What Is Vanilla Software?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 12 April 2014
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"Vanilla software" is a term used to describe software that is made in a barebones way, without any customizations to make it better or worse for any particular industry. The lack of customization makes most vanilla software generic. The majority of vanilla programs come with special licenses that allow users to customize programs after receiving them, and some may allow users to sell their customized versions. While this software generally is less expensive than more advanced software, there may be a problem with the features included or not included in the software.

The main distinguishing characteristic that separates vanilla software and other programs is that this software comes without any customization whatsoever. Most programs have leanings for certain businesses or consumers, but this software is made for anyone. Most programs that are sold have plug-ins or components from third-party software manufacturers that either help make or help optimize the program. With a vanilla program, none of these extras is included.

Most vanilla software is generic, because it is not made for any particular group. This means the features found on the program often are standard and can apply for anyone. For example, business word processors generally have features such as basic business analytics, business writing styles and templates for common documents used by businesses. A vanilla program often will lack these tools, because they differentiate it for a certain market.


While having a program without any specialization may seem like a problem for specialized clients, this actually is one of the strengths of vanilla software. Regular programs have a take-it-or-leave-it approach, because the user is unable to change the framework or features associated with the program. The majority of vanilla programs allow users to peer into and change the source code, so any features that are needed can be manually added. Some programs also enable the user to sell the new version, but this is uncommon.

People who are looking for an out-of-the-box program that needs no customization likely won't want to use vanilla software. The features are generic, so users may get features they will never use and they may not get essential features. This makes the main market for this type of software people who have the time and skill to change the programs to suit their needs. These programs also often are cheaper, but some people may be willing to pay more for software that is customized for their needs.


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