Introduction to Computer Information Systems/Application Software

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Application Software Basics[edit]

Google Drive Logo
Commercial Software-Microsoft Office

Application software allows you to do anything on the computer, such as playing games, or watching TV. Anyone and everyone using a computer should be familiar with the different applications available to them and how to properly utilize said programs. For instance one of the most widely used application software is Microsoft Word.[1] Microsoft Word allows you to create, edit, save and print digital documents on your computer. While it is not the only word processor out there, it is the most popular. Others would include WordPerfect,[2] Google drive,[3] and iWork.[4] You could also create spreadsheets through Excel,[5] create a presentation through Keynote,[6] and even edit music though Audacity.[7] All of these will be discussed in greater detail as we move on in this section.

Installed vs. Web-based[edit]

Dropbox is a web-based software

There are two different types of application software: installed software and web-based software. Installed software must first be installed to the computer before it can be used. When you purchase an installed software, the company can either send you a physical copy of the software, usually in the form of a CD, or you might also have the option of downloading the software from the companies webpage. Web-based software is software that remains on the internet which you can use at an on-demand basis. Web-based software is also referred to as Software as a Service or Cloudware. Some web-based softwares include Google Docs, Dropbox, Prezi, and many others.[8]

Advantages and Disadvantages[edit]

Web-based software has recently become a more popular alternative to installed software, however, it has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages of web-based software is that as long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your files. This allows for you to access the same files from many different device including desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. Also, this allows for users to be working on one shared file rather than continuously sending edited files back and forth to each other. With web-based software, only one file exists, so it avoids confusion and even allows for multiple users to be working on one file at the same time. Also, instead of having to continuously install software updates, web-based software stays updated online by whatever company owns the software.[9] Some of the disadvantages of software include file size limits. The amount of files as well as the size of each file are dependent upon how much cloud storage the application’s company allows on its servers. Many companies such as Google, Apple, and Dropbox, charge monthly or annual fees if users want more storage space. With installed software, the amount of storage you have is only dependent on how much storage space you have on your computer. If you know that you’re going to use a lot of storage space, it would be better to have an installed software so that you can avoid paying large fees for taking up server space. Another disadvantage to web-based software is slower speeds. Because the applications are being used through the Internet, it takes more time to access the files. Also, users have to deal with logins and security precautions such as creating passwords, linking emails to an account, and answering questions if you forget your password.[10]

Creating Application Software[edit]

Thanks to the revolution that is the smartphone, applications have become incredibly popular that there are countless of them out there and the number is still growing. There can potentially be an application for everything. However in order for there to be an application for everything, they have to be created first and in order to do so one must learn to code. Depending on the type of application you want to create, you must learn different types of programming languages. The more complicated your applications, from mobile apps to full-on video games, the more complicated the coding. Most mobile applications can be created by one person but more complicated programs such as video games are usually created by a team of programmers.

You must learn to code in order to make applicaions

The two most popular software marketplaces as of right now are that of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. In order to create apps for the App Store, one must have a Mac computer to run the programming tools. One must then pay Apple to sign us as a developer in order to download those tools. The programming language used in those apps is called Objective-C. To create apps for the Play Store, one must have either a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. The software development kit is free to download and you will need to know the programming language called Java.[11]

Software Ownership[edit]

After an application software program is developed, the author has what is called ownership rights. These rights specify exactly how the program can and cannot be used. For example, ownership rights allow the author to decide on whether or not the program can be sold, shared, or distributed. The ownership rights vary depending on the type of software. Types of software include commercial, shareware, freeware, and public domain.[12] Commercial software is software that is created and then sold for profit. For example, Microsoft Office Suite is commercial software. Shareware is another type of software that can make profit, however, shareware is initially free and then requests payment after a certain amount of time. For example, a computer game might have a ten day free trial, but after the trial is over the developer will ask for a payment. This payment would allow the gamer to play the computer game on a regular basis. Freeware is a type of software that is available for no charge by the developer. An example of freeware would be Internet Explorer and most other web browsers. Public domain software is similar to freeware, but should not be confused. While freeware is copyrighted, public domain software isn’t. Because public domain software isn’t copyrighted, people are able to copy, modify, and distribute the software.[13]

Software Suites[edit]

The logo for Adobe Creative Suite v6.0, one example of a software suite.

