Management Software

Up until now we have really only considered the use of database software in management information systems.  But while this may be at the core of many organisations, most users of personal computers will use a range of software particularly at tactical and strategic levels.  So in this section we will look at the different types of software that people are likely to use and the use they are likely to make of each type.

Word processing

Word processing is probably one of the most widely used pieces of application software available on a computer. It is likely to be used at all levels in an organisation with clerks and typists using word processing at an operational level, e.g. for typing. Its main use is for editing and manipulating text on a page. Originally it was simply a piece of software that allowed the user to use the computer like a typewriter. Over many years it has developed, with more complex features and facilities being added. Word-processing application software is used for writing reports, letters, memos and worksheets like this. Arguably the best-known word processing software is Microsoft Word.

Spreadsheet

A spreadsheet package allows the user to arrange information on the screen as a table made up of boxes called cells. As well as laying information out in a table, the spreadsheet also has the facility to carry out calculations using formulae. Spreadsheet application software is used for laying out financial information like budgets, cash-flow forecasts, profit-and-loss tables. It can also be used to lay out statistical data in tables, or even simple budgets such as household or departmental expenditure. Spreadsheet software can also use the tables of data to create a range of graphs and charts. There are two pieces of spreadsheet software that are popular on computers. These are Lotus 1– 2–3 and Microsoft’s Excel.

Database

A database package allows the user to organise and store information, which the computer will sort, search and navigate (browse) for the user. Databases contain files or tables, which may be related.  The files or tables contain records and each record is made up of fields, which contain single items of data.  We have already discussed several large applications of database software but on a personal or small business level, database application software would be used to store information about pupils in a school, customers for a video shop, criminals and crimes for the police, or any other collection of data. There are many powerful pieces of database software available on the market to meet the needs of an organisation. The two common pieces for desktop machines are Access from Microsoft and FileMaker Pro from FileMaker.

Graphics design

A graphics package allows the user to create and manipulate pictures. This type of software can include packages that allow you to draw pictures, create 2D and 3D graphic images, create animations or films, or create and present slides of graphical information. Many professional organisations use graphic design software as a means to an end and will spend a lot of time creating and editing images prior to using them in web design, publishing or even in creating animations, movies and computer games. If you are looking for a professional drawing package you might choose Adobe Illustrator, Paintshop Pro or Corel Draw. If you wanted to edit scanned photos you might select Adobe Photoshop or Corel Photo–Paint.

Browsers

Browsers are programs that allow users to retrieve information from the Internet. You may think it strange that we use the plural when the only browser you may ever have seen is Explorer, but there are others.  A browser’s main use is to display and navigate the World Wide Web by displaying web pages as text, graphics, animations and hyperlinks, all of them written in code (actually HTML and XTML). Browsers support other functions such as allowing the user to bookmark favourite web pages for quick retrieval at a later time and they also maintain a history of websites visited.  There are also navigation functions such as forward and back buttons, and a stop and refresh buttons.

Originally the dominant web browser was Netscape (where terms like ‘bookmark’ as opposed to ‘favourite’ originated), which eventually lost out to Microsoft Explorer.  However, when any product is dominant commercial competitors will develop what they think are better products.  Both AOL and BT Broadband use their own browsers, which make functions like e-mails and bookmarking easier, and they also plug security gaps which are not standard in Explorer, such as Pop-up blocker, anti-virus, anti-spam and parental controls.  There is also an alternative culture that swears by browsers such as Safari, Opera and Mozilla, which again offer more and better functions.

E-mail client

This is a program which allows a user to write, send, receive and read email messages. There are in fact two different ways of using e-mail, on-line and off-line. In an off-line e-mail program like Outlook Express you can compose and read e-mails without connecting to the web, but in order to send and receive messages you need to log on.  The messages are then sent and any new messages are downloaded into the mailbox where the user can read them after disconnecting from the web.  The disadvantage of this method is that there is usually not much security and viruses can be downloaded along with the e-mails.  The advantage is the low cost of connection time.

The other method is to connect to an on-line provider such as Hotmail, AOL and BT. All three of these providers make the user log on and stay online while they are reading and sending e-mails.  The e-mail is never stored on your own computer and the security is much higher.  The provider usually scans and traps viruses before letting the user read the mail, and spam can also be trapped.  The disadvantage is that the user must be on-line all the time but with cost-inclusive deals and Broadband this is not a problem for many people.

Chat client

This is a program which allows users who are connected to the Internet to send and receive messages interactively. There are several generations of chat client. The first allowed written conversations in which participants entered their comments using the keyboard and read the replies in a window on their screen. A development on this generation was the introduction of Instant Messaging; allowing users to be informed immediately when a friend on their chat list logged on to the Internet. Another development of chat clients was the introduction of voice-based messaging. This allowed users to communicate through the chat client in a similar way to using the telephone.

The most recent generation of chat clients allows video-based messaging using web cams. Now users can see and hear the messages from their friends or colleagues.

Examples of these types of program are MSN Messenger, IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and Yahoo Messenger.

