Jargon Buster



Active X

A Microsoft technology that allows small programs to run inside your browser.

Address Book

Part of your e-mail software where you store details of your friends' and contacts' e-mail addresses so you don't have to remember them!


Another word for Broadband, a high-speed internet connection. It receives digital information at up to 560 kbps, 10 times faster than a normal modem and is "always-on".


A form of spyware which installs programs which generate advertising on your computer (often in the form of pop-up windows).


The letters at the start of the "alternative" user-originated newsgroups ranging from alt.bill-gates to alt.yoga

Alt Tag

The text which appears when you roll the mouse over a picture. This is the alt tag in HTML and is useful for people who view pages in text-only mode, or who are blind or visually impaired.


One of the most powerful search engines on the internet. It can also search for pictures and has advanced search features.


A technical term used for a link in a web page.

Animated GIF

A GIF is a type of image file and when it is animated it might blink, flash or have moving pictures.


Pictures which are combined in a certain way so they appear to move. Cartoons are animations.

Anonymous E-mail

If you do not want to show your real name or e-mail address you can create an "anonymous" e-mail account.


Anti-virus software helps protect your computer from viruses.


A small program using the Java language that allows you to do more complicated things on web pages. For example, chat applets let you type in a window for your on-line buddies to read and reply to.


Another word for computer program. For example, Word which is used for creating documents is a word processing application.


The place on a website where you find old articles, stories etc.


A computer code that represents letters as numbers. For example, the letter A is ASCII code 65.


A file which is 'attached' and sent with a standard text e-mail message. Often photographs or word documents are attached to e-mails.


a picture or cartoon of yourself or a favourite character that you use to represent yourself in games or chat forums on the web.



- the techie term for copying files onto disk or CD-Rom for safe keeping so that they are kept in more than one place.


- the amount of data that can be carried per second by your internet connection. Usually measured in kilobytes per second (kbps).


- a rectangular shaped advert or heading normally at the top of a web page.

Baud Rate

- a techie word for the speed at which your modem can transmit and receive information. Nowadays techies use the term bps (bits per second).


- format used to save images. The file contains a colour value for each pixel in a picture.


- stands for Bulletin Board System. An system for 'posting' messages so other people on the board can read them and reply that you access by phoning the BBS and connecting using special software.


- blind carbon copy. The Bcc box allows you to send an e-mail to more than one person but their e-mail addresses are hidden from other recipients.

Beta version

- a program that hasn't been tested enough to be on general public release. You can download them and the companies will use your experience of bugs to iron out the product's problems. At your own risk!


- BBC Education Text to Speech Internet Enhancer. Software running on the BBCi websites to help blind and visually impaired people. On most BBCi pages it's on the top left hand side (click on text only).


- an online personal diary with thoughts and opinions on life as well as links to other websites the author likes.


- any website you like and want to remember, can be made a 'bookmark' or a 'favorite' in your browser. So, when you want to go back to that page, you can go there in one click instead of trying to remember its address.

Boolean searches

- advanced searches using the words AND, OR, and NOT (written in capital letters) to describe what you want to find. e.g. London AND job


- bytes per second. The measurement of how fast data can be transmitted over a phone line or on a network line.


- another word for ADSL, a high-speed internet connection. It receives digital information at up to 560 kbps, ten times faster than a normal modem and is "always-on".


- a program you use to view web pages and 'browse' websites. Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer are the most popular browsers.


- errors in a piece of software or web page that can make it break or work strangely.


- bytes are used to measure amounts of computer data. One byte is roughly the same as one character (letter) of text. One KB (or one K) is approximately 1,000 bytes, one MB is approximately 1,000 KB, and one GB is approximately 1,000 MB.



- your browser uses a 'cache' to store web pages you have seen already. When you go back to those pages they'll load more quickly because they come from the cache and don't need to be downloaded over the internet again.


- typing an e-mail address or string of e-mail addresses in the 'Cc' box will send your mail to those additional addresses as well as the main recipient.


- discs that look like a music CD but can hold software, data, text, pictures, sound and video files.


- CD Rewritable. These are CD-Roms you can save files on over and over again. (On CDR's you can only save once.)


