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Glossary of General Computer and Programming Terms
Any letter of the alphabet or any digit from 0 to 9.
A completed program that can be executed (the term program is often used).
Application Programming Interface (API)
A set of definitions of the ways in which one piece of software communicates with another. One of the primary purposes of an API is to provide a set of commonly-used functions. For more, see What are APIs.
ASCII (pronounced as-key) is short for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It is a standard code that assigns a binary number to all the alphanumeric characters (upper and lower case), all the symbols on the keyboard, and some other symbols not on the keyboard (such as the cents symbol: ¢). It is also known as "plain text".
A file type that has been identified as belonging to a certain program, such as .TXT with Notepad, .BMP with Paint, or .DOC with Word.
An alternative number system which works very well for computers. It is easiest for a computer to use only two digits (0 and 1) in its number system. A byte is a group of eight bits, and it is the standard unit by which data is stored. There are 256 different combinations of zeros and ones you can make with one byte, from 00000000 to 11111111. This is enough to cover all the ASCII characters.
The name given to the method of accessing the data in a file byte by byte.
The smallest amount of information that can be transmitted. Bit is short for binary digit. A bit can be a zero or a one.
An image stored in a disk file. Bitmaps must be loaded into memory from the disk before they can be displayed.
Starting your computer by turning on the power.
The edge of a window is called the border. You can resize a window by clicking and dragging the border with the mouse.
A conditional jump or departure from the implicit or declared order in which instructions are being executed.
An error in a computer program.
Consists of eight binary digits. It is the smallest unit a computer works with at once. The bits of a byte can be individually modified, but a computer still works with at least one byte at a time.
The act of pushing down and releasing the mouse button.
A temporary storage area inside the computer. It is used to copy or move data from one program to another, or from one area of a document to another.
To close a program means to end a program. Click the X button in the top right corner of a window to close that program. When you close a program, it is no longer active.
The programming term for an instruction to the computer.
A computer program tells a computer what the computer should do. It is a sequence of instructions to be executed in order. A computer program consists of a set of instructions that the computer understands.
Tools that appear on the user interface that let the user respond to the program, enter data, and view images and other kinds of output data. Buttons, textboxes and menus are examples of controls.
An organized collection of information.
Data is information. There are many types of data, including sound, graphics, and text. Most data on a computer is stored in files on the hard disk, which are made up of bytes. Computer programs are also data, though many people may use the word data to mean information stored on the computer by the end user.
A file that consists of data that has been created in a program, such as a text file typed in Notepad.
The standard settings in a program.
The opening screen in Windows that contains a few objects, the startbutton and the taskbar. This is what you see on your computer screen when you have no windows open. It may be a solid color, or it may be graphics. On the desktop, there will be icons, including one called "My Computer" and one called "The Recycle Bin."
A special kind of window that asks you a question or presents controls that you can choose from.
The term "folder" has largely replaced this term. They mean the same thing.
The permanent storage area for your programs and documents.
Hardware capable of reading and writing data stored on a disk.
Any data you create with a program.
Dots Per Inch, a unit of measure describing printer resolution.
Pressing and releasing the left-mouse button two times in quick succession (without moving the mouse between clicks).
Move the pointer on an item, hold down the left button, slide the pointer to a new location, and release the button.
Any data storage device. This includes your CD-ROM drive, floppy disk drive, and hard disk drive.
An activity that occurs during an application's execution. The user normally triggers many events, such as keypresses, mouse clicks, or mouse movements. The Windows operating environment can also trigger events such as timer clicks and data transferred from other running programs.
The process of writing programs that respond to triggered events, as opposed to older text-based programs that were sequential in nature and followed a predetermined flow. Events can come from many sources, and your program must know which events to respond to and which to ignore.
The Windows program that you can use to explore your disk.
A combination of variables, literals and functions that can be evaluated to a single string or numeric value.
A named collection of information stored on a disk. A file is a long sequence of bytes which represent data. Each file has a name and an extension which are separated by a dot (a period). The name identifies the file. The extension tells the computer what type of data is contained within the file.
The name assigned to a collection of data that is stored on a disk.
The optional "period" and up to three characters at the end of a filename.
Only one of the items in a window can be accepting input from the keyboard at a time. The active item is said to be the item with the focus.
A folder can be thought of as a location on your hard disk or floppy disk. Folders used to be called directories/subdirectories. A folder contains files and can contain nested folders (subfolders). Folders and subfolders are used to organize your hard disk.
