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What is the difference between software, hardware and application?

Software, hardware and apps are different components in constant dialogue with each other. It is therefore understandable that there is some confusion about the terms and their meaning.

What exactly are software, hardware and apps? What do they have in common? What differentiates them instead?

Let’s try to put it clearly.

What is a software?

Softwares are programs that allow the computer to perform certain tasks. The skeleton of a program is the source code or programming language (there are several of them), which collects the instructions necessary for the execution of certain activities on the computer.

In summary, a software is a set of data, content libraries and programs that allow a PC to function. A computer can run without programs, but never without software.

What is hardware?

All physical and tangible components of a computer system fall into the definition of hardware. Eg computer, laptop, pc, cables etc.

Software and hardware are different and complementary. The best computer system is the one that manages to guarantee the best compatibility between the two. Complex software needs advanced hardware components (processors, memory cards, peripherals…) to function. The same components would instead be superfluous for a lighter software.

What is a program?

A program is nothing more than a list of code strings that contain a series of instructions intended to be read and implemented by a processor. When it happens, the program is running on the computer.

What is an app?

An application (or application program) consists of one or more programs that allow the user to perform certain actions. The operation of an app is closely linked to the software of the system in which it is installed. The app can be considered an advanced program, that is, designed to be used easily by the user, adapting to the nature, power and ergonomics of the device in which it is installed.

Most of us know mobile applications (developed for smartphones and tablets), but there are also desktop applications for PCs. Browsers (Chrome, Safari, Explorer, Firefox…), video games, photo editors, word processing programs (Word) etc. are all desktop applications.

PCs and mobile devices usually have some system applications installed. Additional apps can be downloaded from the app store and installed as needed.

What do software, hardware and apps have in common and what differentiates them?

We understand that software, hardware and apps are different components that interact in various ways to allow the user to perform certain tasks. All three communicate within the devices we use every day.

Software and apps are designed to be used, therefore they must be equipped with a user interface that allows simple and intuitive navigation (the UI / UX design does just that). The programs, on the other hand, work in the background and do not require interfaces.

Finally, software and apps depend on the operating system, while a program can be used on different operating systems.


If you are interested in the world of software and apps, perhaps you may also be interested in the following topics:

How much does it cost to create an app?

How to develop a software and place it on the market

What do computer programmers do and how do they work

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