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IT glossary



The basics:

An anti-virus program is a piece of security software used to help prevent, detect and remove computer viruses / malware.

There are many anti-virus programs available but none of them are guaranteed to protect against all possible threats. It is important to be cautious with the sites you visit on the Web and with files/emails that you receive.

It is also important to keep your anti-virus software up to date to have the best protection against new viruses.

A little more detail:

Sometimes a virus creator will disguise their virus as an anti-virus program in order to trick the user into installing it. It is important to research all software before installing it.

Some anti-virus companies provide a downloadable Rescue Disk system, often free of charge, which can be used to scan your computer without having to load your operating system. This prevents any malicious software from starting up before scanning.

Similarly, some companies provide a way to scan your computer online. Online scanners are generally more limited than an installed anti-virus program so they shouldn't be considered as a replacement. They can, however, be useful as a way to double check your computer.

Also known as: Antivirus

Related terms: Security, Virus

Further information: Antivirus software on Wikipedia



A term that is commonly used as shorthand for 'application' when referring to software on smartphones and tablets.

Related terms: Program, Smartphone, Tablet

See Program

The basics:

A file sent within an email.


  • Photographs
  • Letters and reports
  • Presentation files
  • Audio

Email providers often have limits on the size of files you can attach.

Related terms: Email

Further information: E-mail attachment on Wikipedia



The basics:

Blog is short for 'web log' and is a personal online journal accessible via the internet.

A little more detail:

You don't need advanced technical skills to update a blog. Frequently blogs allow readers to add their own comments.

Blogs can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

Also known as: Weblog

Further information: Blog on Wikipedia

Blu-ray Disc (BD)

The basics:

A disc that can be used to store digital information (data). This could be images, documents, presentations, video files, music, or other types of data. A typical Blu-ray Disc has over five times the storage capacity as a single DVD and can store videos at high-definition resolutions for greater quality playback.

Related terms: CD-R / CD-RW, CD-ROM, DVD, DVD-R / DVD-RW

Further information: Blu-ray Disc on Wikipedia

See Web browser

The basics:

A common term for exploring or 'surfing' the World Wide Web, using a web browser. Common activities include viewing websites, using social networks, watching videos and playing games.

Also known as: Surfing, Web browsing

Related terms: Hyperlink, Internet, Web browser, World Wide Web (WWW),

Further information: Web browsing on Wikipedia


CD-R (Compact Disc - Recordable) / CD-RW (Compact Disc - ReWritable)

The basics:

A disc that can be used to store digital information (data). This could be images, documents, presentations, video files, music or any number of other types of data. As with a CD-ROM a typical CD-R or CD-RW can store about 500 times as much information as a standard floppy disk and about one sixth as much as a DVD.

It is possible to save files to a CD-R or a CD-RW, unlike a CD-ROM. Once a CD-R has been filled up with data, it cannot be changed. With a CD-RW it is possible to delete files as well as save them so they can be reused.

Also known as: Writable CD, Rewritable CD

Related terms: Blu-ray Disc (BD), CD-ROM, DVD, DVD-R / DVD-RW

Further information: CD-R on Wikipedia, CD-RW on Wikipedia

CD-ROM (Compact Disc - Read Only Memory)

The basics:

A disc that can be used to store digital information (data). This could be images, documents, presentations, video files, music or any number of other types of data. A typical CD-ROM can store about 500 times as much information as a standard floppy disk and about one sixth as much as a DVD.

For example, a CD-ROM should be big enough for:

  • over 200 digital photographs (using a 5 megapixel camera); or
  • over 100 MP3 music files (with a track length of 4 minutes at a quality of 192kbps); or
  • hundreds of word processed documents.

You cannot save files onto a CD-ROM, unlike a CD-R or a CD-RW.

Also known as: CD, Compact Disc

Related terms: Blu-ray Disc (BD), CD-R / CD-RW, DVD, DVD-R / DVD-RW

Further information: CD-ROM on Wikipedia

Cloud computing

The basics:

Cloud computing is a system where servers in separate locations are combined via a network to make use of their combined capabilities. This is done to share the workload and storage requirement for the online services using such a system. The details of the services/resources, which are not important for the user to know, are hidden from the user 'as if inside a cloud'.

