What is a system program

Program types

There are two categories of programs. Application programs (commonly called simply "applications") are programs that people use to do their jobs. Computers exist because people want to work with these programs. System programs help hardware and software work together. The difference between "application programs" and "system programs" is blurred. It's often a marketing issue rather than logic.

Application programsSystem programs
  • Word processing
  • Game programs
  • Spreadsheet
  • Databases
  • Graphics programs
  • Web browser
  • operating system
  • Network system
  • Database system
  • Programs for programming languages
  • Web server
  • Data backup systems

The main system program is this operating system. The operating system is always present when the computer is running. It coordinates the operations of all hardware and software components of the computer system. The operating system is responsible for starting and running the application programs and for finding the resources they need. When an application program is running, the operating system for that program manages the details with the hardware. For example, when you type characters on the keyboard, the operating system decides which application program they are intended for and does the job of getting them there.

Modern operating systems usually come with a User interface that make it easier for the user to communicate with the application programs (and with the operating system itself, through the use of windows, buttons, menus, icons, the mouse and the keyboard). Examples of operating systems are Unix, Windows 98, Windows NT, Linux, Solaris, and System 7.


(Thinking question :) Imagine that you have just switched on your computer and have not yet started any applications. Are there any programs running?