Speak Like a Geek: The Complete Archive

From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Computer Basics, Fourth Edition

When you flip through computer documentation, books, and magazines, you might begin to feel as though you just stepped into the tomb of King Tut. How do you interpret the hieroglyphics stamped on your computer? How do you make sense of all the cryptic terms? Where can you get translations for the most common acronyms?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Although this limited glossary can’t possibly cover all the gobbledygook you’ll encounter in the world of computers and the Internet, it does define enough basic terms to get you through your next job interview.

ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line)
A communications technology that allows fast data transfers over standard copper phone lines. “Asynchronous” indicates that the system uses different data transfer rates for upstream and downstream communications–typically 32Mbps for downstream traffic and 32Kbps to 1Mbps for upstream traffic. ADSL is the most common type of DSL used in North America. See also DSL and SDSL.
A file that’s tacked on to an e-mail message. Attachments let users exchange files without having to use disks.
BIOS (basic input/output system)
The built-in set of instructions that tells the computer how to control the disk drives, keyboard, printer port, and other components that make up your computer. Pronounced BUY-ose.
The basic unit of data in a computer. A computer’s alphabet consists of two characters1 and 0. 1 stands for on, and 0 stands for off. Bits are combined in sets of eight to form real characters, such as A, B, C, and D. See also byte.
bits per second
A unit for measuring the speed of data transmission. Remember that it takes 8 bits to make a byte (the equivalent of a single character). Modems have common bps ratings of 28,800 to 56,600.
To start a computer and load its operating system software (usually Windows).
BPL (Broadband over Power Line)
A relatively new and not widely available technology that enables computers to connect to the Internet over existing electrical cables at speeds ranging from 500Kbps to 3Mbps.
A superhighway that carries information electronically from one part of the computer to another. The wider and faster the bus (speed is measured in megahertz, MHz), the faster your computer. The old ISA bus could carry 16 bits of data at a time; the newer PCI bus can carry 32 bits or 64 bits.
A group of 8 bits that usually represents a character or a digit. For example, the byte 01000001 represents the letter A.
cable modem
A modem that supports high-speed connections to the Internet via a TV cable connection. (In order to use a cable modem, you must have a cable company that offers Internet service.) See also modem.
A temporary storage area in memory or on disk that computer components and various programs use to quickly access data. Pronounced cash.
CD burner
A disc drive that lets you copy CDs and record tracks from audio CDs to blank CDs.
CD ripper
A program that reads tracks from an audio CD and converts them into a digital file format that your computer can play. Using a CD ripper, you can create your own music mixes on your computer, transfer them to a portable MP3 player, and (with a CD burner) record your mixes to blank CDs. See also MP3 and CD burner.
CD-R (compact disc recordable)
A storage technology in which a CD drive not only reads data from compact discs but also writes data to compact discs (special CD-R discs). A standard CD-ROM drive can only read data from a disc. See also CD-ROM and CD-RW.
CD-ROM (compact disk read-only memory)
A storage technology that uses the same kind of discs you play in an audio CD player for mass storage of computer data. A single disc can store more than 600MB of information. Pronounced see-dee-rahm. See also CD-R and CD-RW.
CD-RW (compact disk rewritable)
A storage technology in which a CD drive reads data from a compact disc, writes data to a disc, and erases data from discs (CD-RW discs) to make them reusable. See also CD-R and CD-ROM.
The box formed by the intersection of a row (1,2,3…) and column (A,B,C…) in a spreadsheet. Each cell has an address (such as B12) that defines its column and row. A cell might contain text, a numeric value, or a formula.
To talk to another person by typing at your computer. What you type appears on the other person’s screen, and what the other person types appears on your screen.
Of two computers, the computer that’s being served. On the Internet or on a network, your computer is the client, and the computer to which you’re connected is the server.
A temporary storage area in Windows that holds text and graphics. The Cut and Copy commands put text or graphics on the Clipboard, replacing the Clipboard’s previous contents. The Paste command copies Clipboard data to a document.