Roughly a billion bytes or characters. Abbreviated G or GB.
Graphical User Interface, used to describe windows and controls that use pictures to help you interact with the computer.
A large capacity storage area that offers fast access to information.
The physical parts of your computer, as opposed to software.
To select something by clicking or dragging with the mouse. Once selected, an item usually turns a different color or becomes outlined.
An icon is a tiny, clickable picture used to provide a startup link to a program or a file.
A lexical unit that names a language object, such as a variable, array, record, label, or procedure.
A hard-coded text or numeric value that is written in programming source code.
The button in the middle of three button at the right end of the titlebar which enlarges the window to its greatest possible size.
Abbreviation for megabyte. One MB is approximately one million bytes.
A list of items from which you may choose.
The bar located under the titlebar that list the available menus.
A button located at the right side of the titlebar that you can click to reduce a window to a task button on the taskbar.
The computer's visual output device, similar to a television.
A device you can move to select items on the computer screen. On the screen, you will see a mouse cursor which you can move by moving the mouse.
The ability of an operating system to run more than one program at one time.
A program; the obvious, quick way to the files and folders on your computer.
Operating System (OS)
The software responsible for the direct control and management of hardware and basic system operations.
A connector through which a computer communicates with a peripheral along parallel wires. Printers are the most common peripheral to use parallel ports.
The route to a folder or file; it consists of the drive name, a folder and/or subfolder (if any), and the filename.
A "picture element" or dot that the monitor (screen) can display to create the image you see.
The arrow-shaped cursor on the screen that moves when you move the mouse.
A standardized communication technique for expressing instructions to a computer. It is a set of syntax and semantic rules used to define computer programs. A language enables a programmer to precisely specify what kinds of data a computer will act upon, and precisely what actions to take under various circumstances.
Random Access Memory, the computer's electronic memory; your work area.
The name given to the method of accessing the data in a file by using fixed-length records that can be written to or read from in any order.
The computer term for restarting your computer.
A word which, in some computer languages, cannot be used as an identifier because it is already used for some grammatical purpose.
The number of pixels the monitor (screen) can use to display an image, or dots your printer can print.
The button in the middle of three buttons located at the right end of the titlebar on a maximized window; it returns the window to its previous size and location.
Quickly press and release the right mouse button.
An easy-to-use menu that opens when you right-click an object. Also called a "shortcut menu", "object menu" or "context menu."
A mouse action in which you move the pointer on an item, hold down the right mouse button, drag the pointer to a new location, and release the right mouse button.
Read Only Memory, the computer's pre-programmed memory.
The command that saves changes to a previously named document.
A command that opens a dialog that permits you to save a new (unnamed) document or rename a previously saved one.
The arrows at each end of the scroll bar, used to scroll through the contents of the window.
A bar that appears at the right and/or bottom edge of a window whose contents are not completely visible; termed "horizontal" and "vertical" scroll bars.
The name given to the method of accessing the data in a file in the order from beginning to end of file.
The most generic sense of the term shell means any program that users use to type commands; it is called a "shell" because it hides the details of the underlying operating system behind the shell's interface.
A filename that is no longer than eight characters, and a three character extension.
An area in the bottom right corner of a window that can be sized; it is used to size the window. You can, however, size a window from any corner.
Computer program written to perform specific tasks, such as a word processor or spreadsheet.
A program that automates an accountant's worksheet.
The bar at the bottom of a program window; it displays information about the program.
A meaningful expression or generalized instruction in a computer programming language.
The programming term for a series (string) of text characters.
A folder that is within another folder. Traditionally called a subdirectory.
Subprogram, also called Subroutine
A set of instructions in a computer program which is separated from other code to reduce reduncancey, and called by other subprograms or other parts of the program.
The portion of your screen including the Start button, the time display, and everything in-between.
The horizontal bar at the top of a window that displays the window's name. The window's name is usually the name of the program running in the window.
A row of buttons that provide quick access to commonly used commands.
To decompress, or expand a file that has been made smaller using a compression utility.
A name given to a piece of data in a computer program whose value may vary as the program executes.
The extension used on some types of audio file.
A rectangle portion of the display which is being used for a specific program.
A computer program that helps you create, change, format and print documents such as letters and reports.
Stands for What You See Is What You Get. It is pronounced "wizzy-wig". It means that what you see on your screen while you edit your file, looks the same as what you get when you print the file.
A file that has been made smaller using a compression utility.
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