Computing terms explained in plain English
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Opening several web pages inside one web browser window, with each one in a different 'tab' that can be selected at the top of the screen.
A type of portable PC with a touch-sensitive screen. Many tablets have onscreen keyboards activated by touch as well as the the option of connecting a keyboard. There are three types of tablet distinguished by operating system: Windows 8 tablets, produced by Microsoft and a range of other manufacurers: the Apple iPad, which runs iOS; and tablets that run Google's Android software. Read more: tablet reviews
Preset points along a line of text, where the cursor will stop when the Tab key is pressed.
A keyword used to describe a file or web page. Many programs use tags to organise related information quickly.
The maximum lifespan of a mobile phone battery when used for calling continuously, or the number of minutes included in your monthly fee to your mobile service provider.
Each mobile phone network offers a choice of price plans or 'tariffs'. Some tariffs have low monthly charges, but relatively high call charges. Other tariffs have higher monthly charges but lower call charges.
The bar that runs along the bottom of the screen in Windows.
The Windows Task Manager provides information about the processes and programs running on a computer, as well as the general status of the computer. It can also be used to terminate processes and programs.
A list of tasks displayed down the left side of a window.
Terabyte. The equivalent of just over 1,000 gigabytes.
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. The protocol used to transfer data and information from one internet-connected computer to another.
A telephoto lens has a long focal length, bringing far-away objects closer. Most zoom lenses include both telephoto and wide-angle capabilities. Not to be confused with digital zoom.
A document that contains all the required formatting for a specific type of document.
The speed of music, measured in beats per minute (bpm).
Empty frames designed to hold either words or pictures. They are used in many page layout and graphics programs, and some word processors, to exactly position text or graphical elements on a page.
In desktop publishing and word processing, a user-defined area that holds text.
Most mobile phones can send text messages of up to 160 characters to other mobile phones, generally regardless of network or model of phone.
Often represented by the letter T and an arrow in image-editing and drawing programs, this tool allows you to add text to the picture or image you are working on.
Thin Film Transistor. Technology used to create thin, flat, colour screens for such things as monitors and digital cameras.
A small image used to give a quick preview of a larger image.
Tagged Image File Format. A standard file format used to store graphics images.
The rectangular elements that make up Windows 8 Start screen. Tiles can be either static or ‘live’, the latter displaying up-to-date information.
Digital signal, part of a video recording, which indicates elapsed time in hours, minutes, seconds, and frames.
Part of a video-editing program consisting of a line or bar along the bottom of the screen. Clips and effects are added to the timeline so the progression can be seen visually.
The ability to pause a television broadcast.
The number of beats in every bar, and the musical length of each beat – the classic time signature for pop music is 4/4 time, or four beats to the bar.
Your browser sets a time limit on how long it will try to download a web page before determining that it cannot access the appropriate server. If web access is very slow, you are likely to be 'timed out'.
Part of a computer window where the title of the window appears.
Traffic Message Channel. A system of broadcasting traffic information over FM radio signals. Some satellite navigators can make use of this information.
The dust-like powdered ink used by laser printers and copiers.
A strip of icons that runs across the top of most Windows applications. Used to provide quick access to certain important features, such as saving and printing.
The software equivalent of a mechanic's toolkit. A program's toolbox should contain everything necessary to complete the task in hand. In an image-editing application, the toolbox will have a selection of drawing, colouring and editing tools.
A small message that appears when the cursor hovers over an option.
The suffix after the final '.' in a website (or 'domain') name. The most common top-level domain is '.com' for 'commercial'. Other examples include '.co.uk' for a UK company and '.org' for a non-profit organisation.
A file that can be downloaded using Bittorrent software. This method is generally faster than a normal download, which provides a direct connection to other PCs running the software anywhere in the world. Torrent files are not illegal but record and film companies claim many are illegal copies of copyright-protected material.
A small, touch-sensitive pad, usually a couple of inches square, which acts as an alternative to a mouse on some notebook/palmtop computers. It works by sensing fingertip pressure.
A computer or phone screen that can be controlled by touching it, usually in addition to using a mouse and keyboard.
A popular alternative to mice, trackballs are pointing devices with a flat base and an upward-facing ball. You roll the ball around 360 degrees with your fingers or thumb in order to position the cursor.
An alternative to a mouse on some notebook PCs, this is a small rubberised 'nipple', usually in the centre of the keyboard. Wiggle it like a joystick and the mouse pointer moves on screen. Although they take some getting used to, trackpoints can be more predictable than trackpads in situations like train journeys, where movement can cause unintended cursor placements.
The amount of information being carried by a communication device (usually the internet) at any one time.
A combined radio transmitter and receiver.
A three-terminal solid-state semiconductor device that can be used for amplification, switching, voltage and device stabilisation.
In video editing, methods of smoothly cutting from one video clip to another, such as fading between them.
Flatbed scanners can be fitted with an adapter so you can scan in slides and negatives. Because of lower resolution, image quality is rarely as good as from a dedicated transparency scanner.
A set of graphical buttons that mimic the stop, start, play, fast forward, rewind, and record buttons that you see on any audio cassette recorder.
Setting that controls the width of the top and bottom edges of a monitor's display.
Event that causes a virus to activate itself and unleash its payload. This can be a particular date – Friday 13, April Fools' Day, Michelangelo's birthday – or perhaps a counter, incremented each time the computer boots, reaching a certain value.
A malicious computer program that's disguised as a different, harmless program. For example, a Trojan may be disguised as a game but it's actually a program that steals your internet username and password.
An outline font technology developed jointly by Microsoft and Apple. It enables typefaces to be displayed on screen exactly as they will print, and allows them to print to best effect on different resolution devices.
A device for tuning into television or radio stations – in computers, usually found in a TV tuner card that allows the computer to show and record television programmes.
In a radio tuner, a number of memories that can store your favourite station settings.
A socket found on a graphics card that can be used to make a connection to a TV set's aerial-in socket.
An expansion card that, when fitted into a PC, receives TV signals.
Technology Without an Interesting Name. Twain is a standard way for scanners and some other devices to talk to your PC. In theory, all Twain-compliant image-editing applications, including Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop, should be able to directly access the image data produced by any Twain-compliant scanner or digital camera.
A loudspeaker designed to reproduce high audio frequencies.
A free service that allows users to send and read short messages known as tweets.
A system that uses two different means to identify the user. For example a device that generates random unique numbers coupled with passwords.
A filename extension for text files.
An outline font technology developed by Adobe. It enables typefaces to be displayed on screen exactly as they will print, and allows them to print to best effect on different resolution devices.
Sometimes called fonts, thousands of different typefaces are available, each with its own individual letter shapes and characteristics.
The most common type of credit card-size expansion card used to add peripherals such as modems to a notebook PC. Fits into a Type II PC Card slot, which is standard on all notebooks.
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