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Learning.com Glossary

Use this glossary to find the definitions of common technology terms

Download a spreadsheet of the glossary here.

action settings: In presentation software, when shapes and pictures link to other slides, files, websites, or sounds.

advanced search: In database software, a search that involves more than one field match.

alignment: Position of data relative to a fixed point, like page margin; common types are right, left, center, and justified.

alphanumeric: Containing letters and/or numbers; many passwords are alphanumeric.

analog information: Words, symbols, or pictures made visible by varying frequencies of sound and light waves.

anchor tags: HTML code that can either mark a position, or anchor, or create a link to other documents or other anchors in the same document.

Apple menu: Allows the user to see a list of most available programs and access system settings; used in the Macintosh OS and is usually located in the upper left corner. Compare Start menu.

application: A software program designed to help a user to perform a certain task or set of tasks.

ascending sort tool: In spreadsheet or database software, arranges a selected sequence of items in ascending order, alphabetically from A to Z, or from lowest to highest number.

attachment: A file sent along with an email message.

back button: In web browsing software, a button that lets the user move back among the pages previously viewed.

background color: In HTML code, an attribute of the body tag which changes the color of a web page background from the default color, usually white, to the color a user indicates.

binary: A numerical code composed of ones and zeros that a computer uses to communicate between the processor and other input/output devices.

bitmap image: An image composed of a series of tiny dots. Contrast vector image.

blind carbon copy (BCC): To send email messages to email addresses in a field that is not viewable to other recipients. Compare carbon copy.

body tags: In HTML code, tells the browser the tagged text will be displayed visibly on the web page; <body>.

bold (formatting): Makes text look heavier and darker

bold tag: In HTML code, tags that tell the browser to bold tagged text; <b>.

bookmark: A link to a web page, web resource, or offline resource stored in a web browser.

Boolean operators: In database and web browsing software, logical operators including AND, OR, and NOT: AND returns records where all statements are true; OR returns records where at least one of the statements is true; NOT returns records that do not include the relevant statement.

border tool: In tables, creates various borders around cells or groups of cells.

browsing: Scanning a web page or web pages in order to find information.

bulletin boards: Online service that allows groups of users to post messages and replies to each other in a central location.

carbon copy (CC): To send email messages to email addresses other than the primary recipient. Compare blind carbon copy.

category search: A search strategy that requires that information has been arranged into hierarchies.

CD-ROM: Acronym for “Compact Disc. Read-Only Memory.” Round, portable discs used to store digital information.

cell: An individual box that is found at the intersection of a row and column in a spreadsheet.

central processing unit (CPU): The part of the computer that interprets data and controls the operation of the computer, often referred to as the computer’s brain.

chart: A graphic or diagram that displays data or the relationships between sets of data with pictures instead of numbers.

chart tool: Provides a template and guide to create charts and graphs from data.

chart type: In spreadsheet software, the specific kind of chart or graph. Common examples include bar graph, pie chart, and line graph.

chat: An online service that allows users to communicate with each other in real time.

check box: An interactive control used to enable or disable one or more options from a set. Compare option button.

client: A computer that accesses files or other network resources on a server. Contrast server.

clip art: A collection of visual artwork that can be inserted into documents. Software often includes its own gallery of clip art.

clipboard: A memory resource that stores information that has been cut or copied until it is pasted elsewhere.

close: A common computer command that ends the connection to the current file the user is working on. Closing a file leaves the program open, but closing a program puts away that program and any open files supported by that program.

close button: A window control that closes the window when clicked.

color palette: A selection of colors the user can choose from when formatting objects.

column: In spreadsheet or database software, a vertical group of cells.

commands: Specific instructions for a computer, either typed in on a keyboard or accessed through menus and toolbars.

compatibility: The degree to which two programs or files can work together or share data.

compose: Creating a new, blank email message.

control panel: A program that allows users to customize various aspects of their computer’s appearance and performance.

copy: A command that copies a selected item for placement elsewhere without removing the item from its original location.

