their purpose.

Productivity Software

This is general use software for completing tasks accurately and efficiently.


Key examples include word processors (e.g. Microsoft Word or Google Docs), presentation software (e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides) and web browsers (e.g. Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome). 

Email applications (e.g. Microsoft Outlook or Gmail) are beneficial to organisations because staff can send information to many customers at once which is a simpler and less costly method of communication than something like sending letters or leaflets in the mail. Emails can also include attachments of important documents and include multimedia elements like images and videos to make communication more interesting.

Databases and Spreadsheets

Database tables and spreadsheets can store both numerical and textual data ready for analysis. Examples include simple database tables and financial spreadsheets of a company's profits this year. Microsoft Access is an example of database software that uses tables and Microsoft Excel is an example of spreadsheet software. Data can be sorted numerically or alphabetically for both software types but graphs can be created from spreadsheets to visualise data.

When using spreadsheets (or databases) records can be locked ('record locking') so that only one person can make edits at any one time. Edits will be saved before unlocking the file. This will stop data being incorrectly overwritten and will ensure that the data in the spreadsheet is up-to-date, accurate and fit for purpose.

An advantage of databases over spreadsheets is that data can be atomised - stored in separate tables but linked through relationships.

Development Tools

These are tools for programmers who are creating or modifying software.


An integrated development environment (IDE) is software used to create and edit programs.
An IDE features a number of
tools including:

  • A translator is a program that converts one type of language into another.

  • A compiler is a type of translator that converts instructions into machine code (binary).

  • A debugger is used to test code and display errors.

Other development tools aid programmers with developing and maintaining websites and apps for phones / tablets. has been used to create and update this website.

Business Software

This is specialist software for businesses, often made bespoke for an organisation. 


One example of business software is design packages such as CAD / CAM (Computer-Aided Design / Computer-Aided Manufacturing). This is the use of software to design and construct products. Workers such as manufacturers and dentists use this type of software.

Another type of business software is project management software that allows teams of workers to collaborate and divide projects into manageable tasks. 


Expert systems use large databases for automatic decision making, such as medical diagnosis programs.


Further examples of business software, such as Management Information Systems (MIS), can be found in 3.5.

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Questo's Questions

2.2 - Applications Software:

1. State four different kinds of productivity software and briefly describe how each could be used. For example: "Word processors can be used to type up a letter in an office or write an essay for school."   [8]

2. Describe two differences between database and spreadsheet software.  [2]

3a. What is an Integrated Development Environment [1]

3b. Describe three tools used in an IDE.  [6]


4. Giving brief examples of how they can be used, state four different types of business software [8]


5. Suggest how a website design company could use each of the three types of applications software (Productivity Software, Development Tools and Business Software).  [6]

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