Glossary of computer and internet terms

An add-on is a software extension that adds extra features to a program. It may extend certain functions within the program, add new items to the program's interface, or give the program additional capabilities. Examples include: a custom eBay toolbar for your Firefox browser, a new search feature for your Outlook email. Most addons are free, and can be found and downloaded from the Web.
An app typically refers to software used on a smartphone or mobile device such as the Android, iPhone, BlackBerry or iPad, as in “mobile app” or “iPhone app.”
But the phrase “Web app” or “online app” is also used in a business setting as an abbreviation for “Web application” or “online application” — meaning software that you access and use while online, via a browser, instead of software residing on your computer (such as Microsoft Word).
A blog is a modern online writer's column. Amateur and professional writers publish blogs on all kinds of topics: their hobby interests in paintball and tennis, their opinions on health care, their commentaries on celebrity gossip, photoblogs of favourite pictures, or tech tips on using Microsoft Office. Absolutely anyone can start a blog.
A bookmark is a saved shortcut that directs your browser to a specific webpage. It stores the title, URL, and favicon of the corresponding page. Saving bookmarks allows you to easily access your favourite locations on the Web.
All major web browsers allow you to create bookmarks, though each browser provides a slightly different way of managing them. For example, Chrome and Firefox display your bookmarks in an open window, while Safari displays them in a list in the sidebar of the browser window. Internet Explorer uses the name "Favourites" to refer to bookmarks, and like Safari, it displays all your favourites in a list within the browser window sidebar.
Bandwidth is an indication of how quickly data travels along a connection. The greater the bandwidth, the faster data will be sent and received. Broadband is a rather vague term that refers to bandwidth somewhere above that of an old dial-up modem, although there is no precise definition of the term. Broadband connections are generally “always on”, unlike modem connections. There are various technologies which provide “broadband” speeds – such as ADSL, cable, satellite etc.
A program you use to look at, and navigate between, pages on the World Wide Web. People sometimes refer to web browsers as “the Internet”, whereas they really only provide the means to view pages on the web. Commonly used browsers are Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera or Edge.
A small text file sent to your computer by a web site you have visited. These can be very useful in that they can allow the web site to recognize who you are when you return. Cookies cannot store viruses or other threats, although they can be used to track your activity across different web sites in order to provide, for example, “targeted” advertisements.
Cloud Computing
and Cloud Storage
Cloud computing began as a term to describe software that was online and borrowed, instead of purchased and installed on a computer. Web-based email is one example of cloud computing. The user's email is stored and accessed in the cloud of the internet.
Increasingly, services offer cloud storage of files to facilitate the ability to access files from more than one device. It is possible to save files, photos, and images in the cloud and then access those files from a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or another device. Cloud computing makes collaboration among individuals on the same files in the cloud possible.
A small text file sent to your computer by a web site you have visited. These can be very useful in that they can allow the web site to recognize who you are when you return. Cookies cannot store viruses or other threats, although they can be used to track your activity across different web sites in order to provide, for example, “targeted” advertisements.
A cursor is a shape on a computer screen that shows where actions made with the keyboard or mouse will make a change. There are 2 types of cursor that most people will use.
The Mouse cursor: The pointer on the screen which the person using the computer can move using the computer mouse. This cursor allows the person to select or "click" items with the mouse. On most computers mouse cursors are the shape of an arrow.
The Text Cursor: Usually seen as a vertical line or rectangle that flashes on and off. The Cursor tells the person using the computer where they are typing things on the screen. They can type letters, numbers and symbols where the cursor is.
The first screen displayed on a computer once it has started up. It is where you begin and end your computing session.
Double click
Pressing the left mouse button twice, in quick succession. This is to initiate an action represented by an icon.
Downloading is a broad term that describes transferring something you find on the internet or the World Wide Web to your computer or another device. Commonly, downloading is associated with songs, music, and software files. For example, you might want to download a document from your Google Classroom or download a trial copy of Microsoft Office.
The larger the file you are copying, the longer the download takes to transfer to your computer. Some downloads take seconds; some take minutes or longer, depending on your internet speed.
