Several major software trends. First, there has been a major trend away from custom-designed programs developed by the professional programmers of an organization. Instead, the trends is toward the use of off-the-shelf software packages acquired by end users from software vendors. This trend dramatically in creased with the development of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use application software packages and multipurpose software suites for microcomputers. The trend has accelerated recently, as software packages are designed with networking capabilities and collaboration features that optimize their usefulness for end users and work grounds on the Internet and corporate intranets and extranets.
Second, there has been a steady trend away from (1) technical, machine-specific programming language using binary-based or symbolic codes, or (2) procedural languages, which use brief statements and mathematical expressions to specify the sequence of instructions a computer must perform. Instead, the trend is toward the use of a visual graphic interface for object-oriented programming, or toward non procedure natural languages for programming that are closer to human conversation. This trend accelerated with the creation of easy-to-use, non procedural forth-generation languages (4GLs). It continues to grow as developments in object technology, graphics, and artificial intelligence produce natural language and graphical user interfaces that make both programming tools and software packages easier to use.
In addition, artificial intelligence features are now being built into a new generation of expert-assisted software packages. For example, many software suites provide intelligent help features called wizards that help you perform common software functions like graphing parts of a spreadsheet or generating reports from a database, Other software packages use capabilities called intelligent agents to perform activities based on instructions from a user. For example, some electronic mail packages can use an intelligent agent capability to organize, send, and screen E-mail messages fro your.
These major trends seem to be converging to produce a fifth generation of powerful, multipurpose, expert-assisted, and network enabled software package with natural language and graphical interfaces to support the productivity and collaboration of both end users IS professionals.
Application Software for End Users
Application software includes a variety of programs that can be subdivided into general-purpose and application-specific categories. Thousands of application-specific software package are available to support specific applications of end users in business and other fields. For example, application-specific packages in business support managerial, professional, and business uses such as transaction processing, decision support, accounting, sales management, investment analysis, and electronic commerce. Application-specific software for science and engineering plays a major role in the research and development programs of industry and the design of efficient production processes for high-quality product. Other software packages help end users with personal fiancé and home management, provide a wide variety of entertainment and educational products.
General-purpose application programs are programs that perform common information processing jobs for end users. For example, word processing programs, spreadsheet programs, database management programs, and graphics programs are popular with microcomputer users for home, education, business, scientific, and many other purposes. Because they significantly increase the productivity of end users, they are sometimes known as productivity packages. Other examples include Web browsers, electronic mail, and groupware, which help support communication and collaboration among workgroups and teams.
Software Suites and Integrated Packages
Let’s begin our discussion of popular general-purpose application software by looking at software suites. That’s because the most widely used productivity package come bundled together as software suites such as Microsoft Office, Lotus SmartSuite, and Corel WordPerfect Office. Examining their components gives us an overview of the important software tools that you can use to increase your productivity, collaborate with your colleagues, and access intranets, extranets, and the Internet.
Compares the component programs that make up the tope three software suites. Notice that each suite integrates software packages for Web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation graphics, database management, personal in formation management, and more. These packages can be purchased as separate stand-alone products. However, a software suite costs a lot less than the total cost of buying its individual package separately.
Another advantage of software suites is that all programs use a similar graphical user interface (GUI) of icons, tool and status bars, menus, and so on, which gives them the same look and feel, and makes them easier to learn and use. Software suites also share common tools, such as spell checkers and help wizards to increase their efficiency. Another big advantage of suites is that their programs are designed to work together seamlessly, and import each other’s files easily, no matter which program you are using at the time. These capabilities make them more efficient and easier to use than using a variety of individual package versions.
Of course, putting so many programs and features together in one super-size package does have some disadvantages. Industry critics argue that many software suite features are never used by most end users. The suites take up a lot of disk space, from over 100 megabytes to over 150 megabytes, depending on which version or functions you install. So such software is sometimes derisively called bloatware by its critics. The cost of suites can vary from as low as $100 for a competitive upgrade to over $700 for a full version of some editions of the suites.
