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Acrobat Reader*
Document exchange software from Adobe Systems, Inc. Adobe Acrobat* provides a platform-independent means of creating, viewing, and printing documents. Acrobat can convert a DOS, Windows*, UNIX* or Macintosh* document into a Portable Document Format (PDF), which can be displayed on any computer with Acrobat Reader*. Acrobat Reader can be downloaded* free from the Internet.

address book, e-mail
A small database in which you store e-mail addresses for the individuals and groups that you correspond with, each labeled with an easy to remember nickname that you assign.

address, Internet
See Internet IP address.

A program that helps the user accomplish a specific task; for example, a word processing program, a spreadsheet program, or a file transfer protocol client. Application programs are distinguished from system programs (which control the computer and run the application programs) and utilities (which are small helper programs).

A sound file format, originally for Sun UNIX* systems, now also supported on Personal Computers and Macintoshes.

AVI (AudioVideo Interleaved)
Microsoft's video for Windows* movie format, used for storing video with audio.

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In bitmap graphics, an image is displayed on the screen as a collection of tiny squares called pixels, which together form a pattern. Each pixel in the image corresponds with one or more bits; the number of bits per pixel determines how many shades of gray or colors can be displayed.

A Windows format for a bitmapped graphics file.

In computer science and digital electronics, this term means an expression with two possible values, "true" and "false." The most common Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT.

A program that allows users to read hypertext documents on the World Wide Web, and navigate between them. Examples are Netscape Navigator*, Lynx*, and Microsoft Internet Explorer*. Browsers can be text-based or graphic.

A byte is 8 bits; one byte can represent a single character. On most computers, the byte is the basic unit of addressable memory. On IBM Mainframes, a word is 4 bytes (32 bits).

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A temporary storage area for frequently-accessed or recently-accessed data. Having certain data stored in a cache speeds up the operation of the computer. There are two kinds of cache: internal (or memory cache) and external (or disk cache). Internal cache is built into the processor, and external cache is on the motherboard. When an item is called for, the computer first checks the internal cache, then the external cache, and finally the slower main storage.

case sensitive
Treating upper case letters as different characters from the same letters in lower case. Filenames or text searches that are case sensitive would distinguish between, for example, Internet and internet.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read-Only Memory)
A disk that is physically the same as an audio CD but contains computer data. Storage capacity is about 650-680 megabytes. CDROMs are usually interchangeable between different types of computers.

chat acronyms
These common acronyms (and dozens more) are used in online, real-time, typed conversation and in e-mail as a form of shorthand communication.

B4N or BFN Bye For Now
BTW By The Way
IMHO In My Humble Opinion
LOL Laughing Out Loud
TTFN Ta Ta For Now

An area of temporary memory which is used to transfer text and graphics within a document being edited, or between documents. The data is put into the clipboard with either the "cut" or "copy" command, and then "paste" takes it from the clipboard and puts it in its new location.

A cookie is a set of data that a Web site server gives to a browser the first time the user visits the site, that is updated with each return visit. The remote server saves the information the cookie contains about the user and the user's browser does the same, as a text file stored in the Netscape or Explorer system folder.

CPU (Central Processing Unit)
The "brain" of the computer that performs most computing tasks. In microcomputers, the entire CPU is on a single chip. Also called a processor.

A graphic/photo formatting term: To trim the edges of a graphic image, removing part of the image.

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1. A large collection of data organized for rapid search and retrieval.
2. A program that manages data, and can be used to store, retrieve, and sort information. Some database programs are Lotus Approach*, Microsoft Access*, Filemaker*, and dBASE*.

1. The whole computer screen, which represents an office desktop. With a graphical interface, the icons on the screen resemble objects that would be found on a real desktop, such as file folders, a clock, etc. Icons on the desktop enable the user to run application programs and use a file system without directly using the command language of the operating system. On Windows 95 and later versions, the desktop is the first screen you see when Windows starts.
2. A computer designed to stay on a desk, as opposed to portable laptop and notebook designs.

dialog box
A box on the computer screen that can be used to enter information, set options, or give commands to the computer. The dialog box gives the user choices (such as open file, delete, save) which can be selected by clicking with the mouse.

directory, folder
Places on a disk where you can store files and subdirectories. The organization of directories (or folders) and files and on a hard drive is like the branches of an upside-down tree. The main directory is called the "root directory."

