Cambridge Online homepage Glossary of Computer and Internet words
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To find out how to use the internet, please read the rest of this guide. This glossary gives the meanings of words that you may find on the internet. To look up a word just click on its first letter in the alphabet below, or just scroll down. Terms can have several forms (with/without spaces or hyphens). If you can't find something, try using just one of its words or running its words together.


An access point is a public computer connected to the internet.

An address on the internet can be either an email address, or a web address.

Adobe Acrobat is the software that reads a type of file called pdf, which always looks the same (webpages appearance may vary). If a webpage offers 'pdf' files, it may let you download Adobe Acrobat, or try here. Without it, you won't be able to look at any pdf file.

The address box is the white rectangle near the top of the browser screen, where you type in a web address.

Amazon sells books online, including e-books and Kindles. It also sells music and much else.

An app is a computer program on a mobile phone or tablet. App is short for application or Apple.

Apple originally made Macintosh computers (or Macs). Now they are better known for iPods, iTunes, iPhones and iPads.

An application is a computer program.

An attachment is something attached to an email, such as a picture. Some attachments can carry viruses.

The Back button takes you back to the previous webpage. Click here for more on Back.

To back up your files means to make copies of them regularly, preferably on a device separate from your computer, in case you lose the originals. This is very important!

Bandwidth describes how quickly data flows down a telephone line or through a modem.

A bit is the smallest unit of data. There are 8 bits to a byte.

A blog is short for a weblog.

Bookmark is the Firefox term for Favorite (used by Internet Explorer).

Broadband is a high bandwidth connection to the internet which is always on. It costs a flat fee rather than per time used, although there may be limits on volume of use.

The browser is the computer program which allows you to use the world wide web. The top few lines of this screen are the browser. It has different functions like Back, Forward, Home, Print, Favorite (or Bookmark) and History. It also has the Address box. The main browsers are Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari.

A button on a computer screen is a small coloured box which is a link. A mouse button is something on the mouse that you click.

A byte of data is a very small amount of information, just one letter or one digit of a number. So we usually talk about thousands of bytes (kilobytes, KB), millions (megabytes or MB), billions (gigabytes or GB), or even trillions (terabytes or TB). If you download a file, the webpage may tell you how big it is, to warn you how long it will take. Several megabytes might take some time. Hard disks have gigabytes of data.

The cache is where a computer stores data (such as webpages) that may be needed again. Loading a webpage from the internet for the first time is slower than going back to it (when the computer uses its cache). Use the Refresh button to get the up-to-date version of a webpage, rather than the cached version.

A CD is a compact disc. It can have music on. It can also store data or software. Unlike a hard disk, it can be moved between computers. See DVD.

Chrome is a browser produced by Google. Click here for a link to download it it.

Click means pressing the left-hand (or only) mouse button once, as opposed to twice (see double click). If you don't know whether to click or double-click, try clicking, and if nothing happens, then double-click. If nothing still happens, then press the Enter key on the keyboard. The internet only requires single clicking.

Close means finishing a program or a window. Click here to see how to close a window.

Cloud computing means keeping your data on the internet rather than your own computer. This means that you can access it from any computer, and it may be backed-up automatically. However, you are dependent on the organisation controlling that part of the Cloud.

A computer may be a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or a smart phone.

Compress means to reduce the amount of space some data takes up, so it is quicker to load or download. You may need special software to use the data again, such as Winzip.

A contact form on a webpage allows you to communicate with its webmaster.

A cookie is some data that a webpage stores on your computer when you visit that webpage. Cookies cannot contain viruses. They enable the webpage to remember what you did last time, how often you've visited the webpage, and so on. They can also be used for surveillance, and to push adverts at you! Cookies can be switched off, but then websites may not work as you expect.

Crash means that the computer has stopped working. Switching it off and on again may fix it, or it may be more serious.

The cursor (picture of line pointer) shows you where to type in text, such as a web address or search key. If the cursor isn't in the right place, click there to move it.

Data is anything that can be handled by a computer. It is often called 'information', but can be text, sound, pictures, programs or games. A collection of data is called a file. Data is measured in bytes.

A desktop computer is a personal computer, which is too big to carry easily. It contains the disk drives, modem, hard drive and processor. It has a separate keyboard, and a screen like a television. It usually has a mouse and a printer. It may have a scanner, speakers and perhaps other hardware as well. It may need its own desk!

Dialup is the old way to use the internet, where you had to connect to the internet when you wanted to use it. Nowadays, most people use broadband.

