Part 2 English computer jargon

Computer Jargon Dictionary
Many thanks to Computeract!ve magazine (vnu publications UK) for most of these definitions
Index links: N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
N

Name

In spreadsheets, an easy-to remember identifier for a cell or range.

NetMeeting

A software programme developed by Microsoft and available free of charge. Allows you to talk and share data with other computer users over the internet; either audio only or, if you’ve a camera, visually.

Net

Short for internet, which is a global network of computers you can hook up to through an ordinary phone line.

Network

A way of connecting several computers and printers so that they can share data.

Network Adapter

A socket for connecting a PC to an office network or some broadband internet connections.

Network interface card

Each PC on a network needs a network interface card, into which the network cable is plugged. Most can transfer data at 10Mbits per second (10 million bits per second) but 100Mbit cards are becoming more common.

Newsgroups

Discussion areas on the internet, where you can post a message and read replies from other people, like an office noticeboard.

Notebook

A portable computer, usually around the size of an A4 notebook. Also referred to as laptop.

NTFS

NT File System. A more secure and reliable file system used by Windows NT and XP.
O

OCR

An abbreviation of optical character recognition, the process by which printed text is scanned and converted into a computer-editable electronic document.

OEM

Short for original equipment manufacturer, which refers to components sold to manufacturers purely for incorporation in complete systems. Often, OEM parts are similar to those sold retail, but may be cheaper or sold with different software.

Office suite

A bundle of useful programmes sold in one package. Lotus SmartSuite and Microsoft Office are prime examples.

Offline

Working with internet software, like an email programme, without being connected to the internet, potentially running up telephone charges.

Onboard

Already fitted to your PC as part of the main circuitry on the motherboard. So ‘onboard AGP graphics’, would mean the PC with built-in AGP graphics facilities. The alternative is a separate expansions card which is attached to the motherboard via a special port.

Online

Being connected to the internet. The time you spend connected to or via the internet.

Online instructions

A read-me text file that will be installed on your computer during the installation of software, or will be present on the CD-ROM for future reference. Think of it as an electronic manual.

Online Service

A company that provides its own online content that’s accessible only to fee-paying members, as well as access to the internet proper. AOL is an online service.

Operating system

A crucial piece of software which is so important that it loads automatically when you switch on a computer. Windows 98, 2000 and XP are operating systems, as is Mac OSX, Linux, and Palm OS5 (for the Palm handheld computer) Operating systems govern the way the hardware and software components in a computer work together.

Optical resolution

The true resolution a scanner can ‘see’ as it passes across a document. Resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi), so a 300dpi scan will pick up 300 lines of information for each inch of the scanned page.
P

Packet

Information sent over the internet or other computer networks is split up into packets of data. Each of these includes the destination IP address, so they can travel separately and be rebuilt into the complete message on arrival.

Packet Writing

A technique (provided through software) that allows CD-Rs and CD-RWs to be treated as floppy disks, with drag-and-drop file management.

Page Wizard

A simple series of on-screen forms to generate a page layout based on your preferences. For example, Microsoft Publisher can automatically create a birthday card based on your answers to some simple questions.

Palette

In an image-editing programme such as Paint Shop Pro, a palette will allow a user to select a range of tools or colours to use for drawing or photo-retouching work.

Palmtop

A PDA or small computer about the size of a pocket calculator. Usually without a keyboard and with a touch-sensitive screen, it will use text recognition for data entry. Most palmtops are supplied with contact management, diary and memo software, while many can access the internet and download email using a mobile phone. Third parties may supply on-screen maps, electronic books and the like.

Parallel cable

Usually used to connect a PC to a printer, but can also be used to link two PCs together. Parallel cables allow data to be swapped between computers at a higher speed than serial cables.

Parallel port

A single socket on the back of a PC typically used for connecting a printer or a low-cost scanner.

Parasitic virus

Computer virus that spreads by attaching itself to another file, usually a programme.

Partition

A large hard disk can be divided into two or more partitions or ‘virtual’ drives. Once partitioned, each section is treated by Windows as though it were a completely separate, smaller hard disk.

Patch (software)

A software file or collection of files that fixes problems with an existing software application by making minor changes to the programme.

Path (file management)

In file management, the names of the drive, folder and subfolders that indicate exactly where on a disk a file is stored, like ‘C:WindowsMapsMyFile. xls’. This example means that the file MyFile. xls is located in the folder called Maps, which is inside the folder called Windows on your hard disk.

PC Card

A credit card-size device for adding anything from a modem to a hard drive to a notebook PC. Requires a PC Card slot (standard on almost all notebooks).

PCI

Peripheral Component Interconnect. A high-performance expansion slot for desktop PCs, allowing simple installation of PCI components like sound cards and modems.

PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)

A palmtop computer about the size of a pocket calculator. Usually without a keyboard and with a touch-sensitive screen, it will use text recognition for data entry. Most PDAs are supplied with contact management, diary and memo software, while many can access the internet and download email using a mobile phone or normal phone line.

PDF

Portable Document Format. A file format developed by Adobe that allows formatted pages of text and graphics to be viewed and printed correctly on a variety of machines, without the original author having to worry about the recipients. PDF pages created with Adobe Acrobat need to be read with the free Acrobat Reader application.

Pentium 4

The latest and fastest member of Intel’s Pentium line of processors.

Personal data

Any information referring to identifiable individuals; usually (but not always) used to refer to computerised information. Most businesses and organisations storing personal data must register with the Data Protection Commissioner.

PIM

Personal Information Manager. A software application that helps you to organise all your personal data by managing your diary, contact list and messages.

PivotTable

A built-in Excel macro, or mini programme, which summarises large amounts of data.

Pixel

Short for picture element, which is the smallest part of an image displayed on a monitor or captured by a scanner or digital camera.

Playlist

A list of audio tracks (usually MP3s) queued for playback, not unlike a stack of records on an old record player.

Plug and play

A standard for Windows PCs that allows peripherals to be connected and used in a matter of moments. In theory, Windows will automatically detect the new device and install any needed drivers from its own database.

Plug-in

A small programme that adds extra features such as streaming video to your web browser or to other applications, and is loaded only when it’s needed to display information

Pocket PC

A generic term for any handheld computer that uses the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system.

POP3

Post Office Protocol 3. A protocol for remotely accessing and retrieving email from an ISP. Most email applications and ISPs use POP3

Pop-up menu

A menu that can be displayed on the screen at any time by pressing the appropriate key, usually displayed over material already on the screen. Once you have made a choice from the menu, it disappears and the original screen is restored.

Port

A socket, which is located at the back of the computer’s base, where you plug in items like the printer and keyboard.

Portal

A website that offers a variety of services, such as news, weather reports, stock information, email and so on. The information on offer may be personalised for your interests if you have registered with the portal. Most search sites are also portals.

Posting

To send a message to a newsgroup.

PostScript

A printer description language, including outline font technology, developed by Adobe. It enables typefaces to be displayed on screen exactly as they will print, and allows them to print to best effect on different resolution devices.

Power Management

Power-saving features on a PC, printer or monitor, designed to turn off or put on standby any part of the system that is not needed.

Preferences

The part of a programme that lets you alter various settings and remembers your changes so it looks and behaves how you want it to.

Preview pane

Part of a window in an email application that lets you read a message without having to first double-click it to open it. This has the disadvantage that some malicious emails can contain HTML which will run automatically in the preview pane, potentially importing a virus to your system.

Print head

The part of the printer that actually prints onto the paper. In the case of an inkjet printer, this is the part that squirts ink, in strips, onto the page. In a dot-matrix printer it’s the part that hammers a row of pins through the ink ribbon

Printer carriage

The internal printer mechanism which moves back and forth and to which the cartridge attaches.

Processor

The chip that is the ‘brain’ of the computer. The faster the processor, the better a computer will perform.

Programme

Software or applications. Programmes tell your computer, and its accessories (the hardware) what to do and how to do it. Examples are Excel, Word, and computer games.

Programming Language

The computer instructions that are used to build computer programmes. There are many programming languages, with names like C++ and BASIC, and each is designed for a specific purpose.

PS/2

A set of standards for such things as mouse and keyboard interfaces, originally used by IBM.

PS/2 port

A small, round 6-pin connector, for plugging a keyboard and/or mouse into a computer.

Pt

Point size. The measurement that typographers use to describe the size of text. One point is approximately 1/72nd of an inch. Accordingly, 72pt text is twice as big as 36pt text.
Q

Quicktime

A video file format invented by Apple, and used on both PCs and Macs.

QWERTY keyboard

The standard English keyboard layout, so called because the first six letters on the top row of the keyboard are QWERTY. Similarly, French keyboards can be referred to as AZERTY while some other languages, including German, use a QWERTZ keyboard layout.
R

Radio button

A method of selecting an option in an application dialogue box. Only one button in the control group can be selected: if you change your selection, your first choice is automatically deselected.

Rage Pro

A type of 3D graphics card made by ATI. It was excellent when first launched but is now almost obsolete. You are most likely to find it or derivatives in corporate machines or notebooks which are unlikely to be used for gaming.

RAM

Random Access Memory. The computer’s working area, used for data storage while the PC is switched on. Its capacity is measured in megabytes (Mb): the more memory your PC has, the more things it can process simultaneously and the faster it will seem. Note that any information in RAM will be lost when the power is switched off.

Range

In a spreadsheet, a defined block of cells. Rather than performing calculations on each cell individually, you can apply a formula to the whole range.

RDRAM

Rambus DRAM. A design of memory claimed to offer very high performance, albeit at a high price. Developed by Rambus Inc and licensed to RAM manufacturers, it is found in Pentium III and Pentium 4 systems.

RealPlayer

The software required to play RealAudio and RealVideo files streamed over the internet. A basic version is available as a free download while a more sophisticated version can be bought online.

RJ-11 (Registered Jack-11)

The type of small plug and socket used by modems to connect to a telephone socket. A converter plug is needed before an RJ-11 cable can be plugged into a standard UK telephone socket (RJ-11 is a US standard).

RTC

Real-time clock. The battery-powered clock inside every PC which keeps track of time while the system is switched off.

Readme file

A file created during an application installation that contains useful information. Readme files are usually found in the same Programme Files folder as the application

Reboot

To restart a computer. Normally, this is by using the ‘Restart’ option on the Windows Start menu. However, it may be necessary to press Control-Alt-Delete or even to use the Reset button if one is fitted to the PC.

Record

A single entry in a database, comprising a related group of individual ‘fields’. Each entry in an address book, for example, is a record.

Recycle Bin

Where all files deleted in Windows are sent. Shown as a rubbish bin icon on the Desktop, it must be emptied if you want to get rid of deleted files for good.

Registry

A database integrated into Windows which stores information on all hardware and software installed on your PC. This includes user preferences, settings and licence information.

Removable storage device

Disk drives that use high-capacity disks which can be removed and stored remotely. Typical examples include the Iomega Zip and Jaz products.

Reservoir

In an inkjet printer, the part that actually holds the ink. In many inkjets, the reservoir is combined with the print head itself to create a single disposable unit, while others have replaceable reservoirs.

Resolution

The amount of detail shown in an image, whether on screen or printed. For a monitor, it is the number of pixels it can display (typically 1024 x 768 pixels for a 17in monitor). For printers and scanners, resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi); the number of drops of ink or toner that can be printed in a square inch.

Right-click

Most actions in Windows are performed by clicking the left mouse button. However, since the arrival of Windows 95, many programmes – and Windows itself – make use of the right mouse button click to display a pop-up menu with special functions.

RIMM

Rambus Inline Memory Module. A ‘stick’ of RDRAM, used in Pentium III and Pentium 4 systems with suitable motherboards.

Ripper

Software that can be used to automatically convert CD audio and .WAV files into compressed MP3 or WMA format for later playback, either through your PC or from a portable digital music player.

Rip

To digitally extract the music data from a CD-ROM or audio CD. Ripping a track from an audio CD is the first stage of compressing it as an MP3 file.

RISC processor

Reduced Instruction Set Computer processors are designed using a very limited number of simple instructions. They can combine these instructions at high speed to perform much more complex calculations.

ROM

Read Only Memory. Any memory that can be read but not written to. A PC’s BIOS uses ROM to store basic system information and instructions which cannot be changed.

RTF

Rich Text Format. A common file format used to transfer files between different word-processing programmes. It preserves most of the formatting of a document.

Router

A device which is used to connect more than one computer together and/or to the internet as an alternative to a modem. It’s so-called because it determines which way data is sent.
S

ScanDisk

A disk-checking utility incorporated in Windows that can detect and repair minor problems with your disk drives.

Scanner

A device which uses a light sensor to convert a drawing, photograph or document into data which can then be interpreted by software on your PC. A flatbed scanner has a flat sheet of glass on which the image or document is placed. The scan head moves below the glass, while with a handheld scanner you move the scanner over the image.

SCART

A standardised 21-pin connector for two-way traffic of video and audio signals. It is used across Europe to connect TVs, video recorders and other domestic audiovisual equipment.

Scenario

In spreadsheets, a named set of input values you can substitute in a worksheet.

