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Glossary of Computer Terms

Note: If you cannot find the term you are looking for on this page, or if you want to suggest an improved definition for one of these terms, please send us email.

Absolute Reference
The specific address of a spreadsheet cell that does not vary if the formula containing it is moved or copied. Compare with relative reference.
Addressing is a term used to describe the location of a site or person on the Internet. The components of an address are the userid, the @ sign, the machine, the institution, and the domain.
To position objects on the page with respect to each other.
Alpha (Greek letter A)
The particular significance level an investigator decides to use (for example, 5%).
Anchor point
Anchor points define the ends of a line segment in a vector graphic. An anchor point can also determine where two segments meet: two straight segments, two curved segments, or a straight and a curved segment. See control point, tangent line.
Anonymous FTP
The process of accessing files on remote computers over the Internet without needing a specific user name or password. With anonymous FTP, the user name is usually anonymous and the password is usually an email address.
A software program used to interact with a computer to perform certain functions, such as word processing, accounting, drawing a picture, or managing inventory.
A portion of a circle or a portion of an ellipse.
A backup file, a folder where you can store old documents, or a file that contains one or more other files compressed for fast electronic transfer.
Arithmetic Mean
The average of a group of numbers. It is the measure of central tendency (X barred = sum of X/N, where X barred is the arithmetic mean and N is the number of cases).
Acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange. An ASCII file contains only plain text characters.
A high speed electronic link that connects many networks together.
Background Color
The appearance of the space behind text or behind the main graphic objects on a page.
A backup is a copy of a selected file or files, often on removable media like tape or a floppy disk, for emergency purposes. If an original file should become damaged or lost, you can recover the file from the backup copy.
A unit of electronic communication speed defined in cycles per second. This equals bits per second (bps) only if one bit is transmitted per cycle.
Bulletin Board System, a computer-operated dial-in service that typically supports file uploads and downloads and message boards.
A number system based on ones and zeros. Because computers store information electronically as series of on and off circuits, the lowest-level of computer programming is performed using binary arithmetic. Each digit in a binary system is called a bit, and a series of eight bits is a byte.
Binary File
A file that is expected to contain characters other than plain text (ASCII). Program files and graphic files are examples of binary files.
A one or a zero. The smallest unit of information stored or managed by a computer, a bit is represented by one circuit in a computer chip and is either on (one) or off (zero). Eight bits together form a byte.
A type of graphic, image, or picture in which the data is stored as a pattern of dots.
A frequently used Web page address (URLs) stored by an Internet browser program. In Internet Explorer, bookmarks are called favorites.
Boolean Parameters
Words such as AND, OR, and NOT, used to limit a keyword search.
Break Signal
When using a telecommunications program, a break signal is sent to interrupt the current process. Some common break signals are sent with the key presses CTRL+C, CTRL+X, or the BREAK key.
High speed Internet connection over copper phone lines (DSL) or television cable (cable Internet).
A program that decodes the hypertext markup language scripting used in documents transferred on the World Wide Web, thereby creating screen images with page formatting and graphics. Popular browers include Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer.
A special character that looks like a large dot and is used to delimit unnumbered lists of items, ASCII value 149 in many fonts.
A term that describes the situation when an image on the video screen becomes visible even when the monitor is turned off, caused by leaving the same picture on the screen for an extended period of time. Older monochrome monitors are more subject to burn-in than newer VGA monitors and screen savers were originally created to help prevent burn-in.
A button is a user interface gadget that has the appearance of a push-button. To use a button, point at it with your mouse and click. The button appears to be depressed and the button's action is initiated.
A unit of information stored or manipulated by a computer and comprising eight bits. A byte represents a value from zero to 255 and, depending on the context, can be a number, an alphabetic character, the color of a pixel in a graphic, an instruction for the computer processor, or some other type of information.
Central Tendency (measurement of)
The location of a distribution (that is, mode, mean, or median).
A graphic representation of numeric data, often created in a spreadsheet. Types of charts include:
  • Area Chart — A line chart in which the area below the line is filled with a pattern or color.
  • Bar Chart — A column chart with the bars plotted horizontally rather than vertically.
  • Column Chart — Sometimes called a vertical bar chart, a column chart plots each value in a series as a vertical bar. The height of each bar corresponds to the value of a category.
  • High/Low Chart — Tracks pairs of data that mark high and low or start and end values.
  • Line Chart — Plots a point indicator for each value on one axis in relation to the text label on the other axis, and then connects the points in each series with straight lines.
  • Pie Chart — A circular graph of values in which the size of each slice or wedge of the circle is proportional to its percentage of the whole.
  • X-Y Plot Chart — Sometimes called a scatter plot, this chart looks similar to a line chart, but there is a significant difference between the two: line charts plot a value against a label, whereas X-Y plot charts plot one value against another.
Check Box
A check box is a gadget within a menu selection or dialog box used to select or clear the selection of an option. When a check box is darkened or contains an X or a check mark, the item is selected or on.
Chip (or Processor)
The electronic component of the computer that performs the actual computations. The chip contains millions of integrated circuits. A chip is rated by the speed of processing in megahertz (MHz).