- common gateway interface. A script protocol that allows websites to have order forms, searchable databases and chat forums etc.


- real time chat where you type in a window on a web site's chat room or using a special chat program and other users can instantly reply.


- compressed files are electronically "squeezed" so they take up less memory. This makes them quicker to send over the internet.


- the process of reducing the size of computer files by electronically "squeezing" them so that they can be passed around the internet more quickly. Zip files are a common example of one type of compression.


- a small file which websites place on your hard drive so they can recognise you the next time you come to their website.

Cosmo Player

- a plug-in which enables you to view and move around 3D worlds within your browser using your keyboard and mouse.


Central Processing Unit - the 'brain' of the computer. When people talk about the speed of a computer they are talking about the speed of the CPU.


- when your computer temporarily stops working. It may pause or 'freeze' up, or tell you to restart or quit.


- sending the same e-mail message to lots of different mailing lists or newsgroups. It can you make unpopular if your message is not relevant to all the groups you crosspost to.


- the flashing vertical line on the screen that shows you where you are and where the next character you type will appear.

Cut and paste

- selecting text, images or files and deleting them from one place while putting them in another.


- shops or coffee shops where you pay by the minute to connect to the internet.



-Digital Audio Broadcasting, or Digital Radio to you and me!


- a program that stores information in tables. This allows you to search, sort and use it in many different ways.

Data Protection Act

- law that protects personal information stored electronically and on paper. It gives you the right to see data held about you and prevent it being passed on without your permission.

Digital Cameras

- camera that takes photographs and stores them on disks or smart cards rather than on film. The photos can then downloaded onto a computer where the images can be printed, put on a web page or e-mailed.


- Disk Operating System. What PCs used before Windows. It is a non-graphical system where a menu or typed commands are used to give commands.


- a commercial website. Comes from the .com address which is used mainly by businesses in the United States.


- software which runs hardware attached to your computer like a modem, printer or scanner. New hardware normally comes with a CD containing the necessary drivers to install on your computer.


- internet connection using a phone line. You have to dial a number (using your computer) and usually give a password before you can gain access to the internet, e-mail, etc.


- a folder where a computer stores other files and information. Keeping files on the same topic together in the same directory is a good way to keep track of your files.


- the system that changes a website address (e.g. www.bbc.co.uk) into a numbered IP address (e.g.

Domain name

- websites have a domain name so they can be found easily (e.g. www.bbc.co.uk). The domain name is the part before the forward slash.


- getting a file onto your computer from another computer on the internet.

Drag and drop

- clicking on an icon or selection, holding the mouse button down and moving the mouse to 'drag' the selection to a new location. When the mouse button is released the item is 'dropped'.


- looks like a thick CD but has a greater storage capacity - up to 4Gb compared to 650Mb on a CD-Rom.



- the buying and selling of good and services over the internet.


- the part of an internet address used by US schools and universities.


- electronic mail. Messages ( sometimes with attachments ) sent over the internet from one e-mail address to another.


- faces made up of text. e.g. winking ;-) or smiling :-) can be used to say "don't take that last comment seriously".


- encoding used to stop people opening your private information when it is sent over the internet.

Error message

- a 'complaint' by the computer that something has gone wrong. There will often be some type of jargon heavy explanation, maybe including an 'error code'.


- a file containing a program, for example, files that end in the file extension '.exe' . These files have rights to access important parts of your computer in order to run.


- a company website that employees and business partners can access from inside and outside the company. It is not available to the general public.


- electronic magazine. Magazines on the web or sent by e-mail.



- Frequently Asked Questions. A list of standard answers to questions which newcomers to a topic or website may have.


- data stored on a disk. There are two types: 'program files' (with instructions that make up software application, e.g. Word) and 'data files' (files created by you and me, e.g. a letter or photo).

File extension

- the group of letters added after the full stop at the end of the file name. They tell the computer which program to use when opening the file. For example, in the file 'myfile.txt' the '.txt' is the file extension. Not used on Apple Macs.

File not found

- error message you see when you enter an incorrect website address or an address for a site which has moved.


- program which sits between your computer and the internet and watches for hacking, viruses or unapproved data transfer.


- unpleasant or abusive e-mail usually written to a message board to try and provoke an argument.