Screen resolution

The number of pixels that are displayed on the screen, making up the image. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and the sharper the picture.

Screensaver

A programme that runs on a computer after a short period of inactivity and displays a moving image on screen. Originally intended to prevent damage to monitors caused by displaying the same image for long periods, many screensavers now incorporate passwords to protect your work from prying eyes.

Screen shot

Also screen grab. An image of what was displayed on screen at a particular moment. A screen is captured to the clipboard in Windows by pressing the Print Screen key. You can then copy it to a graphic file or simply print it off.

Script

A short programme that’s stored on a web server to control part of a website. For example, a script could check that a date you’ve entered is valid, or move words across the screen.

Scroll

When a document, an image or a list of items – filenames, fonts – is too long to display in a window you can scroll up or down by clicking on the window’s scroll bar (also called the vertical scroll bar).

Scroll bar

The section of a window – normally grey with a slider control – you must use to scroll around when the window’s contents are too large to display at once.

SCSI

Small Computer System Interface (pronounced ‘skuzzy’). An extremely fast connection between such things as disk drives and scanners, and a PC. Up to seven devices can be daisy-chained together and connected to a normal SCSI controller.

SD card

Secure Digital card. A secure variant of the postage stamp-size solid-state MMC memory card used by some MP3 players.

SDRAM

Synchronous Dynamic RAM. The type of memory to be found in most modern PCs. It is significantly cheaper than its biggest rival, RDRAM.

Search engine

A site on the net that indexes the names and addresses of other sites. It enables you to search for sites containing certain keywords, or sometimes even to ask a question in normal language.

Search query

The text given to a search engine which forms your search on the world wide web. It can be one or several keywords, use special codes, or even be a natural question.

Security certificate

A piece of data sent from one computer to another designed to prove the authenticity or security of information on the internet.

Selection tool

In graphics and page layout programmes, the icon for this often looks like the dotted outline of a square. This tool allows you to select items by drawing a square or rectangular shape around them. Once selected, you can manipulate them all at once.

Serial cable

A cable which connects to a serial or COM port. Such leads can connect peripherals to the computer or can be used to link one computer to another.

Serial port

A socket on the back of a PC used to connect serial devices, also known as a COM port. Often used on a PC to connect an external modem, some digital cameras and PDAs or, formerly, to plug in a mouse.

Server

A computer on a network (such as the internet) that stores shared information. Servers can also manage shared resources, such as printers.

Shareware

Programmes that you can try out free before deciding whether to buy them or not. Usually much cheaper than conventional software, shareware programmes are usually written by individuals and distributed not through shops but via the internet. Most shareware is first supplied as a trial version, which may work fully for a set number of days or may have some features disabled.

Shockwave

Technology developed by Macromedia that allows web pages to contain interactive multimedia. Typical uses include animations and games.

Shortcut

A file that acts as a link to something else, such as a programme file or disk drive. Double-clicking a shortcut is the same as double-clicking the original file, so they can be placed on the Desktop as a quick way to start programmes.

SIM

Subscriber Identity Module. The smart card used by all digital mobile phones. The SIM card carries the user’s identity and phone number for accessing the network. It also is used for storing the user’s personal phonebook and text messages.

Single pass

A single-pass scanner captures the image in one movement of the scanhead over the picture. Multi-pass scanners must make one pass for each colour channel to be scanned.

Site

Short for website. A linked group of one or more web pages, normally dealing with a particular subject or by a single author. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL (universal resource locator) or ‘address’. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.

Skin

A different, purely cosmetic appearance for an application.

Slider bar

A control which allows you to change a setting by clicking and ‘dragging’ a slider.

SmartCard

A credit card with an embedded microchip for storing personal identification data.

SmartMedia

A form of solid-state storage used by some digital cameras and MP3 players. Data files, normally photos or music, are stored on small removable cards. These are about the same size as CompactFlash cards, but physically more flexible, being less than 1mm thick.

SMS

Short Messaging Service. More commonly called text messaging.

SMTP

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. A standard for sending email messages. SMTP is now largely reserved for sending messages rather than receiving them.

Software

Any programme or group of programmes which tells hardware how it should perform, including operating systems such as Windows, word processors, DTP applications and games.

Sound Blaster

Sound card made by Creative Labs. The Sound Blaster was one of the first de facto PC audio standards, and many cards emulate it so they can be used with the hundreds of games that support it.

Sound card

An expansion card that lets a PC create sounds – game sound effects, music, and so on. Almost all PCs have a sound card as standard but more powerful sound cards can be bought and fitted.

Spam

Junk email sent to large groups of people offering such things as money-spinning ideas, holidays, and so on. Named after the Monty Python Spam song.

Speech recognition

Analysing the spoken word via special software so that a PC can recognise it and translate spoken commands into computer actions.

Spooling

Temporarily transferring data to the hard disk or to some other temporary storage place, before passing it on to its final destination. Most often seen in printing, where the PC spools data to the hard disk to finalise it before passing it to the printer.

Spreadsheet

A software application for creating sheets of calculations, set out in rows and columns. They may be used for accounting, budgeting, and any other sort of financial or mathematical calculation. Better spreadsheet programmes also have graphical abilities, allowing charts and graphs to be plotted. Leading programmes include Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3.

Spyware

Software installed (usually surreptitiously) as part of another application installation specifically to monitor and report back on a computer’s use.

Start button

The button on the far left of the Taskbar in Windows. Click on it to access all the programmes installed on your computer, as well as printers, and the Control Panel. Paradoxically, you should also click it to shut down your PC.

Start page

The page that appears when you first start your web browsing programme. Also known as the home page, it is user-selectable.

Streamed

When data flows to your PC as needed. Broadcasts over the internet are often streamed so that you don’t have to download a whole file before you start listening or watching. However, you cannot generally download streamed files to your hard disk to watch or listen to them later.

Stylus

A plastic pointer styled like a pen, used for operating palmtop computers (PDAs) with touch-sensitive screens.

Sub-head

Smaller than a headline, but larger than ordinary text, sub-heads break up long stretches of text and help readers navigate round more easily.

Surfing

Popular metaphor used for describing someone exploring the world wide web.

Swapfile

An area of hard disk space that your PC can use as ‘virtual’ memory, or RAM. This allows you to have more programmes open at once but will be slower than having an equivalent amount of real RAM.

Synchro recording

Also known as CD synchronisation. Automatically starts and stops a tape or disc when recording a CD.

System date

This is the date used by the DOS and Windows operating systems. Programmes that need to know the date should ask DOS or Windows for the system date, not look directly at the clock.

System disk

This is a disk that contains all the programmes you need to get your PC working, with enough system files to make it boot up and allow you access to the disk drives

System files

The files that run when the computer starts up, usually containing essential instructions to make installed hardware and software to run properly. The autoexec. bat and config. sys files are system files.

System software

Controls the hardware and manages the applications on your PC.

System Tools menu

This folder can be found by clicking the Windows Start button, then looking within Programmes/Accessories. In it you will find a number of utilities which are useful for maintaining and troubleshooting your copy of Windows.

System Tray

Found on the far right of your taskbar, the system tray displays icons showing which programmes are always running in Windows, such as an anti-virus programme.
T

Tab

Dialogue boxes often combine settings for different associated functions. Each ‘page’ of settings is separated by a tab, as though it were sheets of paper filed away and separated by tabbed dividers.

Tab stops

Preset points along a line of text, where the cursor will stop when the tab key is pressed.

Tag

Part of the syntax of HTML, the language used to define web pages, tags assign attributes – such as colour and position – to each of the elements of a web page.

Taskbar

The bar that runs along the bottom of the screen in versions of Windows from 95 onwards. It includes the Start button and System Tray, and contains icons for programmes that are running.

TCP/IP

Transmission control protocol/internet protocol. The protocol used to transfer data and information from one internet-connected computer to another.

Template

A web page design, document or a spreadsheet that contains all the required formatting for a particular style or type of document. This ‘master’ can then be used over and over and again, merely filling in the newly changed information or text each time.

Text and picture boxes

Empty frames designed to hold either words or pictures. They are used in many page layout and graphics programmes, and some word processors, to exactly position text or graphic elements on a page.

Text box

In desktop publishing, a piece of text set apart from the main story on a page – just like this jargon buster box.

Text tool

Often represented by the letter T and an arrow in image-editing and drawing programmes, this tool allows you to add text to the picture or image you are working on.

TFT (or thin-film transistor)

Technology used to create thin, flat colour screens for such things as computer monitors and digital cameras. TFT displays are very high quality and will display clear and bright images using thousands or millions of colours.

Thumbnail

A small (usually postage stamp-size) image used to give a quick preview of a much larger image.

TIFF

Tagged Image File Format. A standard file format used to store graphic images. It can handle monochrome, grey-scale, 8-bit or 24-bit colour images. TIFF images can be compressed without any loss of detail.

Timing out

Your browser sets a time limit on how long it will try to download a web page before determining that it cannot access the appropriate server. If web access is very slow, you are likely to be ‘timed out’.

Toolbar

A strip of icons that runs across the top of most Windows applications. Used to provide quick access to certain important features, such as saving and printing.

Toolbox

The software equivalent of a mechanic’s toolkit. A programme’s toolbox should contain everything necessary to complete the task in hand. In an image-editing application, the toolbox will have a selection of drawing, colouring and editing tools.

Top-level domain

The suffix after the final ‘. ‘ in a website (or ‘domain’) name. The most common top level domain is ‘. com’ for ‘commercial’. Other examples include ‘. co. uk’ for a UK company and ‘. org’ for a non-profit organisation.

Touchpad

A small, touch-sensitive pad, usually a couple of inches square, which acts as an alternative to a mouse on some notebook/palmtop computers. It works by sensing fingertip pressure.

Tower

A computer system unit which stands upright (as opposed to a ‘desktop’ version which lays flat). Although bulky, they give plenty of room for future expansion.

Trackball

A popular alternative to mice, trackballs are pointing devices with a flat base and an upwards-facing ball. You roll the ball around 360 degrees with your fingers or thumb in order to position the cursor.

Trackpad

A small, touch-sensitive pad, usually a couple of inches square, which acts as an alternative to a mouse on some notebook/palmtop computers. It works by sensing fingertip pressure.

Trackpoint

An alternative to a mouse on some notebook PCs, this is a small rubberised ‘nipple’, usually in the centre of the keyboard. Wiggle it like a joystick and the mouse pointer moves on screen. Although they take some getting used to, trackpoints can be more predictable than trackpads in situations like train journeys, where movement can cause ghost cursor placements.

Transport bar

A set of graphic buttons that mimic the stop, start, play, fast forward, rewind, and record buttons that you see on any audio cassette recorder.

Trapezoid

Setting controlling the width of the top and bottom edges of a monitor’s display.

Trigger event

Event that causes a virus to activate itself and unleash its payload. This can be a particular date – Friday 13, April Fool’s Day, Michelangelo’s birthday – or perhaps a counter, incremented each time the computer boots, reaching a certain value.

Trojan Horse

A malicious computer programme that’s disguised as a different, harmless programme. For example, a trojan horse may be disguised as a game but it’s actually a programme that steals your internet username and password. Trojan Horses don’t copy themselves and so are not viruses or worms.

TrueType

An outline font technology developed jointly by Microsoft and Apple. It enables typefaces to be displayed on screen exactly as they will print, and allows them to print to best effect on different resolution devices.

TV out

A socket found on a graphics card that can be used to make a connection to a TV set’s aerial-in socket.

TV tuner

An expansion card, which, when fitted into a PC, receives TV signals and allows a TV picture to be displayed on your PC’s screen.

TWAIN

Technology Without an Interesting Name. TWAIN is a standard way for scanners and some other devices to talk to your PC. In theory, all TWAIN-compliant image-editing applications, including Paint Shop Pro and PhotoShop, should be able to directly access the image data produced by any TWAIN-compliant scanner or digital camera.

Type II PC Card

The most common type of credit card-size expansion card used to add peripherals such as modems to a notebook PC. Fits into a Type II PC Card slot, which is standard on all notebooks.

Typeface

Sometimes called fonts, thousands of different typefaces are available, each with its own individual letter shapes and characteristics.
U

Undo

A command in most programmes which reverses your last action. The undo command can really get you out of trouble if you have made a catastrophic error.

Uninstall

The process of removing unwanted applications from your PC. You might want to do this to free up hard disk space, or simply because you no longer use the programme. Most programmes have their own uninstall routine, or you can use Windows’ uninstall command from Control Panel.

Uninstaller

A utility that removes Windows programmes properly by deleting not just the main programme and its folders, but also the smaller ancillary files that are scattered round the hard disk. It should also remove any entries that have been made in your PC’s Registry and system files.

Universal Serial Bus (USB)

A standard which allows quick and easy connection of external peripherals such as scanners and printers to your PC. It supports plug and play, and devices can be added or removed with your PC switched on.

Unix

A robust, very stable operating system often used by businesses on powerful workstations and large computers, especially when it is important that applications do not crash. The free Linux operating system is a derivative of Unix.

Unmetered access

Access to the internet for a flat monthly fee, with no additional telephone call charges.

