SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch) is a second generation instrument for the VLT,
currently under design, whose prime objective is the discovery and study of new extrasolar giant planets orbiting nearby
stars by direct imaging of their circumstellar environment. It is a complex instrument, consisting of an extreme Adaptive
Optics System (SAXO), various coronagraphs, an infrared differential imaging camera (IRDIS), an infrared integral field
spectrograph (IFS) and a visible differential polarimeter (ZIMPOL). Its complexity is reflected in the large number of
devices that have to be controlled and of the calibration procedures required for a full characterization of the instrument.
In this paper we report on the current status of the design of the control software for the SPHERE instrument. We begin
by describing the engineering process that we adopted for all phases of the project. We then discuss the architecture of
the software and of the control hardware, and we give an outline of the calibration and observation procedures. Finally,
we provide some details on the on-line data processing procedures required for quick-look and calibration, as well as a
description of the format used for archiviation of data from the scientific detectors and from the adaptive optics system.