A digital camera stores the photographs on a card instead of on film. You can view the photos on the camera or put them onto your computer, or social media. Some websites will print them as proper photos for you. Smart phones usually have digital cameras.

A discussion forum allows people to exchange views (generally on common interests) via the web. Their comments are organised into topics called threads. You can comment on previous comments, or start a new thread.

Disks store data. See hard disks, CDs, and DVDs. USB sticks are not disks, but are used to store data in the same way.

Double click means pressing the left-hand (or only) mouse button twice in quick succession. This is sometimes needed, for example to load a program. See click.

The domain name is an important part of an internet address. A web address starts with the domain name which ends with the first /. You can tell something about a website from its domain name. If it ends .uk, then it is British. A means a British company, is a UK government site and so on. An email address has its domain name after the @. Email addresses do not contain www.

dot com or (.com) is the ending for the domain name of the website of an American company (or a company that wants to look American). The dot com boom was the scramble of new companies to establish dominance on the web when it started. The dot com crash was when most of them went bust!

Download means copy something from the internet to your own computer. Click here to find out more about downloading.

Disk drives are where you insert disks in a computer.

A drop-down menu is a common way to select from a range of choices on a webpage. Click here to find out more about drop-down menus.

DVDs are a type of CD that contain far more data, for example, an entire film. You need a DVD drive to play a DVD, and this will also read CDs. Most people use CD and DVD interchangeably now.

E-bay is an online auction website.

An e-book is a book in an electronic form. There are special machines to read it such as a Kindle. You can also read e-books on a computer or an iPad. Try here for e-books to download.

Email (or e-mail) is electronic mail. Click here for our guide to email, or here to set up your own email account.

An email group communicates through emails sent to the whole group.

An email address contains @. To send someone an email, you need their email address. Don't confuse this with a web address.

The Enter key on the keyboard is the big key, a few keys to the right of P and L. You enter something into the computer by typing something, then pressing the Enter key. If something should be happening, but isn't, try pressing the Enter key.

Execute a program is another word for run a program.

Facebook is a social media site where people keep in touch with their friends.

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions. Many websites offer FAQs (with answers).

The Favorites button lists links to your favourite webpages. Click here for more on Favorites.

A file is a collection of data. You need the correct program to use a particular file type. You can open a file (so you can look at it), close it (when you've finished with it), save it (if you have changed the data), execute or run it (if it's a program), play it (if it's music) and print it (if it's writing or pictures). A webpage is a file, and so is each picture on a webpage. Every file has a name and filetype. Files are kept in folders. You are strongly advised to back up your files if they are important.

Every file has a filetype. This is shown by the last few letters of the name, after the last full stop. For example, a file name ending with .gif or .jpg is a picture, a file name ending with .htm or .html is a webpage and a file name ending with .pdf is an Adobe Acrobat file.

Firefox is the replacement for Netscape and Mozilla. It is a browser. If you are running under Firefox, look in the top left of this screen, where you might see this symbol Firefox symbol. It uses similar terms and buttons as the other browser, Internet Explorer, except it says Bookmark rather than Favorite. Click here for a link to download it it.

Flash is short for Shockwave Flash.

A flash stick is another name for a USB stick

Flikr is a website with a large amounts of photos. You can add your own.

A folder is a place for storing files. There are so many files in a computer that they have to be organised so you can find them, so you group them in folders.

A forum is short for a discussion forum.

The Forward button reverses the Back button. Click here for more on Forward.

Frames on some webpages divide the webpage into different parts. When you click on a link or scroll up or down, only part of the webpage changes. The web address doesn't change when you move between webpages.

A gamepad is used to play computer games.

GB is an abbreviation for gigabytes.

A gif is one type of picture common on webpages. Another type is jpg. Animated gifs are short moving cartoon-style pictures (usually very repetitive).

A gigabyte is about a billion bytes.

Gigahertz (GHz) measures the speed of a computer. It is a billion hertz (or 'ticks' per second).

Google became famous with their search engine. It now does email, the Chrome browser, Google maps and more.

GPS or Global Positioning System means that computer or smart phone knows exactly where it is. It can use this in its apps. You can usually switch it off if you are worried about other people knowing where you are!

A hard disk stores data permanently in your computer. You will probably never see it. It stores your operating system. The reason that it takes so long to switch on a computer is that lots of programs have to be copied from the hard disk to the computer's memory. These programs can't stay in memory all the time, because everything in memory disappears when you switch the computer off, or it crashes. When you save a file, you usually save it to the hard disk (although you can save it to a disk or USB stick). There are also external hard disks, which are very big storage devices.