Upgrade

To improve the performance or specification of your computer by adding more memory, a larger hard disk or making another improvement. Software can also be upgraded, usually by updating it to the latest version.

Uploading

The process of transferring information to another computer, often for publishing on the internet as a web page. The process normally involves using the File Transfer Protocol, or FTP.

URL

Uniform Resource Locator. The unique address of a web page you visit, enabling it to be found from any other computer connected to the internet.

USB 2

Faster but backwardly-compatible successor to USB that’s used by such things as MP3 players and external disk drives.

USB hub

A small external or built-in device with several USB ports. It connects to your PC and serves as a relay station, allowing you to add multiple devices. External USB hubs can usually be placed on a desk for easy access to USB ports.

Usenet

Short for users’ network, a collection of public groups of messages – newsgroups – which is accessible to a wide variety of computer systems worldwide, both on and off the internet. The act of writing a message that appears on Usenet is called posting. Newsgroups belong to hierarchies, usually divided by geography and interest. For example, news://uk. rec. cycling is a UK-based newsgroup about recreational cycling.

User interface

This is the face of a computer programme – what it looks like to the person sitting in front of the monitor, and how it is used. Windows and the Apple Macintosh have a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which is easier to use than a purely text-based interface like MS-DOS.

Utility

A programme that performs specific tasks on your PC, such as optimising memory use or compressing disk space.
V

V. 90

The official International Telecommunications Union (ITU) modem standard capable of receiving data at 56Kbps.

VGA

Video Graphics Array. A very basic standard for graphics output, specifying that the monitor and graphics card should be able to display 16 different colours at a resolution of 640×480 pixels.

Video-capture card

An expansion card for PCs that allows them to record full-motion video sequences to disk from TV receivers, camcorders and other video recording equipment.

Video memory

Memory installed on your PC’s graphics card and used to generate the on-screen image. The more memory on the card, the higher the possible graphics resolution and the more colours that can be displayed. 16Mb should be considered the minimum standard today, with 32Mb or even 64Mb common in high-end gaming systems.

Videobites

Clips of film that you can view on the Web.

Video-conferencing

Linking two or more PCs to capture and display video and audio in real time so distant people can see as well as talk to each other.

Virtual memory

A reserved area of hard disk space that your PC can use as ‘virtual’ memory, or RAM, whenever it is running short of the genuine article. Also called a swapfile, this allows you to have more programmes open at once but will be slower than having an equivalent amount of real RAM.

Virus checker

A software programme specifically designed to scan files, such as those on a floppy desk or received via email, for viruses that may damage your PC. Most virus scanners will warn you of viruses as well as attempting to remove or at least neutralise them. Beware that for full effectiveness you must update your virus checker frequently.

Virus

A malicious computer programme designed to cause at best annoyance and at worst, damage to computer data. Viruses usually spread from computer to computer by ‘infecting’ files that are passed between them, or by automatically sending an email to everyone in your address book. They are often hidden in innocuous-looking files or email attachments, and may lie dormant waiting for a trigger date or event before they launch.

Voice recognition

Software which can recognise spoken words. It may be able to interpret these as commands which it can obey (voice control), or turn them into text to save you typing (voice recognition).

Voicemail

An answerphone service which records callers’ messages when you’re unavailable. This may be in the office or provided by your mobile phone network.
W

Wallpaper

A pattern or image used as the background to your Windows desktop. It helps to personalise your PC or to promote a corporate identity but serves no other practical purpose.

Watermark

A technique that allows you to print text and graphics as a background, ‘behind’ what you’re actually typing. It is especially useful for marking a document as Draft or Confidential, or for personalising stationery. So named because the process mimics the watermarks seen on banknotes or writing paper.

WAV file

Also known as a Wave file and saved with a. WAV extension. An audio file, used for recording music and other sounds to disk. Because they are uncompressed, WAV files can be very large. The file format was developed by Microsoft and IBM.

Web browser

A software programme developed for navigating the internet, particularly the world wide web. The two most common browsers are Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.

Webcam

A video camera designed to connect to your PC. It can be used to record video clips which you can send by email, or to transmit images directly over the internet for video-conferencing.

Webring

A loose collective of websites run by enthusiasts that focus on a particular subject and link to each other.

Web

Also known as the world wide web or WWW. The web is a collection of online documents housed on server computers around the world, and forms the most visible and easily accessible part of the internet. These are accessed via a web browser. Web pages typically feature text, graphics and photographs, and often video and audio clips. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL or ‘address’. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.

Web pages

The online documents stored on internet servers. They link text and images, and often video or audio clips into a coherent whole. Each one can be accessed by typing in its address.

Web space

An area of disk space on an internet server. This may be on your own machine or rented from an Internet Service Provider. This space can then be used to store web pages for display on the internet.

Web-authoring programme

A piece of software designed to make it easier to create a web page or site. Often with sophisticated functions built in, such programmes create the HTML code automatically and allow you to concentrate on the design of the site. Examples include Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia DreamWeaver.

Website

A linked group of one or more web pages, normally dealing with a particular subject or by a single author. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL or ‘address’. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.

Windows

The operating system found on virtually all modern PCs. It allows you to control your computer and to run programmes that let you perform particular tasks.

Windows 98

A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 1998. It superseded Windows 95, fixed a number of problems and made some changes to how the PC worked. It has now largely been replaced in new PCs by Windows Me.

Windows 2000

A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 2000 and aimed at business users. It is more reliable than other versions, but has poorer support for games playing. It superseded Windows NT.

Windows Explorer

The graphic interface to the Windows filing system. Using images to represent files and folders, it lets you manage documents by moving them between folders and deleting, copying or renaming them.

Windows Me

(Windows Millennium Edition). A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system released in 2000. It superseded Windows 98, fixing a number of problems.

Windows NT

A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system intended for business users.

Wizard

An automated online ‘assistant’ designed to guide you, step-by-step, through a potentially complex process such as faxing, creating a template or changing software options.

WMA

Windows Media Audio. A compressed digital music format developed by Microsoft and played back through the latest versions of Windows Media Player. It allows secure encoding of music tracks but is less widely used than MP3.

WMV

Windows Media Video. A Microsoft file format for video.

Word

Microsoft Word is the sophisticated word-processing software included as part of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works Suite. It is the most widely-used word processor in the world.

Word processor

A software application for preparing largely text-based documents, from basic letters to company newsletters and reports. Most word processors go far beyond simple typing, allowing you to add pictures and text effects, link to other documents, and check your spelling and grammar automatically. Common word processors include Microsoft Word and Lotus Word Pro.

WordArt

A feature in Microsoft Word that allows you to apply a whole range of special effects to text.

WordPad

A basic word-processing programme included with Windows. It has few sophisticated features but can be used for simple documents without problems. To find it, click on Start/Accessories/WordPad.

Workbook

A spreadsheet file. In spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, each workbook by default contains several different worksheets or pages of data. It is possible to link the figures on one sheet to those on another, allowing very complex calculations.

Workgroup

A team of people who work together on a task. All of the members of the team use computers connected to a network, which allows them to share files, schedule meetings and send emails between their PCs.

Worksheet

A single page of data within a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3. Worksheets can be combined into a workbook, allowing each sheet to access, and make calculations using, the figures on another worksheet.

Worm

A programme that transmits and copies itself over a computer network, such as the internet. Not all worms are harmful but many are. Worms are often mislabelled as viruses — worms cannot attach themselves (or ‘infect’) other files, viruses can.

WYSIWYG

What You See Is What You Get. Used in word processors, desktop publishing packages, web-authoring software and the like to signify that the on-screen image of your page is the same as the printed output or published web pages. Non-WYSIWYG programmes generally force you to use control codes which only take effect on printing: you cannot see the results on screen as you work.
X

XML

eXtensible Markup Language. A way of tagging documents for display on different types of machine across the internet. It is more flexible than HTML, the most common standard, because it allows developers to define their own specialised tags or formatting codes.
Y
Z

Zip drive

A high-capacity disk drive designed by Iomega capable of storing 100 or 250Mb of information on sturdy pocket-sized disks. These can be used for back-up, as extra storage or to transfer files between machines or users. Zip drives can be built into your PC or connected externally, using a USB, parallel or SCSI link.

ZIP file

A file or files that have been compressed using a programme like PKZip or WinZip to save disk space or to make them quicker to email. Bitmap image files compress particularly well.

Zipping

Compressing a file using a programme such as PKZip or WinZip to reduce the space it takes up. Unzipping is the process of decompressing the file to its
Computer Jargon Dictionary
Many thanks to Computeract!ve magazine (vnu publications UK) for most of these definitions
Index links: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

3D graphics card

An expansion card designed to handle the three-dimensional graphics seen in many of today’s top games.

56Kbps

The fastest standard for traditional modems. Modems convert electronic signals from your computer into sound signals that can be transmitted over a phone line. 56kbps means that a modem is capable of receiving up to 56,000 bits of computer data each second.
A

ActiveX

Technology for adding extra features to an application like a web browser. ActiveX components are usually downloaded automatically, or with minimal user interaction.

Address

In the context of the internet, an address is the information a web browser needs to locate a particular website. Microsoft’s website address, for instance, is www. microsoft.com

Add-in

Extra features available in most Microsoft applications, but usually requiring installation from the original CD-ROM. For example, Excel’s AutoSave feature is an Add-in module, and is only installed upon request.

ADSL

Stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. A technology that converts an ordinary household telephone line into an extremely fast internet connection — around ten times faster than a regular 56K modem.

AGP

Accelerated Graphics Port. A PC interface (either an expansion slot or built-in) used for super-fast 3D graphics facilities. Ideal for handling the 3D worlds depicted in many of today’s top games.

Analogue

Signal whose value varies continuously over time. For example, when a person speaks, the sound wave is an analogue signal, varying smoothly as they talk. Analogue signal information differs from digital signals, which move sharply between fixed values. To help visualise this, consider the difference between an analogue watch face with sweeping hands and a digital watch display, which jumps from one number to the next.

Animated GIF

Stands for Graphics Interchange Format, a popular file format for storing graphic images, often for use on websites. An animated GIF is simply a string of these images, creating the illusion of moving pictures when played back.

Anti-virus software

An application designed to protect PCs from malicious computer code.

API

Stands for application programming interface, a standard used by computer programmers to allow operating systems and software applications to understand one another.

Applet

Small utility programme within Windows, like Calculator or ScanDisk.

Application

A computer software programme that enables the user to perform specific tasks. For example, Microsoft Word is used for word processing, while Paint Shop Pro is designed for image-editing requirements.

ATAPI

Stands for Advanced Technology Attachment Packet Interface, which is a control technology for devices like CD-ROM and hard disk drives.

Attachment

A computer file, such as a word-processor document or spreadsheet, sent along with an email message.

Audio Format

In the context of Windows’ Sound Recorder programme, the choice of storing recorded audio in one of three quality settings – CD, radio or telephone.

Autocorrect

A feature in a word processor that automatically corrects common spelling mistakes as they are typed.

Autoplay

A Windows feature that allows CD-ROM/DVD discs to launch or play as soon they’re inserted into a drive.

Avatar

In computing context, a graphic or icon used to represent a person in an online chat-room or game. Avatars can usually be customised and range from simple images to complex three-dimensional shapes.

AVI

A type of video file used by windows and usually played using Windows Media Player.
B

Back up

The process of copying your important computer files and documents from your hard disk to removable media (such as Zip or CD-RW discs) or another computer, to protect against loss of the originals.

Bandwidth

In computing terms, a measure of the maximum amount of data that can be transferred over a connection at any one time. For example, if you connect to the internet using a modem, then the bandwidth is likely to be up to 56Kbps (or 56,000 bits of data per second).

Beta

Version of a software application or system still in development. Companies make beta versions available to selected testers for evaluation, testing and feedback.

Bi-directional

Refers to an ability for two-way communication. Most printer cables, for example, are bi-directional, so the computer can send data to the printer and the printer is able to respond with print-job progress information.

Binaries

Newsgroup postings of encoded files (photographs, sound files, video clips and so on), rather than plain text. These are frowned upon except in certain groups, such as those beginning ‘alt. binaries.

Binary

A coding system used by computers and other digital devices to store data as a series just two digits – 0 and 1.

BIOS

Basic Input Output System. Software built into all PCs, to control the basic operation of devices such as the screen, hard disk and keyboard. When a PC is switched on, the BIOS automatically kicks in, and looks for a drive (like the hard disk) from which the operating system proper can be launched.

Bit

A contraction of binary digit, which is the smallest unit of computer data. A bit can hold one of two values – 1 or 0. Consecutive bits combine together to form larger units of information. There are eight bits in a ‘byte’.

Bitmap (BMP)

A type of graphic image recorded as many tiny dots (or pixels). Scanned photographs and similar images are often stored in this form. If you use an image-editing application to zoom in on a bitmap image, the pixels will gradually become distinct. BMP image files tend to be quite large, so other types are more popular.

Bluetooth

A technology that allows devices (computers, phones, printers, etc.) to communicate with each other wirelessly.