A small, portable, flexible magnetic disk used for data storage on many computers. Diskettes come in 3½" and 5¼" sizes, with several densities and formats. These disks are known as "floppy" disks (or diskettes) because the disk is flexible and the read/write head is in physical contact with the surface of the disk, in contrast to "hard disks" that are rigid and rely on a small, fixed gap between the disk surface and the heads. Diskettes may be either single-sided or double-sided.

domain name
An Internet address in alphabetic form (for example, or Domain names must have at least two parts: the part on the left names the organization, and the part on the right identifies the highest subdomain. Directory levels can be indicated at the end, separated by a slash (/). The right-hand side or end of a domain name helps identify what type of agency or organization is hosting the site. For example:
.com commercial site
.edu educational institution
.gov U.S. government
.mil military
.net network
.org non-profit organization

Other endings continue to be added to meet demand for new site names, such as .ws for "world site". Countries have their own URL endings as well; for example, the United Kingdom is .uk, France is .fr, Korea is .kr, Canada is .ca, Philippines is .ph, Australia is .au, etc. For a list of URL domain names for countries around the world, visit Domain name registries around the world:*

An acronym for disk operating system. The term DOS can refer to any operating system, but it is most often used as a shorthand for MS-DOS (Microsoft disk operating system). Originally developed by Microsoft for IBM, MSDOS was the standard operating system for IBM-compatible personal computers. See also folder.

To transfer files or data from one computer to another. To download means to receive; to upload means to transmit.

A very fast input/output device that consists of one or more spinning magnetic disks. A moving arm allows direct read or write access to data recorded on the disks. A device that spins disks or tapes in order to read and write data; for example, a hard drive, disk drive, CD-ROM drive, or tape drive.

DVD (Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc)
A storage medium which has greater capacity and bandwidth than CD. DVDs can be used for multimedia and data storage. A DVD has the capacity to store a full-length film with up to 133 minutes of high quality video in MPEG-2 format, plus audio.

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electronic mail (e-mail)
A system whereby a computer user can exchange messages with other computer users (or groups of users) through a communications network.

e-mail address
An e-mail address has the form "person id" at "domain id." For example, jdoe In this e-mail address, Mr. Doe is identified by his logon id, jdoe, and the company name is identified by its Internet domain name,

Typewritten pictures of facial expressions, used in e-mail and when communicating on the Internet, to indicate emotion. Most often producing an image of a face sideways. They are also called smileys :-) The most common emoticons are:

: )  or  :-) Smiling
:-D Laughing
: ( or :-( Sad
:,(  or  :.( Crying
:-O Open-mouthed, surprised
:P  or  :-f Sticking out tongue
; )  or  ;-) Wink
<:-(  or  <:-| Dunce

extension, file name
The portion of a file name following the final point (period) that indicates the kind of data stored in the file. Extensions are usually from one to three letters (for example, .ppt, .doc, .au, .wav). DOS and Windows extensions must be three or fewer letters; Macintosh extensions can have more letters, or can be deleted.

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Abbreviation for "Frequently Asked Questions." Newsgroups, mailing lists and Internet sites often have a list of the most frequently asked questions about their subject, with answers.

A feature in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser that enables the user to record URLs that will be frequently used by adding them to a special menu. The equivalent in Netscape Navigator is Bookmarks. Once the URL is on the list, it is easy to return to that Web page simply by clicking on the link in the list, rather than retyping the entire URL.

A collection of information stored in any of numerous forms on any of numerous devices. A file may contain programs, data, or text.

floppy disk
See diskette.

On computer screens for Macintosh and Windows 95 (and above), files can be organized by placing them into folders that look like office file folders. These folders correspond to directories in DOS.

A text formatting term: A complete assortment of printer characters in a particular type style, typeface, size and orientation. Most fonts include letters, numbers, punctuation and some special symbols. Note that the Roman (normal), Italic, Bold and Bold Italic typeface forms of any type style and size are each separate fonts. A font family is a complete set of characters in the same type style, including all sizes and typefaces, such as bold, italic and underline.

