Common Computer Terms in Plain English
Transmits digital information at broadband speed on phone lines.
Copying computer files and documents from your hard disk to removable media or another
computer to protect against loss of the originals.
The amount of data which can be transferred from a website by visitors.
Version of a software application or system still in development.
Basic input output system. Software built into PC's, to control the basic operation of devices
such as the screen and keyboard.
Short for "web log", a blog is an online journal or news site.
A technology that allows devices (computers, phones, printers, sat nav's) to communicate
with each other wirelessly.
A fast Internet connection.
A program, such as Internet Explorer, used to navigate the Internet
Using a web browser application to look at website's on the Internet
To record data to a CD or DVD.
The process of checking and adjusting a measuring instrument to ensure accuracy.
A spreadsheet page uses rows and columns to split a page into cells. (a bit like a battle
The range of colours with which an image can be displayed. Usually measured in bits.
To tweak the functions of software or hardware to the particular settings you require. For
example, Windows can be configured to display a colour background.
Text files generated by website's and stored on your hard disk.
Central Processing Unit. (works like the heart would in a human body) Governs the
processing of information and how quickly it can process the information, depending on
Cascading Style Sheets. Gives website developers and users more control over how pages
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.
A standard software or hardware setting. 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 supplied.
Software that reorganises the data stored on a hard disk so that it can be accessed as
quickly as possible by the PC.
The background area on screen where Windows files and icons appear.
A window that pops up to display or request information.
A camera that stores images in computer memory rather than on light-sensitive film.
The name used to identify a site on the Internet: in the address www.dazzle-it.com the
domain is "Dazzle-IT".
A device attached to a computer that adds hardware capabilities.
Process of transferring files onto your PC directly from another computer.
Drag and drop
Enables users to move files around by clicking on an icon, then holding down the left hand
button on a mouse.
A program that allows Windows to communicate with a peripheral device.
The ability to boot your computer using one of two different operating systems.
Digital Versatile Disk. Used to store files from music to videos. Also used to view films.
Electronic Mail. A system of sending notes and memos between computers via the Internet.
To scramble data it can be read by the sender and authorised recipient.
The three-letter code at the end of a filename that indicates the type or format of the file.
(e.g. .doc, a word document, or .xls for spreadsheets)
A system that prevents unauthorised access to a computer over a network.
Basic software permanently stored on a device that controls its basic operation.
Application used to create high-quality animations on website’s.
Software, often downloadable from the net, which is then free for you to keep and use.
File Transfer Protocol. A way of transferring files over the Internet
(Gigabyte) A measurement of storage capacity usually for hard disks. 1GB is equal to 1,024
The part of the PC that displays the image you see on a computer's monitor.
The slang term to describe illegal access of computer systems by unauthorised users.
A high-capacity disk drive fitted in almost all PCs and used to store both applications and
the documents and files they create.
Hypertext Mark-up Language. The language used to create pages for a website.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol.
A clickable link on a web page or in a document that takes you elsewhere, such as to
another website or page.
A small image used by Windows to identify a file or application.
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 Protocol Address. A computer's IP address is similar to a phone number in
function. (your computers private address, a bit like your home address)
Internet Service Provider. A company that provides you with an Internet connection.
A common format for image files. JPEG images are compressed and the small file size
makes them ideal for web pages.
Software that records each key pressed on a PC and transmits the data to a third-party in
an attempt to steal passwords and financial details.
Local Area Network. Two or more computers connected, either physically or wirelessly, with
the ability to share resources such as printers.
Liquid Crystal Display. Technology used to create low-power, slim display panels. Used in
everything from digital watches to flat-screen monitors.
An operating system that runs on a variety of computers and can be freely modified and
distributed by its users.
An automated series of commands or operations that can be run at any time.
Software that performs harmful or surreptitious acts.
Megabytes. A measurement of storage capacity, usually for computer memory.
A measure of the level of detail recorded by digital cameras and camcorders. A one-
Megapixel image is made from one million tiny dots (pixels).
Small cards that can store many megabytes (MB) of data.
