Computer Glossary

The following computer terms were considered to be useful to staff at all levels. This list will be updated periodically.

Active window
Currently selected window, appears on top of any other window.

Alternate key
(Alt.)--Special key unique to computer keyboards and usually used in conjunction with other keys, e.g., ctrl./alt. in RLIN to access diacritics.

Computer program used to perform a certain task, e.g., WordPerfect.

Arrow keys
Keyboard keys used to navigate around the screen.

Browser term; means of organizing Internet resources by saving the URL for future easy access.

Process of loading the operating system into memory when the computer is turned on.

Software that is used to view various kinds of Internet resources, e.g., Netscape.

Temporary place to put information for processing when it is being transferred between devices.

Special block of fast memory used for temporary storage of data for quick retrieval. Used in Netscape to hold previously viewed pages

Cascading menu
Sub-menu that drops down from a selected menu item. The sub-menu item is identified by a right arrowhead.

(Compact Disk-Read Only Memory)--Storage format by which text, graphics and audio can be retrieved. A lot of software and data libraries are now being issued in this format.

Cold boot
Turning off all power to the computer, then switching it back on.

Command button
Rectangular button that carries out the action described by the text on the button. The three most common command buttons are OK, Cancel, Help.

Control key
(Ctrl.)--Special key unique to computer keyboards and used in conjunction with other key(s); Ctrl./esc. will access the task list.

Control panel
Windows application that allows the Windows environment to be modified, such as the mouse, desktop and colors.

Action which allows text or an icon, etc. to be copied and put it in a new location, leaving the original in its place.

(Central processing unit)--Device(s) within the case that interprets and executes instructions from programs.

Computer system suddenly fails, usually requires rebooting.

Block or vertical bar, usually flashing, that shows where the next character will appear when you type.

Action of removing data, objects, files etc. permanently. Always to be done with caution.

Screen background for Windows on which icons, dialog boxes, menu bar and toolbar appear. It is conceptually similar to the surface of a desk

Dialog box
Special type of window that either requests or provides information.

Grouping of files used to organize data stored on the computer.

(Disk operating system)--Used by IBM-PC compatible computers, it is the instructions which allow users to interact with the computer.

DOS prompt
Usually displayed as C:> It is the interface to the DOS operating system.

To hold the primary mouse button down while moving the mouse in a given direction.

Feature which involves dragging a file, directory or icon from one location and "dropping" it (by releasing the mouse button) on another location.

Dumb terminal
Workstation (keyboard/monitor combination) which does not have its own central processor; e.g., GEAC terminals.

(Electronic mail)--Messages sent from one person to another via computer.

Escape key
(Esc.)--Key at the top left of the keyboard; its use depends on the software being run.

Local area network architecture; we use this method.

Exe files
Executable files which contain the guts of a program and allows the software to run.

Collection of data that is saved on a disk for later use. Related files are grouped together in directories and subdirectories.

File extension
One, two, or three letters or numbers after the period in a filename, e.g., ini, wpd, exe.

File Manager
Windows application used for managing disks, directories and files .

Floppy disk
Removable diskettes used to store computer programs and other files, and/or transfer them to another computer. We mostly use 3.5 inch diskettes; some older computers accommodate 5.25 inch diskettes.

Sets of letter types and symbols; commonly used ones are Courier and Times New Roman.

(File Transfer Protocol)--Common method of transferring files between two computers on a TCP/IP network such as the Internet.

Function keys
Any of several keys on a computer keyborad labeled F1 through F10 or F12. These keys have uses that depend on the software being run.

1024 megabytes. Abbreviated to GB.

Means of making a character-based, menu-based system available over the Internet. It is being supplanted by Hypertext.

Contains icon(s) which represent individual applications and documents, e.g., Tech. Serv. Workspace.

Hard copy
Printed computer output.

Hard disk
Disk built into the computer to store large amounts of information; on most of our computers we use the C drive to access the hard disk.

Physical components of a computer system such as the CPU, printer, modem.

Text or items which have been selected using the mouse in order to perform a subsequent action such as copying.

(HyperText Markup Language)--Coding language used to create Hypertext documents for use on the World Wide Web. Technical Services homepages are written in HTML.

(HyperText Transport Protocol)--Protocol for moving hypertext files across the Internet.

Any text that contains "links" to other documents.

Graphical representation of an application, a group, or a document, e.g., RLIN for Windows icon is a symbol of a computer screen.

Vast collection of inter-connected networks that all use the TCP/IP protocols.

1024 bits. Usually abbreviated Kb.

(Local area network)--Computer system that links computers, printers and other peripherals in a network for transmitting data between users situated near one another.

A common kind of maillist. Those subscribed to a list view and can send messages to all on the list.

Series of commands and/or text that are carried out in response to a single command or a keystroke. We use macros in TCP3270 to logon, move to the OPAC, etc.

Large computer capable of serving many users simultaneously. NOTIS is stored on the University mainframe at CIT.