Hardware is the bits of a computer that you can touch, made of metal, plastic, wires etc. It includes the screen, keyboard, mouse and printer, as well as the actual computer. See software.

The History button lists the webpages that you have visited recently. Click here for more on History.

A hit is one visit to a webpage. Alternatively, a hit is a link found by a search engine.

The homepage of a computer is the first page you see when you go into the browser. When you click on the Home button near the top of the screen, you return to your computer's homepage. Click here for more about the Home button and other buttons on the toolbar.

The homepage of a website is the first webpage of the website. There is usually a button or a link within the webpages of the website to return to the homepage of the site. Click here for to learn how to move around a website.

HTML is how webpages are written. It stands for 'hyper-text markup language'. It includes the text, pictures, links, and instructions for formatting the webpage. To see the HTML of this webpage, click on 'View' on the top of the screen, then 'Source'.

http:// stands for 'hyper-text transfer protocol'. This begins nearly every web address (look in the address box at the top of this screen). However, when you type a web address, you can start with the www. The computer will put http:// back in for you.

https:// starts the web address of secure webpages, used when shopping online. Click here for more on this.

An icon is a small picture on a computer screen. You click or double click on it to make something happen (like starting a program).

The information super highway is a pompous term for the internet.

An insertion is another word for an attachment.

The interactive internet allows you to communicate with groups of like-minded people. It may be a social media site, a notice board, discussion forum or email group.

The internet is a network of millions of computers, connected by telephone lines. It contains both the web and email.

An internet cafe offers the use of computers connected to the internet for a charge. You will be able to use the web, and web-based emails. You may also be able to buy coffee!

Internet Explorer is the browser made by Microsoft. If you have a PC, look at the top left of this screen, where you might see the symbol for Internet Explorer Windows Explorer symbol. Cambridge Online access points use Internet Explorer. Click here for a link to download it it.

An iPad is a tablet made by Apple. It runs the internet, and apps bought from Apple.

An ISP, or Internet Service Provider, is a company that can connect you to the internet. It has a computer called the server.

iTunes is the Apple website where you can download music to play on your iPods. However, this music will not play on all music players.

Java is a computer language. Simple webpages are written in HTML and don't do much except let you read them. However, some webpages do clever things, carried out by Java programs called applets. These can take a little time to start. There is another, simpler language called JavaScript, which allows webpages to do clever things without needing applets.

A joystick fufils the same purpose as a mouse in a different way. It is used on laptops for computer games.

A jpeg or jpg is one type of picture common on webpages. Another type is gif.

KB is an abbreviation for kilobytes.

A search key is one or more words that you type into a search engine, so it can find webpages containing those words.

A USB key is another term for a USB stick.

A kilobyte is about a thousand bytes.

You use a Kindle to read e-books. Kindles are sold by Amazon.

A computer language is used for writing computer programs. Luckily, you can use a computer without knowing anything about computer langauges.

A laptop computer is a personal computer which you can carry around. It combines a keyboard, a flat screen, disk drives, modem, hard drive and processor in one brief-case shaped unit. This unit may use a roller-ball, a joystick or a touchpad instead of a mouse. You can attach a mouse or extra drives or a printer.

A link is the part of a webpage that you click on to go to another webpage. Click here for more on links.

The loading of a webpage starts when you click on a link or enter a web address. It finishes when the finished webpage appears on your screen. This can take a few seconds, or, in extreme cases, several minutes. Webpages can be slow to load because another computer is busy, or your server is busy, or there are big pictures on the webpage, or it is a long webpage. While the webpage is loading, a message appears at the bottom of the screen. If you want to stop a slow webpage loading, click on the Stop button.

To log on to the internet means the same as to connect to the internet. But you can also log on to an email service, or to enter the secure part of a website, and the term crops up elsewhere. It means 'start something'. To stop something, you log off.

Macintosh computers are personal computers made by Apple. They are called Macs or iMacs. They have a different processing chip and operating system to PCs, so work in a subtly different way, although they do similar things. The internet is designed so webpages and emails will work on both Macs and PCs, in theory.

A mailing list enables members of a group to send emails to the whole group at the same time.

A mouse mat is a small mat that makes it easier to roll a mouse. A mouse tends to skid on a polished surface like a desk.

Mb is used as a speed for broadband, meaning (roughly) a million bits per second.

MB is an abbreviation for megabytes.

A megabyte is about a million bytes.

Computer memory is where the computer does its work when it is switched on. Memory is measured in bytes (usually megabytes or MB) and speed is measured in gigahertz.

A message board is another word for notice board.

Microsoft makes the software for PC computers. Its browser is Internet Explorer.