Body text

Text makes up the bulk of a story, article or chapter, rather than the headings or footnotes.

Bookmark

A way of flagging favourite websites in your web browser for later reference, much like marking a page in a book.

Boolean

Logical propositions, such as AND, OR and IF, often used to refine searches or filter computer data. Named after Boole, a 19th c. English mathematician.

Boot

The process a PC goes through after it is switched on – performing a quick self-test, loading Windows, and so on.

Boot disk

A disk containing the operating system components essential for getting a PC up and running. Usually, the boot disk is the computer’s hard disk but in times of strife, a suitably-prepared floppy disk can be used to kick-start a PC.

Boot sector

Area of a disk containing instructions enabling a computer to launch an operating system (such as Windows). These instructions are executed every time the computer starts up.

Bps

Bits per second. Measure of computer data transmission speed. For example, a 56Kbps modem can receive up to 56,000 bits of computer data per second.

Broadband

Refers to high-bandwidth internet connections, such as ADSL.

Browse

Using a web browser application to look at websites on the net.

Browser

The short name for a web browser – an application that lets you view pages on the internet. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator are the two most popular browsers.

Bubblejet

Canon’s trademarked name for its own inkjet printing technology.

Burn-proof

Technology used by some CD-RW drives to ensure error-free and foolproof disc creation.

Bus mastering PCI

A technology which reduces the burden on the processor when transferring data to and from the hard disk and other devices.

Bus

In computer terminology, a bus is the data path on the motherboard that devices use to communicate with the processor.

Byte

A unit of computer storage that can hold a single character. 1024 bytes make a kilobyte, or 1Kb.
C

Cache

A store for frequently-used data or files. Data can be accessed from a cache more quickly than from its original source. Internet Explorer uses a hard disk cache for web pages, while computer processors often have small amounts of very speedy memory as a cache.

Capturing

The process of taking an ordinary analogue signal from a camcorder and converting it into digital information to be stored on a computer’s hard disk.

CD writer

A special type of CD-ROM drive, which allows you to create, or ‘burn’, your own CDs.

CD-R

Standard for compact disc recordable format, or blank CDs onto which information (such as data or music) can be recorded – but only once. Playable on most CD-ROM drives (except some older ones) and CD players. You need a CD-R drive to record onto CD-R discs.

CD-ROM

A version of the CD, which can store a lot more than just music. This small plastic disc can hold up to 650Mb of data.

CD-ROM drive

Used for installing software (on CD-ROM discs) and playing multimedia audio and video. Audio CDs can also be inserted.

CD-RW

Stands for compact disc rewritable format, or blank compact discs which can be recorded on over and over again.

Celeron

A processor which is cheaper and slower than the Intel Pentium 4 processor, often used in budget PCs. However, today’s cheap Celeron is far more capable than yesterday’s fastest Pentium III. Both are made by Intel.

Cell

A spreadsheet page uses rows and columns to divide a page into cells. Rows and columns are identified with letters and numbers, so each cell has a unique co-ordinate, such as D15.

Chat rooms

Online venues for typed chat, rather like the premium-rate chat lines you see advertised on late-night TV. Some even allow you to create cartoon-style characters to represent yourself.

Checksum

Mathematical formula performed on some data to generate a result that will be statistically unique for that data.

Chipset

Broadly speaking, any group of computer chips working together to perform certain functions. For example, a graphics card will have a number of chips – the chipset – designed to handle all graphics output.

Click

Pressing down once and releasing a mouse button, or other key.

Client

A geeky term for an additional piece of software that runs alongside your web browser, allowing you to use services like newsgroups and internet chat.

Clipart

A library of drawings or photographs that you can use in presentations, reports or in desktop-publishing documents. You must check whether there are copyright restrictions if you are intend using the pictures commercially.

Clock speed

Term used to describe the speed of a computer processor, measured in megahertz or, increasingly, gigahertz – 700MHz or 1GHz (1,000MHz) for example.

CMOS

Stands for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor, and pronounced cee-moss. This is a special computer chip that looks after system set-up information, like date and time and so forth.

Code

In computing terminology, short for programme code – meaning instructions that are intended to be executed by a computer.

Colour picker

All painting programmes have one; it’s the electronic equivalent of a paint palette so you can choose which colour you want to use.

COM port

Short for communications port, a PC can have up to four of these – COM1 to COM4. It is through these ports that devices can talk to the rest of your PC. Anything fitted to a serial port will be allocated one of these, as will a modem.

Combination keystroke

Literally where you have to hold down more than one key at once to access a particular function. Holding down the Alt and Tab keys, for example, lets you cycle through any programmes you’re running.

Command prompt

Also known as DOS prompt. The Windows environment lets you point and click to navigate your way around the computer. However, the predecessor to Windows, DOS (disk operating system) requires typed in commands to control the PC – and these are entered at the command prompt.

CompactFlash

Matchbook-size memory cards with no moving parts. These slot into various devices to store data. Popular with digital cameras and handheld computers.

Compression

To reduce the size of a file by encoding the data. This is useful for storing files which would otherwise take up lots of disk space, such as picture and video files. Compression also reduces transfer times, meaning files can be sent over the net, or to another disk, more quickly.

Configure

To tweak the functions of software or hardware to the particular settings you require. For example, Windows can be configured so that it displays a particular colour background, or so that it uses a larger typeface

Context menus

The context-sensitive menus that pop up when you right-click on something in Windows. What you see on the menu varies according to the task that you’re engaged in and the programme you’re using.

Control Panel

A collection of icons that allow you to configure the basic functions of Windows and your PC. Within the Control Panel there are icons to define display attributes, keyboard settings, passwords – and a host of other options.

Cookies

Text files generated by websites you visit and stored on your computer’s hard disk. Cookies contain preferences and other information about your use of the sites, and are not harmful.

Copy and paste

Just like it sounds: selecting part of an image or document in order to place it elsewhere.

CPU

An abbreviation for central processing unit, or processor – the heart of a computer. The CPU does most of the hard work and the faster it is, the better the PC is likely to be.

Crash

This is what happens when a software application or operation goes wrong, often freezing the computer. Sometimes, the only way to recover from a crash is to switch the PC off and start again – and this in turn may cause you to lose documents or data you were working on.

CRT Cathode Ray Tube

The glass tube-based technology used to produce an image in most TV sets and computer monitors.

Cursor

A flashing shape on the screen showing where the next character you type in will appear. When entering text in a word processor, the cursor is normally a flashing vertical bar. Sometimes, the word cursor is used to describe the on-screen mouse pointer.

Cut

Just like it sounds: this function will delete selected information, such as cells in a spreadsheet or a paragraph in a text document.
D

Data rate

The speed at which digital information is transferred from one device to another, and can range from a few kilobits to many hundreds of megabytes per second. Traditional modems, for example, offer download data rates of up to 56Kbps.

Data table

In the context of a spreadsheet, a table of figures used to create a chart.

Database

Any collection of information, usually (but not always) used to refer to information stored on a computer. Database software applications usually include powerful search and data-filtering facilities.

DDR
(Double Data Rate memory)

A type of memory that’s twice as fast as ordinary memory. DDR memory is often used in graphics cards can now be found in PCs too.

Decryption

The process of making encrypted data readable again.

Default

A standard software or hardware setting. Most programmes, including the Windows operating system itself, ask you to make a series of selections in order to perform a task. Sometimes the computer will already have made some selections – these are called the defaults. You can change the defaults to fit your own preference, or accept them as they are supplied.

Defragment (or ‘defrag’)

To reorganise the data stored on a hard disk so that it can be accessed as quickly as possible by the computer. A fragmented disk can adversely affect system performance.

Desktop

What you see when you first start up a Windows-based computer. The Desktop will display your Taskbar and a selection of icons such as My Computer and Recycle Bin.

DHTML Dynamic HTML

This is an extended version of the language used to describe web pages, which allows a page to change instantly when certain things happen, for instance the mouse moving over a specified area.

Dialogue box

A small window that pops up to display or request information. In Windows, Menu options that end with a ‘…’ always open a dialogue box.

Dial-up Networking

A component of Windows that allows PCs to connect to the internet using a modem and a telephone line.

Digital

Unlike the smooth signal of analogue, digital information consists of discrete parts. An analogy would be a car’s gearbox. A vehicle can be in first or second gear, but not first-and-a-half. Computers only recognise digital information, so must convert analogue signals. A soundcard, for example, converts the sound of a recording into a series of numbers the PC can process.

Digital camera

A camera that stores images in computer memory rather than on light-sensitive film.

Digital signature

A piece of encrypted data that can be used to verify the identity of someone who sent the message to which it is attached.

Digitising

Changing an analogue signal, such as an audio/video recording, into digital data on a computer.

DIMM

Dual Inline Memory Module. A slot-in card used to expand the memory of a desktop PC.

Directory

An old name for what we now call folders. These provide a way of organising files and documents on disk, by grouping related items together.

DirectX

Windows feature that ensures that all programmes work with all the different types of hardware available.

Docking cradle/station

A receptacle for a portable device, like a palmtop computer or a digital camera, and connected to a PC. Through this, the linked machines can exchange documents and data.

Domain name

The name used to identify a site on the internet, such as computeractive. co. uk or microsoft. com

DOS

Stands for Disk Operating System. The standard PC operating system before the dawn of Windows. DOS manages how files are stored on your PC. It is controlled through typed commands.

Dots per inch (dpi)

The way the resolution of printed and scanned images is measured. Both types of picture are made up of dots. The more dots there are per inch, the smaller they are and the better the picture looks.

Double-click

To click twice quickly in succession on a mouse button. If you double-click on an application icon, Windows will then attempt to launch the application.

Download

Process of transferring files onto your PC directly from another computer. You might, for instance, download pictures and files from the internet.

Drag

In Windows, the action of clicking on something with the left mouse button, keeping the button pressed and moving (dragging) the object.

Drag and drop

A feature of operating systems, including Windows, which allows you to easily move and manipulate on-screen objects and files. For example, if you want to delete a file from the Windows Desktop, you move the pointer to the file’s icon, click once to highlight it, then press and hold down the left-hand button. The item can now be dragged and dropped into the Recycle Bin.

Drive bay

A blanked-off space at the front of a desktop PC originally designed for additional floppy disk drives. Now drive bays accommodate all manner of peripherals.

Driver

Software needed to allow Windows (and other operating systems) to communicate with a peripheral. While Windows has many built-in drivers, often hardware-specific versions will be provided on CD-ROM with a new device.

Drop-down menu

A list of options displayed beneath a menu bar when you select a menu option, or when you click on a down-pointing arrow in a dialogue box.

Dropper tool

In image-editing, this is a feature used to set the foreground or background colour of the current drawing tool by simply clicking on part of an image.

DTP (desktop publishing)

The design, layout and printing of documents, books and magazines using special software, such as Microsoft Publisher.

DVC

Digital Video Cassette, the latest video standard used in digital camcorders only.

DVD

A type of disc able to store huge amounts of digital data, including full-length movies, with excellent-quality sound and pictures.

DVD-R

Standard for Digital Versatile Disc-Recordable format, or blank DVDs onto which information (such as data or music) can be recorded – but only once. Playable on most DVD players and DVD-ROM drives. You need a DVD-R drive to record onto DVD-R discs.

DVD-RAM

One of a number of competing standards for recordable DVD. DVD-RAM can store many gigabytes of data on each side of a disc but can only be used in a DVD-RAM drive

DVD-ROM drive

These drives will play both CD-ROM and DVD discs. Huge amounts of data can be stored on one DVD disc, which looks just like a CD, including full-length movies, with excellent-quality sound and pictures.

DVD+R

One of the emerging recordable DVD standards. It uses DVD+RW disks that are designed to have data recorded on to them time and time again. Movies recorded on to DVD+RW disks are fully compatible with DVD players

DVD RW

A rewritable version of the DVD-R format whose discs are compatible with most DVD players and DVD-ROM drives
E

Ecommerce

A term used to describe financial transactions over the internet.

Email

Short for electronic mail, a system of sending notes and memos between computers via internet.

EMS

Enhanced Messaging Service. A development of SMS (Short Messaging Service) that allows simple pictures and ring tones to be sent between mobile phones.

Emulate

A programme that is used to make a computer act like another computer. For example, there are programmes that can enable a PC to emulate a video arcade game.

Encoder

In the context of digital music, a piece of software that converts audio CDs to MP3 or some other digital format.

Encryption

The science of scrambling data – be it text, audio, or video – so that it can only be read by the authorised sender and recipient. Encryption can also be used to embed identifying markings in data, so that it can’t be undetectably falsified.

Enhanced parallel port (EPP)

A modern version of the parallel (or printer) port, which is the 25-pin connector at the rear of your PC where the printer normally plugs in. If your PC was bought in the couple of years or so, it should have an EPP port. This can be important as scanners that plug into the parallel port do require the enhanced version.

Ergonomics

A term used to describe efficiency and health for people whilst in their working environment.

Ethernet

A type of computer network developed by Xerox in the 1970s, allowing a number of PCs to be linked together and communicate with one another.

