Home Ch: 2 - Computers Software - Operating System
PDF Print E-mail
Chapter 2 - Hardware and Software

Software - Present & Emerging Trends

Software controls and runs the hardware of your computer system. It is important too keep in mind two different software types - operating system software and applications software.

Operating System Software

Operating system software controls the overall operation of the computer. It interprets commands from the user and tells the computer what to do. The operating program directs and coordinates the commands between your computer and other hardware components, such as printers, video, soundboards, and so on. It also coordinates the flow of commands between application programs and the computer. The operating system loads application programs into system memory and coordinates its execution with the rest of your system resources. It also receives and interprets the commands from your keyboard to execute programs. The first operating software was DOS, which stands for Disk Operating System. Windows 3.1™ and 3.11 are not operating software, but instead are a graphical interface between the operating software DOS and other application software. However, Windows 95™ combined the DOS operating system and the Windows graphical interface into an operating system labeled Windows 98™. Other operating systems include OS/2™, CP/M™, PC-DOS™ and Novell DOS™. The Macintosh™ operating system is System 8.x. The prevalent personal computer operating system is Windows based. The user interface depends on the operating system.

The DOS operating system uses a command line system. For example, C:\ DISK COPY A: B: means to copy the files from Drive A to Drive B.

Windows 95/98/00/XP and Vista™ use a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Graphical User Interface (GUI) refers to a computing environment that enables one to execute commands or interact with a program using graphical symbols on the screen. GUI is a method of depicting information on-screen. The user performs tasks by manipulating ICONS. ICONS are little pictures that represent program files and commands. GUI hides the details of operating and application software. For example, to save a file, a click on the “save” icon will instruct the computer to perform several tasks to save a file. A team of researchers at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center created the first graphical user interface. The computing and legal industry relies upon the GUI Windows interface as the platform of choice. Both the Windows™ and Macintosh™ programs rely heavily upon the use of icons to run their system. The problem with icons is that sometimes it is difficult to determine which icon should be used for a specific task. Also, some nearly identical icons perform different tasks. For example, some programs use the magnifying glass to represent an enlargement function in the software. Others use a similar magnifying glass to represent a search or find command. The solution to this problem will be a combination of icons and words and a uniform protocol for the different programs. To assist with determining what the icon stands for, a written word description pops up when the pointer is placed over an icon.

Multitasking is the process of running several programs on the computer at the same time. It also refers to allowing the computer to process multiple instructions from several programs at the same time. Software operating programs, such as Windows , allow for multitasking.

Files are places in which computer operating and application software instructions and data are contained. For example, when a user creates a memo and saves it, he is saving it to a file. There are different types of files. Files with an ending of .EXE or .COM normally run a program. Data files are generally files that the user creates, and must have a unique name within that directory or subdirectory. Files are located in directories that are like electronic filing cabinets. For example, under the directory My Documents and the subdirectory Access Databases, is another subdirectory labeled “legal” which has Access database files. When a file is deleted from a disk, it is not actually erased. Instead, the “address” of the file is simply deleted. The file data is still there but the “address” is open for new data. Norton Utilities (www.norton.com) and Windows software both have the capability to “undelete” files. The safest way to ensure files are erased is to reformat the disk. To ensure 100% deletion, the hard drive or floppy should be destroyed.

Desktop Interface - This is the area where one launches different programs. The standard desktop interface for most users is Windows. As the computing world begins the shift from personal productivity to group computing, the interface will change. The Internet and Intranets are fueling this group computing change. As a result, the browsers, primarily Netscape and Internet Explorer, will become the de facto desktop interface for users. See also, Chapter 6, Computer Concepts and Legal Applications, Desktop Interfaces - Outliners, Integrators and Menuing Systems.

A Windows based system provides many other benefits:

  • Common GUI interface provides same basic menuing structure that lessons the training curve;
  • User Interface is much more intuitive resulting in less training and files can now be saved with long filenames;
  • Communication software links are built in, such as sending and receiving faxes, dial up remote access, direct cable connections, and greater Internet connectivity;
  • Data can be transferred easily using cut, copy, and paste features,
  • Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) and Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) enables the transfer or linking of data from application to another application; and
  • Suites of application programs work easily together.

Some considerations for choosing an upgraded version of Windows:

  • Will your existing programs and hardware run on either platform?
  • Are there available drivers for hardware and software?
  • Will your existing network operating system work on it?
  • Will it cost more to install on each system?
  • Do you have the needed hardware to run the new system?
  • Do you have the resident expertise to manage the new software?

Find Legal Software


eDiscovery Alerts

Click here to sign up for ediscovery e-mail alerts that provide news on the latest electronic discovery and evidence issues.