COM port
Short for communications port. A receptacle, usually at the back of the computer, into which you can plug a serial device such as a modem, mouse, or serial printer.
An order that tells the computer what to do. In command-driven programs, you have to press a specific key or type the command to execute it. With menu-driven programs, you select the command from a menu.
See PC (personal computer).
context menu
A list of commands or options that pops up on the screen when you right-click a selected object or highlighted text. Context menus contain only commands that pertain to the selected object or text.
An electronic identification “badge” that many websites store on your computer to help identify you when you return to the site or to record items you buy as you shop online.
CPU (central processing unit)
The computer’s brain. See also microprocessor.
The failure of a system or program. Usually, you realize that your system has crashed when you can’t move the mouse pointer or type anything. The term crash is also used to refer to a disk crash (or head crash). A disk crash occurs when the read/write head in the disk drive falls on the disk, possibly destroying data.
See insertion point.
A type of computer program used to store, organize, and retrieve information. Popular database programs include Access, Approach, and Paradox.
The initial state of a setting or option. Most word processing programs, for example, are set up to print documents in portrait mode rather than in landscape mode. Portrait mode is said to be the default setting.
A measure of the amount of data that can be stored per square inch of storage area on a disk.
The main work area in Windows. The desktop displays several icons for running programs and accessing common Windows tools.
desktop publishing (DTP)
A program that lets you combine text and graphics on the same page and manipulate the text and graphics onscreen. Desktop publishing programs are commonly used to create newsletters, brochures, flyers, resumes, and business cards.
dialog box
An onscreen box that lets you enter your preferences or supply additional information. You use a dialog box to carry on a “conversation” with the program.
A division of a disk or CD that contains a group of related files. Think of your disk as a filing cabinet, and think of each directory as a drawer in the cabinet. Directories are more commonly called folders.
A round, flat, magnetic storage medium. A disk works like a cassette tape, storing files permanently so that you can play them back later. The disk itself is typically sealed inside a plastic case, so you rarely see the actual disk
. See diskette and hard disk.
disk drive
A device that writes data to a magnetic disk and reads data from the disk. Think of a disk drive as a cassette recorder/player for a computer.
A wafer encased in plastic that stores magnetic data (the facts and figures you enter and save). You insert diskettes (also called floppy disks) into your computer’s diskette drive (located on the front of the computer).
DOS (disk operating system)
DOS, which rhymes with “boss,” is an old program that used to provide the necessary instructions for the computer’s parts (keyboard, disk drive, central processing unit, display screen, printer, and so on) to function as a unit. Although Windows makes DOS nearly obsolete, you still see its name floating around in Windows.
DOS prompt
An onscreen prompt that indicates that DOS is ready to accept a command. It provides no clue as to what command you should type. It looks something like C> or C:\.
To copy files from another computer to your computer, usually through a modem. See also upload.
DSL (digital subscriber line)
Uses standard phone lines to achieve data transfer rates of up to 1.5Mbps (9Mbps if you’re within 2 miles of an ADSL connection center). Phone companies hope that advances in DSL technology and availability will help them compete with cable companies for Internet access and entertainment. See also ADSL and SDSL.
DVD (digital versatile disc or digital video disc)
Discs that can store more than seven times as much data as a CD, making them useful for storing full-length movies and complete multimedia encyclopedias. DVD drives are designed to handle the discs of the future and are also designed to play discs of the past (CDs).
DVD-R (digital versatile disc recordable)
A storage technology in which a DVD drive not only reads data from discs but also writes data to discs (special DVD-R discs). A standard DVD drive can only read data from a disc. See also DVD and DVD-RW.
DVD-RW (digital versatile disc rewritable)
A storage technology in which a DVD drive reads data from a disc, writes data to a disc, and erases data from discs (DVD-RW discs) to make them reusable. See also DVD and DVD-R.