Events

An action in Windows, such as opening a document, emptying the Recycle Bin, or shutting down your PC.

Executable files

These are launchable programmes, which have the file extension. EXE. Clicking on an executable file will start it running – it may be an application, an animated greeting card or a game, for example. Avoid launching. EXE email attachments, as these may carry computer viruses.

Expansion card

Card that can be fitted in an expansion slot within your PC to enhance its capabilities in some way – for instance to improve its video or graphics performance.

Expansion slot

A socket on a computer’s motherboard designed to accommodate expansion cards.

Explorer

A programme supplied with Windows that’s used to browse files on your PC. Explorer can be used an alternative to the Windows Desktop.

Extension

The three-letter code at the end of a filename that indicates the type or format of the file. For example, .BMP is a bitmap, .EXE is an executable programme file. These enable Windows to recognise what type of file it’s dealing with.

Extract

The process of expanding compressed files so they can be opened.
F

Fader

A vertical or horizontal sliding control used to alter the level of sound or other setting.

Fades, wipes and dissolves

Methods of moving from one scene to another, without a sudden ‘jump’ cut. Fades let the picture fade in and out from black or white. Wipes are like a curtain moving up, down or across to reveal the picture. And dissolves fade one picture into another.

FAQ

Stands for frequently asked questions, usually a text file containing useful information about an application or website.

FAT File Allocation Table

A system used by Windows to organise files stored on a hard disk. Windows 95 used a system called FAT16, Windows 98 and Me use FAT32 that allows, among other things, long filenames.

Favorites/Bookmarks

Your personal address book of places on the internet that you visit periodically. Bookmark a site and it will be stored in your Favorites/Bookmarks list for future visits.

Field

In a database, a field is an individual container that can hold a particular type of information. For example, if you have a contacts list of your customers, each entry is called a record and the various parts of each record are called fields.

File extension

The file extension is the suffix – or letters after the dot – in a file’s name. Examples include .doc (for a word document) and .xls (Excel) and .txt (Notepad). This is how Windows knows which application to use to open a particular file.

Filter

In image-editing, applies a transformation to either improve image quality or produce special effect on all or part of an image. There is a filter for every need from sharpening out-of-focus pictures to wrapping them round spheres.

Firmware

Basic software permanently stored on a device (such as a graphics card) that controls its basic operation. Firmware can be upgraded using a process known as ‘flashing’.

Financial manager

A programme to help you manage your money.

Firewall

A system that prevents unauthorised access to a computer over a network, such as the internet. Firewalls can be either hardware or software – businesses tend to use the former; home users the latter.

FireWire

A super-fast data link between your PC and devices such as digital camcorders. Also known as IEEE1394.

Flash

An application used to create high-quality animations on websites.

Flash memory

A special type of memory that maintains its contents even when the host machine, like a palmtop computer, is switched off.

Flat-panel display

Slim monitors, similar to the liquid-crystal displays (LCD) found in notebook computers, designed for use with desktop PCs.

Floppy disk

A small, rigid square of plastic used to store data. Inside the case is a circular magnetic disk (the floppy bit). The most common type of floppy disk is the 1. 44Mb 3. 5in version used by almost all PCs.

Folder

Files on PC’s hard disk are arranged within a system of folders, which group related items together, helping you find the item you need. Folders have names to describe what’s in them, for example: My Documents.

File extension

The file extension is the suffix – or letters after the dot – in a file’s name. Examples include .doc (for a word document) and .xls (Excel) and .txt (Notepad). This is how Windows knows which application to use to open a particular file.

Filter

In image-editing, applies a transformation to either improve image quality or produce special effect on all or part of an image. There is a filter for every need from sharpening out-of-focus pictures to wrapping them round spheres.

Firmware

Basic software permanently stored on a device (such as a graphics card) that controls its basic operation. Firmware can be upgraded using a process known as ‘flashing’.

Financial manager

A programme to help you manage your money.

Firewall

A system that prevents unauthorised access to a computer over a network, such as the internet. Firewalls can be either hardware or software – businesses tend to use the former; home users the latter.

FireWire

A super-fast data link between your PC and devices such as digital camcorders. Also known as IEEE1394.

Flash

An application used to create high-quality animations on websites.

Flash memory

A special type of memory that maintains its contents even when the host machine, like a palmtop computer, is switched off.

Flat-panel display

Slim monitors, similar to the liquid-crystal displays (LCD) found in notebook computers, designed for use with desktop PCs.

Floppy disk

A small, rigid square of plastic used to store data. Inside the case is a circular magnetic disk (the floppy bit). The most common type of floppy disk is the 1. 44Mb 3. 5in version used by almost all PCs.

Folder

Files on PC’s hard disk are arranged within a system of folders, which group related items together, helping you find the item you need. Folders have names to describe what’s in them, for example: My Documents.

Font

A set of letters, numbers and other symbols in a particular style. Popular Windows fonts are Arial and Times New Roman.

Font size

This is the measurement typographers use to describe the size of text. Thus, 72pt text is bigger than 34pt text. The text you are reading now is set in 8. 5pt.

Footer

A special area at the bottom of a word-processor document: type something in here and it will appear at the base of every page.

Form

A document formatted in a certain way for entering data, much like the paper version. Forms are typically used by databases.

Format

The process of preparing a floppy disk for use with a particular computer and operating system.

Formula bar

In spreadsheets, this is located at the top of the screen, above the grid of rows and columns. If a selected cell contains a formula, it will be visible in the formula bar. Otherwise any contents in a cell will be displayed in the formula bar. You can, for example, type text directly into a selected cell, or into the formula bar – the result will be the same.

Formulas

Formulas tell spreadsheets how to act on data stored in cells. For example, ‘=SUM(B13+B16)’ tells the programme to add the contents of cells B13 and B16 together.

Fragmentation

When there’s not enough contiguous room to save a file in one physical location on your hard disk, the file will be spread over several smaller locations. This fragmentation is an inevitable consequence of constantly saving and deleting files – especially if space is scarce. Eventually your hard disk will need to be tidied up, or defragmented.

Frames (web pages)

In the context of web pages, these are used to segment content. One frame might contain a menu of the website while the other displays the information that you’re interested in. The frame borders might be visible but are often hidden.

Frames (web animations)

Animated GIFs contain multiple images (otherwise they wouldn’t move) which are held in frames, just like those you would see in a movie reel.

Freeware

Software, often downloadable from the internet, which is then free for you to keep and use.

FTP

Stands for File Transfer Protocol, which is a way of transferring files over the internet, particularly when maintaining websites.
G

.GIF
(Graphics Interchange Format)

A commonly used graphics file format popular for images displayed on websites.

Gb (Gigabyte)

A measurement of storage capacity – usually for hard disks. 1Gb is equal to 1,024Mb (megabytes).

Gbits/s

Gigabits per second. A measure of data transfer rate equal to 1024Mbits/s or 1,048,576Kbits/s

General protection fault

A fault that occurs when an application incorrectly accesses computer memory, causing the programme to crash.

GHz (gigahertz)

A thousand megahertz – a measure of how fast the processor in your PC works.

Graphics card

The part of a PC that displays the image you see on your computer’s monitor. Some are more advanced than others, featuring connections for video recorders or other similar devices.

Graphics processor

A dedicated chip on a graphics card designed to controls the images displayed on a monitor.

Graphics tablet

An alternative to the mouse: you move a stylus over a small board just as you would a pen on a piece of paper. Ideal for applications where fine detail is involved.
H

Hackers

People who break into other people’s computers and networks, often in an attempt to steal sensitive information.

Hacking

The slang term used to describe illegal access of computer systems by unauthorised users.

Handheld computer

A small computer, about the size of a spectacles case. Handhelds usually have both a screen and keyboard in a folding case. The Psion Revo is an example of a modern handheld computer.

Handles

In the context of software, small blocks that appear at the sides and corners of a selected object in certain applications. Dragging a handle with the mouse usually resizes the object.

Hard disk

A high-capacity disk drive fitted in almost all PCs and used to store both applications and the documents and files they create. Hard disks are so-called because they use rigid magnetic disks to store data. Hard disk storage capacity is measured in gigabytes.

Hardware

Your computer set-up is split into two parts – hardware and software. Software covers the programmes that run on your machine, while hardware describes the physical components, like the monitor and keyboard.

Header

A title that can be inserted at the top of the page, usually in a word-processor document.

Homepage

The first or main page of a website, usually containing links to more detailed sections or content.

Host

The PC that you set up as the ‘base’ or central PC in your home network. It is usually attached to the printer.

HTML
(HyperText Mark-up Language)

The language used to create pages for a website. HTML code is written as text that is converted to a web page by a web browser.

Hyperlink

A clickable link on a web page or in a document that takes you to elsewhere, like to another website or a later page

I

Icon

A small image used by Windows to identify a file or application.

IDE

Stands for integrated device electronics, which is a standard interface for connecting devices such as hard disks and CD-ROM drives to a PC.

Image-editing application

Software used to manipulate digital images, either created from scratch or obtained via a scanner or digital camera.

Import filter

A software feature that allows you read a file created using one application into a different one.

Infection

Describes the way a virus transfers itself from one computer to another

Infrared port

An interface that allows you to transmit data via infrared light waves, allowing data to be transferred cordlessly between devices with infrared ports. Most PDAs and notebook computers feature infrared ports, but few desktop PCs are so lucky – limiting the usefulness as a connection method.

Ink cartridge

A plastic container holding ink, inserted into an inkjet printer. Some cartridges may incorporate the nozzles that will put the ink on the page but they are often just refills that slot into a reusable head.

Inkjet printer

Type of printer which squirts tiny dots of ink onto the page to form text and images. Almost all inkjet printers print in colour as well as black and white.

Instant messenging

Real-time text-based communication over a network (usually the internet), using a programme such as AOL Instant Messenger.

Integrity check

A type of virus check comparing previously-stored information about a file to later versions, noting any suspect modifications.

Interface

In the context of software, the ‘look and feel’ of a programme, such as its buttons, menus and windows. In hardware terms, it usually refers to a physical connection, like a parallel printer interface.

Internet

A global network that links millions of computers, using phone and cable links. Users connect to server computers, which act rather like a local phone exchange. A modem connects your PC to the server from home, allowing you to become part of the internet.

Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s internet browser – a programme that allows you to ‘browse’ web pages, manage your favourite web sites, and so on.

Internet Protocol (IP) address

An identifying number of a computer attached to a network. A computer’s IP address is similar to a phone number in function. Every computer must have a unique IP address – either a permanent address or one that is dynamically assigned to them each time they connect to the net. IP addresses are written as four sets of numbers separated by full stops; for example, 204. 171. 64. 2.

Internet service provider (ISP)

A company which provides you with an internet connection, either for fixed monthly fee or for the cost of local call charges. Examples of popular ISPs include BT Internet, AOL and Freeserve.

Intranet

Has the look and feel of an internet website, and can be explored with a browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. Unlike the web, access is limited to pages on a company’s internal network.

IRC
(Internet Relay Chat)

A vast, largely un-regulated global network allowing users to type messages in real time – much like a real conversation. Divided into separate rooms, or ‘channels’.
J

Java

A special language used to create advanced effects on websites, such as animated sequences and interactive buttons and menus.

Jaz drive

A high-capacity storage device made by Iomega. Capable of storing 2Gb of data on removable cartridges.

Joystick

A stick-like device that lets you control actions in games.

JPEG (or JPG)

A common format for image files. JPEG images are compressed and the small file size makes them ideal for web pages.

Justified

Text which lines up with both page margins or both edges of a column.
K

Kb (kilobyte)

Measure of capacity of a storage device. Equal to 1,024 bytes.

Kbit/s

Short for kilobits per second, which is a measure of data transfer or modem speed. A kilobit is 1,000 individual bits of computer data, and most computer modems download information at up to 56Kbps.

Kb/s

Short for kilobytes per second, which is a measure of data transfer speed.

Keyword

A word of particular importance on a web page that can be used by search engines to identify it.

KHz (KiloHertz)

For digital audio, this refers to the number of samples per second a piece of music is recorded at. Audio CDs use 48KHz samples — 48,000 samples per second.

Knowledge base

A structured store of electronic information. Like an interactive encyclopaedia but designed to help with decision-making and problem-solving in a specialised field, not as general reference source.
L

LAN Local Area Network

Describes two or more computers connected, either physically or wirelessly, with the ability to share resources, such as printers.

Laser printer

A type of printer that produces high-quality text and graphics using a laser beam. The beam builds up characters and images as tiny dots on a rotating drum. The drum then attracts ink powder (toner) to these dots. This is then transferred and heat-fused to paper.

Launch

To start up a programme, such as Microsoft Word or Excel, by clicking on its icon or selecting it from the Windows Start menu.

LCD (liquid-crystal display)

Technology used to create low-power, slim display panels. Used in everything from digital watches to flat-screen monitors.

Legend

A translation of the symbols or colours used in a chart.

Li-ion

Short for lithium-ion, which is a sophisticated type of rechargeable battery used in many portable computers and mobile phones. Li-ion cells offer good weight:life ratio and, unlike earlier battery technologies, do not suffer from the so-called ‘memory’ effects- allowing them to be recharged in haphazard fashion without detriment.