Chi Square (X2)
A test of independence used to determine if paired observations obtained on two or more nominal variables are independent of each other or are associated. The assumptions of and restrictions in the use of X2 are:
  • The observations must be independent of each other.
  • The categories should be established on a logical or defensible basis.
  • The expected frequency should not be smaller than 5.
Circular Reference
In a spreadsheet or database, a circular reference occurs when a function or formula contains its own result as part of the calculation. See iteration, convergence.
To quickly press and release the left mouse button, assuming the mouse is located to the right of the keyboard, for a right-handed person. If the mouse is configured for left-handed use, then click refers to quickly pressing and releasing the right mouse button. Most software documentation assumes the mouse is configured for right-handed use. If you configure the mouse for left-handed use, remember that the word click alone then means the right button, and the words right click or click with the right mouse button then refer to the left button.
An invisible electronic holding space where data is stored when you choose Copy or Cut from the Edit menu, the clipboard stores a copy of the information that you last copied or cut while working in a document. You can then paste that information from the clipboard into another location in that document or into another document.
Color Format
Sometimes called color depth, the color format of a bitmap graphic image represents the largest number of colors that may be used in the image. Monochrome images contain only two colors: black and white. Monochrome is sometimes referred to as 2-bit color, because only two bits of data are needed to represent each pixel in the image. Other common color depths include:
  • 4-bit — up to 16 colors; one nybble (four bits) of data is used to store the color information for each pixel of the image.
  • 8-bit — up to 256 colors; one byte (eight bits) is used to store the information for each pixel of the image.
  • 24-bit—up to 16 million colors, sometimes called True Color; three bytes are used to store the information for each pixel in the image.
Comma separated value (.CSV)
A format that many software applications use for import and export. In a .CSV file, each row of your spreadsheet is stored as a paragraph of text, with the value in each cell separated by commas. In a CSV file, each record of a database is separated by a carriage return and each field is separated by a comma. In order to allow commas within the data, the data for each field may be surrounded by quotation marks.
An instruction to the computer that causes it to perform a particular action. Some commands are initiated by pressing a keyboard key or a combination of keys, while some are selected from a menu on the screen or by clicking a button.
Command Line
The input area where commands are typed when using an operating system such as UNIX or DOS.
To reduce the size of a document, photo, or other file on the computer so that it takes fewer bytes of disk space and can be transferred more quickly electronically or via email. The most popular form of compression is ZIP, based on routines used in PKZIP, developed by a company named PKWare. You must use a special program to compress or decompress a ZIPed file.
Control Point
A control point is a handle that you can click or drag with the mouse use to change the curvature of a curved line segment. See anchor point, tangent line.
In a spreadsheet or database formula that contains a circular reference, when the difference in the result of each successive iteration is no longer significant, the calculation is said to have reached convergence.
A collection of laws that protect the ownership of data, whether printed or in electronic form. In recent years, the Internet has raised many new issues about copyrights. There are five basic copyrights: the right to make copies, the right to distribute copies, the right to create derivative works, the right to display copies, and the right to perform (applies primarily to works like music or screen plays).
A statistic that describes the relationship between one variable and another. The correlation can be positive (increases in one variable corresponds to increases in another), negative (as one variable increases, the other variable decreases), or zero (there is no relationship).
Acronym for Central Processing Unit. The term is sometimes used to refer to the processor chip alone, and other times refers to the box containing the chip along with the memory modules, power supply, and other electronic components.
The world of data represented by millions of networked computers connected by communication technologies.
Data bits
In telecommunications, data bits are the number of bits that form a character. The most common numbers of data bits are seven and eight.
Data Source Document
When performing a mail merge, the data source document is the database, spreadsheet, or other document that contains data stored in a consistent format to be substituted in a merge document.
Data Window
The window in SPSS where responses to surveys are entered. Columns correspond to questions or variables and rows correspond to respondents.
A database is a file structure which makes it easy to search, sort, and retrieve the stored information. A database consists of records and each record consists of fields.
A process that runs continuously in the background on a network host, ready to handle connection requests for a particular service. For example, Telnet, FTP, and many other IP applications rely on daemons to respond to connection requests. Email that is incorrectly addressed (to a nonexistent account) may cause a daemon to generate a message.
Defaults are choices that the software makes automatically if you do not specify a preference. For example, if you do not specify a color when drawing a rectangle, the rectangle appears black. Black is the default color when drawing rectangles.
Density (High or Low)
As it relates to floppy disks, density refers to the amount of data that a computer can store on the disk. A low density floppy disk can store about 750-800 KB of information. High density floppy disks can store in excess of 1.44 MB of information or about two times that of a low density disk.
Destination Disk
When copying a disk, the destination disk is the duplicate, or the disk you are copying to.
Dialog Box
A dialog box is a small window that appears on screen to give you information or to prompt you for input.
A directory is an organized storage location on a disk drive, used to store documents or other files. Similar to a file folder in a drawer, directories are often called folders. A directory—more properly called a subdirectory—may contain files or more folders or both. When a directory contains another directory, the enclosing directory is known as the parent. Most computer systems track the current directory, that is the directory whose files you are viewing or working with at this time.