- a Macromedia plug-in you download which allows your browser to show animations. ( Comes pre-installed with many browsers )

Floppy disk

- small rectangular magnetic disks which go in the slot found on the front of your computer. They are becoming less popular as they can only hold 1.4MB of data (not enough for one MP3 song!)


- the typefaces you see on-screen and in print in documents or on websites. Some of the most frequently used are Times New Roman, Arial and Courier.


- an HTML feature that allows several different pages to be displayed in one window at the same time. This lets you to click on a link in the left frame and see that link in the right frame.


- programs that are available for free. Sometimes the software is a trial version and "free" for only a limited amount of time or some of the features of the full version are disabled.


- File Transfer Protocol. A program you use to download and upload files onto computers on the internet.



- a type of image file. GIF files work best for non-photo images like logos and line drawings.


- a thousand million bytes (1000 MB).



- unauthorised access to a computer, its files and programs by a 'hacker', a computer expert who can break through its security.


- the name for the noise made by two modems when they first connect.

Hard drive / Hard disk

- the place inside on your computer where you save documents, pictures, applications, etc.


- the physical stuff to do with computers like chips, keyboards, monitors, printers, modems, scanners, CD-Rom drives etc.


- the list your web browser has of addresses of the websites you have visited.


- the number of times a web page has been visited. Every time you go to a web page it counts as a "hit".


- the 'front page' of a website, where you're told what's on the site, how to get around it and how to search for things that'll interest you.


- another word for a computer offering services on the internet. When an Internet Service Provider (ISP) gives you space for your website on their computer they are said to be the 'host' of your website.


- the language web pages are written in.


- Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The letters at the start of an address on the world wide web.


- technical name for a link on a web page. Clicking on one takes you to another page or internet file. The mouse pointer changes to a hand shape when passing over a hyperlink to show that it may be clicked.


- text which is arranged in a non-linear fashion and which you continue reading by clicking on links.



- a small picture which, when you click on it launches an application, program or acts like a link on the world wide web .


- integrated digital television, a telly with a digital adapter inside for the digital terrestrial viewer.


- Apple Macintosh's budget range of computer. The 'i' stands for internet.


- the folder in your e-mail program / webmail where you get your incoming e-mails.

Image map

- an image divided into a number of areas called 'hot spots' which are links. You know the hot spots are there because the pointer changes to a hand shape when passing over them.


- putting a program onto your hard disk so you can use it. Installation is usually started by clicking on a file called "setup.exe" on Windows and shown by a diamond/arrow icon on a Mac. The most common ways to install programs is from CD-Rom or via the internet.

Instant Messaging

- sending messages and chatting with friends or colleagues when you are both online via a special application called an Instant Messenger (IMs). IMs have a buddy list which tell you when people you know are online.


- millions of computers (and the data stored on them) around the world connected together by telephone lines, cables or satellites.

Internet Explorer

- one of the most popular web browsers, designed by Microsoft.


- a company's internal website used for communicating between staff.

IP address

- the numerical address that every computer on the internet has. So, for example, the IP address of one of the BBC's computers is


- Internet Relay Chat. A real time chat system using a dedicated program where you talk to other people on topic related channels by typing your comments in a chat window.


- a special digital phone line that offers internet connections of up to 128kpbs.


- Internet Service Provider. An ISP is the company that provides internet connections to private and business customers, for example, BT Openworld and Demon internet.



- a programming language widely used on the web, to run small programs in your browser called applets.


- a scripting language developed by Netscape and Sun Microsystems which is used to do things like make new browser windows "pop up".


- a common type of image file that is good for saving photos and other images with many different colours.

Junk e-mail

- direct marketing sent by e-mail rather than by the post.



- stands for local area network. Describes a network, usually (but not always) within an office, building or closed geographical area.


- a small, portable computer which can be battery operated as well as run from the mains.

Leased line

- a dedicated telephone or cable line between two points, e.g. between two offices of a large corporation.


- words or pictures you can click on which take you from somewhere (an internet page, an e-mail message etc) to somewhere else (another page, a picture etc.).


- a low-cost operating system similar to the UNIX operating system.

Logging in

- using a user name and password to prove your identity so that you can enter your computer or internet account.