An example of a commonly used cloud-based service is 'cloud storage'. A user of a cloud storage system sees their files stored in the application similar to the way that they would be stored on their own PC (in named folders). However, inside 'The Cloud', each file may be stored on a different server and the service retrieves a file from the correct server when the user accesses it. Each file will be stored on multiple servers for backup purposes, in case a server has a fault.

Examples of services that use cloud computing:

  • Cloud storage: Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive
  • Social networking: Facebook, Google+, Twitter
  • Email: Gmail,
  • Audio/Video: Netflix, YouTube, Spotify

In fact, there are many different online services that make use of cloud computing.

Also known as: The Cloud

Related terms: Network

Further information: Cloud computing on Wikipedia

Context menu

The basics:

A menu with options that vary depending on where the menu is opened.

For example, the menu that appears when you click the right mouse button (Ctrl + click for a Mac) in many programs is a context menu. This type of menu will contain options that relate to the clicked item.

See the following image for an example of a context menu in Microsoft Word:

A context menu from Microsoft Word including options such as Cut, Copy, Paste, Font… and so on. A context menu from Microsoft Word.

Other examples:

  • In Windows Explorer, context menu options for a file often include 'cut', 'copy', 'paste' and 'rename'.
  • A hyperlink on a web page may have the context menu options 'open', 'open in a new window' or similar.
  • Many items have a 'Properties' option that will give more information about the item.

Also known as: Right-click menu, Pop-up menu

Related terms: Drop-down menu

Further information: Context menu on Wikipedia

Copy, Cut and Paste

The basics:

Users can select items (e.g graphics, text) within a file that can then be copied or moved to another location.

Copy, cut and paste can also be used to organise files and folders.

  • Copy: Create a duplicate of an item.
  • Cut: Remove an item from its current location (usually to relocate it).
  • Paste: Put a copied or cut item into another location.

A little more detail:

Copy, cut and paste uses an area of temporary storage on the computer, often called the 'clipboard'.

Things to note:

  • Some programs (such as Microsoft Word) can store more than one selection at the same time.
  • In Windows Explorer, you can select more than one file or folder at the same time to copy, cut or paste.
  • You can usually move information between programs.

Further information: Cut, copy, and paste on Wikipedia

CPU (Central Processing Unit)

The basics:

Think of it as the 'brain' of the computer. It follows the instructions given by a user or program.

A little more detail:

The CPU is the main processing microchip inside a computer. Programs and user actions send instructions to the CPU, which performs them one by one. Typical actions (e.g. clicking a mouse button) will send many instructions to the CPU.

CPUs are often given a speed in terms of gigahertz (GHz). This determines the number of instructions that the CPU can carry out per second. 1 GHz is 109 Hz, or 1,000,000,000 instructions per second.

Also known as: Processor

Further information: Central processing unit on Wikipedia


The basics:

When a program or computer appears to get stuck while carrying out a task and it will not accept new commands from the user.

A crash may cause a program to close unexpectedly, possibly losing any work that has not been saved.

The user can sometimes close a frozen program and run it again but there are times when the only way to solve the crash is to restart the computer.

Further information: Crash (computing) on Wikipedia

See Copy, Cut and Paste



The basics:

Think of the desktop as the computer equivalent of a physical desk.

The image below shows an example of what a desktop may look like:

Windows desktop: Showing icons for files, folders and shortcuts. The Start menu and Taskbar run across the bottom.

Items on the desktop are usually represented by an icon and a name.

Common desktop items may include:

  • Icons for commonly used programs, such as:
  • Icons that link to places on the computer, such as:
    • My Computer
    • Documents
    • Files and folders (for easy access)
    • Recycle Bin / Trash (for deleted files)
Desktop computer

The basics:

A type of personal computer that is designed for use in the home or office. It is generally made up of a computer case (or base unit) and a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

A little more detail:

Computers are made up of different internal hardware components and external hardware (peripherals).

A typical computer contains:

Common peripherals include:

Related terms: Laptop, Personal computer

Further information: Desktop computer on Wikipedia

See Peripheral
Digital literacy

The basics:

Digital literacy refers to a collection of skills based around using digital technologies effectively. These include: using computers and software, finding and evaluating information, creating digital content, and interacting with others in a competent and appropriate manner using digital channels such as email and social media. At Leeds Beckett University, digital literacy is one of the three graduate attributes.