A software suite is a group of related programs that interact together and are purchased together. The most well-known example is Microsoft Office, which includes Excel (spreadsheets), Word (documents), PowerPoint (slideshow), and Outlook (email). There are two primary benefits of software suites. First, they make it easier for the user to work on multiple related projects at once: someone can, for example, make a spreadsheet in Excel and then bring it into Word, keeping all of the formatting intact much more easily than if they used an unrelated spreadsheet program and text editing program. Second, they save money: purchasing the entire Office suite is much cheaper than purchasing Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook separately. However, a user may not need all of the programs in a given suite, so buying the entire suite when only one or two programs are needed is a significant waste of money; a prospective suite consumer should look in detail at which programs are included and make sure they need all of them. If not all of the programs are needed, then it would be more prudent to purchase individually only those programs which are needed.[14]

Word Processing[edit]

Explanation of Word Processing[edit]

A word processor is a software program that is used to create a document, store it electronically, display it on a screen, modify it using commands and characters, and print it on a printer. It also processes paragraph indentation, margin size, font type, font size, font color, and spacing within the document being created. Word processors have replaced typewriters since they allow the user to make a change anywhere in the document without having to retype the entire page. Word processors also come equipped with "spell-check" functions eliminating the need for multiple editors and provide an immediate tool for grammatical correction. Some common word processors include Microsoft Word, AbiWord, Word Perfect, and Open Office.[15]

Constructing a Word Processing Script[edit]

When constructing a word document there are a few things to keep in mind; character formatting, paragraph formatting, and page formatting. These three basic functions lay the foundation for most of the customization that is needed to create many word documents. Character formatting changes the appearance of individual characters and relates to the size, font, color, and overall style of the letters or numbers being used. Character formatting also involves underlining, italicizing, and making bold those characters being used. This is great for making a word stand out or for underlining book titles. Paragraph formatting adjusts the spacing, alignment, and indentation of the paragraphs being formed. Spacing refers to the amount of lines left blank in between the lines being processed. A good example of this is double-spacing which is commonly used in an educational setting where a student has to write a paper for a specific instructor. Commonly double-spacing is used so that the instructor can make corrections to the document without having to mark over the actual words on the paper. Alignment refers to the way the paragraph is positioned in regards to the left and right margins. A left alignment is most commonly used when creating a word document and this setting aligns the words being formed to be flush with the left margin. A center alignment is usually used for titling a paper. Page formatting refers to the width of the margins, the size of the paper being used, and the orientation of the page. The standard margin is 1.25 inches on both the left and right but these can be customized to suit need and preference. The paper size options reflect what can be used in the printer, and the orientation indicates whether the document will use the traditional or landscape positioning on that paper. Traditional orientation is 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches tall whereas landscape is the exact opposite at 11 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall.[16]

Word Processing Tools[edit]

Some of the basic tools that are employed in word processing programs that help to make the application more user friendly are tables, graphics, and templates. These tools allow for minimal effort and excellent results when adding features like these to a word document. Tables are used for organizing information and are composed of rows and columns in which data is placed. This is great for comparing and contrasting information as it's condensed and presented in a straight forward fashion. Tables can also be used for laying out entire documents, such as a resume, where information is sectioned off from one another. In this example, the entire report is formulated to a table instead of a small section as mentioned earlier. Graphics are pictures, drawings, clip art, or other images that can be inserted into a document from other programs or from stored data on a computer. This makes for easy illustrations where a picture, or pictures, would suffice better than words or tables to highlight a point. Graphics tools also allow the user to manipulate the images that have been imported by changing the color, contrast, brightness, and size of the image, among other things. The customization process of these images in a word processor provide for an easy and quick avenue of explanation concerning the topics at hand. Another useful tool are Templates. These are preprogrammed arrangements of ideas and/or illustrations that are known to serve a purpose and are already organized for the user to interact with. Most often this means "filling in the blanks" and some common templates that should be recognized are resumes, business cards, identification cards, fax cover sheets, memos, invoices, and newsletters to name a few.[17]

