Computing terms explained in plain English
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In 3D graphical environments, a function that enables the user to take a virtual journey through the streets of their city or location.
A pattern or image used as the background to your Windows desktop. It helps to personalise your PC but serves no other practical purpose.
Wireless Application Protocol. A specification for transmitting data, particularly to mobile phones and handheld computers. It allows you to access information services and some specially formatted websites easily from the screen of a mobile device.
A technique that allows you to print text and graphics as a background, 'behind' what you're typing. It is especially useful for marking a document as Draft or Confidential, or for personalising stationery. So named because the process mimics the watermarks seen on banknotes or writing paper.
A measure of power, most commonly used to quantify electrical power capabilities. It is often quoted for PC power supplies or amplifiers.
The radio waves on which a communication technology operates. Wireless networks operate on one of two wavebands.
A technique for synthesising sound by playing back digital recordings of sounds and combining them to recreate the original. The wavetable itself is where the recordings are held.
Also known as a Wave file and saved with a .wav extension. An audio file, used for recording music and other sounds to disk. Because they are uncompressed, WAV files can be very large. The file format was developed by Microsoft and IBM.
Also known as the world wide web or WWW. The web is a collection of online documents housed on server computers around the world, and forms the most visible and easily accessible part of the internet. These are accessed via a web browser. Web pages typically feature text, graphics and photographs, and often video and audio clips. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL or 'address'. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.
A piece of software designed to make it easier to create a web page or site. Often with sophisticated functions built in, such programs create the HTML code automatically and allow you to concentrate on the design of the site. Examples include Microsoft Frontpage and Macromedia Dreamweaver.
A program developed for viewing websites. Internet Explorer and Firefox are two popular browsers.
A video camera designed to connect to your PC.
A form on a website page, often used to send email.
A company that provides internet connectivity and space on a server it owns for internet users to store information, images, video, or any content accessible via the web.
An email account that is accessed via a website, which can be accessed from any web-connected PC.
The online documents stored on internet servers. They link text and images, and often video or audio clips into a coherent whole. Each one can be accessed by typing its address into a web browser.
A linked group of one or more web pages, normally dealing with a particular subject or by a single author. Each page or site has its own distinctive URL or 'address'. This is usually prefixed by the letters www, standing for world wide web.
An area of disk space on an internet server. This may be on your own PC or rented from an Internet Service Provider. This space can then be used to store web pages for display on the internet.
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Environmental legislation that aims to reduce the amount of electrical and electronic equipment being produced and encourage everyone to re-use, recycle or recover it.
Wired Equivalent Privacy. An old security standard for wireless networks, superseded by WPA.
Adjusts the balance of colours in the image to produce natural-looking images.
A hacker who uses their skills to test the security of computers or networks so they can be improved.
A list of allowed websites, email addresses or applications – used by parental-control software to ensure children only visit suitable sites, or by spam email filters so that only permitted messages get through.
Used to describe screens with an aspect ratio (width-to-height proportion) greater than the standard 4:3 format.
A small program such as a calendar that runs on the Windows Desktop.
An umbrella term for various standards for wireless networking.
A website similar in feel to an encyclopedia, but which can be edited by anyone.
A character that can be substituted for one or more characters in a web search, much like the blank tile in Scrabble.
An operating system created by Microsoft. It allows you to control your computer and to run programs that let you perform particular tasks.
A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 2000 and aimed at business users. It is more reliable than other versions but has poorer support for games playing. It superseded Windows NT.
An old version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 1992. In a similar way to the Apple Macintosh, it allowed you to control your computer using graphics rather than text commands.
Windows 7 was the main version of Microsoft's computer operating system that was sold from October 2009 up to the launch of Windows 8 in October 2012. Functional updates will be available until at least January 2015, with critical security updates available until 2020. Read more: Windows 8 news
Windows 8 is the version of Microsoft's computer operating system sold from October 2012. Windows 8 is designed to work across a range of devices, from desktop computers and laptops to tablet PCs and mobile phones. Read more: Windows 8 news
An old version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 1995. It superseded Windows 3.1 and introduced a completely new look.
A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system, released in 1998. It superseded Windows 95, fixed a number of problems and made some changes to how the PC worked.
A version of the Windows operating system developed specially for use on palmtop computers and personal digital assistants. It takes up much less storage space and memory than normal Windows, but has fewer capabilities. Now replaced by Pocket PC.
The background area on screen where Windows files and icons appear.
The graphical interface to the Windows filing system. Using images to represent files and folders, it lets you manage documents by moving them between folders and deleting, copying or renaming them.
A computer designed to sit in the home storing backups and sharing files.
A key on the keyboard that brings up the Start menu. Usually located to the left of the space bar, marked with the Windows logo or 'Start'.
Windows Millennium Edition. A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system released in 2000. It superseded Windows 98, fixing a number of problems.
An application included with some versions of Windows that is designed to organise and play music, video and photo slideshows. It can also record TV programmes.
A digital media player and media library application developed by Microsoft, used for playing audio, video and viewing images on PCs running Microsoft Windows XP and Vista.
A version of the Microsoft Windows operating system intended for business users.
A version of the Windows operating system and successor to XP. It is available in many versions, and not all features will work on all PCs. Superseded by Windows 7 in 2009.
Successor to Windows 98 and ME. It required a significant patch to fix flaws that made it a relatively soft target for viruses and hackers. All Windows XP PCs should have Service Pack 2 (SP2).
Several computers connected without network cables.
A step-by-step process that helps you choose settings.
Windows Media Audio. A compressed digital music format developed by Microsoft that allows secure encoding of music tracks.
Windows Metafile. A file format that can store both vectors and bitmaps.
Windows Media Video. A Microsoft file format for video.
Type of loudspeaker designed to reproduce low audio frequencies, though not the very deepest bass tones. These may be played back through a subwoofer.
Microsoft Word is the sophisticated word-processing software included as part of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Works Suite. It is the most widely used word processor in the world.
A feature in Microsoft Word that allows you to apply a whole range of special effects to text.
A basic word-processing program included with Windows. It has few sophisticated features but can be used for simple documents without problems. To find it, click on Start/Accessories/WordPad.
A software application for preparing largely text-based documents, from basic letters to company newsletters and reports. Most word processors go far beyond simple typing, allowing you to add pictures and text effects, link to other documents, and check your spelling and grammar automatically. Common word processors include Microsoft Word and Open Office Write.
A spreadsheet file. In spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3, each workbook by default contains several different worksheets or pages of data. It is possible to link the figures on one sheet to those on another, allowing very complex calculations.
A team of people who work together on a task. All the members of the team use computers connected to a network, which allows them to share files, schedule meetings and send emails between their PCs.
A single page of data within a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3. Worksheets can be combined into a workbook, allowing each sheet to access, and make calculations using, the figures on another worksheet.
A program that transmits and copies itself over a computer network, such as the internet.
Wifi Protected Access. A secure form of protection for wireless networks.
Wifi Protected Access. A more secure variant of the security standard for wireless networks.
Wifi Protected Access/Wired Equivalent Privacy. Systems that protect data over wireless networks. Superseded by WPA2.
Wifi Protected Setup. An easy way to make a wireless connection between a device and your router by pressing the WPS button on both. The device and your router must both support WPS.
Speeding up a computer by holding data in the memory for short periods instead of writing it straight to a (relatively) slow hard disk.
What you see is what you get. Used in word processors, desktop publishing packages, web-authoring software and the like to signify that the on-screen image of your page is the same as the printed output or published web pages. Non-Wysiwyg programs generally force you to use control codes which only take effect on printing: you cannot see the results on screen as you work.
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