These drawbacks are one reason for the continued use of integrated packages like Microsoft Works, Lotus Works, Claris Works, and so on. Integrated packages combine some of the functions of several programs word processing, spreadsheets, presentation graphics, database management, and so on into one software package.
Because Works programs leave out many features and functions that are in individual packages and software suites, they cannot do as much as those packages do. However, they use a lot less disk space (less than 10 megabytes), and cost less than a hundred dollars. So integrated packages have proven that they offer enough functions and features for many computer users, while providing some of the advantages of software suites in a smaller package.
Web Browsers and More
The most important software component for many computer users today is the once simple and limited, but now powerful and feature rich, Web browser. A browser like Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Explorer is the key software interface you use to point and click your way through the hyperlinked resources of the World Wide Web and the rest of the Internet, as well as corporate intranets and extranets. Once limited to surfing the Web, browsers are becoming the universal software platform on which end users launch into information searches, E-mail, multimedia file transfer, discussion groups, and many other Internet, intranet, and extranet applications.
Industry experts are predicting that the Web browser wil be the model for how most people will use networked computers into the next century. So now, whether you want to watch a video, make a phone call, download some software, hold a video conference, check your E-mail, or work on a spreadsheet of your team’s business plan, you can use your browser to launch and host such applications. That’s why browsers are being called the universal client, that is, the software component installed on the workstations of all the clients (users) in client/server networks throughout an enterprise.
The web browser has also become only one component of a new suite of communications and collaboration software that Netscape and other vendors are assembling in a variety of configurations.
The first thing many people do at work all over the world is check their E-mail. Electronic mail has changed the way people work and communicate. Millions of end users now depend on E-mail software to communicate with each other by sending and receiving electronic messages via the Internet or their organizations’ intranets or extranets. E-mail is stored on network servers until you are ready. Whenever you want to your can read your E-mail by displaying it on your workstations. So, with only a few minutes of effort (and a few microseconds or minutes of transmission time), a message tone or many individuals can be composed, sent, and received.
As we mentioned earlier, E-mail software is now a component of top software suites and some Web browsers. E-mail packages like Eudora and Pine are typically provided to Internet users by Internet service providers and educational institutions. Full-featured E-mail software like Microsoft change E-mail or Netscape Messenger can route messages to multiple end users based on predefined mailing lists and provide password security, automatic message forwarding, and remote user access. They also allow you to store messages in folders with provisions for adding attachments to messages files. E-mail packages may also enable you to edit and send graphics and multimedia as well as text, and provide bulletin board and computer conferencing capabilities. Finally, your E-mail software may automatically filter and sort incoming messages (even news items from online services) and route them to appropriate user mailboxes and folders.
Word Processing and Desktop Publishing
Software for work processing has transformed the process of writing. Word processing packages computerize the creation, editing, revision, and printing of documents (such as letters, memos. And reports) by electronically processing your text data (words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs). Top word processing packages like Microsoft Word, Lotus WordPro, and Corel WordPerfect can privide a wide variety of attractively printed documents with their desktop publishing capabilities. These packages can also convert all documents to HTML format for publication as Web pages on corporate intranets or the World Wide Web.
Word processing packages also provide advanced features. For example, a spelling checker capability can identify and correct spelling errors, and a thesaurus feature helps you find a better choice of words to express ideas. Or you can identify and correct grammar and punctuation errors, as well as suggest possible improvements in your writing style, with grammar and style checker functions. Another text productivity tool is an idea processor or outliner function. It helps you organize and outline your thoughts before you prepare a document or develop a presentation. Besides converting documents to HTML format, you can also use the top packages to design and create Web pages from scratch for an Internet or intranet Web site.