Microsoft Word 2010 Icon-1-

Along with templates, some documents are required to look differently depending on the use; as a result of this we change the format of our documents. Any change in format in a document is a change in the overall appearance. Examples of formatting documents can range from MLA to APA format, requiring different sized margins, fonts, etc. In order to do this, Word has tabs that make navigating around your document easy and efficient. Word includes a Help Center convenient for users to receive assistance whether it is live online help or offline. In this Help Center, tools such as where and how contents are organized are listed in a user-friendly manner. While Word processing is simply creating, editing, saving, and printing, the creation and edition are made easy by Word for a variety of end results in the overall appearance of documents. In the time of typewriters, the “carriage return” was used when a line of text needed to move to the next line to continue. With present day Word, this is done automatically and is a process called Word Wrapping.[18] Other tools that Word offers which were not available are the ability to contain various fonts, edit proportions, and spacing is also made more efficient.


What is a Spreadsheet[edit]

Poppit Spreadsheet

"A spreadsheet is a group of values and other data organized into rows and columns similar to the ruled paper worksheets traditionally used by bookkeepers and accountants." The spreadsheet software is mandatory to create computerized spreadsheets. Microsoft Excel is a form of a spreadsheet. There are many terms one must have to know to create a spreadsheet. A worksheet is the single spreadsheet document. A workbook allows multiple worksheets to be saved together in a single spreadsheet file. Worksheets are divided into rows and columns. The intersection of a row is called a cell. One must enter content into the active cell, or current cell; it has a border around it to make it be easily identified. Data is entered directly into worksheet cells by clicking a cell to make it the active cell. Labels, constant values, formulas, and functions are the data that is entered into a cell. Before one enters a formula or function into a cell, one must begin with some type of mathematical symbol, usually the equal sign (=).[19] Spreadsheets are greatly used in businesses. They are used to organize finances, projects, statistics, etc.[20] It is essential to know how to use spreadsheets for school and one's job.

Tables, Graphics, and Templates[edit]

Table-Microsoft Excel

Tables, graphics, and templates are all available to a user with application software, such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and PowerPoint. Tables are ways a user can organize data and information at their convenience. According to Microsoft Word, there are now many different available options for users who are looking for various kinds of tables. These different options include the following: the Graphic Grid, Insert Table, Draw Table, insert a new or existing Excel Spreadsheet table, and Quick Tables. The concept of using tables for data input is relatively simple. In order for a user to insert a table, the user must first open Microsoft Word. Once they have done this, they must click the "table" button to customize the table to achieve their needs. The overall format for a table consists of a large (or small) grid that can be altered by the amount of information the user has, ex. four columns five rows. Next, the user must insert the table into the word document by selecting "insert table" from the dropdown menu. [21] Graphics in Microsoft Word are pictures, or clip art that are able to be inserted into a Microsoft Word document, Excel Spreadsheet, PowerPoint slide, or any other Office application. Graphics are inserted into these Office Applications to enhance the information presented in a Word Document, Excel worksheet, or PowerPoint slide. A user can insert their own picture through their office documents; add clip art, shapes, SmartArt, screenshot, or Word Art.[22] Templates are pre-constructed document layouts whose primary use is to assist a user in creating a specific type of document in a convenient amount of time. The different options of templates vary, but a few of the following are common ones used every day: agendas, brochures, calendars, flyers, fax covers, and many more. Templates are used to save a user time, and confusion in creating their document. [23]

How to use a Spreadsheet[edit]

When using a spreadsheet application, the user can use various concepts to compute the data entered into the cells in the spreadhseet. These different concepts are provided within the program. Some very common concepts that are utilized are charts, functions, formulas, and cell referencing.


A chart can be created as its own object or embedded within the sheet itself.[24] This is helpful when a user needs to analyze data or represent changing data.