Short for electronic mail. E-mail is a system that lets people send messages to and receive messages from other computers.
A text-only symbol commonly used in e-mail messages and chat rooms to quickly express an emotion or physical gesture. :), for instance, represents a smile.
A common local area network (LAN) protocol developed by Xerox Corporation that allows computers to communicate over network connections. Ethernet supports connection speeds of up to 10Mbps. 100BASE-T Ethernet supports speeds of up to 100Mbps, and Gigabit Ethernet supports speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second. See also LAN, Mbps, and Ethernet adapter.
Ethernet adapter
An expansion card that allows a computer to be connected to an Ethernet local area network. See also Ethernet, LAN, and expansion board.
executable file
A program file that can run the program. Executable files end in .BAT, .COM, or .EXE.
expansion board
A printed circuit board that plugs into a computer’s motherboard and is designed to add a specific capability to a computer. Common expansion boards include modems, sound cards, and video accelerators. See also expansion slot and motherboard.
expansion card
See expansion board.
expansion slot
An opening on the motherboard (inside the system unit) that lets you add devices to the system unit, such as an internal modem, sound card, video accelerator, or other enhancement. See also expansion board.
The portion of a file name that comes after the period. Every file name consists of two parts–the base name (before the period) and the extension (after the period). The file name can have up to 8 characters in DOS and Windows 3.x and can have up to 255 characters in Windows 95 and later. The extension (which is optional) almost always consists of three characters.
A blank in a database record into which you can enter a piece of information (such as a telephone number, a ZIP code, or a person’s last name).
A collection of information stored as a single unit on a floppy or hard disk. Files always have a file name to identify them.
file format
An organizational scheme for the data that makes up a file. The simplest file format is text-only, which stores data as typed characters. Program files, graphics, audio-video files, and other file types are more complex and are stored as binary files in various formats. You can determine a file’s format by looking at its filename extension. A graphics file, for instance, might be stored as a PCX, GIF, or JPG file.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
A set of rules that governs the exchange of files between two computers on the Internet.
fixed disk drive
A disk drive that has an unremovable disk, as opposed to floppy drives, in which you insert and remove disks.
flame war
A war of words between two or more people, typically waged in newsgroups or via e-mail.
floppy disk
See diskette.
The Windows name for a directory, a division of a hard disk or CD that stores a group of related files. See also directory.
Any set of characters of the same typeface (design) and type size (measured in points). For example, Times New Roman 12-point is a font, Times New Roman is the typeface, and 12-point is the size. (There are 72 points in an inch.)
Text that appears at the bottom of every page of a document. Footers are commonly used to insert the title of the document, the date on which it was composed, and page numbers. See also header.
format (disk)
To prepare a disk for storing data. Formatting creates a map on the disk that tells the operating system how the disk is structured. The operating system uses this map to keep track of where files are stored.
format (document)
To establish a document’s physical layout, including page size, margins, headers and footers, line spacing, text alignment, graphics placement, and so on.
format (file)
See file format.
See File Transfer Protocol.
function keys
The 10 or 12 F keys on the left side of the keyboard, or the 12 F keys at the top of the keyboard (some keyboards have both). F keys are numbered F1, F2, F3, and so on; and you can use them to enter specified commands in a program.
See gigabyte.
A thousand megabytes. Often abbreviated as GB.
hard disk
A disk drive that has an non-removable disk. It acts as a giant floppy disk drive and usually sits inside your computer.
Text that appears at the top of every page of a document. Headers are commonly used to insert the title of the document, the date on which it was composed, and page numbers. See also footer.
To select text in order to cut, copy, delete, move, or format it. When you highlight text, it typically appears white on a black background.
A list of the names and addresses of websites and pages you’ve accessed with your web browser. Your web browser keeps a history list so that you can quickly return to sites even if you’ve forgotten a site’s address.
