Application software 101

Choosing the right application software for your business or personal use can improve efficiency.

Understanding what types of application software are available to you — whether they are ready-made apps or custom apps built & uniquely designed for your needs — will help you to more clearly assess all of your options.

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What is application software?

Application software is a type of computer program that performs a specific personal, educational, and business function. Each application is designed to assist end-users in accomplishing a variety of tasks, which may be related to productivity, creativity, or communication.

Examples of application software

The most common software application platforms are used by millions of people every day. They're designed to help with specific tasks, simplify workflows, and improve communication across teams.

The Microsoft suite

Office, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.

Internet browsers

Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer

Music software

Pandora, Apple Music, Spotify

Communication software

Slack, Skype, Zoom, Teams

What to look for in application software

Sometimes, application software comes pre-built, with elements you can customize — like the examples listed above. Other times, you'll have the chance to build the whole thing yourself using low-code technology.

What you want to be sure of is that the application software is helpful to you — whether that's providing a service you're interested in, connecting you with others, or automating manual processes.

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Types of business application software

Business application software is a subset of the application software. These programs are built to facilitate certain business functions and improve the accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness of operations by saving time and enhancing productivity.


Enterprise resource planning

A type of business software used by companies – usually via a bundle of integrated applications – to solicit, review, store, manipulate, and analyze data derived from a variety of business operations.

Customer relationship management

CRM is used by companies to solicit, review, store, and analyze customer data. It also helps to manage customer interaction, facilitate the sales process, and enable relevant partner relationships.
An icon of an application dashboard


An electronic arsenal of data that a user builds in order to later access, review, and update particular pieces of information in a rapid and coherent manner.
An icon of three people with a chat bubble above them

Project management software

A type of business software designed to plan and execute projects, and to manage the resources associated with those projects. PM software assists users with functions such as scheduling, assigning tasks, managing budgets & costs, documenting progress, and reporting results.
An icon depicting a customizable app

Business process management

BPM is designed to facilitate rapid development and automation of strategic processes and uses web-based modeling, rule creation, and a simple interface to enable the user to perform business functions more quickly. Usually optimized for mobile devices and offering total visibility into operations, BPM software is helpful in managing and analyzing complex data, content, and processes across the enterprise.

Frequently asked questions

An app is a piece of software designed for a single purpose or a single function. An application, however, is a piece of software that performs a variety of related functions. Typically, if an app breaks, life goes on, while applications are considered critical to normal business function and are therefore considered to be of higher value.

Additionally, apps are typically associated with mobile personal-use, whereas applications are associated with use on all devices and typically serve personal and business needs.

Single purposePerforms a variety of related functions
Not critical for business functionCritical for business function
Mobile-firstCan be used with full features across many device types
Typically associated to with personal use onlyTypically associated with personal and business use

On-premise application software is implemented at an organization’s physical location, leveraging the hardware, IT infrastructure, and support of that organization. The company’s IT department typically maintains and solves problems related to the software.

Hosted application software, also called Software As A Service (SaaS), is software that is owned, delivered, and managed remotely via the cloud by a provider separate from the purchasing organization. Many organizations license these programs at the same time, and organizations typically pay per user or via a subscription.

One advantage of on-premise software is that it can be customized to the individual company’s needs more easily. However, hosted application software programs generally allow users to scale up more quickly.

On PremiseHosted
Managed at organization's physical locationDelivered remotely
Pay for licensePay per user via subscription
More customizableScales more quickly

Application software is an end-user program typically divided into two classes: application software and systems software. Systems software provides an operating system and utilities that enable applications software such as database programs, spreadsheets, web browsers, and more to run.

An application platform provides services to an application, and is comprised of the set of tools an application relies on to run. Virtually every application relies on other software to run, from database management software to the cloud. This group of software together is what we call an application platform. An application platform should support an application in every style, from single-user applications on a device to thousand-user applications in the cloud. Application platforms typically include the following services: an operating system, execution services (such as libraries for running software), data services, cloud services and development tools.

Application SoftwareApplication Platform
Single end-user programGroup of software and services an application relies on to run
Database programs, spreadsheets, web browsers, etc.Group of services to support use of database programs, spreadsheets, web browsers, etc.

Quickbase is an application platform that empowers builders to create their best application software solutions. Through our low-code rapid application development software, we provide the tools needed to enact change and improve efficiency. We are driven by the belief that those who are most impacted by application software are those that should head the development thereof because they have the clearest sense of what is needed and how they will be best served.

System software is a computer program that runs a computer's hardware, as well as application programs and interfaces between actual hardware and applications. An example of systems software is an operating system, which manages all other programs on a computer.

Conduct a needs assessment — Selecting a solution that’s best for your organization should begin with a needs assessment in which you solicit feedback from managers, colleagues, partners, and providers.

You’ll want to first understand the problem the application software must solve, the type of tasks and processes the solution should positively impact, and the target user for the solution. Some of the things to consider as part of a needs assessment are:

  • Functionality Needed
  • Implementation
  • Support
  • IT Infrastructure
  • Global expertise
  • Pricing & Return on Investment

Explore our how-to videos and tutorials designed to help Quickbase users become more familiar with the application software building process.

Phased or All-at-once implementation: You should have a solid handle on implementation — including how the new solution will be rolled out (phases versus all at once, enterprise-wide versus single business unit, organized training versus self-directed training), how you will offer support, and how you will measure short and long-term success — before you sign on the dotted line.