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Computer Glossary 


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Computer Support Buddy Glossary (2010 version)

Provided by, an Austin-based firm

Application (App):
A computer software program created to perform a particular function.
For example, a Web browser application (like Internet Explorer) lets you surf the Internet; a spreadsheet app (like MS Excel) can be used to create a budget; and a word processing app (like MS Word) could be used to write a letter to friends and family.

A file attached to an email message that is a copy of the original file. Although any software file type can be attached to an email message, the recipient must have the appropriate software in order to view the attachment. Example: Attaching a photo to an email message to share it with friends.

Short for "web log", a blog is an online journal. Blog entries can be posted hourly, daily, weekly, or whenever the author has new content to share. No matter how obscure the subject matter, there is mostly likely someone in the world blogging about it.

The most basic unit of storage within a computer. These days, it is more common to talk in Megabytes and Gigabytes since very few things we deal with on a regular basis are at the “byte” level. (See defs for Megabyte and Gigabyte)

Bookmarks (Favorites)
Placeholders that can be created for frequently visited web sites. Every web browser application (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc…) has its own method for storing your favorite sites even though they may all do it a little differently.

Broadband (High speed internet):
Broadband is a type of internet access that allows you to download/upload data at faster rates than more traditional network speeds (like dial-up). Broadband is more and more common these days and has enabled other new technologies to become popular (like streaming videos and music).

Control Panel
The control panel in Windows allows you to change important computer settings (mouse speed, display brightness, privacy, security settings and many others). On a Mac, this area is commonly called System Preferences.

Computer files stored on your computer by certain websites.  These enable websites to monitor your preferences, store basic information, and track information about you.  There are settings you can change to limit or block the use of cookies on your computer.

An acronym for "central processing unit", the CPU is the brain of a computer. The faster the CPU, the faster your computer. Some popular brands are Intel and AMD.

The computer version of a physical desktop, it contains icons that provide time-saving shortcuts to frequently used software applications.

Digital Camera:
A camera whose photos or videos are captured and stored as digital images rather than on film.  These images can be uploaded to a computer and shared with friends via photo sharing websites or shared via email.

The process of pulling digital information to your computer (for example, transferring photos from a digital camera or music from iTunes to your computer).

A method of sending messages ("electronic mail") from one electronic device to another. Popular email programs include web-based email like: Gmail, Hotmail. Yahoo Mail. These can be used simply by having access to a web browser and checked on any computer. You can also use email software programs that run on your computer. Examples include: Outlook/Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail and Lotus Notes. These programs are often more feature-rich than web-based mail programs. (Often, you can read and write emails from web-based email through these programs with a few simple steps)

A web site for online social networking. It enables friends and family to stay in touch. It also gives people an easy way to create personal profiles, share photos and videos, post status updates and comment on things they find interesting.

File Types:
There are many different file types out there. Usually you can tell the type of file by the last few letters on the file name. Here are some common ones:
•    DOC: Used for MS Word documents.
•    PDF: Short for "Portable Document Format." PDF was developed by Adobe and is meant to display the same way on any computer – unlike many other file types. So a PDF document on your PC should look the same on your friends MAC.  To view a PDF file, you need Adobe Reader, which you can get free from
•    XLS: Used for MS Excel files.
•    ZIP: This usually just means a file has been compressed to make it smaller. This is useful if you want the file to take up less space. There are special programs like Winzip that can be used to open a zip file.

Flash Drive:
A small, portable device with a built-in USB connection. It is used to store and transfer computer files from one computer to another (also known as thumb drives and jump drives).

Just like a filing cabinet on your computer that you can use to organize files. Both Macs and PC’s both use folders to help you store and organize information.

A software company that focuses primarily on developing internet based software.  Google has developed great internet search tools, online maps, email, and several other powerful applications. They are also heavily involved (and make money) by selling targeted internet advertising.

Gigabyte (GB):
One billion bytes. Most computers these days come with 100GB or more of storage. While that sounds like a lot, movies and other large files can take up several GB of storage space so your storage can get used up quicker than you think.

The built-in hardware on your computer that stores all of your digital files (Pictures, Music, Videos, Software Applications, etc.) These days, most people talk about the size of a hard dive in Gigabytes (GB). A standard hard drive today is more than 100GB in size.
A website that allows you view movies, popular TV shows, trailers, and clips on demand over the internet using a computer or smart phone. And most of the content is free!