A wireless adapter that is hardwired to the Internet and allows wireless-enabled computers within its range to connect to the Internet.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)
The code used to create documents for the World Wide Web. These codes tell the web browser how to display the text (titles, headings, lists, and so on), insert anchors that link this document to other documents, and control character formatting (by making it bold or italic).
Icons, pictures, or highlighted text commonly used on web pages and in help systems that point to other resources. On web pages, text hyperlinks typically appear blue and underlined.
A graphic image onscreen (a tiny picture) that represents another object, such as a file on a disk. Icons can be found almost everywhere in Windows: on the desktop, on toolbars, on menus, and in dialog boxes. Icons commonly represent applications, utilities, disks, folders, and files.
IM (instant message)
A private message that reaches the recipient almost immediately after the user sends it. IMs are commonly used in America Online to communicate privately with other users.
insertion point
A blinking vertical line used in most Windows word processors to indicate the place where any characters you type are inserted. An insertion point is equivalent to a cursor.
instant message
See IM (instant message).
A link between two objects, such as a computer and a modem. The link between a computer and a person is called a user interface and refers to the way a person communicates with the computer or a program.
A group of computers all over the world that are connected to each other. Using your computer and a modem, you can connect to these other computers and tap their resources. You can view pictures, listen to sounds, watch video clips, play games, chat with other people, and even shop.
Internet service provider (ISP)
The company that you pay to connect to their computer and get on the Internet.
IRC (Internet Relay Chat)
The most popular way to chat with others on the Internet. With an IRC client (chat program), you connect to an IRC server, where you are presented with a list of available chat rooms. You can enter a room and then start exchanging messages with others in the room.
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)
A system that allows your computer, using a special ISDN modem, to perform digital data transfers over special phone lines. Non-ISDN modems use analog signals, which are designed to carry voices, not data. ISDN connections can transfer data at a rate of up to 128Kbps, compared to about 56Kbps for the fastest analog modems.
See Internet service provider.
Kbps (kilobits per second)
A unit used to express data transfer rates, typically for modems. A kilobit is equivalent to 1,000 bits. See also bits per second.
The main input device for most computers. You use the keyboard to type and to enter commands.
A unit for measuring the amount of data. A kilobyte is equivalent to 1,024 bytes. (Each byte is a character.) Kilobyte is commonly abbreviated as K, KB, or Kbyte.
LAN (local area network)
A system of interconnected computers designed to let users share hardware, software, and data and to communicate with each other via e-mail. A LAN is typically confined to a limited area, such as an office, building, or small group of buildings. See also WAN.
A small computer that’s light enough to carry. Notebook computers and subnotebooks are even lighter.
Short for Liquid Crystal Display, this is the preview screen on the back of most digital cameras. Unlike an optical viewfinder, the LCD displays the subject just as it will appear in the photograph.
See hyperlink.
log off
To disconnect from a network or from the Internet.
log on
To enter your user name and password to establish a connection to a network or the Internet. See also user name.
mail merge
A feature of most word processing programs that allows you to link an address book with a form letter or mailing label document to generate a set of personalized form letters and mailing labels.
mail server
A computer on a network whose job it is to receive and store incoming mail and route outgoing mail to the proper e-mail boxes on other mail servers. See also e-mail.
Mbps (megabits per second)
A unit used to express data transfer rates for high-speed communications. A megabit is equivalent to 1,000,000 bits. See also bits per second.
A standard unit used to measure the storage capacity of a disk and the amount of computer memory. A megabyte is 1,048,576 bytes (1,000 kilobytes). This is roughly equivalent to 500 pages of double-spaced text. Megabyte is commonly abbreviated as M, MB, or Mbyte.
A million pixels. Photo size and quality are often measured in megapixels–generally, the more megapixels, the larger the photo and the higher the quality.
An electronic storage area inside the computer used to temporarily store data or program instructions when the computer is using them. Also referred to as RAM.
A vertical listing of commands or instructions displayed onscreen. Menus organize commands and make a program easier to use. Most applications’ menus appear on a menu bar, a band near the top of the application’s window. To open a menu, you click its name on the menu bar. See also context menu.