Desk-top publishing (DTP)

This software is used to create documents that can be printed on paper. It allows you to lay out text and graphics on a page for professional printing. It allows text and graphics to be positioned precisely on a page, and it allows a great deal of control over multi-page documents and different formats such as A3 foldable leaflets and A5 booklets. DTP also allows the user to prepare the pages for professional use by printers and publishers.  There are various DTP packages in common use and you are more likely to come across Microsoft Publisher, Adobe PageMaker, In-Design or Quark Express than some of the other packages.

Presentation

This is software which allows the user to create slide shows that can be shown on a large screen via a data projector.  Current versions of the software can incorporate text, graphics (real photos, clip art, etc.), sound clips and animations.  Slides can be printed onto paper with 3 or 6 to a page so that the audience can have a copy of the presentation. The slides can also be printed A4 size onto acetate slides for use on an overhead projector. If you wanted to create a graphic slide presentation you might buy Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote.

Reference

Reference software is any program that can be used to help someone learn new facts, skills or information. In the early 1990s many CD-ROMs were released covering almost every subject under the sun and many schools were given free CDs covering History, Geography and Science, etc. The Internet has superseded the subject matter of many of these. Probably the most famous reference book, Encyclopedia Britannica, has moved from being a paper-based collection of some 30 books costing up to thousands of pounds to a CD-ROM costing around £100.  The CD-ROM has now become defunct and for around a £10 subscription you may log on to Britannica Online.  Examples of this kind of software, which have survived on CD, are the Encarta Encyclopedia and Dictionary CD–ROM and other language-based software like a Thesaurus.

Financial

Financial software can be used to help manage and control money as well as to perform calculations relating to money. Budgeting at home or for a company is an example of a job a financial package may be designed to solve. They can also help control the transfer of money from one bank account to another and from one person to another. Some examples of financial application software are Microsoft’s Money 2003, Quicken’s QuickBooks Pro and MYOB. Most businesses use a small business accounting package, which deals with customer and supplier accounts and produces invoices, statements and payment advices.  They can also keep the actual records up to date and handle stock control, order processing and other functions.  Some companies purchase financial software that has been either written from scratch especially for their use or modified for them, whereas smaller businesses tend to purchase packages like Sage or Pegasus Accounting suites.

Web authoring

This type of program allows users to create web pages very easily without needing to know how to use the programming language HTML. It has developed to a level where whole websites (sometimes involving hundreds of pages) can be managed and designed very quickly and simply. Web pages and sites can incorporate text, graphics, animations, audio files and full video. However, one problem is that new file formats can be introduced and the web-authoring software cannot recognise them.  An example of this was when MP3 overtook Real Player format audio files and all the packages had to release new versions with support for MP3, which also tidied up lots of other loose ends. Examples of webauthoring software are DreamWeaver from Macromedia, Adobe Go-Live and FrontPage from Microsoft.

Task on evaluating software

You will have to complete a practical assessment using different types of software in order to complete the unit. As a preparation for this work it will be necessary for you to know how to operate your chosen packages to a reasonably high level. You have to use software to process and retrieve information and also to create and store information.

Download and complete Worksheet 10. Complete Worksheet 10a.

NAB Pratical Assessment

For the two tasks you have to submit for marking, hard-copy evidence in the form of printouts should be included.

Task 1

Make up one A4-sized page which is a newsletter about your favourite celebrity, sporting hero or team. Your page should have three columns, a suitable heading or title, include a table of information and at least one graphic. Use the Internet to help gather your information and graphics. After your graphic has been placed on the page ensure that it is resized (either larger or smaller). Plan out your page on paper before you start looking for information.

Print a copy with your name in the footer.

Using the criteria below, evaluate the software used.

Criteria

• Range of data objects
• Range of operations
• Formatting functions
• HCI (including use of keyboard commands, menus and toolbars/icons
• Online help and online tutorials

Use the Software Evaluation form to help you complete this task. Download the evaluation form here.

Task 2

You have been given the task of setting up a database to track and analyse customer details for a large mail-order store. Here is some sample data:

Customer Address Branch Goods Order
Mr G Davis 12 North Road, Aberdeen Aberdeen Philips 28" TV £799.00
Mrs H Evans 268 Long Street, Perth Edinburgh Bosch Washing Machine £525.00
Miss H Smith 10 Warren Road, Edinburgh Edinburgh Zanussi Freezer £365.00
Mrs D Carnegie The Firs, Dunfermline Edinburgh NEFF Microwave £799.00
Mr I James 12 Panmure Place, Glasgow Glasgow Philips PC Bundle £398.00
Mr H Wragg 6 Garthdee Road, Peterhead Aberdeen Sony Music Centre £685.00
Ms H Wyness 2 New Perth Road, Inverness Aberdeen Playstation + FIFA £299.00
Miss F West 4 New Street, Stirling Glasgow Food Processor £99.00

Use the Software Evaluation form to help you complete this task.  Download the evaluation form here.


 

 



 

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