Further information: Digital literacy on Wikipedia

Discussion board

Tool which allows individuals to communicate and share information online. Usually organised into topics and themes and often housed within VLEs. Also known as message board or chat board.

Related terms: VLE

Distance learning

Education delivered via the internet rather than a physical classroom.

Related terms: E-learning


The basics:

Transferring files from another computer or server (typically on the Internet) onto your computer or device.

Some examples of downloading:

A little more detail:

Receiving data or programs from a server or host computer to your own computer or device.

This covers a wide range of situations. The most common is the user-controlled downloading of files from the Internet.

Other examples of downloading include:

  • Automated software updates.
  • Receiving files via instant messaging.
  • Copying files from a digital camera to your computer.

Related terms: Upload

Further information: Download on Wikipedia

Drop-down menu

The basics:

A style of menu that the user clicks to open a vertical list of options.

Here is an example of a drop-down menu:

Related terms: Context menu

Further information: Drop-down list on Wikipedia, Menu on Wikipedia

DVD (Digital Versatile Disc)

The basics:

A disc that can be used to store digital information (data). This could be images, documents, presentations, video files, music or any number of other types of data. A typical DVD can store about 6 times as much information as a CD-ROM.

For example, a DVD should be big enough for:

  • Over 1200 digital photographs (using a 5 megapixel camera); or
  • Over 600 MP3 music files (with a track length of 4 minutes at a quality of 192kbps); or
  • Thousands of word processed documents.

You cannot save files onto a standard DVD but there are other types of DVD available that are writable.

Also known as: Digital Video Disc

Related terms: Blu-ray Disc (BD), CD-ROM, CD-R /CD-RW, DVD-R / DVD-RW

Further information: DVD on Wikipedia

DVD-R (Digital Versatile Disc - Recordable) / DVD-RW (Digital Versatile Disc - ReWritable)

The basics:

A disc that can be used to store digital information (data). This could be images, documents, presentations, video files, music or any number of other types of data. As with a DVD, a typical DVD-R or DVD-RW can store about 6 times as much information as a CD and about one fifth as much as a Blu-ray Disc. There are some other types of writeable DVDs which have higher storage capacities, such as double-layer and double-sided discs; these may not be compatible with all DVD-writing devices.

It is possible to save files to a DVD-R or a DVD-RW, unlike a standard DVD. Once a DVD-R has been filled up with data, it cannot be changed. With a DVD-RW it is possible to delete files as well as save them so they can be reused.



Digital version of a physical book, designed to be read on a computer or book reading app.

Related terms: E-reader


Electronic learning delivered via the internet.

Related terms: VLE


Device or app designed for reading e books


The basics:

Email programs allow you to send and receive messages to and from other people.

As well as sending text, email allows you to include documents, photos and other files (called attachments).

Also known as: E-mail, Electronic mail

Related terms: Attachment

Further information: Email on Wikipedia



The basics:

Something you save to a computer and identify by a filename.

The following are some examples of files:

  • Spreadsheet document
  • Report document
  • MP3 audio file
  • Digital photograph

Files on your computer are usually represented by an icon.

Related terms: Folder

Further information: Computer file on Wikipedia


The basics:

A method of protecting computers by allowing only authorised access to and from a computer via the network.

A little more detail:

The two types of firewall available are usually called software firewalls and hardware firewalls.

A hardware firewall is normally found in a router.

A software firewall is usually built into most Operating Systems.

Related terms: Anti-virus, Modem, Router, Security

Further information: Firewall on Wikipedia


The basics:

A container for files on a computer, identified by a folder name. Folders help to organise files on a computer.

For example, you may create a folder to store personal documents and a folder for your academic work.

The following image shows a selection of files and folders displayed in Windows Explorer:

An example of Windows Explorer, showing a selection of files and folders. A folder tree view is on the left and the contents of the selected folder are shown on the right.

A little more detail:

Folders are an integral part of a computer file system. They provide the structure in which files are stored and can be named to help users organise and navigate the file system.

A folder can contain any number of files and also any number of other folders. A folder inside another folder is often called a 'sub-folder'.