copyright: The legal right that protects people who create works from having their creations used and distributed without their permission. Copyright protection applies automatically to works like pieces of writing, music, pictures, and software.

crop tool: In graphics software, a tool used to cut off unwanted parts of an image.

currency button: In spreadsheet software, formats numerical data as currency.

cut: A computer command that removes a selected item from a document for placement elsewhere (pasting).

data labels: In spreadsheet software, the labels that go next to the actual data of a graph and usually show value.

data storage devices: Devices that store information a user enters into the computer, can be removable or fixed.

database: An electronic or printed collection of data arranged for ease and speed of retrieval.

database software: Software that allows the user to store, organize, and search through large amounts of information.

default setting: A program-defined setting that is used unless a user specifies a different setting.

descending sort tool: In spreadsheet or database software, arranges a selected sequence of items in descending order, in reverse alphabetical order from Z to A, or from highest to lowest number.

desktop: The on-screen work area that is visible when no programs, files, or folders are open. Allows users to work with and organize icons as if they were real items on an actual desk.

desktop publishing software: A program used to arrange text and graphics for the purpose of printing or displaying online.

dialog box: A special window displayed by a computer system or application that requires a user to make choices.

digital information: Electronic communication represented by numbers (usually binary) and composed of distinct patterns that generate, store, and process binary code.

discussion groups: Online service that facilitates the interaction of various users, generally on a particular topic.

diskette: A portable magnetic disk which can store data commonly encased in a hard cover and called a diskette.

document: A file created by the user in any application which a user can edit and retrieve by name.

domain name: The part of a URL which identifies the server, or remote computer, that stores accessible files.

double-click: Clicking the mouse button twice quickly in the same area. Usually opens files, folders, program icons, etc.

downloading: Copying a file from a remote computer to the user’s computer using a modem or a network.

drill down: A method of navigating through menus, directories, or web pages that involves starting at the top level and then browsing through intermediate levels until finding a particular item.

drive: A storage device that reads from and saves information, can be internal or external.

dropdown list: A list that drops down with additional options when a particular menu item is selected. Compare pulldown list.

edit menu: A program menu that includes commands that alter data within a document, like Cut, Copy, and Paste.

eject: A function that opens a storage device so that disks can be added or removed.

email: electronic mail

email address: The string used to send electronic mail. It includes a username, the @ symbol, and the domain name.

email software: A type of software that lets the user send and receive electronic messages.

ethics: A set of rules, principles, or standards that dictate proper conduct in the use of technology.

exit: A command that closes a program, often in the File menu.

extract: To remove or duplicate data within a document.

eyedropper tool: In graphics software, a tool used to grab a color from one area of a document so that it can be used in another area of the document.

field: A portion of a spreadsheet or database specifically for a particular type of data.

file: The basic unit of storage on a computer. A block of information which contains information that the computer uses, such as a program or a document.

file extension: A group of letters after a period at the end of a file name, usually indicates file type.

file format: The structure of a file that usually determines compatibility with certain programs.

file Menu: A program menu that holds commands and options for files, like New, Open, Close, Save, and Print.

file server: A server that allows users to store and share files and programs in a central location over a local area network.

file structure: A specific structure in which data is stored. Usually, drives are the top level, folders are inside drives, and files or other folders are inside folders.

Fill tool: In graphics software, a tool used to fill a selected area with a chosen color.

filtering: A method of searching spreadsheets or databases that returns records based on user-set criteria.

firewall: A security system that monitors information moving to and from a computer network and prevents unauthorized users from accessing the network.

floppy disk: See diskette.

focus: An element that is selected and therefore “active,” usually indicated by a visible border or outline.

folder: A directory which contains files and exists within a file structure.

font: The style of the letters, numbers, and other characters on the screen or a printed page, including color, size, and style.

footer: Text at the bottom of a printed document.

formula bar: A bar near the top of a spreadsheet window that displays the contents of the active cell.

forward: A command that allows a user to make modifications and send a received email message to someone else.

forward button: In web browsing software, a button that returns to the page viewed before clicking the back button.

frames: A series of images in which video is recorded. In video editing software, time is displayed in seconds and frames.

geographic domain suffix: A part of the URLs that references the country or geographic region of the server.