Enlarge a window to its maximum size by using the maximize button (to the right of the title bar).

Computer's internal storage capacity.

A unit of memory and data storage consisting of 1000 kilobytes.

List of options usually displayed near the top of the screen, e.g., File. Each menu item contains sub-menu options.

Reduce a window to an icon on the desktop. You usually minimize windows when you want a process to run in the background.

Device that enables data to be transmitted between computers generally over telephone lines. The modems we use are built into the computer and are used to access RLIN, etc.

High resolution screen used to display the output of a computer; comes in both monochrome and color.

First popular WWW browser; we used this for some months.

Hand held device for moving the pointer or cursor on the screen; it has two buttons used to click on desired objects.

Action which allows you to move text, etc. and put it in a new location. Do not move icons, always copy.

Ability to run more than one program on one computer at the same time; e.g., on our 486 PC's and larger we can run RLIN, NOTIS and Netscape at the same time.

Currently the most popular WWW browser; we currently use this software.

Terminals and computers linked together with the ability to interact with each other.

Operating system
Master control program that runs the computer; e.g., DOS and OS/2.

Operating system which runs on larger microcomputers. Horizon will require OS/2.

List of directory/subdirectories/file name

(Personal computer)-Microcomputer that serves one user.

Latest family of microcomputers.

Piece of hardware connected to the computer such as, printer, keyboard.

Grouping of buttons containing macros which appear together on an adjustable pad when using certain software. TCP3270 allows the use of poppads; we used them in the SCL2 Recon project.

Arrow head that is controlled by the mouse; it may change shape during certain operations.

Primary mouse button
Mouse button you use the most; usually the left button.

Printer driver
Loadable module that contains specific information for printing to a specific printer.

Sequence of coded instructions telling a computer how to perform a specific function.

Program Manager
Windows central application, used to start other applications and organize applications and files into groups.

(Random Access Memory)--Memory that can be read from and written to; usually expressed in megabytes, e.g., 8 MB, or 16 MB or RAM.

Action of restarting the operating system either by pressing the reset button or using ctrl./alt./del. Keys. Also known as a warm boot as the power is not turned off.

Screen saver
Moving graphic which appears on the monitor after a set period of time; open applications are still active.

To move a document in a window, in order to see a different portion of the document.

Scroll bar
Bar that appears along the right side and/or bottom of a window when it contains more than can be displayed in the window.

Search engine
Means of searching the Internet; e.g., Yahoo, Lycos.

Defined portion of a disk.

Computer on a network that has the main hard disk storage for the other stations on the network.

Shortcut key
Key combination that allows you to quickly carry out a particular command: e.g., ctrl./esc. Brings up the task list.

Series of programs that tells the computer what to do; e.g., WordPerfect.

Status bar
Component that displays information about a process, function or selected item. It normally appears at the bottom of the window.

A subdivision of the files on a disk.

Task List
A pop-up menu displaying all of the currently running applications.

Software which allows us to view NOTIS in a Windows type environment. Commonly referred to as McGill software.

(Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)-Suite of protocols that defines the Internet. TCP3270 software uses TCP/IP to access NOTIS.

Command and program used to login from one Internet site to another; it gets you to the "login" prompt of another host: e.g., we can telnet to the Harvard Catalog (HOLLIS) through the library gateway.

Title bar
Part of a window or dialog box that shows either the name of the application running in the window, or the name of the dialog box. The title bar in the currently selected window is a different color than those for inactive windows.

Object that can be selected or deselected with the same action.

Row of icons that provide quick mouse access to tools and commands specific to the window containing the toolbar.

Tool tips
Term used in TCP3270 to describe the labels which appear in balloons as you pass the cursor over toolbar icons; e.g., Print.

Computer operating system designed to be used by many people at the same time. The NEXT computers uses a form of UNIX.

(Uniform Resource Locator)--Standard way to give the address of any resource on the Internet that is part of the World Wide Web. The URL for the cataloging documentation is:

Updated and 'improved' edition of a software package, e.g., 3.11

Destructive program specially designed to infect and usually damage other applications. It can alter and delete data and cause serious computer system malfunctions.

Graphics image that is displayed on the desktop background, its color and pattern can be varied.

Warm boot
Way to restart the computer without turning off the power. Can be done by pressing ctrl./alt./del. Or pressing the restart button.

Framed area in which you can run an application and perform various tasks. A window can be opened, closed, resized and moved.

(Microsoft Windows)--Picture -based software which uses pull-down menus, dialog boxes and mouse-oriented operation to work with DOS. It was designed to make IBM PC's more "user" friendly. The most common version used in Technical Services is version 3.11.

Single-user microcomputer; or in a LAN, a PC that serves a single user.

(World Wide Web)--Two meanings. First, the whole constellation of resources that can be accessed using Gopher, FTP, HTTP, etc. Second, the universe of hypertext servers that allow text, graphics, etc. to be mixed together.