Also known as: Directory

Related terms: File

Further information: Directory (file systems) on Wikipedia


Gigabyte (GB)

The basics:

Computers need space to store files. A common measurement used on computers is gigabyte (or GB).

Gigabyte is a unit used to describe storage space on computers. Blank CDs and DVDs, Hard drives, USB drives all have a maximum amount of storage space.

For example:

  • A typical blank DVD has about 4.7 GB of storage space.
  • A typical blank CD has about 0.7 GB of storage space.
  • A typical USB drive may have 1 GB of storage space.
  • A new hard drive will usually have at least 40 GB of storage space.

1 GB is enough space to store approximately:

  • 350 digital photographs (using a 5 megapixel camera); or
  • 200 MP3 music files (with a track length of 4 minutes at a quality of 192kbps); or
  • Thousands of word processed documents.

A little more detail:

Computer storage is often broken down into the following units:

  • Bytes
  • Kilobytes
  • Megabytes
  • Gigabytes

A byte is the smallest, commonly used unit of storage on a computer. Larger units (in order of increasing size) are kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes. See the table below for details of their relative sizes.

A Gigabyte equates to exactly 1 billion bytes (109).

Unit Number of bytes
Kilobyte 1,000
Megabyte 1,000,000
Gigabyte 1,000,000

Also known as: Gig

Further information: Gigabyte on Wikipedia, Byte on Wikipedia

GUI (Graphical User Interface)

The basics:

A Graphical User Interface (sometimes pronounced goo-ee) is a system that allows the user to carry out tasks on a computer.

A GUI includes all the visual elements you see when using the computer, such as windows, icons, menus and the mouse cursor.


Hard drive

The basics:

A type of permanent memory on a computer that is used to store files and folders that will be used again.

There is a hard drive inside most computers. External hard drives are also available and typically connect to a computer via USB.

A little more detail:

A piece of hardware inside a computer that provides permanent storage for information (mostly files and folders).

A hard drive may store hundreds of gigabytes of information. Data on a hard drive is kept even when the power is switched off.

Also known as: Hard disk drive, Hard disk, Disk, HDD

Related terms: Hardware, Memory, USB drive

Further information: Hard disk drive on Wikipedia


The basics:

The physical parts that make up a computer, and other physical devices that can connect to a computer.

The following are examples of pieces of hardware:

A little more detail:

The physical electronic parts that make up a computer and any other associated devices.

Hardware is distinguished from software, which uses the computer hardware to complete tasks. Compared to software, hardware is changed relatively infrequently. To some extent, different items of hardware of the same type are interchangeable (e.g. replacing a hard drive with a new one), though this depends on socket and/or cable types.

Hardware usually comes with compatibility details.

Also known as: Components

Related terms: Peripheral, Software

Further information: Computer hardware on Wikipedia


The basics:

Text or an image that gives a reference to another location or resource.

They are commonly found on the Internet but also in other places, such as word processed documents or presentations.

Users normally follow a hyperlink by clicking on the text/image in order to visit the hyperlink destination.

Each of the following items are hyperlinks:

Also known as: Link

Related terms: Internet, World Wide Web (WWW)

Further information: Hyperlink on Wikipedia



The basics:

A symbol or image associated with computer programs or files. An icon represents a program or location on the computer.

For example:

Icon Description
Windows recycle bin icon: An image of a bin with a recycling symbol on the front. The Windows Recycle Bin displays a picture of a small bin with a recycle symbol on it.
Folder icon: An image of a folder similar to those used to store paper documents. Folders are usually displayed with a picture of a paper folder you might find in an office.
Word document icon: An image of a page from a word processed document overlapped by a small Microsoft Word logo. A document is usually displayed with a picture showing the type of document it is (e.g. Word processed document, spreadsheet, presentation and so on). This example shows a word processed document.

The basics:

The worldwide network that allows computers to connect together to transfer information.

A little more detail:

The Internet is a set of interconnected networks (a network of networks) linked together through various means, such as copper wires, fibre optic cables and wireless connections.

The World Wide Web is one of the many services that are accessed using the Internet.

Other examples of Internet enabled services:

  • Email
  • Online gaming
  • Instant messaging

The Internet is technically not the same as the World Wide Web. The Web is accessed using the Internet.

Also known as: The Net

Related terms: Intranet, Network, World Wide Web

Further information: Internet on Wikipedia


The basics:

A network which is accessible within an organisation, such as a company or university.