Disk Drive
The peripheral device that writes the electronic data on a floppy disk.
A floppy disk. There are several types of diskettes, 5.25-inch floppy disks, 3.5-inch floppy disks, and, more recently, Iomega Zip and Jaz disks. The most common floppy disks can be low density (holding 720-800 KB of data) or high density (holding 1.44 MB of data).
A document is a holding place for information, a file on a disk. Documents are typically thought of as word-processed material, such as a letter or report. To a computer, however, data is nothing more than a collection of characters, so a spreadsheet or a graphic is as much a document as a letter or report.
On the Internet, a domain is part of a naming hierarchy, often the portion of an email address that follows the @ sign. Syntactically, an Internet domain consists of a sequence of names separated by periods (called dots). In the OSI world, a domain is generally used as an administrative partition of a complex distributed address space.
To quickly press and release the left mouse button two times. A double-click is a special mouse button function interpreted by the software to both select an object and open it, such as a folder or document. A double-click can also be used to quickly select an entire word in a document. If you click too slowly, the software interprets the clicks as two separate clicks, and not a double-click.
Acronym for Dual Inline Memory Module. Used in the more recent CPUs, these RAM modules are usually sold in 8 MB, 16 MB, 32 MB, and 64 MB modules. See SIMM.
Domain Name System (DNS)
The system of servers on the Internet that resolve URLs to specific IP addresses. The domain portion of URLs are coordinated and stored by InterNIC (Internet National Information Center).
The acronym for Disk Operating System, DOS was the most common operating system used with IBM PCs and clones prior to the introduction of Microsoft Windows. The most popular brand of DOS is MS-DOS from Microsoft. IBM publishes PC-DOS and Lineo publishes DR-DOS.
The process of transferring data from a remote server, such as a university main frame or other computer, to a local computer.
To move the mouse while holding down a mouse button. Dragging the mouse is often used to select text or a group of objects. Dragging is also used to copy or move items from one place to another. To drag:
  1. Move the mouse pointer to the starting location. If using a drag operation to select, move the mouse pointer to one end of the text to be selected or one corner of an imaginary rectangle that will surround the objects to be selected. If using a drag operation to copy or move something, then move the mouse pointer over the item to be copied or moved. If moving a window, point at its title bar.
  2. Press and hold down the mouse button. Unless the right mouse button is specified in the instructions, use the left mouse button. (If you have configured your mouse for left-handed operation, then you will need to mentally reverse the instructions about left and right.)
  3. Still holding down the mouse button, move the mouse to the other end of the selection (if selecting) or to the location where you want the item to appear (if copying or moving).
  4. Release the mouse button. If selecting, the selection is made. If copying or moving, the item appears in the new location.
Acronym for Digital Subscriber Line, a high speed or broadband connection to the Internet that shares both analog voice transmissions and digital computer signals over standard copper telephone wires.
Em Dash
A special long dash, ASCII value 151 in many fonts, used to delimit parenthetical expressions.
Acronym for electronic mail, email refers to any of a number of software systems that let multiple users exchange messages electronically via some kind of network.
A key on a computer keyboard, usually near the upper left corner, that frequently takes the program back one step, or up one level of a hierarchy of files.
A common network technology as distinguished by the structure of its cabling, inexpensive to install but starting to show its age primarily in speed limitation.
The brand name of a specific email client program.
Extension, File Name
An optional three characters following the period in a DOS file name. The extension often provides a clue about the type of data the file contains. For example, .TXT usually means a plain text file, .XLS is usually an Excel spreadsheet, and .DOC is often a Microsoft Word document.
A component or property of a computer program that enables the user to perform certain actions. For example, you can use the Find and Replace feature of most word processors to quickly change words in a document.
A program that automates and makes more user-friendly the process of file transfer. It uses FTP procedures in a menu and icon interface.
A field is a database term referring to one item of data in a record.
A collection of data on a computer disk drive, such as a software program or a document. Each file must have a unique name or location (path).
File Selector
A dialog box used to open, save, or perform some other operation with a document or file. In a file selector, you usually select a drive—for example, A (floppy disk) or C (hard disk), select a folder, select a name and type for the file, and then choose the operation to perform.
FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
The Internet protocol and application that provides reliable file transfer between two hosts. It is used for both sending and receiving data.
A program that will search for a specific user on a particular server on the Internet.
First Line Indent
When the first line starts farther from the left edge of the page than the rest of the paragraph, the paragraph is said to have first line indentation. Compare with hanging indent.
Floppy Disk
A floppy disk is a small circle of magnetic material enclosed in a square plastic jacket. Sometimes called a diskette, it is used to store documents and other files and to transfer them between computers. To use a floppy disk, insert it into the floppy disk drive, usually on the front of your computer.
A special type of disk file that serves as a place on a disk to store files, such as documents, applications, and other folders. In DOS, a folder is called a subdirectory or directory.
Often used in place of the more accurate word typeface, a font is a collection of alphabetic, numeric, and punctuation characters that share a common design.
