Software is an ordered set of information and instructions that tell a computer how to perform a certain task. This is different from the physical hardware, in which the machine first works and actually builds the operating system. The hardware can be upgraded, replaced or serviced if needed. Software however, is available at any time for download. The user just needs to have the proper software installed on his computer system to use it.
Software development is the process of improving a piece of software or a product by adding new features, extending its functionality or making changes to the program code. Software engineers or programmers write the code or program. They then implement the changes into the software or they send it out to a group of users for testing. Software engineering used in the context of computing involves both hardware and software development. There are many areas of software engineering including software modeling, high-level programming languages such as Java and C++, database designing and management, embedded systems, web server technology, and visual business solutions.
Another way of approaching software development is through the open source way. Open source means the program or tool is developed using free software licenses so anyone can view and use the program. Users who contribute to the project to help develop it further by making their own additions and modifications to the software. The more users that make contributions, the higher the quality of the software.
Both the open source software licenses and the hardware license type of licensing for computer programmers allow many modifications to be made without fear of patent infringement or copyright issues. Computer programmers can change or add new features to existing programs without spending a fortune to do it. There may be times when a new version of the program is necessary or when a feature that was very helpful to a customer becomes outdated. In either case, computer programmers can easily get in touch with other software or hardware programmers who have a similar need and share their knowledge and experience in modifying the program or tool.
While open source software development has its own pros and cons, software engineering is still considered one of the most promising fields of engineering. Engineers must follow strict guidelines regarding deadlines, specifications, and quality standards. There are more variables involved in software engineering than in any other field, and the ability to stay ahead of the competition is paramount.
New software engineers are required to follow strict industry standards. Computer programmers must adhere to stringent guidelines regarding syntax, error handling, coding, output, and error reporting. Computer programmers who work on open source code are often required to follow software development standards which are different from those followed by experienced programmers. These differences make it difficult for experienced programmers to produce software that is accepted and used by other experienced programmers and computer developers.