For example:

  • The Leeds Beckett intranet for students to store their files (the P: Drive)

Related terms: Internet, Network, World Wide Web

Further information: Intranet on Wikipedia



The basics:

A portable version of a desktop computer.

A little more detail:

The hardware inside a laptop is smaller and lighter than a desktop computer. A fold out screen is used instead of a monitor.

A touchpad or pointing stick is usually used instead of a mouse.

Also known as: Notebook

Related terms: Desktop computer, Personal Computer (PC)

Further information: Laptop on Wikipedia



The basics:

A general term for temporary or permanent storage for information in a computer.

A hard drive is permanent storage, while RAM is temporary storage.

A little more detail:

Computer components, devices and other storage media (e.g. CD-ROM or USB drive) that retain digital information for some period of time. Memory can generally be split into two categories: primary storage and secondary storage.

Primary storage is the only memory directly accessible to the CPU (e.g. RAM).

Secondary storage can only be accessed once copied into primary storage (e.g. files on the hard drive).

It is much faster to access primary storage, so data will be stored there temporarily by whichever programs are being used at any time.

Related terms: Hard drive, RAM

Further information: Computer data storage on Wikipedia


The basics:

A device that converts digital data into a signal that can travel down a phone line. It also converts these signals back into data.

It is most often used to connect to the Internet.

A little more detail:

The term modem is a contraction of modulator-demodulator.

It is a device that can convert between analogue and digital data for sending/receiving via a phone line.

Related terms: Internet, Network, Router

Further information: Modem on Wikipedia


The basics:

The screen connected to the computer that displays all information.

A little more detail:

There are different types of monitor:

  • LCD flat screen
  • CRT monitors (these are less common, bigger and heavier)

Sometimes the monitor and computer are combined in one unit.

Related terms: Hardware, Personal computer

Further information: Computer monitor on Wikipedia


Massive online open course - a free course, delivered over the internet to unlimited numbers of participants which is open to anyone who registers.


The basics:

A peripheral connected to your computer. It is a pointing device that allows you to select icons/text on the monitor.

Related terms: Peripheral

Further information: Peripheral on Wikipedia


The basics:

Media that combines different types of content such as text, audio, still images, animation, video and interaction.

For example:

  • A slide presentation with embedded video
  • A website
  • Online games

Further information: Multimedia on Wikipedia

See VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)



Set of rules and procedures for communicating online.


The basics:

A group of computers connected together. The computers can be connected using cables or wireless devices.

For example:

  • The Leeds Beckett computers are linked together in a network.
  • Mobile phones connected using Bluetooth are in a network.
  • Wi-Fi hotspots allow connection to a wireless network.


Operating System (OS)

The basics:

Software that loads when you first switch on the computer. It manages all the other programs in a computer.

Examples of tasks that an operating system carries out:

There are various operating systems available.

Examples of operating systems:

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Mac


See Copy, Cut and Paste

The basics:

Any external device connected to a computer.

For example:

Also known as: Device

Related terms: Hardware

Further information: Peripheral on Wikipedia

Personal Computer (PC)

The basics:

A single computer intended for personal use (typically one user at a time), usually a desktop computer or a laptop.

Related terms: Desktop computer, Laptop

Further information: Personal computer on Wikipedia

Plug and Play

The basics:

A computer feature that allows peripherals to be connected to the computer, usually without the need for reconfiguration or manual installation of extra software.

For example:

…all work as soon as they are plugged in.

A little more detail:

Some peripherals require software (sometimes called drivers) to be installed before they work. Plug and play allows automatic installation of software which becomes available as soon as the device is plugged in.

Presentation program

The basics:

Software used to prepare and present information to an audience.

A standard presentation frequently includes a number of slides (individual screen pages) containing bullet pointed text and images.

Examples of presentation programs:

  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Google Docs
  • Keynote (Mac)
  • Impress

The basics:

A physical device that allows a computer to produce paper copies of digital information (e.g. documents or images).

Some are limited to black and white printing, while others allow full colour. Some advanced printers also provide scanning, photocopying and faxing.

A little more detail:

The most common types of printer are inkjet and laser printers which use different printing technologies.

