Desktop Software

Desktop software refers to any application that runs locally on a desktop computer or laptop. It is often contrasted with mobile apps and cloud-based software.

Desktop software is either bundled with an operating system (like Windows or macOS) or installed by the user. For several decades, software companies sold desktop software in physical boxes containing floppy disks, CDs, or DVDs. As Internet access became widespread in the early 2000s, developers began offering apps via Internet download. Today, downloading and installing desktop apps is far more common than installing apps from physical media.

Examples of desktop apps include:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Corel WordPerfect
  • Apple Pages
  • Apple Final Cut Pro

The above apps are considered desktop software since you can download and install them on a desktop computer or laptop. Some programs, like Microsoft Word and Apple Pages, are also available as web applications, meaning you can run a cloud-based version of the app in your web browser. They are also available as mobile apps, which run on iOS and Android devices. When requesting support for one of these applications, it is helpful to specify which type of app you are using.

Some web apps are the same as their desktop counterparts, but desktop applications generally have a more robust feature set. Mobile apps often have limited features based on the smaller screen size.

Desktop programs are sometimes called "traditional applications" since they have been around since the 1980s. While many people now use mobile apps and cloud-based "SaaS" software on a daily basis, desktop software is still essential for most computer users.

Updated February 19, 2022 by Per C.

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