Link (or hyperlink)

An object on a web page that, when clicked, takes you to another web page. Both text and graphics can be links.

Linux

An operating system that runs on a variety of computers (including PCs) and can be freely modified and distributed by its users. It was developed by Linus Torvalds.

Lithium polymer

An expensive type of battery that, for the time being, you’ll only see on the most expensive portable devices. Polymer cells can be moulded into unusual shapes, making them suitable for all manner of applications.

LPT1
(abbreviation for line printer)

Nowadays more commonly called a parallel port, this is a connector at the back of a PC originally developed to connect a printer to the computer. All sorts of devices, like Zip drives and scanners, now make use of this port. A second parallel port will be called LPT2.
M

Macros

In the context of software, an automated series of commands or operations that can be run at anytime. For example, if you always carry out a series of operations on your text to put it into a certain typeface and size, then you can set up a macro to perform this function. In photography, a macro mode allows for close-up shots without distortion.

Mailing list

A service provided by special interest groups that sends regular email updates to its (usually free) subscribers.

Mail server

The computers at your ISP that handle email coming into your account as well as all the email you send out.

Mailbox (or inbox)

The folder in your email application that stores your incoming messages.

Mail-merge

A useful tool included in most word-processing applications that allows you to create multiple documents based on data from another source, usually a database programme. Mail merge is particularly useful and time-saving when you want to send the same letter to a group of people whose addresses are kept in your database.

Malware

A generic term for software designed to perform harmful or surreptitious acts.

Master pages

In desktop publishing software, anything such as headers, logos or guides placed on a master page will appear on every page in the publication.

Mb/s

Short for Megabytes per second, which is a measure of data transfer speed.

Mbit/s (megabits per second)

A measure of data-transfer speed. A megabit is one million bits.

Mb (megabyte)

A measurement of storage capacity, usually for computer memory. 1Mb is equal to 1,024Kb (kilobytes).

Megapixel

A measure of the level of detail recorded by digital cameras – one megapixel means an image made from one million tiny dots (pixels).

Memory (or RAM)

Random Access Memory is the computer’s temporary storage area, measured in megabytes (Mb). Anything written to memory will be lost when the power is switched off. Windows 95 needs at least 16Mb to work properly, and double that again to work smoothly. For Windows 98 and beyond, consider 64Mb as a realistic minimum.

Memory cards

Small cards that can store many megabytes (Mb) of computer data or documents. Often used as a removable storage medium in digital cameras and palmtop computers.

Memory stick

A type of proprietary memory card designed by Sony. Used to provide slot in, removable storage, for devices such as digital cameras.

Message board

An internet-based equivalent of an actual message board, where people can post and reply to messages ‘posted’ by other people.

MFD (multifunction device)

A machine that combines any or all of the functions of a copier, fax, printer and scanner.

MHz (Megahertz)

A measure of how fast the processor in your PC works – 800MHz Pentium III, for example. As a rule of thumb, the higher the number the faster a PC will be.

Mic in

Sound cards have different sockets at the back so you know what plugs in where. The mic in socket is for the microphone.

MIDI

Stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, which is a standard for controlling electronic musical instruments by computer. One MIDI instrument can be used to control and communicate with another, so that music created on one can be edited on another.

MIME

Stands for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions, which is a standard for sending files and other data that is not plain text in mail messages over the internet.

Mirror site

A duplicate of a website, usually in a different location, intended to share the load in times of heavy use. Shareware download sites use mirror sites for this very purpose.

MMC

MultiMedia Card. A postage stamp-size solid-state memory card used by some digital cameras and MP3 players. See also SD card.

MMS

Multimedia Messaging. Sending and receiving pictures to and from a mobile from.

Modem

A device that enables two computers to communicate with each other over a telephone line. A modem is usually needed to connect to the internet.

Moderator

User who controls who can speak in a moderated chat room.

Motherboard

The main circuit board inside any PC into which every other component connects to and communicates through.

Mouse pointer

Also known as the pointer, this is what you see on screen when you move your mouse. It usually looks like an arrow.

MP3

A standard for compressing digital audio. The sound quality of an MP3 file is close to that CD audio but requires only a fraction of the storage space.

MPEG

Stands for Motion Picture Experts Group, and describes a method of compressing digital video. MPEG-1 compression gives VHS-quality vide, while MPEG-2 compression gives high-quality video with CD-quality sound. MPEG-2 compression is used for DVD movies.

MS DOS

See DOS.

Multimedia

Implies that either hardware (such as your PC) or software is capable of handling both video and sound.

My Computer

Usually you will find an icon labelled ‘My Computer’ in the top-left corner of your Windows desktop. Double-click on this and a Window will appear, containing icons for any disk drives you have connected to your PC, as well as any printers you have installed.
N

Name

In spreadsheets, an easy-to remember identifier for a cell or range.

NetMeeting

A software programme developed by Microsoft and available free of charge. Allows you to talk and share data with other computer users over the internet; either audio only or, if you’ve a camera, visually.

Net

Short for internet, which is a global network of computers you can hook up to through an ordinary phone line.

Network

A way of connecting several computers and printers so that they can share data.

Network Adapter

A socket for connecting a PC to an office network or some broadband internet connections.

Network interface card

Each PC on a network needs a network interface card, into which the network cable is plugged. Most can transfer data at 10Mbits per second (10 million bits per second) but 100Mbit cards are becoming more common.

Newsgroups

Discussion areas on the internet, where you can post a message and read replies from other people, like an office noticeboard.

Notebook

A portable computer, usually around the size of an A4 notebook. Also referred to as laptop.

NTFS

NT File System. A more secure and reliable file system used by Windows NT and XP.
O

OCR

An abbreviation of optical character recognition, the process by which printed text is scanned and converted into a computer-editable electronic document.

OEM

Short for original equipment manufacturer, which refers to components sold to manufacturers purely for incorporation in complete systems. Often, OEM parts are similar to those sold retail, but may be cheaper or sold with different software.

Office suite

A bundle of useful programmes sold in one package. Lotus SmartSuite and Microsoft Office are prime examples.

Offline

Working with internet software, like an email programme, without being connected to the internet, potentially running up telephone charges.

Onboard

Already fitted to your PC as part of the main circuitry on the motherboard. So ‘onboard AGP graphics’, would mean the PC with built-in AGP graphics facilities. The alternative is a separate expansions card which is attached to the motherboard via a special port.

Online

Being connected to the internet. The time you spend connected to or via the internet.

Online instructions

A read-me text file that will be installed on your computer during the installation of software, or will be present on the CD-ROM for future reference. Think of it as an electronic manual.

Online Service

A company that provides its own online content that’s accessible only to fee-paying members, as well as access to the internet proper. AOL is an online service.

Operating system

A crucial piece of software which is so important that it loads automatically when you switch on a computer. Windows 98, 2000 and XP are operating systems, as is Mac OSX, Linux, and Palm OS5 (for the Palm handheld computer) Operating systems govern the way the hardware and software components in a computer work together.

Optical resolution

The true resolution a scanner can ‘see’ as it passes across a document. Resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi), so a 300dpi scan will pick up 300 lines of information for each inch of the scanned page.
P

Packet

Information sent over the internet or other computer networks is split up into packets of data. Each of these includes the destination IP address, so they can travel separately and be rebuilt into the complete message on arrival.

Packet Writing

A technique (provided through software) that allows CD-Rs and CD-RWs to be treated as floppy disks, with drag-and-drop file management.

Page Wizard

A simple series of on-screen forms to generate a page layout based on your preferences. For example, Microsoft Publisher can automatically create a birthday card based on your answers to some simple questions.

Palette

In an image-editing programme such as Paint Shop Pro, a palette will allow a user to select a range of tools or colours to use for drawing or photo-retouching work.

Palmtop

A PDA or small computer about the size of a pocket calculator. Usually without a keyboard and with a touch-sensitive screen, it will use text recognition for data entry. Most palmtops are supplied with contact management, diary and memo software, while many can access the internet and download email using a mobile phone. Third parties may supply on-screen maps, electronic books and the like.

Parallel cable

Usually used to connect a PC to a printer, but can also be used to link two PCs together. Parallel cables allow data to be swapped between computers at a higher speed than serial cables.

Parallel port

A single socket on the back of a PC typically used for connecting a printer or a low-cost scanner.

Parasitic virus

Computer virus that spreads by attaching itself to another file, usually a programme.

Partition

A large hard disk can be divided into two or more partitions or ‘virtual’ drives. Once partitioned, each section is treated by Windows as though it were a completely separate, smaller hard disk.

Patch (software)

A software file or collection of files that fixes problems with an existing software application by making minor changes to the programme.

Path (file management)

In file management, the names of the drive, folder and subfolders that indicate exactly where on a disk a file is stored, like ‘C:WindowsMapsMyFile. xls’. This example means that the file MyFile. xls is located in the folder called Maps, which is inside the folder called Windows on your hard disk.

PC Card

A credit card-size device for adding anything from a modem to a hard drive to a notebook PC. Requires a PC Card slot (standard on almost all notebooks).

PCI

Peripheral Component Interconnect. A high-performance expansion slot for desktop PCs, allowing simple installation of PCI components like sound cards and modems.

PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)

A palmtop computer about the size of a pocket calculator. Usually without a keyboard and with a touch-sensitive screen, it will use text recognition for data entry. Most PDAs are supplied with contact management, diary and memo software, while many can access the internet and download email using a mobile phone or normal phone line.

PDF

Portable Document Format. A file format developed by Adobe that allows formatted pages of text and graphics to be viewed and printed correctly on a variety of machines, without the original author having to worry about the recipients. PDF pages created with Adobe Acrobat need to be read with the free Acrobat Reader application.

Pentium 4

The latest and fastest member of Intel’s Pentium line of processors.

Personal data

Any information referring to identifiable individuals; usually (but not always) used to refer to computerised information. Most businesses and organisations storing personal data must register with the Data Protection Commissioner.

PIM

Personal Information Manager. A software application that helps you to organise all your personal data by managing your diary, contact list and messages.

PivotTable

A built-in Excel macro, or mini programme, which summarises large amounts of data.

Pixel

Short for picture element, which is the smallest part of an image displayed on a monitor or captured by a scanner or digital camera.

Playlist

A list of audio tracks (usually MP3s) queued for playback, not unlike a stack of records on an old record player.

Plug and play

A standard for Windows PCs that allows peripherals to be connected and used in a matter of moments. In theory, Windows will automatically detect the new device and install any needed drivers from its own database.

Plug-in

A small programme that adds extra features such as streaming video to your web browser or to other applications, and is loaded only when it’s needed to display information

Pocket PC

A generic term for any handheld computer that uses the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system.

POP3

Post Office Protocol 3. A protocol for remotely accessing and retrieving email from an ISP. Most email applications and ISPs use POP3

Pop-up menu

A menu that can be displayed on the screen at any time by pressing the appropriate key, usually displayed over material already on the screen. Once you have made a choice from the menu, it disappears and the original screen is restored.

Port

A socket, which is located at the back of the computer’s base, where you plug in items like the printer and keyboard.

Portal

A website that offers a variety of services, such as news, weather reports, stock information, email and so on. The information on offer may be personalised for your interests if you have registered with the portal. Most search sites are also portals.

Posting

To send a message to a newsgroup.

PostScript

A printer description language, including outline font technology, developed by Adobe. It enables typefaces to be displayed on screen exactly as they will print, and allows them to print to best effect on different resolution devices.

Power Management

Power-saving features on a PC, printer or monitor, designed to turn off or put on standby any part of the system that is not needed.

Preferences

The part of a programme that lets you alter various settings and remembers your changes so it looks and behaves how you want it to.

Preview pane

Part of a window in an email application that lets you read a message without having to first double-click it to open it. This has the disadvantage that some malicious emails can contain HTML which will run automatically in the preview pane, potentially importing a virus to your system.

Print head

The part of the printer that actually prints onto the paper. In the case of an inkjet printer, this is the part that squirts ink, in strips, onto the page. In a dot-matrix printer it’s the part that hammers a row of pins through the ink ribbon

Printer carriage

The internal printer mechanism which moves back and forth and to which the cartridge attaches.

Processor

The chip that is the ‘brain’ of the computer. The faster the processor, the better a computer will perform.

Programme

Software or applications. Programmes tell your computer, and its accessories (the hardware) what to do and how to do it. Examples are Excel, Word, and computer games.

Programming Language

The computer instructions that are used to build computer programmes. There are many programming languages, with names like C++ and BASIC, and each is designed for a specific purpose.

PS/2

A set of standards for such things as mouse and keyboard interfaces, originally used by IBM.

PS/2 port

A small, round 6-pin connector, for plugging a keyboard and/or mouse into a computer.

Pt

Point size. The measurement that typographers use to describe the size of text. One point is approximately 1/72nd of an inch. Accordingly, 72pt text is twice as big as 36pt text.
Q

Quicktime

A video file format invented by Apple, and used on both PCs and Macs.