Macintosh / Mac

- a family of computers developed by Apple. The Mac operating system (Mac OS) was one of the first to use a 'drag and drop' interface for organising files and is still the major rival to PCs.


- a way to record and save a series of commands so you can reapply them later with a single command or keyboard stroke.


- the folder which contains a person's individual items such as an inbox, outbox, sent items, notes and calendar.

Mailing list

-an online discussion conducted via e-mails. Messages and replies are distributed to all the people subscribed to the particular mailing list.


-Short for malicious software. Software designed specifically to damage or disrupt a system, such as a virus or a Trojan horse or a password stealer.


- a measure of memory equal to 1000 kilobytes (one million bytes).


- the storage and thinking parts of your computer. More storage memory on your hard disk (ROM) means you can save more files and more thinking memory (RAM) means your computer can perform more complex tasks quicker.


- information about a web page hidden inside it to help search engines find it. It often includes a description of the page which will be picked up by search engines.

Meta Search Engine

- search engine which automatically submits your search to several search engines at the same time and then comes back with the results after only a few seconds. Well known examples include MetaCrawler and Ask Jeeves.


- Megahertz. A measurement of a computer's speed. The more MHz the faster the computer.


- a standard for encoding information other than text so that it can be attached to an e-mail message and sent across the internet.


- an identical copy of a website held on a different server to speed up download times by reducing the congestion from many users accessing just one site at the same time.


- the hardware that connects you to the internet or to other computers around the world. Some are inside your computer (internal) and some are separate boxes outside your computer (external).


- the bit you look at! The display screen.


- a standard used for compressing video and audio files. The popular MPEG3 format is popular for distributing music on the internet.


- a digital audio format which allows CD tracks to be reduced to around a tenth of their normal size without a significant loss of quality i.e. on average from a massive 35 megabytes down to three.


- the combination of different types of media such as audio, video and text.


- games played against other players, rather than against a computer, either via an internet connection or on a local network (in a cyber cafe or an office).



- file-sharing application which could be downloaded so that music could be shared over the internet by people who are online at the same time. Napster was closed by the US courts but has been launched again as a pay for service.


- the opposite of broadband. Normally used to refer to a modem running at a speed of 56Kbps or less.


- to move within or between websites using navigation bars and links.

Navigation Bar

- a set of links to the main sections of a website which appears on each web page within that website. The Nav Bar often appears at the top or left of a web page.


- the unofficial etiquette about online behaviour. For example, no CAPITALS because they indicate shouting and no advertising except in designated areas.

Netscape Navigator

- one of the most popular web browsers, designed by Netscape Communications Corporation. It is the main competitor to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.


- a group of computers communicating together via a server along cables or wirelessly.

New Media

- digital media including television, radio, and the telephone as well as the newer forms such as the internet, interactive television, CD-Rom and streaming audio.


- someone who is new to the internet or a part of the internet, for example, a "chat newbie".


- forums for exchanging information and views over the internet which are held on newsgroup servers. When you post a message it is systematically copied to other newsgroup servers around the world so other people can read it and reply with their views.


- a dedicated program which enables you to read and send newsgroup messages. It's often included within mail programs such as Outlook Express or Netscape Messenger.


- another name for a laptop. A small, portable computer which can be battery operated as well as run from the mains.



- what you call it when you are not connected to the internet.


- what you call it when you are connected to the internet.

Operating system

- the software environment on your computer. The most famous ones are Windows and Mac OS.



- a tiny computer that can be easily held in one hand (hence the name).


- when files are sent along the internet the data in them is divided into lots of small packets which are then reassembled in the correct order at the other end.

Paint Shop Pro

- a graphics package that allows you to create, edit, and save images.


- a series of letters, number and characters that you enter to get into your computer, internet connection, e-mail or websites that you are registered with.


- short for personal computer. Used to talk about computers which are IBM-compatible rather than Apple Macintosh computers.


- stands for personal digital assistant and refers to small pocket sized computers.


- stands for portable document format. These files will print exactly as they appear on the screen. You need the free Acrobat Reader program to open a PDF file.


- a script programming language which provides interactivity and more complex features on websites. It is often used on websites which have discussion forums or chat rooms.