The main circuit board inside any PC into which every other component connects to and
A standard for compressing digital audio. The sound quality is close to that of CD audio but
needs only a fraction of the storage space.
A combination of recorded audio, video, still images and documents.
Connecting several computers and printers to share data.
An area on the bottom of a screen that shows which programs are always running in
Original Equipment Manufacturer. It 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.
The time you spend connected to or via the Internet
Governs the way the hardware and software components in a computer work together. (the
brain of the system)
A large hard disk can be split into two or more partitions, or "virtual" drives.
Peripheral Component Interconnect. A high-performance expansion slot for desk PCs,
allowing simple installation of PCI components such as sound cards and modems.
Portable Document Format. A file format that allows pages of text and graphics to be
viewed and printed correctly on a PC.
An item such as a mouse, keyboard, joy pad etc… all external devices of a PC or Lap .
A form of Internet fraud that tries to trick you into revealing personal details.
A list of audio tracks queued for playback, not unlike a stack of records on an old record
A small program that adds extra features to your web browser or to other applications, and
is loaded only when it's needed.
A digital audio file for downloading from the Internet
A message that an be displayed on the screen by pressing the appropriate key, usually
displayed over material on the screen.
A socket at the back of the PC's base, where you plug in items like the printer or keyboard.
A website that offers a variety of services, such as news, weather reports, stock
information, email and so on.
The standard English keyboard layout, called this as the first 6 letters on the 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.
Random Access Memory. The computer's working area, used for data storage while the PC
is switched on.
Measured in Hertz (Hz) the number of times per second that the image on your monitor is
The amount of detail shown in an image, whether on screen or printed.
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.
A device used to connect more than one computer together and/or to the Internet as an
alternative to a modem.
Really Simple Syndication. A format for automatically distributing news headlines and other
content from the web.
A device that uses a light sensor to convert a drawing, photo or document into data which
can then be interpreted by software on your PC.
A site on the Internet that indexes the names and addresses of other sites. It enables you
to search for sites containing certain keywords.
A computer on a network that stores shared information.
A file that acts as a link to something else, such as a program file or disk drive.
A different, purely cosmetic appearance for an application.
A control which allows you to change a setting by clicking and "dragging" a slider.
Any program or group of programs that tells hardware how it should perform, including
Junk email sent to large groups of people offering such things as money-spinning ideas,
holidays, and so on.
Software installed (usually surreptitiously) to monitor and report back on a computer's use.
When data flows to your PC as and when it is needed.
A higher-quality video connection that carries brightness and colour information separately.
The bar along the bottom of the screen in windows.
A document that contains all the required formatting for a specific type of page design.
A small image used to give a quick preview of a larger image.
A strip of icons that runs across the of most Windows applications.
A small window that pops up beside the mouse pointer to describe what an item does.
A malicious program disguised as a harmless program.
To improve the performance or specification of your computer by adding more memory, a
larger hard disk, a bigger faster processor or making another improvement.
Uniform Resource Locator. The unique address of a web page.
Universal Serial Bus. A standard that allows quick and easy connection of external
peripherals such as storage devices to your PC (keyboard, memory stick, mouse, camera,
printer, modems etc). These devices can be added or removed while your PC is switched
Visual Graphics Adapter. 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 x 480 pixels.
A malicious computer program designed to cause at best annoyance and at worst, damage
to computer data. Viruses usually spread from computer to computer by email.
An audio format that creates high quality but large files.
A video camera designed to connect your PC.
An email account that can be accessed from any PC connected to the Internet
A linked group of one or more web pages. Each page or site has its own distinctive'
address'. This is prefixed by the letters www.
Wireless Equivalent Privacy. A way to encrypt data being transmitted over a wireless
A catchier name for the 802.11b or 802.11g standards used for wireless networking
The operating system found on virtually all modern PCs. It allows you to control your
computer and to run programs.
An automated online assistant to guide you through a process.
Windows Media Audio. A compressed digital music format developed by Microsoft that
allows secure encoding of music tracks.
A single page of data within a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3.
Wifi Protected Access. A standard for wireless networks that is more secure than WEP.
World Wide Web.