A function is a pre-programmed mathematical formula to allow the user to make calcuations based on the data input. The functions under spreadsheets are there to perform a simple calculation by using a certain value, called arguments. If the user wishes to create his own formula, Visual Basic can be used to write a formula and then the spreadsheet program can input the values into the newly written formula, reporting the data back into the sheet.There are many different reasons to have functions on spreadsheets. One would be for arithmetic functions to process numerical data. The next would be statistical functions that use analysis tools and averaging tools. This would be useful for finding the average of the numbers in a certain row/column on a spreadsheet. The next function is date that processes and converts dates. This function could be used to put the sequential dates in order on the spreadsheet. The next function is logic functions that process logic data. An example of logic data would be an AND/OR function. If there was something that needed to be marked yes if it is above 5 and marked no if it is below 5 then that would be a logic function. The last one is financial functions that process monetary data. They all must start with an equal sign, the name of the function, parenthesis opening and closing. In the function a comma or semicolon is used as the delimiter, depending on what settings are there in the spreadsheet would depend on which one to use. An example would be =SUM(A1:A4), this function would find the sum in those cells. Some of the most common functions are SUM, AVERAGE, IF, COUNT, MAX and MIN.


A formula identifies the calculation needed to place the result in the cell it is contained within. This means a cell has two display components; the formula itself and the resulting value.[25] Typically, a formula consists of five expressions: value, references, arithmetic operations, relation operations, and functions. By using these expressions, formulas can help to make tables, solve math problems, calculate a mortgage, figure out accounting tasks, and many other business-related tasks that use to be done tediously on paper.[26]

A formula always starts with an equals sign (=), followed by a constant, a function or a reference, then followed by an operator, and then followed by another constant, function or reference. A constant is a value that never changes; this includes numbers, dates, titles and other text input. References represent a certain cell, such as “A2”. An operator is usually a math symbol, such as “+” or “*” which tells the computer how to compute (add or multiply, respectively) the given constants or functions given in the formula. It is good to be careful that one knows the difference between a constant and a reference. If the constant “30” is input into cell A3, and the formula says “=30+2”, then if A3’s value changes, the expression of the formula will not change unless the formula itself changes. If one wishes to have a formula that returns the value of a cell, then the formula should read “=A3+2”. Another thing to note is that the operators will follow the basic “rules” of calculation. For example, the formula “=3+2*4” will add 3 to product of 2 and 4, rather than add 3 and 2, then multiply the sum times 4. (Parenthesis can be used to change the order: (3+2)*4 would add first, then multiply.) Operators are not always arithmetic, they can also be comparison, text concatenation, and reference operators. Comparison includes greater than, lesser than, greater than or equal to, and lesser than or equal to. To connect two values into one value, a text concatenation (the “and” sign i.e. “&”) is used. The signs used as reference operators are the following: a colon is used to reference two cells and all the cells between them (i.e. B1:B10); a comma is used to combine multiple references into one reference (i.e. B1:B10,C1:C10); and a space is used as an intersection operator.[27]

Cell Referencing[edit]

Cell referencing refers to the ability to call on other cells. There are two ways of doing this: relative and absolute cell referencing. A relative cell reference will adjust as the formula is copied from another cell white an absolute will not adjust. It is also important to note that a user can reference both the same sheet and other sheets in a book using this concept.

Pivot Tables[edit]

One the most powerful features available in the Microsoft Office spreadsheet program Excel, is pivot tables. Pivot tables allow you to manipulate large amounts of raw data.[28] It makes it easy to analyze the data in different ways, with a simple click and drag. Vast quantities of data can be summarized in a variety of ways. Calculations can be performed by row or column. Data can be filtered or sorted automatically by any or all of the fields. Excel can even recommend a basic layout of a pivot table based on the type of data selected. A wizard is available to assist in the creation of the table. An important thing to remember when using pivot tables, is that any time the original data source is modified, the data must be refreshed in the pivot.

Sample Pivot Table

Once the pivot table has been created and the data has been analyzed in a meaningful way, it can then be represented graphically using pivot charts. All the basic chart types available in Excel are available in the pivot chart menu. Much like the pivot tables they are built on, they can also be manipulated with ease. They can be filtered to display only the relevant information form the main data source.


  12. Understanding Computers 14th Edition by Deborah Morley