A text formatting term: One or more lines of text that appear at the bottom of every page.

Software, often written by enthusiasts, distributed at no charge by users' groups, e-mail, local bulletin boards, Usenet, or other electronic media. Freeware is software that is available free of charge, but is copyrighted by the developer, who retains the right to control its redistribution and to sell it in the future. Freeware is different from free software (or software in the public domain), which has no restrictions on use, modification, or redistribution.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
A protocol in the Internet suite which allows a user on any computer to get files from another computer, or to send files to another computer.

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GIF (Graphics Interchange Format)
A format for pictures that many browsers can display. A color-image transfer protocol developed by CompuServe*, GIF format works best for graphics with contiguous areas of solid color like graphics, clip art, and drawings. GIF is the only file format that allows for animation, transparency effects, or interlacing (the graphic loads gradually with a venetian blind effect). GIF files are widely used on Web pages because they provide good-quality color images in a format that takes up a small amount of space.

1024 megabytes. Literally meaning one billion bytes. Abbreviated GB, Gbyte or G-byte.

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hard copy
Usually hard copy means paper, but presumably can mean any printed computer output, such as microfilm.

The physical devices that make up a computer and networked system.

hard disk or hard drive
The main device that a computer uses to store information. Hard disks are rigid aluminum or glass disks about 3.5" in diameter in a personal computer, and smaller in a laptop. They are coated with ferromagnetic material and rotate around a central axle. Data is transferred magnetically by a read/write head. A hard disk drive for a personal computer may contain as many as eight hard disks, rotating around the same axle.

1. A text formatting term: One or more lines of text that appear at the top of every page of a document.
2. A computer communications term: Control information that is added before data when it is encapsulated for network transmission.

HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
The language of the World Wide Web used to create Web pages, with hyperlinks and markup for text formatting (heading styles, bold, italic, numbered lists, insertion of images, etc.).

HTTP (HyperText Transport Protocol)
The rules by which World Wide Web browsers and servers communicate. This is the protocol most often used to transfer information from Web servers to browsers, which is why Web addresses begin with http://.

A link in an HTML document that leads to another place on the same page, to another page on the same web site, or, to another World Wide Web site. A browser usually displays a hyperlink in some distinguishing way, such as a different color, font or style. When the user activates the link (by clicking on it with the mouse), the browser displays the target of the link. Sometimes pictures have hyperlinks.

Text that has hyperlinks. When hypertext is viewed with an interactive browser, certain words appear highlighted by underlining or color; clicking on a highlighted link leads to another location with more information about the subject. The term was coined by Ted Nelson around 1965 for a collection of documents (or "nodes") containing cross-references or "links" which, with the aid of an interactive browser program, allow the reader to move easily from one document to another.

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A small picture on the screen that represents a file or program.

Internet, The Internet
The Internet is a network of networks, linking computers to computers by speaking the same language called TCP/IP protocol. Each computer runs software to provide or "serve" information and/or to access and view information. The Internet (with a capital I) is the world's largest Internet. The Internet includes a variety of electronic services such as electronic mail (e-mail), Telnet (remote login), FTP (File Transfer Protocol for downloading or uploading of files), Gopher (an early, text-only method for accessing Internet documents), and the World Wide Web. The Internet was originally developed for the United States military, and then became used for government, academic, and commercial research and communications.

Internet Explorer*
Microsoft's World Wide Web browser.

Internet IP address
A unique number identifying each host machine on the Internet network. Also called the IP address or TCP/IP address. A numeric address such as that the domain name server translates into a domain name. In addition to the Internet address, each machine has an Internet domain style name which usually has the form machine.location.domain or The term is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to a host's fully qualified domain name.

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JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group)
A format for storing high-quality color and grayscale photographs in bitmap form. JPEG files are most effective for photographic images or images with lots of subtle color and tones.

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See hyperlink.

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Equals 1,048,576 bytes, or 1024 kilobytes. The text of a six hundred page paperback book would require about one megabyte of ASCII storage. (ASCII is the basis of character sets used in almost all present-day computers.) Abbreviated as MB.