GIF or gif: File extension used for graphics files. Stands for Graphic Interface Format.

gigabyte (gb): A unit of information equal to one billion bytes or one thousand megabytes, usually refers to computer memory.

graphical user interface (gui): An environment that represents programs, files, and options graphically through menus, icons, and dialog boxes. The user can often choose options by clicking with the mouse or selecting with keyboard keys.

graphics software: A type of software that allows the user to create, design, and work with pictures.

gridlines: The lines between the rows and the columns in a spreadsheet or across rows and columns in a graph.

gutter: The margin created on a printed page where holes would go for binding, usually on the left side of the page.

Hand tool: Usually in graphics software, a tool that lets the user move the selected object around on the monitor.

hard copy: A printed copy of computer output.

hard drive: Computer hardware that contains and spins an optical or magnetic disk and reads and writes information on it.

hardware: The physical components of a computer system.

header: Text at the top of a printed document.

help menu: A program menu that allows the user to look up a command, tool, or topic and learn how to use it.

home page: The web page that acts as the beginning or front of a website.

home row: The middle row of letters on a keyboard where a typist keeps their fingers centered; includes the keys: asdfghjkl.

host name: The name of a specific server and the network the server is on. In a URL, the host name follows the protocol and is followed by the pathname.

HTML tag: A code used in HTML that tells the browser how to display the document.

hub: Device that acts as a connection point for computers in a network. Compare switch.

hyperlink: A reference from some point in a document to another document or different point in the document.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): A programming language composed of a series of codes or tags used to create web pages.

hypertext reference: In HTML code, an attribute of the anchor tag. specifies the location or address of the destination of a hyperlink.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP): A protocol used by a web browser and web server to communicate and transfer files.

icons: Small images on the screen that represent programs or tools available on the computer.

image tag: An HTML code that displays an image by telling the browser where to find that image.

inbox: The default mailbox in email applications where new messages are received.

input device: A computer part that receives information from the user and sends it to the processor.

instant messaging: An online service that allows users to send brief messages instantly to each other.

intellectual property: Ideas and creations of an individual or an organization.

internal links: References in words or pictures that connect a user to a different section within the same web page.

Internet: The world-wide collection of networks that communicate with each other. Used to access the World Wide Web.

intranet: A local area network which functions similarly to the Internet but which is used internally by a particular organization.

italic tag: An HTML code that tells the browser to italicize the tagged text, <i>.

JPG/JPEG or jpg/jpeg: Joint Photographic Experts Group, a file extension used for compressed digital images.

keyword search: A search strategy using a specific word or group of words that describe information a user wants to find.

keywords: A characteristic word or code that is used to summarize an object and then to search for it.

kilobyte (kb): A unit of information equal to 1024 bytes.

landscape: A horizontal page orientation, which is wider than it is tall.

laptop: A portable computer system that flips open to expose a flat screen and a keyboard, also called a notebook.

layers: In graphics software, the feature allowing the user to draw, modify, or reposition items above or below other parts of an image without changing the content on another layer.

leaders: Groups of dots that separate text on different parts of a page, most commonly seen in tables of contents.

legend: An explanatory key which accompanies a chart, map, graph, etc.

libraries: In video editing software, sections in the program where audio and video clips are stored. Also contains tools to create transitions, effects, and titles.

line color icon: In graphics software, a tool that allows the color of a line to be changed.

line style icon: In graphics software, a tool that allows the thickness and style of a line to be changed.

line tool: In graphics software, a tool that lets the user draw lines.

link: A reference within a word or a picture that connects a user to a different place when selected; often appear as underlined words or phrases.

link tool: In visual mapping software, a tool that lets the user connect two objects on the workspace with an arrow.