A reference, comment, or explanation that appears at the bottom of every page of your document and contains objects (text, graphics, or both). The footer often contains the page number or date. Compare with header.
The process whereby an unformatted diskette is changed so a disk drive can read and store information. To format a floppy disk, at a DOS command prompt, enter FORMAT A:; in Windows, right click the icon for the disk and choose Format from the menu that appears; on the Macintosh, select the icon for the disk and, from the Special menu, choose Erase Disk.
Full Justification
To add space between words and characters in text so that each line aligns evenly with both the left and right margins. Sometimes referred to as justified text.
Functions are built-in formulas that automatically perform common calculations in spreadsheets and databases.
An object in the user interface that responds to input from the user. Gadgets (or gadgetry) includes menus, buttons, value selectors, check boxes, scroll bars, and radio buttons.
Generally, a gateway is a special-purpose software program that knows how to move information from one kind of system to another. Originally, a gateway was an Internet term for what we now call a router.
Gigabyte (GB)
A term to describe storage capacity in thousands of megabytes. For example, a 4 GB hard disk holds over 4,000,000,000 bytes of information (approximately equal to one and a half million pages of text).
A menu-based program developed at the University of Minnesota that provides a unified, menu-driven presentation of a variety of Internet services, including WAIS, Telnet, and FTP.
A photo or other image, such as an illustration or icon, that appears on the computer screen. Graphics on computers are created and stored in special files with a different file format than text or other documents.
Graphic User Interface (GUI)
A user interface is the presentation that a software program makes to give information to the user and to obtain selections and commands from the user. A graphic user interface employs gadgets like windows, icons, menus, buttons, and other visual elements displayed on a monitor running in graphics mode. User input is usually via a pointing device and a keyboard. The opposite, so to speak, of a graphic user interface is a command line interface.
A matrix of horizontal and vertical lines dividing the document page. Think of a grid as electronic graph paper. The grid may be displayed on screen, but it does not print. In many programs, a grid is used to automatically align elements and objects in a document.
Hanging Indent
When the first line starts closer to the left edge of the page than the rest of the paragraph, the paragraph is said to have hanging indentation. Sometimes referred to as an outdent. Compare with first line indent.
Hard Copy
The output of a program on paper, a printed copy of a document created with a computer.
A portion of a document that contains objects (text, graphics, or both) that appear at the top of every page. The header often contains the date of the document or the page number. Compare with footer.
Home Page
The first document that appears when a user visits a Web site.
Synonymous with computer, often a mainframe or a minicomputer that provides services for users of PCs or terminals.
The arrangement of data in a hierarchical structure with links from one portion of the data to another. In graphic format, hypertext appears as a colored, underlined word within a document created in html (hypertext markup language).
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
The scripting language initially used to create documents on the World Wide Web.
A statement of anticipated relationship between cause and effect (for example, as the educational level of an individual goes up, income earned by the individual goes up). A null hypothesis anticipates no relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Numbered hypothesis (for example, H1, H2, H3, Hn) describe anticipated positive or negative relationships.
A small graphical image that you click to start a program, open a document, or perform some other operation. Icons provide shortcuts to programs, documents, or folders that contain documents.
Indentation is the distance between the text and the edge of the page. See first line indent and hanging indent.
Insertion Point
The insertion point is the blinking vertical line that indicates where the characters you type will appear on the screen. Sometimes called the cursor.
The name for a worldwide, TCP/IP-based networked computing community with millions of users that links government (.gov), business (.com or .net), military (.mil), and education (.edu) computers together. Also called the Net.
Variables that have a meaningful measurement between values.
The system of interconnected computers within an organization that uses protocols similar to or identical to the Internet. An organization's intranet may or may not be connected to the Internet.
The ability to internetwork with an IP-based network.
IP Number
The numeric address of a computer on the Internet (for example, Usually we refer to computers by their URLs or names (for example,, but we can also connect to computers using their IP numbers.
Acronym for Integrated Services Digital Network, a high-bandwidth communications service, ISDN combines voice and digital communications over physical telephone line. Still popular in Europe, ISDN has mostly been superseded in the United States by broadband cable and DSL.
Acronym for Internet Service Provider, a company that provides connection to the Internet. This is a subscription service for which you typically pay a monthly fee.
In a spreadsheet, an iteration is one step in the process of recalculating a circular reference repeatedly, until convergence occurs.
A program and document scripting language that allows extensive formatting and animation of documents on the World Wide Web.
A removable disk manufactured by Iomega that can store up to one GB of data.
A document that has been sent to the printer and is waiting in the print queue or is currently printing.
Journal (Syntax) Window
Using SPSS, the journal is the window where the SPSSx commands are displayed (see SPSS).
Justification is the horizontal alignment of text with respect to the left and right margins. Choices are:
  • Left — Each line of text begins at the left margin (sometimes called ragged right). Left aligned text is the easiest and fastest to read, and has an informal appearance.
  • Right — Each line of text ends at the right margin (sometimes called ragged left).
  • Center — Each line of text is spaced equally from the left and right margins.
  • Full — The program adds extra space between the words and characters of the text so that each line begins at the left margin and ends at the right margin (sometimes called justified text). Full justification is slightly more difficult and slower to read than left aligned text, but gives text a more formal appearance.