The part of a computer system that is used to run programs. The working space used by the computer to hold the program that is currently running, along with the data it needs, and to run programs and process data. The main memory is built from Random Access Memory (RAM) chips. The amount of memory available determines the size of programs that can be run, and whether more than one program can run at a time. Main memory is temporary, and is lost when the computer is turned off. It is distinguished from more permanent internal Read Only Memory (ROM) which contains the computer's essential programs, and storage (the disks and tapes which are used to store data). In the general sense it can be any device that can hold data in machine-readable format. Also see RAM and ROM.

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface)
A sound file format. It is a standard connection for digital control of musical devices. Used for synthesized music. Cannot be used for the human voice or other complex sounds. File size is usually small.

A peripheral device that connects computers to each other for sending communications through telephone lines. The modem modulates the digital data of computers into analog signals to send over the telephone lines, then demodulates back into digital signals to be read by the computer on the other end; thus the name "modem" for modulator/demodulator. It converts characters into a form that can be transmitted over a telephone line, and reconverts transmitted signals to characters.

MPEG (Moving Pictures Experts Group)
An ISO (International Standards Organization) group that sets standards for compressing and storing video, audio, and animation in digital form. Codec technology for moving images using inter- and intra-frame compression.

Multimedia is communication that uses any combination of different media, and may or may not involve computers. Multimedia may include text, spoken audio, music, sounds, images, animation and video. Often also includes hyperlinked text and objects.

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To find one's way around on the World Wide Web by following hypertext links from document to document, and from computer to computer.

A pun on "etiquette" referring to proper behavior on a network.

Netscape is a set of WWW browsers, produced by Netscape Communications Corporation.

A group of interconnected computers, including the hardware and software used to connect them.

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Logically or physically disconnected from the computer, computer network, or the Internet. For example, a reel of tape is offline storage. A Web page that has been downloaded or saved so that it can be read while not connected to the Internet is for offline viewing.

1. Ready for use (for example, "The graph plotter is fixed and online again").
2. Accessible through a computer (or terminal), rather than on paper or other mediums.
3. A user actively using a computer system, especially the Internet (for example, "I haven't been online for three days.")

operating system
The main control program of a computer that schedules tasks, manages storage, and handles communication with peripherals. Often abbreviated as OS or "o/s."

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PDF (Portable Document Format)
A platform-independent PostScript-based file format; part of Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat can convert a DOS, Windows, UNIX or Macintosh document into a Portable Document Format (PDF) which can be displayed on any computer with Acrobat Reader.

Any device that is attached to a computer system or network, such as printers, disks and tape drives.

Specific computer hardware, as in the phrase "platform-independent." The underlying hardware or software for an operating system. The basic system on which applications execute. Two common platforms are PC and Macintosh.

Short for picture element. A pixel is the smallest logical unit of visual information that can be used to build an image. Pixels are the little squares that can be seen when a graphics image is enlarged. The more pixels in an image, the better its resolution.

A pathway for data flow in and out of a computer. A computer port is a receptacle for attaching input and output devices.

public domain
Belonging to the public; not protected by copyright.

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A System 7 extension for Macintosh from Apple Computer that integrates full-motion video and sound into application programs that gives a seamless integration of video, sound, and animation. Also available as QuickTime for Windows.

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RAM (Random Access Memory)
The memory that is available on a computer for storing data and programs currently being processed. It is automatically erased when the power is turned off. Information in the RAM that needs to be stored for future use must be saved onto a disk or a tape.

A graphics formatting term: The number of dots per inch used to represent a graphics image. The term "pixels" is also used for "dots" in this context. High resolution images look smoother and have more dots per inch than do low resolution images. The resolution of images displayed on the screen is usually lower than that of the final laser printout. Laser printers print 300 dots (or pixels) per inch or more; typesetters print 1,200 dots (or pixels) per inch or more.

ROM (Read Only Memory)
Stored permanent systems instructions, which are never changed; it holds its contents even when the power is turned off. Data is placed in ROM only once, and stays there permanently. ROM is generally installed by the manufacturer as part of the system.