End users and organizations can use desktop publishing (DTP) software to produce their own printed materials that look professionally published. That is, they can design and print their own newsletters, brochures, manuals, and books with several type styles, graphics, photos, and colors on each page. Word processing packages and desktop publishing packages like Adobe PageMaker and QuarkXPress are used to do desktop publishing. Typically, text material and graphics can be generated by word processing and graphics packages and imported as text and graphics files. Optical scanners may be used to input tex and graphics from printed material. You can be also use files of clip art, which are predrawn graphic illustrations provided by the software package or available from other sources.
The heart of desktop publishing is page design process called page makeup or page composition. Your video screen becomes an electronic pastcup board with rulers, column guides, and other page design aids. Text material and illustrations are then merged into the page format your design. The software will automatically move excess text to another column or page and help size and place illustrations and headings. Most DTP packages provide WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) displays so you can see exactly what the finished document will look like before it is printed.
Electronic spreadsheet packages like Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, and Corel QuattroPro are used for business analysis, planning, and modeling. They help you develop an electronic spreadsheet, which is a worksheet of rows and columns that can be stored on your PC or a network server, or converted to HTML format and stored as a Web page or websheet on the World Wide Web. Developing a spreadsheet involves designing its format and developing the relationships (formulas) that will be used in the worksheet. In response to your input, the computer performs necessary calculations based on the relationships (formulas) you defined in the spreadsheet, and displays results immediately, whether at your workstation or Web site. Most packages also help you develop graphic displays of spreadsheet results.
For example, you could develop a spreadsheet to record and analyze past and present advertising performance for a business. Your could also develop hyperlinks to a similar websheet at your marketing team’s intranet Web site. Now you have a decision support tool to help you answer what-if questions you may have about advertising. For example, “What would happen to market share if advertising expense increased by 10 percent?” To answer this question, you would imply change the advertising expense formula on the advertising performance worksheet your developed. The computer would recalculate the affected figures, producing new market share figures and graphics. You would then have a better insight on the effect of advertising decisions on market share. Then you could share this insight with a note on the websheet at your team’s intranet Web site.
Microcomputer versions of database management programs have become so popular that they are now viewed as general-purpose application software packages like work processing and spreadsheet packages. Database management packages such as Microsoft Access, Lotus Approach, or Corel Paradox allow you to set up and manage databases on your PC, network server, or the World Wide Web. Most database managers can perform four primary tasks, which we will discuss further in Chapter 7.
- Database development. Define and organize the content, relationships, and structure of the data needed to build a database, including any hyperlinks to data on Web pages.
- Database interrogation. Access the data in database to display information in a variety of formats. End users can selectively retrieve and display information and produce forms, reports, and other documents, including Web pages.
- Database maintenance. Add, delete, update, and correct the data in a database, including hyperlinked data on Web pages.
- Application development. Develop prototypes of Web pages, queries, forms, reports, and labels for a proposed business application. Or use a built-in 4GL or application generator to program the application.
Presentation Graphics and Multimedia
Presentation graphics packages help you convert numeric data into graphics displays such as line charts, bas graphs, pie charts, and many other types of graphics. Most of the top package also help you prepare multimedia presentations of graphics, photo, animation, and video clips, including publishing to the World Vide Web. Not only are graphics and multimedia displays earlier to comprehend and communicate than numeric data but multiple-color and multiple media displays also can more early emphasize key points, strategic differences, and important trends in the data. Presentation graphics has proved to be much more effective than tabular presentations of numeric data for reporting and communicating in advertising media, management reports, or other business presentations.
Presentation graphics software packages like Microsoft PowerPoint, Lotus Freelance, or Corel Presentations give you many easy-to-use capabilities that encourage the use of graphics presentations. For example, most packages help you design and manage computer generated and orchestrated slide shows containing many integrated graphics and multimedia displays. Or you can select from a variety of predesigned templates of business presentations, prepare and edit the outline and notes for a presentation, and manage the use of multimedia files of graphics, photos, sounds, and video clips. And of course, the top packages help you tailor your graphics and multimedia presentation for transfer in HTML format to Web sites on corporate intranets or the World Wide Web.