Keyboard Shortcut
A keystroke that initiates a command in the software without opening a menu. Many keyboard shortcuts are combinations of the CTRL key with another key. For example, in most programs CTRL+S (hold down the CTRL key while you press and release the S key) is the same as opening the File menu and choosing the Save command.
The orientation of a page is landscape when the width of the paper is greater than its height. Sometimes called horizontal layout or orientation.
A feature of hypermedia and hypertext transfer protocol (http) that allows connecting to other files by selecting and clicking on a text string or mapped area within a document, used extensively on the World Wide Web and, to some extent, with the Gopher menu system.
Listing Window
See Output Window.
A mailing list program that allows subscribers to send a single message to all other subscribers and vice versa, originally developed for the BITNET system.
Local printer
A local printer is directly attached to your computer by a cable. Compare with network printer.
Login and Logon
The activity required to establish a working connecting to a network and the data and applications it provides. A logon is the set of keystrokes or information that must be provided to make a successful login.
Login Name
Called the user name in some programs, the name used to gain access to an account contained on a computer or online service. The standard at CSUEB is the first initial of the first name followed by up to seven characters of the last name.
Logout and Logoff
The activity required to break a working connection to a network. A logoff is the set of keystrokes or other information that must be provided to logout successfully from a network. When connected to haywire, the command is lo.
Apple's Motorola chip-based microcomputer machines. Macintoshes are popular because they are graphically organized, easy to use, and provide a broad array of software and capabilities.
Mail Merge
A print job where special labels in the document being printed are replaced with information from a database in one or more copies of the document. The document being printed is called the merge document.
Mailing list: A named list of recipients for an email message (synonym: distribution list).
Mainframe: A large, expensive computer - typically, made by IBM/UNIX/Cray - that is invariable managed by an information systems staff.
To enlarge a program window to the full size of the screen.
The arithmetic average. The sum of the values of all observations divided by the number of observations.
The measure of central tendency that divides a distribution of scores exactly in half.
Megabyte (MB)
Millions of bytes of information. For example, a four megabyte SIMM can store over 4,000,000 bytes of data (approximately 1,500 pages of text). Specifically, a MB is 1,048,476 bytes.
Memory Address
A specific location, denoted by a number, within the data storage chips of the computer. As the processor moves and manipulates data, it uses these numbers to locate existing data and places to store new or manipulated data; the memory address of a datum typically acts as a sender or receiver when that datum is in use by the central processing unit.
A user interface gadget that displays a list of choices or commands. Menus typically appear on the menu bar, just below the title bar in a program window. To open a menu, click its name with the mouse, or hold down the ALT key while pressing and releasing the menu's mnemonic key. To choose a command on a menu, click it with the mouse, or use the Arrow keys to select it and the Space Bar to activate it.
Merge Document
A merge document is a word processor document containing labels which will be replaced by the information from the data source document when performing a mail merge. A commonly used merge document is a form letter in which the addressee and other information varies in each printed copy of the letter.
An FTP server that duplicates the contents of another (presumably popular) server. When downloading files, it is advisable to use mirror servers when possible, because they are usually less busy than the original (and are intended to relieve the load on the original server).
A mnemonic is a single letter or number that appears underlined on a menu or button and is used to choose the command from the keyboard. On a closed menu or for a button in a dialog box or window, you can choose the command by holding down the ALT key while you press and release the mnemonic key.
The most frequently occurring score in a distribution of scores (that is, the most frequently answered question).
An acronym for MODulator and DEModulator, refers to the kinds of equipment used to translate digital computer signals into analog telephone signals. Simply put, modems let computes talk on the telephone.
A monospaced font is one in which every character is the same width, like the type used by old fashioned typewriters. For example, in a monospaced font the letter m is the same width as the letter i. Compare with proportional.
The brand name of one of the first Web browsers to be developed for wide use.
The apparent or actual ability of a computer to perform more than one task at a time, multitasking is important because it lets a computer communicate over a network at the same time the user is interacting with other programs.
Name Server
A computer that translates a domain name character string into a number-based Internet protocol address.
The brand name of a popular software Internet browser, used to interpret World Wide Web data, images, links, and other material received from the Internet
A collection of computers linked together to share resources, including devices and information.
Network Operating System (NOS)
The software that runs on network servers and moderates access by client computers to server resources. An example of a NOS is Novell Netware.
Network Printer
A network printer is shared by many users on a local area network (LAN). Compare with local printer.
A message board on the Internet where many users share in discussions about a specific topic. There are hundreds of thousands of newgroups about various topics.
An object is a single element of a document: a shape, a line, a graphic, or a block of text.
In an environment where a computer can participate in a network, a computer that is not participating is said to be offline. Offline also means that a device is unavailable (for example, a printer or other peripheral device is offline if it is not immediately available).
The opposite of offline, online means that a computer or device is participating on a network, part of an active telephone connection or available to prospective users. You must be online to send and receive email, browse the World Wide Web, and participate in chats. However, you can write email offline and send it later.