Sometimes called the central processing unit (CPU) or processor, this chip is the computer’s brain; it does all the calculations for the computer.
A piece of hardware that converts incoming signals (from a phone line, cable service, or other source) into signals that a PC can understand and converts outgoing signals from the PC into a form that can be transmitted.
A television-like screen on which the computer displays information.
The main printed circuit board inside a computer through which all other devices communicate. The printed circuit board contains the microprocessor and memory chips, expansion slots for plugging in accessories, and connections for the disk drives and other devices. See also microprocessor, memory, expansion slot, and expansion board.
A handheld device that you move across the desktop to move an arrow, called the mouse pointer, across the screen. You can use the mouse to move the insertion point (or cursor), select and move items (such as text and graphics), open menus, execute commands, and perform other tasks.
Short for MPEG audio layer 3. A digital audio format that compresses audio files to one twelfth of their original size with an imperceptible loss of quality.
Short for Moving Pictures Experts Group. An assembly that sets standards for digital video recording and file formats.
MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System)
See DOS.
A system of interconnected computers designed to allow users to share hardware, software, and data. See also LAN and WAN.
network protocol
See protocol.
An Internet bulletin board for users who share common interests. There are thousands of newsgroups, ranging from body art to pets (to body art with pets). Newsgroups let you post messages and read messages from other users.
A portable computer that weighs between 4 and 8 pounds.
option button
A circle next to a setting that indicates whether the setting is on or off. You can select only one option in a group of options. If you select an option other than the option that is currently selected, the option you select is turned on, and the other option is turned off. See also check box.
NIC (network interface card)
An expansion board that plugs into your computer and enables it to be connected to other computers on a network.
parallel port
A connector used to plug a device, usually a printer, into the computer.
A section of a disk drive that’s assigned a letter. A hard disk drive can be divided (partitioned) into one or more drives, which your computer refers to as drive C, drive D, drive E, and so on. The actual hard disk drive is called the physical drive, and each partition is called a logical drive; however, these terms don’t matter much—the drives still look like letters to you.
A set of program instructions designed to fix a programming bug or add capabilities to a program. On the Internet, you can often download patches for programs to update the program.
The route that the computer travels from the root directory to any subdirectories when locating a file.
PC (personal computer)
A computer designed to help a user perform practical tasks, such as typing documents and performing calculations. PCs are much smaller and less powerful than mainframe computers. The term PC is commonly used to refer to computers that run Windows or Linux, as opposed to Apple computers, which run Mac OS.
PC card
An expansion card that’s about the size of a credit card, but thicker. It slides into a slot on the side of a notebook computer. PC cards let you quickly install RAM or a hard disk drive, modem, CD-ROM drive, network card, or game port without having to open the notebook computer. See also PCMCIA.
PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association)
An organization that sets standards for notebook computer expansion cards. These credit-card-size expansion boards originally were designed to add memory to laptop computers but are now used to add modems, network connections, digital video cameras, USB ports, and other devices. See also PC card.
A device attached to the computer but not essential for the computer’s basic operation. The system unit is the central part of the computer. Any devices attached to the system unit are considered peripheral, including a printer, modem, or joystick. Some manufacturers consider the monitor and keyboard to be peripheral, too.
A dot of light that appears on the computer screen. A collection of pixels forms characters and images on the screen.
See PnP (plug-and-play).
PnP (plug-and-play)
PnP lets you install expansion cards in your computer without having to set special switches. You plug it in, and it works.
A receptacle at the back of the computer. It gets its name from the ports where ships pick up and deliver cargo. In this case, a port allows information to enter and leave the system unit.
PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol)
A language that computers use to talk to one another. What’s important is that when you choose an Internet service provider, you get the right connection–SLIP or PPP.
See microprocessor.
A group of instructions that tells the computer what to do. Typical programs are word processors, spreadsheets, databases, and games.
