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Glossary of Computer Terms

A basic level of technical competence is necessary for the online learner. To begin, we have provided a list below that contains many commonly used computer terms.


A file attached to an email or discussion board message.


A bookmark acts like a marker to a website. Internet Explorer calls a bookmark a “Favorite”. Netscape calls a bookmark a “Bookmark”. Either way a bookmark will allow you to revisit a web page at a later date without having to remember the URL to the page.


A browser, or web browser, is a program that allows people to interface to the World Wide Web. It interprets HTML code, text, images, hypertext links, java applets, etc. allowing you to view websites and move from one site to another. The most popular browsers are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Discussion Board

A series of messages that have been posted as replies to each other. A discussion board typically contains many threads covering different subjects. By reading each message in a thread, one after the other, you can see how the discussion has evolved.


A single computer word, generally eight bits.


Computers have many different types of cache, but they all serve the same purpose. Cache stores information that was used recently. For example, a web browser will use a cache to store pages, images, sounds, etc. of websites you visit on your hard drive. This will allow your computer to reload the web page information from your hard drive rather than downloading the information again from the website when you revisit the site. Loading the information from your hard drive will allow the web page to be displayed faster; this usually speeds up web browsing.

Your computer also uses disk caching, which stores information you have recently read from your hard disk in the computer’s RAM. Since accessing RAM is much faster than reading data off the hard disk, this helps speed up common functions on your computer. One other type of cache is a processor cache, which stores small amounts of information. This helps make the processing of common instructions much more efficient, thereby speeding up computing time.


Real-time communication between two people via computer. Once a chat has been initiated, either person can enter text by typing on the keyboard, and the entered text will appear on the other person’s monitor.


“Central Processing Unit”. The component of a computer in which data processing takes place.


To remove an object from a document and place it in a temporary storage area. In word processing, for example, cut means to move a section of text from a document to a temporary area.


This term is used to describe a preset value for some option in a computer program.


The process of sending information to your computer from the internet or from another computer.


Electronic Mail


Frequently Asked Questions. Created to help answer a majority of questions that someone may have when coming to a website the first time.


A firewall is used to protect a networked server from damage by those who log in to it. This can either be a computer equipped with security features, software protection, or both. A firewall allows only certain messages from the Internet to flow in and out of the internal network.


An example of a popular web browser used to navigate pages on the World Wide Web.


Stands for Graphics Interchange Format. This is a type of graphic image commonly used in web pages.

Hard Drive

The mechanism that reads and writes data on a hard drive.


The starting point or main page of a website. This page usually has information about the site and links to other pages within the site


“Hyper-Text Markup Language.” HTML code is based on a list of tags that describe the format and what is displayed on web pages


“HyperText Transfer Protocol.” It is the protocol used to transfer data over the World Wide Web.


Countless networks and computers all over the world that allow millions of people to share information. This information is transferred all over the world through a series of lines collectively called the Internet Backbone.


“Internet Protocol.” This allows for data to be transferred between systems over the Internet. It provides a standard set of rules for sending and receiving data via the Internet.

IP Address

A code made up of numbers that is separated by 4 dots that identifies a particular computer on the Internet. Every computer, whether it be a web server or the computer you’re using right now, requires an IP address to connect to the Internet.


“Internet Service Provider”


Java is a computer programming language developed by Sun Microsystems.


Short for Joint Photographic Experts Group. Type of Graphic Image Format. Commonly used in Web Pages.


An email program that allows multiple computer users to connect onto a single system, creating an online discussion.


Username or a code that identifies you to a certain server. It is often used in conjunction with a password to verify who is accessing the server.


Short for megabyte (1,000,000 or 1,048,576 bytes, depending on the context).


Netiquette, or net etiquette, refers to etiquette on the Internet. Based on the Golden Rule, good netiquette is basically not doing anything online that will annoy or frustrate other people. Three areas where good netiquette is highly stressed are email, online chat, and newsgroups.

Internet Explorer

An example of browser software that allows to browse links on the Internet, but we recommend against using it.

Operating System

Usually referred to as the “OS”, this is the software that actually “talks” with computer’s hardware. Without an operating system, all software programs would be useless. The OS is what allocates memory, processes tasks, accesses disks and peripherals, and acts as the user interface.


To copy an object from a temporary storage area on your computer to a file. In word processing, text is moved from one place to another by cutting and pasting.


A computer with a special service function on a network, generally receiving and connecting incoming information traffic


“Secure File Transfer Protocol”. A protocol that allows you to move files from a distant computer to a local computer using a network like the Internet.


The process of sending information from your computer to the internet or to another computer.


A person who uses a computer or has an account on a system.

Web Page

Web pages are what make up the World Wide Web. These documents are written in HTML (hypertext markup language) and are translated by your Web browser.

Web Site (or Website)

A collection of related, interlinked Web Pages.


Abbreviation for World Wide Web. A graphical hypertext-based Internet tool that provides access to web pages created by individuals, businesses, and other organizations.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia contains a comprehensive list of even more computer terms.