local area network (LAN): A network that spans a limited geographical area and is usually used for a particular organization. Contrast wide area network.

location bar: A bar at the top of a web browser that displays the URL or file location of the page currently in view.

log off or log out: To end a user session with a particular system.

log on or log in: To identify oneself with a username and password and thus gain access to a particular system.

magic wand tool: A tool in graphics software which selects a contiguous area that uses the same color.

mail merge: A tool that allows users to insert specific fields and values from one file into another.

margins: The blank space bordering the printed area on a page. Margins can be modified in the page setup of a document.

marquee select: A tool in graphics software that allows a user to select multiple objects at once.

master page: A template that establishes static design elements of a document, such as headers, footers, logos, or borders,to be consistent across all pages.

maximize button: A window control that expands a window to the size of the entire screen.

megabyte (MB): A unit of information equal to one million (1,048,576) bytes.

merge tool: Combines selected cells in a table or spreadsheet to create one larger cell.

message body: The part of an email that contains the content of the email message.

minimize button: A window control that hides a window without closing it.

mouseover text: Text that appears when a user holds the mouse over an icon or other object without clicking.

multiple pages tool: In desktop publishing software, a tool that shows multiple pages at a time in the print preview window.

network: A group of two or more computers or other devices that communicate with each other to share resources.

network adapter: See network interface card.

network interface card (NIC): A card used in a computer to communicate with and gain access to a network.

network operating system: An system that manages the operating needs of a network.

new document: A blank file in any application you are working with.

next: The function that moves ahead one track or clip, represented by a triangle pointing to a line on the right.

normal view: The default layout view for documents.

num lock key: Numeric Lock key, in PCs, the key that turns on and off the functionality for the number pad to do more than just type numbers.

number pad: A block of numbers on the keyboard arranged in calculator style. These keys usually have additional functions, so Num Lock must be on in order to type numbers. See Num Lock key.

number row: The horizontal row of keys on a keyboard which is mostly numbers.

on/off: Turns the device on and off, usually represented by a circle and line symbol.

online: Indicates that a computer or other device is connected to a network.

open: A command that accesses a certain file or object so that the user can work with it.

operating system (OS): A program used by computers to manage the computer functions, like programs and hardware.

option button: Small circles in a dialog box, only one of which can be selected at a time that let you make a choice.

output device: A computer part that receives information from the processor and shows it to the user.

oval tool: In graphics software, a tool used to draw a circle or an oval.

page breaks: Markers within a document that separates the data that will be printed on different pages.

page icon: In desktop publishing software, the icons that represent each page and act as links to each page.

page orientation: The direction a piece of paper faces when the content is upright, can be “portrait” (vertical) or “landscape” (horizontal).

page setup: An option that lets the user specify preferences for the document, such as size and orientation, margin size, headers, and footers.

paint software: A program that lets the user create and modify bitmap images.

paintbucket tool: See Fill tool.

palette: In graphics software, the area that contains colors and tools needed to create art.

paragraph tags: HTML code that defines paragraphs and allows uses to give specific attributes to each paragraph, <p>.

password: A combination of letters and numbers that is used to verify a user’s identity when accessing a system. Passwords generally do not include punctuation or spaces, and are often obscured by bullets or asterisks when displayed on the screen to prevent others from seeing the password

paste: A command that takes a copy of the item on the clipboard and places it wherever the cursor is in a document

pathname: The hierarchical listing of folders followed by the filename of a file. The pathname in a URL directs the web browser to the correct file.

pause: A button used to temporarily stop the function that is currently active and is represented by two vertical lines.

peripheral device: A component that connects to and works with a computer, like a printer or scanner.

phrase search: In database software or on the Internet, a search strategy using multiple words and quotation marks. Phrase searches return only records containing the phrase exactly as it appears in the quotation marks.

pixel: The tiny dots of different colors that make up an image. Image resolution is higher when there are more pixels per inch.

plagiarism: Taking someone’s words or ideas and using them as if they were your own. Plagiarism is a violation of copyright.