Related terms: Peripheral, Scanner

Further information: Printer (computing) on Wikipedia


The basics:

Software designed to carry out specific tasks on a computer.

For example:

A little more detail:

Most Operating Systems have a number of useful programs built in, such as:

  • Calculator
  • Media player
  • Drawing/paint program
  • A simple text editor

Also known as: Application, Software

Related terms: App

Further information: Software on Wikipedia


RAM (Random-Access Memory)

The basics:

High speed type of memory used by computer programs to enable quick access to information.

The Operating System manages RAM to provide temporary storage for data; the hard drive is used for long term storage.

A little more detail:

A piece of hardware inside a computer that provides high speed, temporary storage for information.

The Operating System and programs use this storage to increase performance. Data in RAM is temporary and is lost when the power is switched off.

Related terms: Memory

Further information: Random-access memory on Wikipedia

Reboot / Restart

The basics:

The process of shutting down and restarting your computer (frequently used when there is a technical problem).

Related terms: Crash

Further information: Booting on Wikipedia


The basics:

A device on a network that allows you to connect multiple computers to the Internet.

It will usually include a high speed modem and firewall.

Related terms: Internet, Modem, Network

Further information: Residential gateway on Wikipedia



The basics:

A peripheral that creates a digital copy of images, printed text or handwriting.

It is similar to photocopying, however, the copy is stored on the computer. Some scanners are combined with printers in a single unit.

Related terms: Printer

Further information: Image scanner on Wikipedia

Search engine

The basics:

A system that is used to search for information on the World Wide Web.

Users enter keywords for their search, and the search engine provides results ordered by relevance. Many search engines can search for different types of resources such as web pages, images and videos.

The following are examples of popular search engines:

Related terms: Internet, World Wide Web (WWW)

Further information: Web search engine on Wikipedia


The basics:

Computers linked to the Internet are at risk of potential threats such as viruses, malware, spyware, trojans and worms.

Computer security is about protecting the computer from malicious activities.

There are programs available that help protect your computer. These include:

  • Anti-virus
  • Firewalls
  • Email filtering

The most important factor is being cautious when accessing websites or opening attachments from emails. For example, the makers of malware often try to trick users into using infected software or websites. Only open attachments from trusted emails and only download/install software from trusted sources.

Even if a website or email looks very professional, it doesn't guarantee that it's safe. If you're not completely sure of something then it's best to avoid it.

A little more detail:

There are several things a user can do to keep their computer as secure as possible. The most important are:

  • Keep the Operating System and programs up to date.
  • Make use of a security suite (collection of security programs) or other security software and keep these up to date. Regular scans are recommended and many of these programs will let the user set up a schedule for automatic scans.

The basics:

An icon that links to a file, folder or program in another location on a computer.

The following two images show a file icon and the icon for a shortcut to the same file:

File icon Shortcut
Notice that the shortcut icon has a small arrow at the bottom left corner. This arrow indicates that it is a shortcut icon.

A shortcut is called an alias on a Mac.

Also known as: Alias

Related terms: Icon, File, Folder

Further information: File shortcut on Wikipedia


The basics:

A small, handheld device which operates both as a mobile phone and as a portable computing device. Capable of running complex applications (apps) and interacting with online services. Most smartphones are touchscreen operated (like a Tablet). Software for a smartphone is typically installed/purchased via an online application (app) store.

Related terms: App, Tablet

Further information: Smartphone on Wikipedia

Social media

The basics:

Social media is the collection of all Internet-based communities that allow online interaction between users. The ability for users to create, share and discuss content is integral to social media. The term is often used for social networking services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, however, it also includes forums, blogs, wikis, virtual worlds and many other types of site.

Related terms: Social networking

Further information: Social media on Wikipedia

Social networking

The basics:

Online interaction via dedicated websites, applications and services. Often used for communicating with friends, family and classmates, but also with people that share similar interests from anywhere across the world. This also applies to work environments, where people increasingly use social networking services for business purposes to interact with customers, clients and partners. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are prominent examples of social networking services.

Related terms: Social media

Further information: Social network on Wikipedia

See Program
Spreadsheet program

The basics:

Software used to display and manipulate table-based data (usually financial, statistical or numerical information).