Instant Message:
A quick, easy way to communicate by typing that can take place when 2 or more people are on the internet at the same time.  Skype, AIM (by AOL), and Google Chat can all be used for Instant Messaging.

The social networking tool for business relationships. You can create your own profile and then “connect” with colleagues, coworkers, classmates and more. This site is business focused rather than socially focused so your profile acts more like a resume. It’s a great way to maintain business relationships and great if you are looking for new opportunities. 

Digital photos are made up of millions of tiny pixels (very small squares of color). A mega-pixel is equal to 1 million pixels.  The more mega-pixels your digital camera has the better resolution photos you’ll be able to create.

Megabyte (MB):
One million bytes. A megabyte (MB) used to be large but these days, with more storage space, processing power and bandwidth, files commonly take up several MB. A digital picture is often 1 MB in size. An MP3 music file is often about 3MB in size.

MP3 Player:
MP3 is the most common format for music. An MP3 player is a device that plays MP3 music files. The iPod is one of the most popular MP3 players but there are a variety of players out there.

The “original” social network. MySpace allows you to create a profile and share your profile with friends. Using MySpace is free of charge. You can customize your profile by adding information about yourself, photos, videos and more. Then you can interact with friends by commenting on each others pages.

Operating System (OS)
This is the primary underlying software that makes your computer work. There are three main operating systems: Microsoft Windows, Apple’s Mac OS, and Linux.

Short for Random Access Memory.  This is the computer memory that is used to run the software applications and day to day functions of your computer.  RAM impacts the speed of your computer (in conjunction with your CPU). Typically, the more RAM you have, the faster your computer will run and the more applications you can run at one time. These days, 1GB or more of RAM in a computer is required to run most applications.

Short for Really Simple Syndication.  This is a great way to keep up with your favorite websites, blog, and news reporters.  Each time something you are subscribed to has new content you’ll get an email alert.

Search Engine:
A web-based software tool that allows you to find information on the internet.  Type in a few keywords and related documents, articles, and sites on the Internet will be at your finger tips in seconds. Examples include Google,, Yahoo Search, and Bing.

A software application that allows you to make FREE phone and video calls from your computer. It’s fantastic if you have friends or family in far off places.

Smart Phone:
A cell phone with additional features, such as email, Internet access, calendars, and other electronic applications. Common examples include the iPhone and Blackberry.

Usually spam refers to email from advertisers selling something you don’t want. Also, emails that get forwarded around the internet from one person to the next are often considered spam. Most email programs come equipped with a spam filer to help separate spam from meaningful email.

A social networking website that only allows you to post Tweets - micro-messages limited to 140 characters in length. It’s kind of like text messages for the world to see.  It’s not for everyone but can be fun and it gives you a glimpse into the lives of everyone from your best friend to the rich and famous. Sign up for an account and try following someone!

The process of pushing digital information from your computer to another location like a website, another device, or a server.

USB (Universal Serial Bus):
The rectangle outlet on your computer (sometimes called a port).  This is a way your computer can “talk to” and “work with” other devices.  These days most keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, and digital cameras can connect to a computer via USB.

Viruses are computer programs that can make your computer sick!  A virus may make your computer slower or even do more malicious things like try to email all of your contacts. The best way to protect your computer is by keeping an anti-virus program running at all times.

Web Browser
The software we use to access websites - “browser" for short. Popular browsers include Microsoft's Internet Explorer (also known as IE);  Safari (a browser Apple created for Mac users); Mozilla Firefox; and Google Chrome.

The term webcam is combines the words "Web" and "video camera."  Webcams are typically used for a live video chat session with someone else (See Skype) or to record short videos for the web.  Note: A webcam will likely be much lower quality video than a traditional or digital standalone video camera.

“Wireless Fidelity” or WiFi is the term commonly used to describe wireless internet connectivity.

Wireless Router:
A device that enables your high speed internet connection to become wireless.
A free video-sharing website. You can watch other people’s videos or upload your own! You’ll find a variety of content – everything from useful tutorials to bad karaoke performances. Some content is done by professionals, some by amateurs.  You name it – it’s probably out there.  Careful – it can be addicting.


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