QWERTY keyboard

The standard English keyboard layout, so called because the first six letters on the top row of the keyboard are QWERTY. Similarly, French keyboards can be referred to as AZERTY while some other languages, including German, use a QWERTZ keyboard layout.
R

Radio button

A method of selecting an option in an application dialogue box. Only one button in the control group can be selected: if you change your selection, your first choice is automatically deselected.

Rage Pro

A type of 3D graphics card made by ATI. It was excellent when first launched but is now almost obsolete. You are most likely to find it or derivatives in corporate machines or notebooks which are unlikely to be used for gaming.

RAM

Random Access Memory. The computer’s working area, used for data storage while the PC is switched on. Its capacity is measured in megabytes (Mb): the more memory your PC has, the more things it can process simultaneously and the faster it will seem. Note that any information in RAM will be lost when the power is switched off.

Range

In a spreadsheet, a defined block of cells. Rather than performing calculations on each cell individually, you can apply a formula to the whole range.

RDRAM

Rambus DRAM. A design of memory claimed to offer very high performance, albeit at a high price. Developed by Rambus Inc and licensed to RAM manufacturers, it is found in Pentium III and Pentium 4 systems.

RealPlayer

The software required to play RealAudio and RealVideo files streamed over the internet. A basic version is available as a free download while a more sophisticated version can be bought online.

RJ-11 (Registered Jack-11)

The type of small plug and socket used by modems to connect to a telephone socket. A converter plug is needed before an RJ-11 cable can be plugged into a standard UK telephone socket (RJ-11 is a US standard).

RTC

Real-time clock. The battery-powered clock inside every PC which keeps track of time while the system is switched off.

Readme file

A file created during an application installation that contains useful information. Readme files are usually found in the same Programme Files folder as the application

Reboot

To restart a computer. Normally, this is by using the ‘Restart’ option on the Windows Start menu. However, it may be necessary to press Control-Alt-Delete or even to use the Reset button if one is fitted to the PC.

Record

A single entry in a database, comprising a related group of individual ‘fields’. Each entry in an address book, for example, is a record.

Recycle Bin

Where all files deleted in Windows are sent. Shown as a rubbish bin icon on the Desktop, it must be emptied if you want to get rid of deleted files for good.

Registry

A database integrated into Windows which stores information on all hardware and software installed on your PC. This includes user preferences, settings and licence information.

Removable storage device

Disk drives that use high-capacity disks which can be removed and stored remotely. Typical examples include the Iomega Zip and Jaz products.

Reservoir

In an inkjet printer, the part that actually holds the ink. In many inkjets, the reservoir is combined with the print head itself to create a single disposable unit, while others have replaceable reservoirs.

Resolution

The amount of detail shown in an image, whether on screen or printed. For a monitor, it is the number of pixels it can display (typically 1024 x 768 pixels for a 17in monitor). For printers and scanners, resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi); the number of drops of ink or toner that can be printed in a square inch.

Right-click

Most actions in Windows are performed by clicking the left mouse button. However, since the arrival of Windows 95, many programmes – and Windows itself – make use of the right mouse button click to display a pop-up menu with special functions.

RIMM

Rambus Inline Memory Module. A ‘stick’ of RDRAM, used in Pentium III and Pentium 4 systems with suitable motherboards.

Ripper

Software that can be used to automatically convert CD audio and .WAV files into compressed MP3 or WMA format for later playback, either through your PC or from a portable digital music player.

Rip

To digitally extract the music data from a CD-ROM or audio CD. Ripping a track from an audio CD is the first stage of compressing it as an MP3 file.

RISC processor

Reduced Instruction Set Computer processors are designed using a very limited number of simple instructions. They can combine these instructions at high speed to perform much more complex calculations.

ROM

Read Only Memory. Any memory that can be read but not written to. A PC’s BIOS uses ROM to store basic system information and instructions which cannot be changed.

RTF

Rich Text Format. A common file format used to transfer files between different word-processing programmes. It preserves most of the formatting of a document.

Router

A device which is used to connect more than one computer together and/or to the internet as an alternative to a modem. It’s so-called because it determines which way data is sent.
S

ScanDisk

A disk-checking utility incorporated in Windows that can detect and repair minor problems with your disk drives.

Scanner

A device which uses a light sensor to convert a drawing, photograph or document into data which can then be interpreted by software on your PC. A flatbed scanner has a flat sheet of glass on which the image or document is placed. The scan head moves below the glass, while with a handheld scanner you move the scanner over the image.

SCART

A standardised 21-pin connector for two-way traffic of video and audio signals. It is used across Europe to connect TVs, video recorders and other domestic audiovisual equipment.

Scenario

In spreadsheets, a named set of input values you can substitute in a worksheet.

Screen resolution

The number of pixels that are displayed on the screen, making up the image. The more pixels, the higher the resolution and the sharper the picture.

Screensaver

A programme that runs on a computer after a short period of inactivity and displays a moving image on screen. Originally intended to prevent damage to monitors caused by displaying the same image for long periods, many screensavers now incorporate passwords to protect your work from prying eyes.

Screen shot

Also screen grab. An image of what was displayed on screen at a particular moment. A screen is captured to the clipboard in Windows by pressing the Print Screen key. You can then copy it to a graphic file or simply print it off.

Script

A short programme that’s stored on a web server to control part of a website. For example, a script could check that a date you’ve entered is valid, or move words across the screen.

Scroll

When a document, an image or a list of items – filenames, fonts – is too long to display in a window you can scroll up or down by clicking on the window’s scroll bar (also called the vertical scroll bar).

Scroll bar

The section of a window – normally grey with a slider control – you must use to scroll around when the window’s contents are too large to display at once.

SCSI

Small Computer System Interface (pronounced ‘skuzzy’). An extremely fast connection between such things as disk drives and scanners, and a PC. Up to seven devices can be daisy-chained together and connected to a normal SCSI controller.

SD card

Secure Digital card. A secure variant of the postage stamp-size solid-state MMC memory card used by some MP3 players.

SDRAM

Synchronous Dynamic RAM. The type of memory to be found in most modern PCs. It is significantly cheaper than its biggest rival, RDRAM.

Search engine

A site on the net that indexes the names and addresses of other sites. It enables you to search for sites containing certain keywords, or sometimes even to ask a question in normal language.

Search query

The text given to a search engine which forms your search on the world wide web. It can be one or several keywords, use special codes, or even be a natural question.

Security certificate

A piece of data sent from one computer to another designed to prove the authenticity or security of information on the internet.

Selection tool

In graphics and page layout programmes, the icon for this often looks like the dotted outline of a square. This tool allows you to select items by drawing a square or rectangular shape around them. Once selected, you can manipulate them all at once.

Serial cable

A cable which connects to a serial or COM port. Such leads can connect peripherals to the computer or can be used to link one computer to another.

Serial port

A socket on the back of a PC used to connect serial devices, also known as a COM port. Often used on a PC to connect an external modem, some digital cameras and PDAs or, formerly, to plug in a mouse.

Server

A computer on a network (such as the internet) that stores shared information. Servers can also manage shared resources, such as printers.

Shareware

Programmes that you can try out free before deciding whether to buy them or not. Usually much cheaper than conventional software, shareware programmes are usually written by individuals and distributed not through shops but via the internet. Most shareware is first supplied as a trial version, which may work fully for a set number of days or may have some features disabled.

Shockwave

Technology developed by Macromedia that allows web pages to contain interactive multimedia. Typical uses include animations and games.

Shortcut

A file that acts as a link to something else, such as a programme file or disk drive. Double-clicking a shortcut is the same as double-clicking the original file, so they can be placed on the Desktop as a quick way to start programmes.

SIM

Subscriber Identity Module. The smart card used by all digital mobile phones. The SIM card carries the user’s identity and phone number for accessing the network. It also is used for storing the user’s personal phonebook and text messages.

Single pass

A single-pass scanner captures the image in one movement of the scanhead over the picture. Multi-pass scanners must make one pass for each colour channel to be scanned.

Site

Short for website. A linked group of one or more web pages, normally dealing with a particular subject or by a single author. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL (universal resource locator) or ‘address’. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.

Skin

A different, purely cosmetic appearance for an application.

Slider bar

A control which allows you to change a setting by clicking and ‘dragging’ a slider.

SmartCard

A credit card with an embedded microchip for storing personal identification data.

SmartMedia

A form of solid-state storage used by some digital cameras and MP3 players. Data files, normally photos or music, are stored on small removable cards. These are about the same size as CompactFlash cards, but physically more flexible, being less than 1mm thick.

SMS

Short Messaging Service. More commonly called text messaging.

SMTP

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. A standard for sending email messages. SMTP is now largely reserved for sending messages rather than receiving them.

Software

Any programme or group of programmes which tells hardware how it should perform, including operating systems such as Windows, word processors, DTP applications and games.

Sound Blaster

Sound card made by Creative Labs. The Sound Blaster was one of the first de facto PC audio standards, and many cards emulate it so they can be used with the hundreds of games that support it.

Sound card

An expansion card that lets a PC create sounds – game sound effects, music, and so on. Almost all PCs have a sound card as standard but more powerful sound cards can be bought and fitted.

Spam

Junk email sent to large groups of people offering such things as money-spinning ideas, holidays, and so on. Named after the Monty Python Spam song.

Speech recognition

Analysing the spoken word via special software so that a PC can recognise it and translate spoken commands into computer actions.

Spooling

Temporarily transferring data to the hard disk or to some other temporary storage place, before passing it on to its final destination. Most often seen in printing, where the PC spools data to the hard disk to finalise it before passing it to the printer.

Spreadsheet

A software application for creating sheets of calculations, set out in rows and columns. They may be used for accounting, budgeting, and any other sort of financial or mathematical calculation. Better spreadsheet programmes also have graphical abilities, allowing charts and graphs to be plotted. Leading programmes include Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3.

Spyware

Software installed (usually surreptitiously) as part of another application installation specifically to monitor and report back on a computer’s use.

Start button

The button on the far left of the Taskbar in Windows. Click on it to access all the programmes installed on your computer, as well as printers, and the Control Panel. Paradoxically, you should also click it to shut down your PC.

Start page

The page that appears when you first start your web browsing programme. Also known as the home page, it is user-selectable.

Streamed

When data flows to your PC as needed. Broadcasts over the internet are often streamed so that you don’t have to download a whole file before you start listening or watching. However, you cannot generally download streamed files to your hard disk to watch or listen to them later.

Stylus

A plastic pointer styled like a pen, used for operating palmtop computers (PDAs) with touch-sensitive screens.

Sub-head

Smaller than a headline, but larger than ordinary text, sub-heads break up long stretches of text and help readers navigate round more easily.

Surfing

Popular metaphor used for describing someone exploring the world wide web.

Swapfile

An area of hard disk space that your PC can use as ‘virtual’ memory, or RAM. This allows you to have more programmes open at once but will be slower than having an equivalent amount of real RAM.

Synchro recording

Also known as CD synchronisation. Automatically starts and stops a tape or disc when recording a CD.

System date

This is the date used by the DOS and Windows operating systems. Programmes that need to know the date should ask DOS or Windows for the system date, not look directly at the clock.

System disk

This is a disk that contains all the programmes you need to get your PC working, with enough system files to make it boot up and allow you access to the disk drives

System files

The files that run when the computer starts up, usually containing essential instructions to make installed hardware and software to run properly. The autoexec. bat and config. sys files are system files.

System software

Controls the hardware and manages the applications on your PC.

System Tools menu

This folder can be found by clicking the Windows Start button, then looking within Programmes/Accessories. In it you will find a number of utilities which are useful for maintaining and troubleshooting your copy of Windows.

System Tray

Found on the far right of your taskbar, the system tray displays icons showing which programmes are always running in Windows, such as an anti-virus programme.
T

Tab

Dialogue boxes often combine settings for different associated functions. Each ‘page’ of settings is separated by a tab, as though it were sheets of paper filed away and separated by tabbed dividers.

Tab stops

Preset points along a line of text, where the cursor will stop when the tab key is pressed.

Tag

Part of the syntax of HTML, the language used to define web pages, tags assign attributes – such as colour and position – to each of the elements of a web page.

Taskbar

The bar that runs along the bottom of the screen in versions of Windows from 95 onwards. It includes the Start button and System Tray, and contains icons for programmes that are running.

TCP/IP

Transmission control protocol/internet protocol. The protocol used to transfer data and information from one internet-connected computer to another.

Template

A web page design, document or a spreadsheet that contains all the required formatting for a particular style or type of document. This ‘master’ can then be used over and over and again, merely filling in the newly changed information or text each time.

Text and picture boxes

Empty frames designed to hold either words or pictures. They are used in many page layout and graphics programmes, and some word processors, to exactly position text or graphic elements on a page.

Text box

In desktop publishing, a piece of text set apart from the main story on a page – just like this jargon buster box.

Text tool

Often represented by the letter T and an arrow in image-editing and drawing programmes, this tool allows you to add text to the picture or image you are working on.

TFT (or thin-film transistor)

Technology used to create thin, flat colour screens for such things as computer monitors and digital cameras. TFT displays are very high quality and will display clear and bright images using thousands or millions of colours.