Operating System
The software that runs in your personal computer, whether you are on a network or not, and manages access or resources.
The ranking or order given according to some category or criterion.
Output (Listing) Window
When statistical analysis is conducted using SPSS, the analysis is displayed in the output window. Once displayed, the output (or results) can be copied and pasted into a word processing document.
Parent Folder
The parent folder (subdirectory) contains the current folder.
Parity is an error-checking mechanism used to ensure error-free information during telecommunications or data transfer.
Acronym for Personal Computer, usually refers to an IBM machine or its clone equivalent, even though any microprocessor-based computer that sits on a desk could rightfully be called a personal computer.
PC Exchange
A program written by Apple Computer that enables a Macintosh to read and save files in DOS or Windows format.
A unit of measure in typography that equals 1/6 of an inch, or 12 points.
Acronym for Program for Internet News and Email, a popular email application that is often resident on UNIX systems. PINE is the student Haywire mail program used at CSUEB.
One of the individual dots that make up an image, like the dots on a television screen or in a newspaper photo. The word pixel originated as an abbreviation for picture element.
A point is a measurement used in the printing industry. There are 72 points in one inch.
The image that moves around on the screen as you move the mouse, most often the shape of an arrow.
When the height of the paper is greater than its width, the page has portrait orientation. Sometimes called vertical layout.
To send a message to a USENET newsgroup, mailing list, or discussion bulletin board.
PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol)
Provides router-to-router and host-to-network connections over synchronous and asynchronous circuits. It has more efficient service and lower overhead than its predecessor, SLIP, so it is better for setting up telephone-based IP connections.
Print Queue
A collection of print jobs waiting to be printed.
The process whereby an electronic document is sent through a wire connection to a peripheral device that recreates the document on paper.
See chip.
A piece of software that enables you to interact with a computer to perform certain functions, such as word processing, accounting, or inventory management. Programs are sometimes called applications.
A font or typeface in which some characters are wider than others and the space used by a character is relative to the character's width is said to be proportional or proportionally spaced. Compare with monospaced.
A set of networking rules that govern the orderly exchange of information between two computers. Unless they share a protocol, two computers cannot communicate with one another. The Internet is based on TCP/IP, the Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.
Proxy server
A special FTP server that acts as an intermediary between an FTP client and the FTP server that the client really wants to connect to. Proxy servers are used on networks where most of the computers are not permitted to make direct Internet connections. Instead, those machines must connect to the proxy, which in turn connects to the desired server.
Public Domain
Data, files, software, and other works that have been released by the copyright holder for unlimited use by anyone for any purpose, or works for which the copyright protection has expired.
Radio Button
A user interface gadget that behaves like the buttons on an old car radio, one—and only one—button in a group of radio buttons is selected at a time.
Acronym for Random Access Memory, high-speed date storage in a computer. Usually anything stored in RAM vanishes when you turn off the computer. Larger, more complex programs require more RAM to operate properly, because much of the program is loaded into RAM when the program starts, and in many cases the document data is stored in RAM, too.
A file attribute that allows the document or file to be opened for viewing or reading, but does not allow the file to be changed.
A record is a database term meaning a set of related data. A database contains records and each record contains fields.
To update a computer screen or window with new information. Also referred to as reload or redraw. For example, the screen of a computer monitor automatically refreshes many times per second. World Wide Web browsers typically have a button titled Refresh or Reload that the user can click to update the current Web page.
A mathematical model that relates variable progression (for example, income) to variables characteristics (for example, education or race). The objective is to determine if some variables are predictors of other variables (for example, whether race is related to income).
Relative Reference
In a spreadsheet, the address of a cell based on the location of the formula that contains it. If you move or copy the formula, the address changes to maintain its relationship to the cell containing the formula. Compare with absolute reference.
The number of dots, or pixels, per inch is called the resolution. Screen resolution is usually 72 dots per inch. Printers often use much higher resolutions, up to 360 dots per inch or more.
Restricted FTP
A database server that allows file transfers, both uploading and downloading, but only with specific login name and password sequences. The opposite, so to speak, of anonymous FTP, which allows transfers to and from anyone.
A computer that can transfer messages between two disjointed administrative domains.
Rulers are guides that help you precisely measure the vertical or horizontal distance between objects and boundaries in a document.
One of the search engines on the World Wide Web that allows users to search through several other search engines at the same time.
To store a copy of the data or information on a disk. You can save files on your hard disk or on a floppy disk (or other removable media). The first time you save a file, the software asks you to give the file a name. After that, whenever you modify the information in a file, choose Save in the File menu of the application to update the stored file. If you forget, and try to quit the program without saving, the software will ask if you want to save your changes. Because power outages can occur, it is advisable to save documents every five minutes or whenever you have done work that you are unwilling to lose.
To scale is to resize an object in a precise manner, shrinking or stretching its dimensions.
When a document or other file is too large to fit in a window, you must scroll, either vertically or horizontally, to view the entire document. To scroll, click the mouse pointer inside the vertical and horizontal scroll bars that appear on the right side or bottom of the window, or use the scroll box or scroll arrows that appear within the bar. Alternatively, press the Page Down and Page Up keys to scroll vertically, or Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down to scroll horizontally.