A computer’s way of asking for more information. The computer basically looks at you and says, “Tell me something.” In other words, the computer is prompting you or prodding you for information or a command.
A group of communications settings that controls the transfer of data between two computers.
pull-down menu
A menu that appears near the top of the screen, on the menu bar, listing various options. A menu’s contents are not visible until you click the menu. The menu then drops down, covering a small part of the screen.
random access memory (RAM)
A collection of chips your computer uses to store data and programs temporarily. RAM is measured in kilobytes and megabytes. In general, more RAM means that you can run more powerful programs and more programs simultaneously. Also called memory.
Used by databases to denote a unit of related information contained in one or more fields, such as an individual’s name, address, and phone number.
Recycle Bin
A virtual trash can into which Windows places files and folders when you choose to delete them. It also acts as a safety net for deleted files. If you delete a file or folder by mistake, you can usually retrieve it from the Recycle Bin.
A term for describing the quality of an image. The higher the resolution, the larger the image and the higher the quality.
See CD ripper.
A device that converts images, such as photographs or printed text, into an electronic format that a computer can use. Many stores use a special type of scanner to read bar code labels into the cash register.
screen saver
A program that displays a moving picture on your computer screen when the computer is inactive. Screen savers are typically used as decorative novelties and to prevent passers-by from snooping.
Screen Tip
A small text box that displays the name of a button when you rest the mouse pointer on the button. ToolTips help you understand what a button does when you can’t figure it out from the picture. Also known as a ToolTip.
To move text up and down or right and left on a computer screen.
A band, typically displayed along the bottom and right edge of a window, used to bring the contents of the window into view.
SDSL (synchronous digital subscriber line)
A communications technology that allows fast data transfers over standard copper phone lines. “Synchronous” indicates that the system uses the same data transfer rates for both upstream and downstream traffic. In Europe, SDSL (Symmetric DSL) is most common. SDSL lines use the same data transfer rates for both upstream and downstream traffic. See also DSL and ADSL.
Of two computers, the computer that’s serving the other computer. On the Internet or on a network, your computer is the client, and the computer to which you’re connected is the server.
Computer programs you can use for free and then pay for if
you decide to continue using them. Many programmers start out by marketing their programs as shareware, relying on the honesty and goodwill of computer users for their income. That’s why most of these programmers have day jobs.
A cloned version of an icon that points to a document or program on your computer. Shortcuts let you place programs and documents in more than one convenient location on your computer.
Any instructions that tell your computer (the hardware) what to do. There are two types of software: operating system software and application software. Operating system software (such as Windows) gets your computer up and running. Application software lets you do something useful, such as type a letter or manage your finances. Other types of software include games and utilities (programs for maintaining and optimizing your computer).
spin box
A control in a dialog box that displays an up and down arrow for changing a setting incrementally. In most cases, you can type a specific setting in the spin box or click the arrows to increase or decrease the setting. For example, you might use a spin box to adjust a document’s margin settings by tenths of an inch.
A program used for keeping schedules and calculating numeric results. Common spreadsheets include Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, and Quattro Pro.
Start button
The button in the lower-left corner of the opening Windows screen that provides access to all the programs on your computer.
status bar
The area at the bottom of a program window that shows you what’s going on as you work. A status bar might show the page and line number where the insertion point is positioned and indicate whether you are typing in overstrike or insert mode.
A collection of specifications for formatting text. A style might include information on the font, size, style, margins, and spacing. Applying a style to text automatically formats the text according to the style’s specifications.
surge suppressor
A device that prevents power spikes and dips from damaging a computer and its peripheral devices.
system tray
The area on the right end of the taskbar that displays the current time, as well as icons for programs that are running in the background.
system unit
The central component of any computer, the system unit contains the computer’s CPU, memory, disk drives, and other essential components. See CPU.
tab stop
A setting commonly used in a word processor that specifies where the insertion point will land when you press the Tab key. Tab stops are typically set at a half-inch, unless you change them.
