Paul is a GIS professor at Vancouver Island U, has a PhD from U of British Columbia, and has taught stats and programming for 15 years.
Most employees of an organization are likely to use a handful of software applications that are the same for everyone. For example, almost every computer will have an Internet browser, an office suite with word processing, presentation and spreadsheet programs and some applications to work with multimedia files, like image, audio and video.
However, there are many software applications that are very specific to certain fields or certain professions. For example, the software used on a college campus is likely to be different from the software used by an accounting firm. Let's look at some of these specialized software applications.
Schools, colleges and universities use software to facilitate learning. Let's say you're a college professor, and you are using presentation software as part of your lectures. You want to encourage students to listen to what you have to say, take notes and ask questions. You don't want them to spend all their time copying your slides, so you want to make your presentations available to students. You could email the presentation as an attachment, but it would be much easier to have a website for the course where students could just download the presentation.
Most colleges use a learning management system, or LMS. An LMS is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking and delivery of education using electronic means. What this means is that a course website is created for each course, and professors and students all get access to this secure site. Professors can upload their materials, and students can download them. Professors can also use the website to post announcements, set up discussion boards and create assignments.
Learning management systems have become quite sophisticated and now make it possible to deliver entire courses online without any direct face-to-face interaction. Professors can post videos of their lectures and set up all the assignments to take place online. Students can access the course website from anywhere and work on the materials when it suits them. The recent growth in online education is, to a large degree, made possible by the tools available in learning management systems.
Learning management software is typically installed on a computer server of the college. Professors and students access the system using a regular Internet browser. This makes it very easy to get access to the course material without having to install special software.
Electronic textbooks have also become popular. Instead of carrying around a stack of books, many publishers make their textbooks available in electronic format. You typically need special reader software to actually view the contents. Electronic does not mean free, and you typically have to pay to download an electronic textbook just as you would for a regular paper textbook.
Real Estate Software
Most people looking to buy or rent property start their search online. Real estate companies need specialized software to maintain an inventory of properties. A client typically has a number of specific criteria, and a real estate agent should be able to quickly find some properties that meet those criteria. This means the properties need to be organized in a structured database so that they can be easily searched.
Marketing and customer relations are critical in the real estate sector, so there are specialized software applications to assist with those tasks. A real estate agent can use this software to keep track of all their contacts, their interests and preferences and when to follow up.
Real estate transactions also involve quite a bit of paperwork. If you have ever bought a house, you probably remember the stack of documents you needed to read and sign. Specialized document management software makes it easier to have the documents organized and ready when they are needed.
The legal profession also has its own way of doing business. Legal practice management software is software designed to manage a law firm's cases, including records, billing, schedules, deadlines and other relevant information. A single case can easily result in dozens of documents, and coming prepared to a meeting or court session is critical for lawyers and their clients.
You've probably seen a movie where a lawyer is working through boxes of documents. Software has not made those boxes go away, but it does help keep critical details organized.
Consider for a moment how you manage your finances. How do you keep track of your expenses or plan for a major purchase? Perhaps you use a spreadsheet program to enter some of your finances and do some basic analysis to see if you can afford that new car.
Now consider managing the finances of a multimillion dollar company. Could you do this using spreadsheet software? In theory, yes, but you probably want something that is designed specifically for this purpose. What you need is accounting software, which is software to record and process accounting transactions. This typically includes modules for things like accounts receivable, accounts payable, billing, purchase orders, sales orders and general bookkeeping.
Accounting software is used by organizations of all sizes, from a small business with a single owner to a large multinational corporation. You don't have to be a company to benefit from accounting software, though. As an individual, you can use personal financial software to keep track of your expenses and income, plan for a major purchase and plan for retirement. In addition to accounting software, many people use tax preparation software to file their tax returns.
Architecture is another example of a profession where specialized software is widely used. To design a building, architects will typically use a 3-D drawing program, which is software to create a three-dimensional structure of a real-world object, such as a house.
3-D drawing programs make it possible to get a very realistic view of what the building is going to look like, while at the same time incorporating the technical details that are going to be necessary for construction. This type of software is very helpful in visualizing the final design and making sure it represents the best option before actually starting construction. Architectural software is not only used to create 3-D drawings of the building's structure; it can also be used for interior design and landscaping.
Specialized software applications have been developed for different areas. Colleges use learning management software to deliver online education. Real estate agents use software to keep an inventory of properties and manage client relationships. Lawyers use specialized software to manage their cases. The financial sector uses accounting software to keep track of all the financial transactions, and architects use 3-D drawing software to visualize their designs.
You'll be able to describe the uses and advantages of education, real estate, legal, accounting and architectural software after completing this lesson.
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