Application vs. Program (What’s the Difference?)
Last Updated on September 14, 2020 by
Table of Contents
Application vs. Program
In the ever-evolving world of technology, we often have to
familiarize ourselves with various terms that come up every
single day. And while most of the
words come with sharp differences, at times, we come across
terms that are considered to mean the same thing even though
they are totally different.
A perfect example is the term program and application. Some
years back, the word program was used when referring to
desktop operating systems such as windows.
Additionally, apps were associated with mobile OS, such as
iOS and Android.
However, when desktop applications were developed, the
difference between the two become a little blurry.
Consequently, a major concern is that most users don’t
understand that there are subtle differences between programs
and applications. If you are one such
user, this article expounds in detail the similarities and the
differences between the two.
Meaning of Each Term
What is an Application?
An application (app) is a program or a collection of
programs that have been designed for the end-users. They help
you to perform a set of coordinated
tasks, functions, or activities. From the definition, we
deduce that all apps are programs, but not all programs are
necessarily apps. Another crucial
thing to note about applications is that they can’t run on
their own, and they depend on system software to operate.
What is a Program?
Programs are a collection or sequence of executable
instructions that aid in the automatic performance of targeted
tasks on a computer. It refers to a
set of coded instructions that a computer can recognize to
solve a problem or yield the desired result.
Similarities Between Applications and Programs
The main similarity between applications and programs is
the fact that they are both used to perform various functions
or tasks on a computer.
Additionally, since an application is a collection of
computer programs that help end-users to solve a problem, it
means that these programs must coordinate
and interact for this to happen. We are simply saying that all
apps need programs to perform end-users’ commands. For
example, when you want to watch a
movie via VLC, the player will require
audio and video drivers to operate.
Differences Between an Application and a Program
A program requires an installer that is packaged with
necessary files for it to be installed on a computer.
Conversely, it may also seek to download more
data from the web before it installs. On the other hand, an
app is a single file that a user downloads from the internet
and installs it on their device.
And unlike programs, you don’t need a separate uninstaller to
uninstall apps from your computer.
2. Target User
As mentioned earlier, an app is developed with the end-user
in mind. As such, it is structured to help users complete a
given function, task, or activity.
A program, on the other hand, is created to help a computer
execute a specific purpose, and it can run on the background
without the end-users intervention.
3. User Interface
Since an app is designed to be utilized by real
individuals, it boasts a user interface (UI). However,
programs don’t necessarily need to have a UI for
them to be considered complete, For instance, viruses and
malware that are used by hackers to infect your computer are
programs, but they don’t have a
Since an application can feature several programs, it is
usually developed through a structured and documented process
that may involve several individuals.
On the other hand, a program can be created by a single
individual. However, it is vitally essential to understand
that today’s apps can be developed by
But since these essentials are also designed by someone else,
it still means that several people will still be involved in
the development process.
While an app requires various programs to exist and
operate, programs don’t need an app to execute their roles.
For example, while MS Word (an application)
requires multiple drivers such as Prime number sieve and
square root finder (programs) to function, the drivers don’t
need MS Word to execute their roles.
The differences between applications and programs have been
blurred for a very long time, and most people have been using
them interchangeably. However,
from what we have seen in this article, although apps and
programs intersect at some point, they are not synonymous.
They are a means to an end, so they
need to be treated differently. We live in a dynamic
environment where everything is influenced by technology.
Nevertheless, we must learn to differentiate
terms, whether they have been in existence for decades
(programs) or have emerged due to the changes in technology
Stay safe & take care. Mike.
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