plain text: Text that is saved without any formatting.

platform: The hardware and operating system of a specific computer.

play: Command that starts the selected function and is represented by a triangle pointing the right.

playhead: In video editing software, the marker in the timeline that corresponds to the frame shown in the monitor.

portrait: A vertical page orientation, longer than it is wide. Compare page orientation.

presentation software: A type of software that lets the user build and present electronic slideshows.

previous: In audio or video editing software, the function that moves back one track or clip, represented by a triangle pointing to a line on the left.

print preview: A command that lets the user see how a printed document would look before actually printing.

printout: See hard copy.

processor: See central processing unit.

program menus: Menus that contain the relevant tools, commands, and options needed to work with a specific program.

programs: Pieces of computer software that aid the user in communicating with the computer.

progress bar: In web browsing software, a horizontal bar that displays the progress of the download of a web page.

protocol: A standard method computers use to communicate and transfer information.

pulldown list: A list that drops down with additional options when a particular menu item is selected. Compare dropdown list.

quit: See Exit.

radio button: See option button.

random access memory (RAM): Memory that can be read and written to.

range: The set of cells in a spreadsheet used for a mathematical operation.

re: Abbreviation of Regarding. Appears in the Subject line of an email when the Reply button is used to send a message.

reach keys: The keys that are typed by fingers moving off of the home row keys.

read-only memory (ROM): Memory that can be read but not written to.

recipient: The person or people who receive an email message. A recipient’s address can go in the To line of an email message, as well as “CC” or “BCC”.

record: Function that records audio or video, represented by a red circle.

record: A collection of all fields in a spreadsheet that pertains to a specific subject.

rectangle tool: A tool in graphics software used to draw squares or rectangles.

recycle bin: The folder where files and folders are moved in order to be deleted when the folder is emptied. Compare Trash.

redo: A command that reverses an Undo. Contrast Undo.

refresh: A command that restarts the downloading process of Internet content. Compare Reload.

relative reference: A reference from one cell of a spreadsheet to another cell in terms of the distance in columns and rows between the two cells.

reload: A command that updates the contents of a window; often used in web browsers. Compare Refresh.

reply: An email command that sets up a blank email message box addressed to the sender of the original email and with the subject of the message being replied to already in the subject line.

resize: Command that makes an object, like a text box or a graphic, larger, smaller, or a different shape. Resizing is achieved by clicking and dragging the sizing points of an object. Compare Scale tool.

resolution: Indicates the sharpness of an image. The more pixels per inch, the greater the resolution.

restore: Returns a window to its original state.

rewind: Function that moves backward quickly through a piece of audio or video, usually represented by two triangles pointing left.

rotate tool: In graphics software, a tool used to turn or flip an object.

row: A horizontal group of cells. Often contains all of the different information for a single record.

save: To write data to a storage medium, such as a hard drive or other disk, so that it can be accessed later.

scale tool: In graphics software, a tool used to change the size of an object without changing its shape. Compare Resize.

scanner: A peripheral device that uses light-sensing equipment to create digital images from items placed onto its surface.

scroll bar: A bar on the side or bottom of a display area that a user can move in order to see different parts of the document.

scroll button: The arrows on the side of a number option box that increase or decrease the value of the item in that box. Also called spinner.

search engine: A program that uses various strategies to search for keywords in a database or on the World Wide Web.

select: To choose an item on the screen, either with the mouse or with the keyboard.

select list: A list that allows a user to scroll through and view all options. Compare dropdown list.

selection tool: A tool in graphics software that lets the user select an object on the page.

send: The command in email software that sends a message to the recipient.

sender: The person who sends an email message. The sender’s address appears in the From line of an email message.

server: A computer that provides shared resources to other computers.

settings: The preferences that apply to programs and control functions like volume, keyboard, and mouse functions.

shift key: Key that is pressed in conjunction with other keys in order to produce alternative results, i.e., pressing a shift key along with a letter key produces a capital letter.

slide: An individual screen of a visual presentation in presentation software.