- a software package written by Adobe used to design, produce and alter images which can be used on websites or in print.


- the tiny little dots which make up the images on computer screens and printouts.


- the type of machine and operating system you have. Common platforms include the Intel PC with Microsoft Windows as an operating system or the Apple Macintosh with Mac OS.


- a mini program that adds extra functions to a program that you already have installed. Without it, a site which requires those downloads won't fully work. So, for example, to listen to music on BBCi your browser requires the RealOne plug-in.


- short for Post Office Protocol. The current technical standard for retrieving your e-mails from your ISP.


- a website which acts as a gate to the internet by directing you to information elsewhere. Search engines are one example.

Programming Code

- a set of instructions written in a programming language such as Java, C+ or Perl.


- a set of rules that tell computers how to transfer data between themselves.

Proxy Server

- a computer owned by your ISP which stores copies of popular web pages. This means that when you try to load up certain pages, rather than going to the original web server of the web page your computer retrieves it from the proxy. This loads pages more quickly.



- a popular format from Apple for streaming audio and video on the web. You need a Quicktime player to view or listen to Quicktime clips.



- stands for Random Access Memory. It's the memory a computer needs to run software. When you load or 'run' software, it goes into RAM. If you type something it also goes into RAM before being saved on the hard disk. When you turn your computer off all the data in RAM is lost.


- a popular format from Real.com for streaming audio and video on the web. You need a RealOne player to view or listen to RealPlayer clips. RealAudio is 'streamed' in a similar way to radio broadcasts, meaning that the clip can be played as it is downloaded.


- the button that you use to download a web page again. In internet Explorer it's called "Refresh" and in Netscape Navigator "Reload". You should press this button if for some reason a web page appears not to have loaded correctly.


- some websites ask you to give your name, e-mail address and other personal information in order to view pages. This is called registering.


- RGB stands for red, green and blue. A combination of these colours in various proportions will make any colour.


- a software tool for performing automated tasks, often on the internet. For example, search bots are used by search engines to scour the automatically and populate their database.


- a piece of hardware which decides the next network point to which a packet of data on the internet should be sent on its journey towards its final destination.



- a device which scans images or printed material and converts them into a digital format which the computer can then process. Scanned images can be used in desktop publishing or added to web pages.

Search engine

- A search engine is usually a website which allows you to search the internet for information. The search engine lists results that relate to your search phrase. For example, inputting 'Eastenders'; would bring up a list of sites on the web containing information and news on the residents of Albert Square.


- a method of sending or storing information that is encrypted or security protected to prevent unauthorised users accessing it.


- a powerful computer which holds data to be shared over a network or over the internet. When you get a web page it is being sent to you by a server.


- software which is free or almost free to try out. Shareware often has a 'free trial' period during which time you can test and use the program. After this, payment is required, but it is usually quite cheap.


- a plug-in which gives you access to interactive multimedia on the world wide web. Often used to make CD-Roms it can be used to combine animation, video and audio into games or presentations.

Shopping Cart

- the internet equivalent of a shopping trolley. On an online shopping site you choose what items you want and add them to your on-screen shopping cart by indicating what items you want. These stay in your cart until you check out.

Signature file

-a small file of text which can be automatically added to every e-mail message you send. It usually contains details such as your name and e-mail address, but may also be your job title or a favourite quote. It is sometimes called a ".sig".


- the internet protocol for the sending and receiving of e-mail over the internet.

Snail mail

- a jokey term used by techie folk for the conventional postal service because it is slow compared to e-mail.


- any programs such as word processors, e-mail applications or internet browsers.

Sound Card

- a piece of hardware inside your computer which you plug headphones or external speakers into.


- the code a web page is written in. This is usually HTML but may also involves CGI, Java or Java Script as well. You can view the HTML source code of a web page by clicking on the "View Source" menu option in your browser.


- junk e-mail sent to many people at once, usually involving advertising or offering services. Spam is very deeply frowned upon by most internet users, and where it involves advertising or a false return address it is particularly disliked.

Splash Page

- a web page which the visitor sees while the rest of a website is loading. It is usually an animated design and often offers the visitor the choice of "skipping" this intro or watching the rest of the movie.