Thumbnail

A small (usually postage stamp-size) image used to give a quick preview of a much larger image.

TIFF

Tagged Image File Format. A standard file format used to store graphic images. It can handle monochrome, grey-scale, 8-bit or 24-bit colour images. TIFF images can be compressed without any loss of detail.

Timing out

Your browser sets a time limit on how long it will try to download a web page before determining that it cannot access the appropriate server. If web access is very slow, you are likely to be ‘timed out’.

Toolbar

A strip of icons that runs across the top of most Windows applications. Used to provide quick access to certain important features, such as saving and printing.

Toolbox

The software equivalent of a mechanic’s toolkit. A programme’s toolbox should contain everything necessary to complete the task in hand. In an image-editing application, the toolbox will have a selection of drawing, colouring and editing tools.

Top-level domain

The suffix after the final ‘. ‘ in a website (or ‘domain’) name. The most common top level domain is ‘. com’ for ‘commercial’. Other examples include ‘. co. uk’ for a UK company and ‘. org’ for a non-profit organisation.

Touchpad

A small, touch-sensitive pad, usually a couple of inches square, which acts as an alternative to a mouse on some notebook/palmtop computers. It works by sensing fingertip pressure.

Tower

A computer system unit which stands upright (as opposed to a ‘desktop’ version which lays flat). Although bulky, they give plenty of room for future expansion.

Trackball

A popular alternative to mice, trackballs are pointing devices with a flat base and an upwards-facing ball. You roll the ball around 360 degrees with your fingers or thumb in order to position the cursor.

Trackpad

A small, touch-sensitive pad, usually a couple of inches square, which acts as an alternative to a mouse on some notebook/palmtop computers. It works by sensing fingertip pressure.

Trackpoint

An alternative to a mouse on some notebook PCs, this is a small rubberised ‘nipple’, usually in the centre of the keyboard. Wiggle it like a joystick and the mouse pointer moves on screen. Although they take some getting used to, trackpoints can be more predictable than trackpads in situations like train journeys, where movement can cause ghost cursor placements.

Transport bar

A set of graphic buttons that mimic the stop, start, play, fast forward, rewind, and record buttons that you see on any audio cassette recorder.

Trapezoid

Setting controlling the width of the top and bottom edges of a monitor’s display.

Trigger event

Event that causes a virus to activate itself and unleash its payload. This can be a particular date – Friday 13, April Fool’s Day, Michelangelo’s birthday – or perhaps a counter, incremented each time the computer boots, reaching a certain value.

Trojan Horse

A malicious computer programme that’s disguised as a different, harmless programme. For example, a trojan horse may be disguised as a game but it’s actually a programme that steals your internet username and password. Trojan Horses don’t copy themselves and so are not viruses or worms.

TrueType

An outline font technology developed jointly by Microsoft and Apple. It enables typefaces to be displayed on screen exactly as they will print, and allows them to print to best effect on different resolution devices.

TV out

A socket found on a graphics card that can be used to make a connection to a TV set’s aerial-in socket.

TV tuner

An expansion card, which, when fitted into a PC, receives TV signals and allows a TV picture to be displayed on your PC’s screen.

TWAIN

Technology Without an Interesting Name. TWAIN is a standard way for scanners and some other devices to talk to your PC. In theory, all TWAIN-compliant image-editing applications, including Paint Shop Pro and PhotoShop, should be able to directly access the image data produced by any TWAIN-compliant scanner or digital camera.

Type II PC Card

The most common type of credit card-size expansion card used to add peripherals such as modems to a notebook PC. Fits into a Type II PC Card slot, which is standard on all notebooks.

Typeface

Sometimes called fonts, thousands of different typefaces are available, each with its own individual letter shapes and characteristics.
U

Undo

A command in most programmes which reverses your last action. The undo command can really get you out of trouble if you have made a catastrophic error.

Uninstall

The process of removing unwanted applications from your PC. You might want to do this to free up hard disk space, or simply because you no longer use the programme. Most programmes have their own uninstall routine, or you can use Windows’ uninstall command from Control Panel.

Uninstaller

A utility that removes Windows programmes properly by deleting not just the main programme and its folders, but also the smaller ancillary files that are scattered round the hard disk. It should also remove any entries that have been made in your PC’s Registry and system files.

Universal Serial Bus (USB)

A standard which allows quick and easy connection of external peripherals such as scanners and printers to your PC. It supports plug and play, and devices can be added or removed with your PC switched on.

Unix

A robust, very stable operating system often used by businesses on powerful workstations and large computers, especially when it is important that applications do not crash. The free Linux operating system is a derivative of Unix.

Unmetered access

Access to the internet for a flat monthly fee, with no additional telephone call charges.

Upgrade

To improve the performance or specification of your computer by adding more memory, a larger hard disk or making another improvement. Software can also be upgraded, usually by updating it to the latest version.

Uploading

The process of transferring information to another computer, often for publishing on the internet as a web page. The process normally involves using the File Transfer Protocol, or FTP.

URL

Uniform Resource Locator. The unique address of a web page you visit, enabling it to be found from any other computer connected to the internet.

USB 2

Faster but backwardly-compatible successor to USB that’s used by such things as MP3 players and external disk drives.

USB hub

A small external or built-in device with several USB ports. It connects to your PC and serves as a relay station, allowing you to add multiple devices. External USB hubs can usually be placed on a desk for easy access to USB ports.

Usenet

Short for users’ network, a collection of public groups of messages – newsgroups – which is accessible to a wide variety of computer systems worldwide, both on and off the internet. The act of writing a message that appears on Usenet is called posting. Newsgroups belong to hierarchies, usually divided by geography and interest. For example, news://uk. rec. cycling is a UK-based newsgroup about recreational cycling.

User interface

This is the face of a computer programme – what it looks like to the person sitting in front of the monitor, and how it is used. Windows and the Apple Macintosh have a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which is easier to use than a purely text-based interface like MS-DOS.

Utility

A programme that performs specific tasks on your PC, such as optimising memory use or compressing disk space.
V

V. 90

The official International Telecommunications Union (ITU) modem standard capable of receiving data at 56Kbps.

VGA

Video Graphics Array. A very basic standard for graphics output, specifying that the monitor and graphics card should be able to display 16 different colours at a resolution of 640×480 pixels.

Video-capture card

An expansion card for PCs that allows them to record full-motion video sequences to disk from TV receivers, camcorders and other video recording equipment.

Video memory

Memory installed on your PC’s graphics card and used to generate the on-screen image. The more memory on the card, the higher the possible graphics resolution and the more colours that can be displayed. 16Mb should be considered the minimum standard today, with 32Mb or even 64Mb common in high-end gaming systems.

Videobites

Clips of film that you can view on the Web.

Video-conferencing

Linking two or more PCs to capture and display video and audio in real time so distant people can see as well as talk to each other.

Virtual memory

A reserved area of hard disk space that your PC can use as ‘virtual’ memory, or RAM, whenever it is running short of the genuine article. Also called a swapfile, this allows you to have more programmes open at once but will be slower than having an equivalent amount of real RAM.

Virus checker

A software programme specifically designed to scan files, such as those on a floppy desk or received via email, for viruses that may damage your PC. Most virus scanners will warn you of viruses as well as attempting to remove or at least neutralise them. Beware that for full effectiveness you must update your virus checker frequently.

Virus

A malicious computer programme designed to cause at best annoyance and at worst, damage to computer data. Viruses usually spread from computer to computer by ‘infecting’ files that are passed between them, or by automatically sending an email to everyone in your address book. They are often hidden in innocuous-looking files or email attachments, and may lie dormant waiting for a trigger date or event before they launch.

Voice recognition

Software which can recognise spoken words. It may be able to interpret these as commands which it can obey (voice control), or turn them into text to save you typing (voice recognition).

Voicemail

An answerphone service which records callers’ messages when you’re unavailable. This may be in the office or provided by your mobile phone network.
W

Wallpaper

A pattern or image used as the background to your Windows desktop. It helps to personalise your PC or to promote a corporate identity but serves no other practical purpose.

Watermark

A technique that allows you to print text and graphics as a background, ‘behind’ what you’re actually typing. It is especially useful for marking a document as Draft or Confidential, or for personalising stationery. So named because the process mimics the watermarks seen on banknotes or writing paper.

WAV file

Also known as a Wave file and saved with a. WAV extension. An audio file, used for recording music and other sounds to disk. Because they are uncompressed, WAV files can be very large. The file format was developed by Microsoft and IBM.

Web browser

A software programme developed for navigating the internet, particularly the world wide web. The two most common browsers are Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.

Webcam

A video camera designed to connect to your PC. It can be used to record video clips which you can send by email, or to transmit images directly over the internet for video-conferencing.

Webring

A loose collective of websites run by enthusiasts that focus on a particular subject and link to each other.

Web

Also known as the world wide web or WWW. The web is a collection of online documents housed on server computers around the world, and forms the most visible and easily accessible part of the internet. These are accessed via a web browser. Web pages typically feature text, graphics and photographs, and often video and audio clips. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL or ‘address’. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.

Web pages

The online documents stored on internet servers. They link text and images, and often video or audio clips into a coherent whole. Each one can be accessed by typing in its address.

Web space

An area of disk space on an internet server. This may be on your own machine or rented from an Internet Service Provider. This space can then be used to store web pages for display on the internet.

Web-authoring programme

A piece of software designed to make it easier to create a web page or site. Often with sophisticated functions built in, such programmes create the HTML code automatically and allow you to concentrate on the design of the site. Examples include Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia DreamWeaver.

Website

A linked group of one or more web pages, normally dealing with a particular subject or by a single author. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL or ‘address’. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.

Windows

The operating system found on virtually all modern PCs. It allows you to control your computer and to run programmes that let you perform particular tasks.

Windows 98

A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 1998. It superseded Windows 95, fixed a number of problems and made some changes to how the PC worked. It has now largely been replaced in new PCs by Windows Me.

Windows 2000

A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 2000 and aimed at business users. It is more reliable than other versions, but has poorer support for games playing. It superseded Windows NT.

Windows Explorer

The graphic interface to the Windows filing system. Using images to represent files and folders, it lets you manage documents by moving them between folders and deleting, copying or renaming them.

Windows Me

(Windows Millennium Edition). A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system released in 2000. It superseded Windows 98, fixing a number of problems.

Windows NT

A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system intended for business users.

Wizard

An automated online ‘assistant’ designed to guide you, step-by-step, through a potentially complex process such as faxing, creating a template or changing software options.

WMA

Windows Media Audio. A compressed digital music format developed by Microsoft and played back through the latest versions of Windows Media Player. It allows secure encoding of music tracks but is less widely used than MP3.

WMV

Windows Media Video. A Microsoft file format for video.

Word

Microsoft Word is the sophisticated word-processing software included as part of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works Suite. It is the most widely-used word processor in the world.

Word processor

A software application for preparing largely text-based documents, from basic letters to company newsletters and reports. Most word processors go far beyond simple typing, allowing you to add pictures and text effects, link to other documents, and check your spelling and grammar automatically. Common word processors include Microsoft Word and Lotus Word Pro.

WordArt

A feature in Microsoft Word that allows you to apply a whole range of special effects to text.

WordPad

A basic word-processing programme included with Windows. It has few sophisticated features but can be used for simple documents without problems. To find it, click on Start/Accessories/WordPad.

Workbook

A spreadsheet file. In spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, each workbook by default contains several different worksheets or pages of data. It is possible to link the figures on one sheet to those on another, allowing very complex calculations.

Workgroup

A team of people who work together on a task. All of the members of the team use computers connected to a network, which allows them to share files, schedule meetings and send emails between their PCs.

Worksheet

A single page of data within a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3. Worksheets can be combined into a workbook, allowing each sheet to access, and make calculations using, the figures on another worksheet.

Worm

A programme that transmits and copies itself over a computer network, such as the internet. Not all worms are harmful but many are. Worms are often mislabelled as viruses — worms cannot attach themselves (or ‘infect’) other files, viruses can.

WYSIWYG

What You See Is What You Get. Used in word processors, desktop publishing packages, web-authoring software and the like to signify that the on-screen image of your page is the same as the printed output or published web pages. Non-WYSIWYG programmes generally force you to use control codes which only take effect on printing: you cannot see the results on screen as you work.
X

XML

eXtensible Markup Language. A way of tagging documents for display on different types of machine across the internet. It is more flexible than HTML, the most common standard, because it allows developers to define their own specialised tags or formatting codes.
Y
Z

Zip drive

A high-capacity disk drive designed by Iomega capable of storing 100 or 250Mb of information on sturdy pocket-sized disks. These can be used for back-up, as extra storage or to transfer files between machines or users. Zip drives can be built into your PC or connected externally, using a USB, parallel or SCSI link.

ZIP file

A file or files that have been compressed using a programme like PKZip or WinZip to save disk space or to make them quicker to email. Bitmap image files compress particularly well.

Zipping

Compressing a file using a programme such as PKZip or WinZip to reduce the space it takes up. Unzipping is the process of decompressing the file to its

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