Communication Software: Purpose & Examples

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  • 0:05 Communication Software
  • 0:36 Terminal Emulator
  • 3:28 Chat
  • 5:32 FTP
  • 7:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Martin Gibbs

Martin has 16 years experience in Human Resources Information Systems and has a PhD in Information Technology Management. He is an adjunct professor of computer science and computer programming.

You use communication software every day, from e-mail to texting. In this lesson, we will review the purpose of communication software, and provide examples of its use in modern systems.

Communication Software

There are numerous ways to communicate over a computer network. The most widely used way is probably e-mail. You can send messages to anyone anywhere in the world as long as they have an e-mail address. You can also attach files to your e-mail.

However, some tasks require different forms of communication. For example, you may need to connect to a remote computer system if you want to transfer very large files to someone else. Let's look at a few examples of very specialized communication software.

Terminal Emulator

A modern computer desktop has an easy-to-use graphical user interface, or GUI. If you have not used computers for very long, that may be the only type of interface you have ever seen. In the early days of computing, things looked very different. A typical interface consisted of a black display with letters in white, yellow or green. There was no pointing device, such as a mouse. To use the computer, you had to type in commands.

Every menu option in a typical software application was a different command. This is referred to as a command-line user interface. In this type of interface, a user interacts with a computer by typing in lines of text. This was the most widely used interface until the introduction of Windows and Apple OS in the mid-1980s.

An alternative to the use of command line is the use of text shortcuts. In a text-based user interface, or TUI, every menu option in a software application corresponds to a character. For example, an application could use O for open, F for find, R for read, etc. A text-based interface uses the entire screen, and users do not enter text line by line as in a command-line interface.

Both command-line and text-based user interfaces are still in use today. The applications typically run on mainframe computers: centralized computer systems used by large organizations. Mainframe computing was in widespread use before the emergence of personal computers. Some organizations still use these systems, in part because moving an entire system to a new platform can be costly.

In mainframe systems, all the processing is done by a central computer, and individual users access the system using a video terminal. Such terminals are no longer in use, but sometimes the applications on the mainframes still need to be used. This requires the use of terminal emulator software. This essentially creates a video terminal interface to the mainframe system but runs within the regular OS of a desktop computer.

Terminal emulator software is still fairly common in large organizations, such as banks, insurance companies and government agencies. Their use will likely continue to decline as older systems are upgraded.

Command line has not disappeared with the decline of mainframe systems - on the contrary. Many software applications continue to use command line because it is often very efficient. Command line is very much like a programming language, so for many computer programmers, using command line is a natural way to interact with computer systems.


A quick reality check - how many texts do you send every day? A typical user may send a couple, while serious text users may send dozens or even hundreds. So, what did we use before texting? And, how can you keep your texting from running up your phone bill?

Sending text messages on a mobile phone is similar to online chat, which refers to text-based communication over the Internet in real-time. One of the principal differences is that text messages occur over the cellular network of the phone company instead of over the Internet.

Instant Messaging, or IM, is the most widely used form of online chat. IM uses a software application to compose, send and receive messages. This sounds like your e-mail, but the difference is that IM occurs in real time, so your messages appear instantaneously, and you can see who is online.

There are many different types of software for online chat. The application typically shows up as a small window floating on top of your other applications. This makes it possible to keep an eye on your messages while continuing with your other tasks.

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