A mirror sites is a copy of a website. It may increase access to a very busy website, or spread knowledge of a website, or preserve a website that is being closed down.

A modem is a piece of hardware which lets your computer and your telephone talk to each other so you can be connected to the internet. The speed of a modem is measured in Mb.

A moderated group has all its posted messages checked by someone before appearing.

A monitor is another word for a computer screen. You can buy them in different sizes, and if you have trouble reading the screen, you could consider getting a larger one.

A mouse lets you communicate with your computer. It has a ball underneath. As you roll it around on the table or mouse mat, a pointer moves around the screen. You click on a button on the top (left button for PCs; a Mac mouse only has one button) to choose the thing that you're pointing to. Click here for more on using the mouse.

Mozilla has been replaced by Firefox.

MP3 is a way of compressing music so it can be downloaded easier from the web. There are a lot of MP3 files on the web, but some are illegally breaching copyright so it is better to use a legal website such as iTunes or Amazon. Some MP3 files are protected with DRM.

A navigation bar directs you onto the second, and subsequent, pages of links listed by a search engine.

The net is short for the internet.

Netscape has been replaced by Firefox.

A network of computers is a number of computers connected together so they can share data and programs. The most famous network is, of course, the internet. A home network connects together your own computers.

A notice board is a web-based way to post messages so they can be read by other people.

Offline means not connected to the internet. See online.

Online means connected to the internet or using the internet. With broadband, you are always online while your computer is switched on. Shopping online means buying things through websites. Click here for more about shopping online.

You need to open a file before you can read it or write to it. Webpages sometimes ask whether you want to open a file or save it. Open it if you just want to read it.

An operating system is the software which makes the computer work. It handles the files, makes sure the various bits of hardware talk to each other, runs the different programs when you want them. Sometimes it crashes!

A page is short for a webpage.

A password is a word only known to you (you hope!) which you type in to confirm your identity or to access information private to you (such as emails). It appears on the screen as a row of asterisks (****) to prevent someone reading it over your shoulder.

Paypal is a way of paying for things online.

pdf files are read using Adobe Acrobat.

PC stands for 'personal computer'. PCs contain a processing chip made by Intel, and an operating system by Microsoft. All PCs work in similar ways, but vary in speed and size.

A phone may be a landline (fixed to one place) or a mobile phone. Americans call mobiles cellphones. Modern mobiles are usually smart phones.

A plugin is some software that you will need to do certain things on the internet, such as listen to music, or watch a film clip. Shockwave Flash and Adobe Acrobat are plugins. You may be given the opportunity on a webpage to download the relevant software (or try here).

A mouse pointer is the symbol on the screen that represents the current position of the mouse. It moves when you move the mouse.

To post a message means to put it on interactive internet, where it can be read by a group of people.

The Print button prints out the whole of a webpage. Click here for more about Print.

A printer is a piece of hardware which prints out things from your computer. There are different types of printers, depending what you want it for.

The processing chip of a computer is the hardware that makes it work.

A processor is another word for the processing chip. A word processor is a program used for typing letters, books, etc.

Computer programs are collections of instructions which make a computer do something. They are sometimes called software. Word processors, paint programs, computer games, browsers are all types of programs.

RAM is another word for memory. It stands for Random Access Memory.

The Refresh button (which Netscape calls Reload) loads the current webpage again. You need to do this if your computer is looking at a cached page and you want the up-to-date version, or if you've changed your mind after clicking on Stop.

To read a file means look at its data. Webpages sometimes ask whether you want to execute or read data or a program.

A roller-ball is a way of communicating with your computer, similar to the mouse. It has a ball on top (rather than underneath) which you move with your finger. It is used more on laptop than desktop computers.

You need to run or execute a program to make it work. Webpages sometimes ask whether you want to execute a program or read its data. Make sure that you can trust the website, or the file may contain a virus.

Safari is a browser produced by Apple. Click here for a link to download it it.

You need to save a file when you have changed it and need to make the changes permanent. If it is a new file, you will need to give it a name and say where in your computer it should go. Webpages sometimes ask whether you want to open a file or save it. Save it if you want a permanent copy.

A scanner is a piece of hardware. It works a bit like a photocopier to convert a piece of paper with pictures and text into a form that can by used in word processing, or on the internet. Some printers will scan as well.

A scroll bar on a webpage enables you to see the whole webpage. There is a scroll bar to the right of this screen. Click here to see how to use one.

Scrolling up or down means moving up or down a webpage. Occasionally, you may need to scroll left or right as well. Click here to see how to scroll.