Drop-down menu
A menu window that opens vertically on-screen to display context related options. Also called pop-up menu or pull-down menu.
E-book reader
An electronic (usually hand-held) reading device that allows a person to view digitally stored reading materials. For example, a 'Kindle'.
Email is electronic mail. It is the sending and receiving of typewritten messages from one screen to another. Email is usually handled by a webmail service—Gmail or Hotmail, for example—or an installed software package such as Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail.
A text-based expression of emotion created that mimics a facial expression. Here are a couple of examples:
Smiling :)
Frowning :(
A small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication. Similar to an emoticon but more detailed and often in colour.
A set of data or information that is stored in the computer.
A set of security programs that protect a computer from outside interference or access via the Internet.
An electronic ‘container’ for storing electronic files and other folders. In some operating systems, it is called a directory.
The main or ‘front’ page of a Web site used to greet visitors, provide information about the site, or to direct the viewer to other pages on the site.
(or ‘link’ for short)
DA piece of text or an image that is connected by hypertext coding to a different location. By selecting the text or image with a mouse, the computer jumps to (or displays) the linked information.
Symbols or illustrations appearing on the computer screen that indicate program files or other computer functions. To initiate them, they usually have to be double clicked.
Along with the mouse, the keyboard is one of the primary input devices used with a computer. The keyboard's design comes from the original typewriter keyboards, which arranged letters and numbers in a way that prevented the type-bars from getting jammed when typing quickly. This keyboard layout is known as the QWERTY design, which gets its name from the first six letters across in the upper-left-hand corner of the keyboard.
A keypad is a set of buttons arranged in a block or pad which bear digits, symbols or alphabetical letters. Pads mostly containing numbers and used with computers are numeric keypads.
Computing firewalls range from small anti-virus software packages to complex and expensive software and hardware solutions. ​Some firewalls are free. Many computers ship with a firewall you can activate. All computer firewalls offer some kind of safeguard against hackers vandalizing or taking over a computer system.
Log in/Log on
Malware is a broad term that describes any malicious software designed by hackers. Malware includes viruses, Trojans, keyloggers, zombie programs, and other software that seeks to do one of four things:
- Vandalize your computer in some way.
- Steal your private information.
- Take remote control of your computer (zombie your computer) for other ends.
- Manipulate you into purchasing something.
Protect yourself with a firewall and knowledge of how to prevent these programs from reaching your computer.
Memory/Disk Space
In computing, “memory” generally refers to the temporary storage used by a computer whilst it is switched on. A computer loads programs and data into its memory in order to carry out tasks. This is more accurately called RAM or “random-access memory”. Disk space (or “hard disk space”), on the other hand, is a more permanent store that holds files even when the computer is switched off. It’s from here that the computer loads things into its memory. Strictly speaking you don’t store things in the computer’s memory as that vanishes when you turn the machine off.
A set of options, or choices, that appears on screen.
Menu bar
The horizontal strip across the top of an application's window. Each word on the strip has a context sensitive drop-down menu containing features and actions that are available for the application in use.
Multi-Factor Authentication
MFA is an authentication method which provides an additional layer of security when signing in to your Student IT account. It ensures only you can access your account, and is used by a number of organisations for security purposes.
When accessing a new Student IT account, or signing into an existing Student IT account, you will be asked to set up MFA to verify your identity. Once MFA setup is complete, you will receive an MFA alert every time you sign in to confirm you are who you say you are.
A computer mouse is an input device that is used with a computer. Moving a mouse along a flat surface can move the cursor to different items on the screen. Items can be moved or selected by pressing the mouse buttons (called clicking).Today's mice have two buttons, the left button and right button, with a scroll wheel in between the two. Today, many computer mice use wireless technology and have no wire.
Operating system
All computers (desktop, laptop, tablet or Smartphone) need an operating system to function.
A computer’s operating system can be thought of as the ‘master’ program on a computer. It keeps track of what the user is doing, where things are stored etc. It is the ‘electronic housekeeper’ keeping everything organised.
