What Is a Canned Program?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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A canned program is any type of software program that is configured to provide specific solutions or fixes for certain types of functions. Unlike other types of software, canned software products are not designed to allow much in the way of customization. Typically, the canned program is designed to be used in specific ways and to perform specific tasks. While some small options may be built into the program to allow the end user to make a few slight adjustments in the way the software functions, those are carefully limited to adjustments defined in the program itself, and cannot be expanded.

There are a number of different types of canned program applications on the market today. One of the more common examples is software that is designed to provide a combination of common programs, such as word processing program, a spreadsheet program, and a presentation building program. While versatile, this type of package, often known generically as an office suite, the range of features built into the software itself place limitations on what end users can do. For example, a canned program for word processing usually allows a document to be saved in only one of a short list of formats, with no option to add to that short list.


Databases with limited customization capability are also often considered to be examples of canned program products. A sales database is normally is equipped with a preset range of fields on a template, but may allow end users to adapt those fields in terms of arranging them on the template, associating values with those fields, and possibly even adding a few fields. While somewhat more versatile than a program that allows no customization at all, these databases still do not allow any changes to the basic code for the program, and may even have safety protocols that prevent end users from even accessing and reading that code.

Other canned program software packages are aimed more at helping to deal with computer problems that may arise from time to time. Here, the focus is on the computer fix, often by identifying failures in computer programs or detecting the presence of malicious software that undermines the function of one or more programs. As with office suites, the tasks that an end user can perform with these programs are often limited to only those allowed by the code written specifically for the application.

While somewhat limited, there are benefits to the use of a canned program. Since limits are set, consumers can determine if the capabilities of a given program will fulfill their needs. Often, the design of the canned program intentionally makes it easy for end users to activate the functions with ease. For users who are not trained in writing software code or making changes to software, this ease of use serves as a huge advantage that allows them to focus more on completing tasks and less on designing or adapting code to create a desired outcome.


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