What is the difference between Software and an App?

I’ve spend thousands and thousands of dollars on software since 1985. Several versions of DOS software like Word Perfect, Lotus, and Vax terminal emulators like Kermit. I’ve purchased and used every version of Windows except Win ME. We bought software like Ms Word, Quicken, Turbo Tax etc.

Now everyone keeps talking about Apps. Visiting the App store. You got a problem? There’s a App for that. Even my local weatherman has an App for weather alerts.

Whats the difference in Software and an App?

The name. Seriously.

Apple hold a trademark on the term App Store. And in general the term tends to refer to software downloaded and installed through a marketplace along those lines. But it’s just a different name for software.

I started a similar thread a couple of years ago, here. Se posts 12 and 13 especially.

Glad to see I wasn’t the only one puzzled by this. :smiley: Geez, we bought and used software for 20 years and out of nowhere we get Apps.

Software = application

Application has colloquially been shortened to “app.”

I think there is a distinction between software you use in a comprehensive, project-oriented way (an “application” or “app”) and software you use briefly in conjunction with other software as you might grab a tool for brief use (a “utility”). For example, you might consider creating a presentation with PowerPoint (an app), but while doing so you might open up a text editor to sort a number of lines by a number that appears in a column in that text (a utility).

What’s the difference between the recording of a radio or TV program and a podcast? Nothing.

The word app nowadays usually refers to software on a cellphone or tablet. It can also refer to a smaller piece of software on a regular computer. Of course app is just short for application/software, but this is how the word is used.

Software = program = executable = application?

Like folder = directory?

All apps are software. Not all software is an app.


A command-line tool like “ls” isn’t an App, or even an Application, although it is a program (and an executable).

An “App” is a small Application. Mostly used to describe smartphone software.

It’s all a matter of classification. What’s a “house?” Is this and this the same thing?

Right. To expand, if I write code that doesn’t execute on its own, but provides something for you to use and give that to you in the form of a library of some sort or the actual code, it’s software, but it’s not any of the other three terms mentioned.

Nonsense. A recording of a radio or TV show is only a podcast if it has been converted to an MP3 file (or similar) and made available over the internet via an RSS feed. Many radio and TV shows (indeed, the vast majority) nevre become available as podcasts.

Likewise, as others here have said, although all apps are software, by no means does all software consist of apps. (I somehow manage to know this without even having a smartphone or tablet, and never having bought or otherwise acquired anything calling itself an app.)

marketeers and the absolute cluelessness of 99% of the population about how a computer really works.

Software has also been called “apps” for as long as I’ve been in the industry (early 80’s).

Now you can download them onto your phones, that’s all.

This wasn’t traditionally true. Language changes and so you could argue that today it’s true due to all of the people that are new to the terms. But some of the largest software, like ERP systems have been called apps for a long time.

For example, if someone was working for Oracle, a typical qualifier would have been “apps” as opposed to “database” (meaning they work in the applications division instead of the database division).

The two main classifications of software that all programs fit under are:
System software
Application software

App is an abbreviation of application software. No one who uses language correctly is going to call systems software an app.

Windows 8 appears hell-bent on blurring that line.

Thank you for the replies. Funny how words and terminology changes over time.

The Mac App Store has large productivity applications and developer tools too.

The definitions from the earlier thread seem pretty good - software downloaded and installed in one step, from a marketplace, by a regular user.