Scroll Bar
The user interface gadget used to scroll. A scroll bar consists of two arrows, a thumb (elevator car), and some thumb space (elevator shaft). The thumb space represents the document, and the thumb represents the currently visible portion of the document. The arrows let you move the view one line or a small amount at a time. Clicking in the thumb space moves the view one thumb's distance per click.
Scroll-back Buffer
In telecommunications, a scroll-back buffer stores text that has scrolled off the screen out of view and can be retrieved.
Search Engine
Any number of programs on the Internet, primarily on the Web, that assist in locating information or data. Some search engines have specialized lists of sources or type of files.
To choose an object, menu item, or piece of text on the computer screen. Typically an object or menu item is selected by clicking it Text can be selected by pointing at the spot where you want to begin your selection, then pressing and holding down the mouse button as you drag the pointer to the location where you would like your selection to end. Alternatively, you can usually select icons or fields with the Arrow keys or the Tab key, and you can select text by holding down the Shift key as you move the insertion point with the Arrow keys. Selected text usually appears highlighted in reverse video, in other words as white text against a black background. Selected icons often appear in reverse video and selected graphic objects are usually surrounded with frames or sizing buttons.
A computer whose function is to provide access to network resources.
Scatter Diagram
A graphic representation of the degree of relationship between two sets of scores.
A basic program level that assumes that a hierarchical structure exists with more specific tasks accomplished as the user moves to the next level.
A single key stroke you can use to select a menu command. Using a shortcut key has the same effect as opening a menu and choosing an item.
Acronym for Special Interest Group, a group of persons who share the same interest, usually a subset of a larger group that has a broader common interest. Many professional societies organize themselves into SIGs and may sponsor newsgroups or mailing lists.
Significance Level
Refers to a probability value that is considered to be so rare that we assume non-chance factors are operating (in other words, alpha ²5%).
Single Inline Memory Modules. Random access memory chip modules sold in 4 MB, 8 MB, 16 MB, 32 MB or 64 MB capacities. See DIMM.
A term to describe the shape of a distribution:
  • Symmetrical (or unimodal), where the mean, mode, and median are centered.
  • Negatively skewed, where the mean is the highest score among many high scores.
  • Positively skewed, where the mean is the lowest score among many low scores.
Acronym for Serial Line Interface Protocol, an Internet protocol used to connect to the Internet over telephone lines or RS232 serial links. A Macintosh with SLIP software (such as MacSLIP) and a connection to a SLIP service provider can run Fetch.
Smart Quotes
Sometimes called curly quotes, typographical quotes, or typographer's quotes, in smart quotes the opening and closing quotes curve in opposite directions to give the appearance of wrapping around the text they enclose.
Acronym for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, SMTP is the most common TCP/IP email method.
Acronym for Simple Network Management Protocol, the network management protocol in the TCP/IP protocol suite.
Soft or Soft Copy
A copy of a document saved in electronic format, usually on a disk.
Source Disk
When copying a disk, the source disk is the original disk that you are copying from.
An electronic version of the pages used by bookkeepers to track financial information, spreadsheets may be used to store many different kinds of data and they use the computer to make calculations quickly and efficiently.
Acronym for the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. The statistical program is used by social science research students to analyze their survey responses. In the lab, the SPSS tutorial is available for research students to learn the program.
Standard Deviation
The square root of the average of the squared deviations of scores from their mean. s=÷(Xi-Xbarred)2/N, where s is the standard deviation and (Xi-Xbarred) is the variance.
Stop Bits
In telecommunications, stop bits indicate the end of each character as it is transmitted.
Storage refers to the size of a peripheral device that saves files, usually in magnetic media. A hard disk is one type of storage. Several years ago, a 20 MB size was considered standard. Hard disks now range from a few GB to several terabytes in size or even larger. Do not confuse storage with RAM (random access memory). When you turn off the computer, data on the hard disk remains, while data in RAM is lost.
One or more alphanumeric characters. String functions extract text or return numbers based on text.
Next to some menu commands is a right pointing arrow. Selecting those commands opens another menu: a submenu.
Surf the Net
Slang for viewing World Wide Web pages in a browser.
Syntax Window
See Journal Window.
Acronym for SYStem OPerator, the person responsible for managing a BBS. Also used to refer to the person in charge of a computer system or network.
Tab Stop
Where the insertion point advances to and stops when you press the Tab key and is denoted by a special symbol on the ruler.
Tangent Line
A tangent line connects an anchor point to its control point. It runs tangent to the curve at the anchor point.
Acronym for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, the set of communication rules used on the Internet
Telephone network, a set of procedures within the Internet protocol that allows a person to operate a remote computer through a command-line interface from a terminal or local computer acting as a terminal. The user can access information, run programs, and operate peripheral devices, such as a library card catalog, directly on the remote computer.
A template is a predefined document that follows a specific format and serves as a starting point for your work. Templates are already formatted with text or graphics.
A video display, keyboard, and other computer components that form a device for interfacing with a mainframe computer or network server. A terminal is often not a full computer itself (it relies on the mainframe or server for processing or file storage), but a computer may be used as a terminal.
