Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

Back in the past, people used to discuss programs for desktop operating systems such as Windows and apps for mobile OS like Android and iOS. Over time, desktop apps joined the conversation.

Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

Wait a minute. Can you use apps on a Windows 10 computer? What’s the difference between an app and a program? Aren’t they the same? Most users don’t know or care about the subtle difference between the two. They just download the app or program and do what they want. However, it’s important to learn the difference for the sake of your system. I will explain the difference and similarities between the two with some examples below.

1. What Do They Mean

The full form of an app is an application. By definition, all apps are programs. Let’s dive deeper then.

An app is a program or a collection of programs meant for the end user to perform a task or achieve a purpose. A typical Windows app is developed on the open source API based platform called Universal Windows Platform or UWP. It made a debut with the launch of Windows 10.

The UWP allows developers to create an app that is capable of running across all platforms such as Windows 10, Xbox, and HoloLens. I would have included Windows Mobile in the list, but it was discontinued.

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Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

In simpler terms, programs are executable instructions for specific tasks on a computer. Sometimes, they don’t have a Graphical User Interface (GUI) and aren’t intended for end users. A typical Windows 10 program uses the Win32 API and sometimes the .NET framework. Microsoft has a page dedicated to understanding the benefits of both and the programming languages they support. Programs are built for a single or dedicated platform, while apps are designed for multiple platforms, specifically Microsoft’s platforms beyond Windows.

2. How Do Apps and Programs Work

A program requires an installer with a package of necessary files. It may also download files from the web before installation. An app, in contrast, is a single file that you download and install. Unlike programs, apps don’t need a separate uninstaller.

A program is a set of instructions that tells the computer what to do. The computer receives and executes these instructions one by one. Therefore, it must execute instruction number 1 before receiving instruction number 2, and so on.

Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

An app is built with the end user in mind to complete a single task or a set of functions with input from the user. A program can run in the background without user intervention. Examples of apps you can download from the Windows Store include word processors and games.

An app is a set of computer programs that assist users in solving various problems through a single user interface (UI). These programs collaborate to perform tasks, functions, or activities. Therefore, all apps are programs, but not all programs are apps.

For an app to operate according to user commands, it requires the presence and functionality of programs. To illustrate this concept, consider the following examples.

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Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

Windows 10 operating system includes a vast array of programs and apps. It executes commands and performs functions using hardware like RAM, HDD, and external peripherals. Minecraft is one example of an app that relies on Windows 10 to function properly.

Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

Apps can be categorized into web apps, computer apps, and mobile apps. For instance, you can use the Gmail app on both your mobile device and web browser, but not on your computer. Gmail is a web and mobile app, but not a Windows app.

4. How Are They Different

Applications are not the only type of programs in Windows 10. There are also system programs designed to work with other systems or programs, such as networking system, servers, drivers, firmware, and others.

Difference Between an App and a Program in Windows 10: GT Explains

To better understand, think of it this way. You want to use an app, but it needs other programs to operate. In other words, you want to watch a movie in VLC app but the video player needs audio and video drivers to function. Another distinction is that an app has a user interface because it is designed to be used by a real person, but a program may or may not need a UI to function. Malware or virus that infect your computer don’t always have a UI, but they are programs.

The lines between applications and programs have blurred over the years. Most people use these terms interchangeably. They intersect but are not exactly synonymous. If you still can’t understand the difference, it’s understandable. They are all means to an end. Download it, use it, and get the job done. That’s what matters at the end of the day. Names and jargon be damned. Next up: Using Windows 10? Here are 15 tips and tricks to use it in tablet mode.

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