Nick Mudge Ignition Software Consulting & Development

A little while ago a friend asked me what kind of programming I was interested in. I ended up explaining the difference between system programming and application programming:

In application programming programmers build applications. Application programs include websites, video games, iPhone applications, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Web browsers and other programs that people use for entertainment, communications, accessing information, organizing, and getting work done. Application software interacts with people or users.

Systems programming is creating technology that programmers use to build applications. In order for an applications programmer to build an application, he needs an operating system, a programming language, and other tools to get the application built, tested, and working.

System programming includes creating and working on:

  • operating systems
  • database systems
  • programming languages
  • software libraries
  • software that controls hardware very directly

Software exists in layers.
Application software runs on top of and interacts with system software.
System software runs on top of and interacts with the physical hardware.

Another way of looking at it:
People make application software do work.
Application software makes system software do work.
System software makes the physical machine do work.


Kulwinder pooja
6 June 2009

Jagmeet Kaur
6 July 2009

Hi kulwinder pooja, I would like to know what exactly application software jobs are like, and also what kind of work required in this job?
28 July 2009

Application Programming involves creating different application based software, which a user interact directly. In system Programming, someone needs to program at the OS level. I have done System Programming & Kernel Programming.

In India you will get most of the jobs as support or maintanence Engineeer not as a developer.
Pavan Kiran
27 November 2009

Excellent Differentiation
Thank you Very Mich
Astrology Readings
8 February 2011

Excellently written article, if only all blogger offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up!
kamal nayan
9 February 2011

excellent answer........i am really satisfied with the answer. Thanx ....
Ankush Das
21 January 2016

A simple, short explanation! Thanks for the post! It cleared my confusion!
Networking solutions
23 March 2011

Nice work, I would like to read your blog every day Thanks
Lita Melton
12 July 2011

thanks studying for a cpa exam that has heavy concentration on IT concepts ... your write up
really helps in a easy read to understand !!!
thanks a mil
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