A search engine is a website, which finds webpages about information that you're interested in, using a search key. A well-known search engine is Google. Click here for how to use search engines. See site search.

Your server is the computer belonging to your ISP. Everything you do with the internet goes through your server. If your server is busy, then everything runs slow. Your server may also store your email until the next time you connect to the internet when it will download it. It may offer webspace for your own website.

Shockwave Flash is software which produces clever effects on some websites. Unfortunately if you don't already have the software, the clever effects won't work. You may be given the opportunity to download the software, or try here.

A site is short for a website.

A site search is a search engine which only examines webpages within a single website. Click here for more on site searches.

A site map is a webpage within a website which describes how that website is arranged. Click here for more on site maps.

Skype is a type of video conferencing, where you can talk face-to-face to someone elsewhere, even in a different country. You may need to download the necessary software.

A smart phone is a mobile phone which is really a small computer. It can access the internet. It uses apps and the Cloud.

Social media sites are websites where people can find each other and communicate with each other. Click here for links to social media sites.

Software is the computer programs that make a computer work. It includes the computer's operating system. See hardware.

A sound card is something inside the computer which makes sound (such as music or speech).

Spam is the email equivalent of junk mail. (It comes from the Monty Python Spam sketch - spam with everything!)

The speed of a computer is measured in gigahertz (GHz). The faster a computer, the more it costs.

A spider is a computer program used by search engines to find links to webpages.

A stick is short for a USB stick.

The Stop button stops a webpage from loading. If you change your mind, and want to carry on loading it, click on the Refresh button.

Surfing the web means searching the web, probably using a search engine or web directory.

A tablet is a small portable computer with a touch screen rather than a keyboard. It can access the internet. It uses apps and the Cloud.

TB is an abbreviation for terabytes.

A terabyte is about a trillion bytes.

A terminal is another word for a computer, particularly one connected to other computers, such as in the internet.

Text means letters, words and sentences, rather than pictures.

A thread is a collection of messages with the same subject heading within a discussion forum.

A touchpad fufils the same purpose as a mouse in a different way. It is used on laptop computers.

A touch screen replaces a keyboard. You touch the screen directly to communicate with the computer.

Twitter is a social media site where people communicate in short messages called tweets.

To unzip a file means to undo the zipping of the file so you can use it.

A URI is another name for a web address. It stands for Uniform Resource Identifier.

A URL is another name for a web address. It stands for Uniform Resource Locator.

A USB port is one type of socket on a computer. Many devices use USB ports. It stands for Universal Serial Bus.

A USB stick, or key, or flash stick stores data. It fits into a USB port in the computer. You can save data from one computer onto a USB stick, and then take it to another computer to use the data.

A user id stands for 'user identifier'. Unlike the password, the user id can be read from the screen. Sometimes the user id is your email address, but not always.

Video conferencing is a way of holding meetings via the internet. A video link lets you can see who you're talking to. The picture quality may be less than wonderful.

A virus is a program written by a malevolent person, which copies itself from one computer to another. It might damage the computer's software as well. Click here for more on viruses.

The web is short for the world wide web.

A web address takes you to a particular webpage. It is found in the address box at the top of the screen. It probably begins with www. and has dots (.) and slashes (/) in. Don't confuse it with an email address. Click here to see how to use a web address.

Web-based means using the web.

A webcam is a camera connected to the web.

A web directory is a website, which lists webpages about information arranged by category and sub-category. Click here for how to use web directories.

A weblog or blog is a diary or regular column on a website.

A webmaster is a person who looks after a website.

A webpage is a page that can be read if you're connected to the internet. Every webpage has its own web address. Click here for how to move around a webpage.

A website is a collection of webpages that have been created and linked together. The web address of a website is its homepage. A website may contain just one webpage, or a dozen, or hundreds!

Webspace is where webpages are stored. If you write a webpage, you will need to transfer it to webspace on a server before it is accessible via the internet.

Wi-fi connects you to the internet. Be careful of public wi-fi.

A wiki is a website that can be updated by anyone, not just the webmaster. A well-known wiki is Wikipedia. Click here for some more.

A window is the box, headed with a blue bar, which shows you what is happening at the moment. You can have more than one window on your screen at the same time. In the internet, you sometimes get error windows, or adverts in little windows popping up. Click here for a very simple guide to windows.

The world wide web is billions of webpages, which can be read by anyone who is connected to the internet.

www stands for world wide web. Most web addresses start with www.

YouTube is a website with a large amounts of videos. You can add your own.

To zip a file means to compress it using special software, such as Winzip. You can download such software from the internet. To use a zipped file, you need to unzip it first.

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