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search directory
A remotely accessible program that lets you do keyword searches for information on the Internet. A directory is a catalog of sites collected and organized by people. Subject directories are often called subject "trees" because they start with a few main categories and then branch out into subcategories, topics, and subtopics. Yahoo!* is the most common search directory.

search engine
A remotely accessible program that lets you do keyword searches for information on the Internet. There are several types of search engines; the search may cover titles of documents, URLs, headers, or the full text. Examples are AltaVista*, Infoseek*, and Lycos*.

A server is a special device used to "serve" a system or facility. A server is a computer in a client/server architecture that supplies files or services. The computer that requests services is called the client. The client may request file transfer, remote logon, printing, or other available services.

Software that is copyrighted, but may be downloaded and used for a limited time for free, after which the user is asked to voluntarily send the author a small payment. Some shareware products offer additional features, documentation, technical support, and/or updates to registered users.

Microsoft Corporation's term for a symbolic link. On the Macintosh, Apple Corporation refers to a symbolic link as an alias.

An organization or facility where a host computer is located. See also Web site.

See emoticon.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)
A protocol from the Internet suite (e.g., TCP/IP) that is used to send electronic mail between users on different host systems.

The programs and data that make computer hardware function.

A precise description detailing how each multimedia element is going to be used, and screen-by-screen planning of what is available to the end user.

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A bar along the bottom edge (or side) of the Windows NT/95 desktops and later versions that contains the Start button and a button for each program that is currently running. The taskbar can be used to switch from one task to another. It can also be dragged around with the mouse and adjusted in size.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
A set of protocols used to allow computers to share resources across a network. These protocols support file transfer, remote logon, and electronic mail between users on the different host computers on the network. See also Internet IP Address.

text wrap
A text formatting term: The ability to wrap text around graphic images on a page layout. Some desktop publishing systems have an automatic text wrap feature that will shorten lines of text when a graphic image is encountered. In other systems, you need to change the length of lines by changing the column margins or by inserting hard carriage returns to shorten the lines. See also word wrap.

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To transfer information stored in the user's system to a remote computer system.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
The address for an Internet Web site, generally beginning: http://. A standard that specifies the location of an object on the Internet, such as a file or a newsgroup. See also domain name.

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Virtual refers to anything that seems real but is actually simulated by the operating system or applications. For example, virtual memory is really disk storage made to look like real memory.

A program that replicates itself on computer systems by incorporating itself into other programs that are shared among computer systems.

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A popular format for storing audio files for Windows applications. Sounds are "true-to-life," but can result in very large files.

See World Wide Web.

Web Site
1. Any computer on the Internet running a World Wide Web server process. A particular Web site is identified by the hostname part of a URL (e.g., is the hostname of
2. Sets of Web pages that can be visited by browsers.

word wrap
A text formatting term: Automatic adjustment of the number of words on a line of text, as they are being entered and displayed on the screen, to match the margin settings. The returns that result from automatic word wrap are called "soft" returns to distinguish them from the "hard" returns, which result when Enter is pressed to force a new line. Word wrap is usually available in the "what you see is what you get" word-processing systems, which are common on personal computers.

World Wide Web
Also known as WWW or Web. A hypermedia-based system for browsing Internet sites. It is named the Web because it is made of many sites linked together; users can travel from one site to another by clicking on hyperlinks. The World Wide Web is a network of information servers, principally the ones using HTTP to serve up HTML documents. The servers are linked, not in any tight or formal sense, but because an HTML document from one server might contain pointers to documents on many other servers. On the Web, everything (documents, menus, indexes) is represented to the user as a hypertext object in HTML format. Hypertext links refer to other documents by their URLs.

WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get)
A text processing term: (pronounced "Wizzywig") a term used to describe systems that display full pages of formatted text and graphics on the screen. Refers to the ability of a computer to display the same colors and resolution on the screen that will come out of the printer.

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Data compression and file packaging programs for personal computers. An example is WinZip* or PKZIP*. It may also refer to Iomega Zip* drive products.

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External Links

Primary Source: Other Sources:
  • The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing*
    Editor Denis Howe

  • Glossary of Selected Computer Terms*
    UIC Academic Computing and Communications Center

  • The Multimedia Alphabet Soup*
    UIC Academic Computing and Communications Center

  • The Network/LAN Alphabet Soup*
    UIC Academic Computing and Communications Center

Other Glossaries:
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