A spreadsheet is made of a number of cells arranged in rows and columns to form a grid. They allow sophisticated layout and formatting to make data easier to view. They also have tools for displaying data as charts and graphs.

Examples of spreadsheet programs:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Google Docs
  • Numbers (Mac)
  • Calc

A little more detail:

Cells can contain text, numbers or formulae.

A formula can be set to use data from other cells and perform functions with that data (from basic mathematics to statistics and logic operators). When the data in a cell is changed, all related cells will be updated at the same time.

Related terms: Presentation program, Word processor

Further information: Spreadsheet on Wikipedia


The basics:

Streaming allows online audio and video files to be played without the need for all of the data to be downloaded beforehand. The content is transferred continuously, as a 'stream' of data and is most often used for music and videos.

Further information: Streaming media on Wikipedia

See Browsing



The basics:

Sometimes called a tablet computer. It is a portable computer, smaller and lighter than a laptop, and without a physical keyboard. The display screen is a touchscreen, which is how the device is controlled. Software for a tablet is typically installed/purchased via an online application (app) store.

Also known as: Tablet computer

Related terms: App, Smartphone

Further information: Tablet computer on Wikipedia



The basics:

Transferring files from your computer onto another computer (typically on the Internet).

Here are some examples of uploading:

  • Submitting an assignment on myBeckett (the University VLE).
  • Adding an attachment to a web-based email system (such as GoogleMail).
  • Submitting a video to YouTube (or similar).

A little more detail:

Sending data or programs from your own computer or device to a server or host computer.

This covers a wide range of situations. The most common is the user-controlled uploading of files to the Internet.

Examples of uploading include:

  • Putting photographs onto social networking sites.
  • Saving files onto 'cloud' based services.
  • Publishing a website to a remote server.

Related terms: Download

Further information: Upload on Wikipedia

USB (Universal Serial Bus)

The basics:

A type of connector that allows peripherals to be connected and disconnected to the computer without having to reboot.

The following are some examples of devices that often connect using USB:

Related terms: Peripheral

Further information: USB on Wikipedia

USB drive

The basics:

A type of storage device that connects to the computer by USB. It is designed to be portable and is typically used to store documents, pictures and music.

Also known as: Flash drive, Memory stick, Pen drive

Related terms: Hard drive, USB

Further information: USB flash drive on Wikipedia



The basics:

A term often used to describe software designed to damage or infiltrate a computer without the permission of the owner.

A virus is actually one type of malware (malicious software) but people often use virus as a general term for malware.

The most common types of malware are:

  • Adware
  • Rootkit
  • Spyware
  • Trojan (Trojan horse)
  • Virus
  • Worm

For more detailed information see the 'Further information' links below.

VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)

The basics:

An online classroom that students and teachers use for a range of educational purposes.

The Leeds Beckett VLE is called myBeckett.

Examples of activities within a VLE include:

  • viewing lecture notes or other classroom materials.
  • participating in online discussions.
  • submitting assignments.


Web browser

The basics:

A program that is used to access information, documents and other resources on the World Wide Web.

Typically users enter a website address into the address bar of a browser and the browser will load the page and display the information.

The following image is an example of a location bar from a web browser:

Location bar from Internet Explorer 10: A box for text entry with control buttons on either side.

Website addresses can be saved in the browser as bookmarks (or favourites) to provide a quick way to access those resources.

The following are names of the most popular web browsers:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Apple Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera

Also known as: Browser

Related terms: Hyperlink, Internet, World Wide Web (WWW)

Further information: Web browser on Wikipedia


Online seminar or learning activity delivered via the internet

Wireless network
See Network
See World Wide Web (WWW)
Word processor

The basics:

Software used to create formatted text documents.

The most popular word processors have a large range of formatting options including:

  • Text size, colour and effects
  • Inserting images
  • Tables
  • Lists
  • Column layouts

Examples of word processing software:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Google Docs
  • Pages (Mac)
  • Writer
World Wide Web (WWW)

The basics:

The term 'World Wide Web' (the 'Web') refers to resources in the form of websites and webpages stored in multiple locations on the Internet. These resources are connected to other resources by hyperlinks and can contain text, images and multimedia. Users normally browse the Web using a web browser.

Also known as: The Web

Related terms: Browsing, Hyperlink, Internet, Web browser

Further information: World Wide Web on Wikipedia