Hypertext and hypermedia are foundation technologies for multimedia presentations. By definition hypertext contains only text and a limited amount of graphics. Hypermedia are electronic documents that contain multiple forms, of media, including text, graphics, video, and so on. Key terms and topics in hypertext or hypermedia documents are indexed by software links so that they can be quickly searched by the reader. For example, if you click your mouse button on an underlined term on a hypermedia document displayed on your computer video screen, the computer instantly brings up a display of a passage of text and graphics related to that term. Once you finish viewing that pop-up display, you can return to what you were reading originally, or jump to another part of the document.
Hypertext and hypermedia are developed using specialized programming languages like Java and the Hypertext Markup. Language (HTML), which create hyperlinks to other parts of the document, or to other documents and media. Hypertext and hypermedia documents can thus be programmed to let a reader navigate through a multimedia database by following a chain of hyperlinks through various documents. The Web sites on the World Wide Web of the Internet are a popular example of this technology. Thus, the use of hypertext and hypermedia provides an environment for online interactive presentations of multimedia.
Multimedia technologies allow end users to digitally capture, edit, and combine video with text, picture, and sound into multimedia business and educational presentations. For example, an interactive video session for training airline flight attendants can be produced on CD-ROM disks. It can combine animated graphics displays of different airplane configuration, presentations graphics of airline statistics, lists of major topics and facts, video clips of flight attendants working on various airplanes, and various announcements and sounds helpful in managing emergencies.
Personal Information Managers
The personal information manager (PIM) is a popular software package for end user productivity and collaboration. PIMs such as Lotus Organizer, Sidekick by Starfish Software, and Microsoft Outlook help end users store, organize, and retrieve information about customers, clients, and prospects, or schedule and manage appointments, meetings, and tasks. The PIM package will organize data you enter and retrieve information in a variety of forms, depending on the style and structure of the PIM and the information you want. For example, information can be retrieved as an electronic calendar or list of appointments, meetings, or other things to do; the timetable for a project; or a display of key facts and financial data about customers, clients, or sales prospects.
Personal information managers are sold as independent programs or are included in software suites, and vary widely in their style, structure, and features. For example, Lotus Organizer uses a notebook with tabs format, while Microsoft Outlook organizes data about people as a continuous A-to-Z list. Most PIMs emphasize the maintenance of contact lists, that is, customers, clients, or prospects. Scheduling appointments and meetings and task management are other top PIM applications. PIMs are now changing to include the ability to access the World Wide Web as Sidekick does, or provide E-mail capability, as in Microsoft Outlook. Also, some PIMs use Internet and E-mail features to support team collaboration by sharing information such as contact lists, task lists, and schedules with other networked PIM users.
Groupware is collaboration software, that is, software that helps workgroups and teams work together to accomplish group assignments. Groupware is a fast-growing category of general-purpose application software that combines a variety of software features and functions to facilitate collaboration. For example, groupware products like Lotus Notes, Novell GroupWise, Microsoft Exchange, and Netscape Communicator and Collabra support collaboration through electronic mail, discussion groups and databases, scheduling, task management, data, audio and videoconferencing, and so on.
Groupware products are changing in several ways to meet the demand for better tools for collaboration. Groupware is now designed to use the Internet and corporate intranets and extranets to make collaboration possible on a global scale by virtual teams located anywhere in the world. For example, team members might use the Internet for global E-mail, project discussion forums, and joint Web page development. Or they might use corporate intranets to publish project news and progress reports, and work jointly on documents stored on Web servers. Collaborative capabilities are also being added to other software to give them groupware features. For example, in the Microsoft Office software suite, Microsoft Word keeps track of who made revisions to each document, Excel tracks all changes made to spreadsheet, and Outlook lets you keep track of tasks you delegate to other ream members.