Software is the word used to refer to programs (sets of computer instructions written in a computer language) and data that is input, processed and output by a computer system. Applications programs are programs that allow the user to do various types of work on a computer e.g. wordprocessors, databases. A set of related applications programs is referred to as a package (or suite). Common applications programs include:
for creating and editing texts
for performing calculations using formulas
for storing data so that it can be easily searched and sorted
for playing fast action games
for keeping business accounts
for calculating salaries
for creating multimedia slide shows
for sending electronic mail messages
PIM (personal information manager)
for keeping track of appointments, address book, task list, etc.
DTP (desktop publishing program)
for creating publications to be printed by a professional printer
small business tools
for performing various business tasks
for creating and editing webpages
for editing graphic images
for writing programs to add features to existing applications and creating integrated program systems
Some applications programs, such as wordprocessors, spreadsheets and databases, are commonly referred to as office programs because they are commonly used in a typical office. Office packages (or suites) such as Microsoft Office are sets of interrelated office programs. Different versions of office suites are usually available containing different combinations of programs. Mailmerging is a useful feature found in most office suites that combines a database with a wordprocessor document to automatically produce a copy of a standard letter for each record in the database.
A variety of computer hardware is used in the doctors' practice in this unit including:
common name for an IBM compatible personal computer
computers connected together
a powerful computer that stores and allows users access to data files on a network
a very high quality text and graphics printer that has a photosensitive drum that deposits toner powder on the paper
a low quality printer that prints by hammering pins on the paper to print an image made up of dots. The hammering action means that it can print on special multipart paper where a number of copies are produced at the same time.
a compact disk read only memory storage device that is cheap to produce and suitable for storing large amounts of data
The Patient Browser program (GPASS) discussed in this unit is a type of database for sorting and searching patient records. To search, you select different option screens by clicking on a tab with a mouse and inputting the search criteria (details of what you are looking for) in text boxes known as criteria boxes. Different button icons can be clicked to perform different operations e.g. the Find button. The default button is the option that is selected automatically.
Tomb Raider is a popular adventure game that has appeared in various versions. The main character is represented by a female animated image, known as Lara Croft. The user follows a storyline in which they have to solve puzzles and control the movements of the main character, sometimes having to react quickly to avoid dangerous obstacles. It is available on well-known games consoles (specialised games computers) called PlayStation and Dreamcast manufactured by a company called Sega.
SimCity is a simulation program (a program that simulates real life) in which the user has to develop a city by building roads and 3D (three-dimensional) buildings, setting taxes, etc. They also have to control objects such as simulated cars and people. The user can download (copy from a server computer) additional objects and swap items with other users using a special website. The game is run on a computer called a Commodore 64 (an early British type of personal computer particularly suited to games because of its excellent graphics facilities).
An ASP (application service provider) rents applications to users i.e. instead of buying software, the user pays for using applications as and when they need them.
The ASP provides the software, manages the hardware and provides storage space, security controls and the physical links to customers. The ASP normally leases storage space for programs and data from data centres (facilities for storing large amounts of information) owned by data storage specialists.
The user is provided with remote access (access across a communications network) to a wide variety of programs including: generic applications such as email (electronic mail) and office suites, high-end (advanced) packages including large, complex business applications such as enterprise resource planning tools (e.g. SAP), business services, such as payroll and accounting systems, expensive specialist tools and e-commerce resources (electronic commerce - buying and selling on the Internet).
This gives the user more flexibility and saves them having to install and maintain programs, upgrade (install newer versions of programs), deal with viruses (programs that can reproduce themselves and are written with the purpose of causing damage or causing a computer to behave in an unusual way) and manage email systems (electronic mail systems).
Disadvantages of this system include: the need for a broadband (high bandwidth i.e. a connection with a high signal capacity network connection or a leased line (a cable connection that is rented for use in a communications system) and dependence on the ASP to provide a secure, reliable, readily available service.