- software that you install on your computer, often without you realising, that sends information on your software and internet usage to outside companies.


- when a sound or video file is played at almost the same time it is being sent from a website. In this way you don't have to wait for a clip to download, you just watch it as it downloads.


- Macintosh software used for compressing files (making them take up less memory) so making them quicker to send over the internet. StuffIt files usually have the file extension .sit.



- tags are found inside the html code for a webpage that defines attributes such as the the way words, pictures and other content appear on the page.


- the combination of protocols that make the internet. TCP deals with the process of dividing data into 'packets' of information. IP deals with the process of passing these packets from one computer to the next until they reach their final destination.

Technical support

- a service offered by ISPs and some computer companies to guide beginners (and experts!) through the problems and queries that they may have.


- software that allows you to directly run commands on a remote computer somewhere else on the internet.


- a group of messages, often e-mail messages or message board posts, linked by a common subject. A thread is the online equivalent of a conversation. Many message boards present messages on the same subject together - as a thread.


- the selection of buttons displayed vertically or horizontally offering desktop and application functions such as print, save, copy etc.

Trial Software

- software you can install on your computer which will work for a limited time so you can try it after which it will lock. In many cases if you decide to purchase you will get a registration code which you type into the software to make it work again.


- a program which appears harmless but is carrying inside viruses, worms or even another program that will damage your computer. A trojan is usually an attachment and is often carrying a program which allows someone to hack into your computer



- a computer operating system (OS) used by most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on their 'host' computers as it allows many people to connect to the same resources at any given time.

Unmetered Access

- internet accounts which offer access free of phone charges after you pay a monthly fixed amount.


- copying from your computer onto a server. Typically someone who has written a web page 'uploads' it from their computer onto a server, from where it is then accessed by other users.


- stands for Uniform Resource Locator. The techie term for the address of a website or document on the web (e.g. www.bbc.co.uk).


- another name for the 24,000 internet newsgroups that you can access with e-mail software or by visiting sites like Google Groups.


- a series of letters and / or numbers you input into your computer, internet account or other computer network service to tell it who you are.



- a language similar to JavaScript but designed by Microsoft. It allows greater interactivity on web pages.

Vector Graphics

- files which contain instructions for drawing lines or curves and also say how these shapes should be filled. This approach means vector graphics are smaller and faster than bitmap images like GIFs and JPGs. They also maintain their quality when displayed or printed at differing sizes.

Video card

- a piece of hardware inside your computer that makes the display you see on your monitor (the screen). Video cards are also sometimes referred to as graphics cards.

Video Conferencing

- linking up of two or more computers to allow users to see and speak to each other in live or real time. It's the online equivalent of people talking around a conference table.


- pieces of code that are designed to reproduce and damage data or system performance. There are thousands of viruses and the numbers keep growing!


- a language used to build a three dimensional space in which the user can move around in a virtual reality world.



- short for Wireless Application Protocol. WAP is a technology which allows you to access basic information on the internet from your mobile phone. This includes e-mail and information such as sport, traffic and news.

Web Editor

- a piece of software that allows you to design a web page without knowing HTML, the code which makes up web pages. Web editors are as easy to use as word processors but rather than making documents, you use them to make web pages.

Web server

- a powerful computer permanently connected to the internet which "serves" web pages and other internet files to users.

Web traffic

- a general term used to describe data travelling around the internet. The internet can sometimes be very slow because of the amount of traffic.


- an inexpensive, simple video camera that can sit on top of your computer monitor or be placed somewhere else such as the top of a building. It's designed to send live and recorded video as well as still pictures over the net to one or more users.


- e-mail you access through a web page using your browser rather than using an e-mail program. This means you can send, view and organise e-mails on any computer with an internet connection. Hotmail is a well known example of a webmail service.


- the person in charge of a website.

Web Space

- the space on a server that you get given by your ISP to put a website on. Most Internet Service Providers now allocate free webspace for their customers.


- is a program that can reproduce itself over a computer network. It usually attaches itself to another program and then proceeds to cause malicious damage to your computer such as shutting it down.


- stands for "What you see is what you get" and refers to one of two types of programs called web editors, which help you build web pages. With WYSIWYG you can place images and type text straight onto the page rather than having to insert HTML code.