Apps versus Programs

Howard Walker

Honorable Member
May be an old buffer, but I have been programming computers for the last 50 or so years, so can anyone answer this question:

Whats the difference between an app and a program?


Noob Whisperer
Really, nothing.
App (short for application) and program can and are often used interchangeably.


Windows Forum Admin
Staff member
Premium Supporter
There is really no difference, but today, "apps" are seen as something you buy and/or download from an online store that will work on multiple devices. "I'm going to download that app.. it costs $1.99 and will work on my tablet and phone." This has become a popular term because of the rise of tablets and smartphones. For example, "Modern UI" apps are programmed in Visual Studio in C#, have cross-compatibility between devices, and usually incorporate web scripting elements.

Applications is an umbrella term (now) that includes Store APPs, as well as other more traditional, customary software and programs. Much is just semantics. Used to say, "All Programs", now says, ALL Apps....same, really. Still says "Programs & Features" but, installed programs show listed as ALL Apps. Oh and sometimes we refer to things as Utilities and list them, also, under Programs or is it Applications? Confused yet? ;)

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Microsoft MVP
Staff member
Premium Supporter
Microsoft MVP

All software are programs but not all programs are apps according to my definitions. The diagram is a simple view which is capable of more or less unlimited expansion but which I use to differentiate system software (used to drive the system), applications software (for the end user to run) and utility software (to maintain the system).


Thanks for diagramming what I had tried to describe & explain.

Win8Logo (2013_02_06 10_30_24 UTC).jpg .1


Excellent Member
Microsoft Community Contributor
I consider the modern "App" to be short for Applet. Possibly the definition might take into account how the utility was hosted. Is it running in it own hosting service, or with the kernel.

I can't remember exactly, but doesn't Windows 8.1 give you an option to arrange the tiles based on whether it is for the Desktop or not?

No exact difference. Steven Jobs make the word "App" popular. Maybe app means program for mobile.:iee:

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