Well known operating systems include Windows and Mac OS on desktops and laptops and Android and iOS on tablets and smartphones.
Any external device attached to a computer to enhance operation. Examples include external hard drives, scanners, printers and speakers.
Phishing (pronounced like fishing) is the use of convincing-looking emails and web pages to lure you into typing your account numbers and passwords or PINs. Often in the form of fake PayPal warning messages or phony bank login screens, phishing attacks can be convincing to anyone who is not trained to watch for the subtle clues.
As a rule, smart users—beginners and long-time users alike—should distrust any email link that says, "You should log in and confirm this."
Pop-up menu
A menu window that opens vertically or horizontally on-screen to display options which the operator can choose from.
Private browsing
Private browsing is a privacy feature in some web browsers. When operating in such a mode, the browser creates a temporary session that is isolated from the browser's main session and user data., like existing account log-in details.
To switch a computer off and on again, allowing its operating system and programs to be reloaded. Note that this is not the same as placing a computer into standby/hibernate and then resuming. A reboot requires that all software is completely reloaded.
The term derives from “bootstrap”, as in the phrase “to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps”, because of the similarity to that seemingly impossible act (as a computer can’t run without first loading some software but must be running before any software can be loaded).
Search Engine
A website that helps the user find the information they require. The best known is Google but there are others such as Bing or Yahoo.
Social Media
Social media is the broad term for any online tool that enables users to interact with thousands of other users. Facebook and Twitter are among the largest social networking sites. LinkedIn is a combination of a social and professional site. Other popular sites include YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Reddit.
Computer programs; also called applications or apps.
Spam/Junk Mail
and email filtering
Spam’ has two meanings. 1) Spam can mean ‘the rapid repetition of a keyboard command’. But more commonly, 2) spam is the jargon name of ‘unwanted/unsolicited email’. Spam email is usually comprised of two sub-categories: high-volume advertising, and hackers attempting to lure you into divulging your passwords.
Filtering is the popular-but-imperfect defence against spam. Filtering uses software that reads your incoming email for keyword combinations, and then either deletes or quarantines messages that appear to be spam. Look for a ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ folder in your mailbox to see your quarantine of filtered email.
Watching videos, films or listening to music that is stored on the World Wide Web. It is the modern day equivalent of listening to the radio or watching TV. You are not ‘downloading’ a file when you stream – You do not end up with a copy of the video or piece of music on your computer.
Popular streaming services include the BBC iPlayer (to catch up with BBC programs you may have missed) and Spotify, a music streaming service which works like a massive jukebox.
The taskbar is the strip at the bottom of a Windows computer screen that shows what programs are running on the PC. It also has the ‘Start button and the ‘notification area’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.
A touchpad (also called a trackpad) is a type of input device for computers that does the same things as a computer mouse. It is made up of a flat, touch-sensitive surface which the user slides one or more fingers on to move the cursor on the screen. Next to the touchpad are push-buttons that work just like mouse buttons, including left-clicking and right-clicking. In some newer touchpads, there are no actual buttons, and clicking is done by pushing near the button of the touchpad itself.
The opposite of ‘download’. The process of transferring information from a computer to a web site (or other remote location on a network, like a shared drive).
Uniform Resource Locators
URLs are the web browser addresses of internet pages and files. With a URL, you can locate and bookmark specific pages and files in a web browser. URLs may be listed at the bottom of business cards, on TV screens during commercial breaks, linked in documents you read on the internet, or delivered by one of the internet search engines.
Virtual Private Network
A VPN allows two networks to be connected securely over the Internet as if they were one network. For example, you might use a VPN to connect your home network to your corporate network (if your company permits you to connect to the office from home).
A video camera that takes live images and sends them to a Web browser.
Web Page
A web page is what you see in a web browser when you are on the internet. Think of the web page as a page in a magazine. You may see text, photos, images, diagrams, links, advertisements, and more on any page you view.
World Wide Web
or "the Web"
A network of servers on the Internet that use hypertext-linked databases and files. It was developed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, and is now the primary platform of the Internet.
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