A feature in most word processing programs that helps you align text in rows and columns.
A fancy name for the button bar at the bottom of the Windows desktop. The taskbar includes the Start button (on the left) and the system tray (on the right).
TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
A set of rules that governs the transfer of data over the Internet.
text box
(1) A rectangular area commonly found in dialog boxes and on forms into which you type specific entries. When you choose to save a file, for instance, you type a name for the file in the File name text box. (2) A box that can be drawn on a document to hold text that’s separate from the document. In desktop publishing programs, you can enter text into various text boxes and then arrange the text boxes on a page.
thumb drive
A storage device that’s about the size of an average human thumb and plugs into the USB port on a computer.
A strip of buttons typically displayed near the top of a program window, below the menu bar. The toolbar contains buttons that you can click to enter common commands, allowing you to bypass the menu system.
A small text box that displays the name of a button when you rest the mouse pointer on the button. Tooltips help you figure out what a button does when you can’t figure it out from the picture. Also known as a Screen Tip.
A feature in most programs that lets you reverse one or more actions. For example, if you delete a paragraph by mistake, you can choose the Undo command to get it back.
uninterruptible power supply (UPS)
A battery-powered device that protects against power spikes and power outages. If the power goes out, the UPS continues supplying power to the computer so that you can continue working or safely turn off your computer without losing data.
To send data to another computer, usually through a modem and a telephone line or over a network connection.
URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
An address for an Internet site.
USB (Universal Serial Bus)
The ultimate in plug-and-play technology, USB lets you install devices without turning off your computer or using a screwdriver. USB lets you connect up to 127 devices to a single port. See also hot swappable.
user name
A unique name you choose or have assigned to you by a network administrator, commercial online service, or Internet provider. Your user name gives you access to the network or system and provides you with an identity that other people can use to contact you.
A program designed to optimize, protect, or maintain a computer rather than perform a task for the user. Utilities include backup programs, antivirus software, and memory optimizers.
video capture
The process of transferring video clips to your computer (using a camcorder or VCR) and storing the video as a file on a hard disk or CD.
Not real. Virtual worlds on the Internet are three-dimensional computer-generated areas that you can navigate but never physically enter—unless, of course, you’re Keanu Reeves or Sandra Bullock.
virtual memory
Disk storage used as RAM (memory).
A program that attaches itself to files on a floppy or hard disk, duplicates itself without the user’s knowledge, and might cause the computer to do strange and sometimes destructive things, such as reformatting your hard drive.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
A technology that enables you to place phone calls over the Internet less expensively than you can by using your phone company’s equipment.
A graphic design that appears as the background for the Windows desktop.
WAN (wide area network)
A system of interconnected LANs (local area networks) typically set up to let users exchange e-mail and share data over greater distances than covered by LANs. See also LAN.
See World Wide Web.
web browser
A program that lets you navigate the World Wide Web (the most popular feature of the Internet). See also World Wide Web.
web server
A computer on a network whose job it is to make web pages available upon request. When you use a web browser to open web pages, you connect to a web server.
A wireless network standard for connecting computers via radio-frequency signals rather than network cables.
A way of displaying information on different parts of the screen. When spelled with an uppercase W
, used as a shortened form of Microsoft Windows.
wireless Ethernet
Networking technology that enables you to network two or more computers housed in nearby rooms without having to connect them with cables.
A series of dialog boxes that lead you step by step through the process of performing a task.
word processor
A program that lets you enter, edit, format, and print text.
word wrap
A feature that automatically moves a word to the next line if the word won’t fit at the end of the current line.
Another common name for a spreadsheet. See spreadsheet.
World Wide Web
A part of the Internet that consists of multimedia documents interconnected by links. To move from one document to another, you click a link, which might appear as highlighted text or an icon. The web contains text, sound and video clips, pictures, catalogs, and much more. See also web browser.