slide show: A sequential, visual presentation of photographs, text, or graphics, usually projected on a wall or screen by a computer or projector.

slide sorter view: A view in presentation software that shows all the slides in a presentation at the same time.

smart quotes: A function that automatically converts straight quotes to inverted commas that look like curved quotation marks, used for dialogue. Compare straight quotes.

soft copy: An on-screen display of computer output.

software: General term for computer programs.

sorting: A function that arranges records by one or more fields in a particular order, such as alphabetically or numerically, ascending or descending.

source attribute: Specifies the URL of an image, <src>.

spell checker: An application in a program that uses a limited dictionary to check for misspellings.

split-clip: In video editing software, a feature used to split clips apart in order to separate an unwanted part.

spreadsheet: A document which is arranged in rows and columns, includes worksheets and tables.

spreadsheet software: A type of software that allows the user to create and edit tables and graphs.

start menu: Allows the user to see a list of most available programs and access system settings. Used in the Windows OS and is usually located at the bottom left corner of the screen. Compare Apple menu.

start page: In a web browser, the page that appears when the browser program is opened or the home button is clicked.

stop: Function that stops the current function in process, usually represented by a square.

storyboard view: In video editing software, a view used to edit and position video clips.

straight quotes: Quotation marks used to denote inches (single) or feet (double). Straight quotes are not curved. Compare smart quotes.

style: An attribute that indicates the way text looks.

sum tool: A function in spreadsheet software that calculates the sum of numbers in a range of cells.

switch: Device that aids in the transfer of information between computers in a network. Compare hub.

symbol palette: In visual mapping software, a collection of symbols that a user can paste onto a workspace.

table: An orderly arrangement of data within a set of rows and columns.

tabs: Within an options window, they represent different groupings of options.

tags: HTML codes made of words or letters inside angle brackets that define particular aspects of a hypertext document.

taskbar: A bar along the bottom of the desktop that shows icons of minimized windows, and program and setting icons.

text box: A box in which a user can type text.


TXT or txt: File extension used for plain text files.

underline tag: HTML code that tell the browser to underline tagged text, <u>.

undo: A command that reverses the last action executed. Contrast Redo.

uniform resource locator (URL): An address for an Internet resource, helps the browser find webpages and files.

upload: To send a file from a networked computer to a central computer or a server.

user interface (UI): The way a computer communicates with the user, through command languages, menus, and graphical environments.


username: The name that identifies a user within a system, sometimes called a login name or user ID.

value: The quantity which defines a particular cell. If a cell holds a formula, the value for the cell is the result of that formula.

vector image: An image made of shapes that are defined mathematically instead of pixel-by-pixel. Contrast bitmap image.

video-editing software: Software that is used to rearrange the content in a video, add effects, and change the sound.

visual mapping software: A type of software that lets the user organize items in a visual way with pictures and diagrams.

volume: Function that allows the user to make the sound louder or softer.

web: A shortened way to say the World Wide Web.

web browsing software: A type of software that allows its user to view files on the World Wide Web, a local network, or his or her own computer and navigate through links found in those files.

web page: A document on the World Wide Web, which includes an HTML file and associated files with graphics and scripts.

web server: A computer that delivers HTML and any associated files requested by a linked computer over a network, including the Internet. This information is usually requested by a web browser on the linked computer. Compare server.

website: A collection of related web pages and associated files that are delivered from a single web server and are maintained as a whole by a single organization.

wide area network (WAN): A network that covers a wide geographic area and can either be very large or link multiple LANs. Contrast local area network.

window: A portion of the screen that usually contains a document or message.

word processing software: A type of software that allows the user to create and edit written files.

words per minute (wpm): The rate at which someone can type words, numbers and symbols with a keyboard or typewriter.

worksheet: In spreadsheet software, a page that is organized into rows and columns.

World Wide Web (WWW): All the web pages and files delivered by web servers that are connected to the Internet.

zoom tool: Tool that lets the user magnify the object on the monitor.