Text Entry Box
An area of the screen in which text appears as you type, often a part of a dialog box.
Text File
A file containing lines of letters, numbers, and punctuation. Most word processors can create text files and some editors (such as TeachText and BBEdit) only create text files. A non-text file is a binary file. Text files are sometimes called ASCII files.
A list of synonyms.
Title Page
Often the first page of a document, it can be the cover of a report, test, essay, or book. The title page usually contains descriptive information such as the name of the document, the name of the author, the date of printing, and is often formatted differently from the rest of the document.
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)
A protocol that governs the transfer of information between and among hosts and signators of the IP.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
The address of the computer and the filename for a particular Web page. Each Web page on the Internet has a unique name, much as each home in a city has a unique address. Typically, a URL consists of "http://www.domain.ext/filename.htm," where:
  • The URL begins with http://, which tells the program to expect an HTML document. In most browsers, you need not type the http://, because it is assumed.
  • The computer address (example:, specifies that the computer is serving documents for the World Wide Web and that it is located at a particular domain (a virtual site, often corresponding to a particular geographical location). The extension frequently defines the type of domain:
    • com — commercial business
    • edu — university or other educational institution
    • org — non-profit organization
    • gov — government
  • Not all addresses begin with www.
  • The Web page file name (the default is index.html or default.htm) is defined by each web site author and can have any format.
The name of a specific type of computer operating system, originated at Bell Labs in the 1970s. UNIX is one of the most familiar operating systems in the computing community and typically is used on Internet servers because it is taught in colleges and universities worldwide.
The process of sending a file from a personal computer to a mainframe, server, or host.
A bulletin board service accessed via the Internet, USENET by be the most active message board system in the world.
User Interface
The way a software presents itself to the user. Often referred to by its abbreviation UI, the User Interface includes the appearance of the software on screen, its sounds, and any other sensory data that is sent by the software to the user.
At Cal State East Bay, the userid is usually the lower-case first letter of the first name and up to seven characters of the last name.
An acronym for UNIX-to-UNIX Copy. Uucp is a protocol used by computers running UNIX and other computers to exchange files, typically mail messages and bulletin board articles. USENET was built on uucp protocols, although much of USENET now travels on the TCP/IP Internet
In a research setting, the researcher observes the influence of one variation on another. A Dependent variable is sensitive to the effect of the independent variable (an attitude or behavior). An Independent variable is the one the researcher wishes to assess (a background variable like age, gender, and so on).
The average of the sum of the squared deviations of the scores about their mean.
A set of procedures within the Internet protocol that searches on a regular schedule all Gopher servers that provide directory information about files. Veronica searches for specific topics or subject areas, and generates or updates a list of Gopher locations that includes files on these topics.
Web Page
A document, written in HTML, that may be viewed with a browser. Most Web pages have links to other pages or graphics.
Wide Area Information Service (WAIS)
A network language that links computers and information resources and will search for words or phrases much like an index. WAIS is one of the most powerful Internet search tools available.
Wild Card
A symbol that substitutes for a single character (?) or a series of characters (*). You can use wild cards to search for words or phrases that are similar.
A framed space on the computer screen that appears when you run a program and contains the document, display, or features of the program.
A graphical user interface (GUI) software and operating system developed by Microsoft. Microsoft Windows has been the best-selling software in the world.
Word Length
Sometimes referred to as data bits, the word length determines the number of bits used to convey each character transmitted during telecommunications.
Word Wrap
A feature of computer software that automatically flows text to a new line when a margin or other parameter that you have set has been reached. Automatic word wrapping means that you do not have to press the Enter key at the end of each line. Press the Enter key only at the end of a paragraph.
World Wide Web
A network of shared files on the Internet that are designed to be viewed with a browser software. Prior to the World Wide Web, most information on the Internet was in plain text format. The World Wide Web enabled documents that combine text, hypertext, graphics, sound, and multimedia. This hypertext, icon-based Internet service was developed at CERN in Switzerland and is emerging as a powerful content-oriented and search-and-information-retrieval mechanism, and may be the most used protocol for the foreseeable future. Private, commercial entities are vying for control for future development of this protocol. Commonly abbreviated as www, w3, or the Web.
An acronym for What You See Is What You Get, pronounced wizz-ee-wig. It means that your printed page looks the same as the document on the screen.
The most popular file compression format, developed by a company named PKWare. Files compressed with ZIP usually have the file name extension .ZIP or .Z. Compressed files can be transferred online in less time than the same file uncompressed. Another advantage of ZIPing files is that several files can be combined into one. ZIP is also the model name of a removable disk drive manufactured by Iomega that can store 100 MB to 250 MB on a single cartridge. See JAZ. To compress or decompress a file, you must use a special program, such PKWare's PKZIP and PKUNZIP or WinZIP.
Zoom in is to make a document larger on the screen, so you can see a portion of the document more closely, zooming in is like moving the document closer to your eye, or like looking at the document through a magnifying glass. Zoom out is to make a document smaller on the screen, so that you can view all of it at once, zooming out is like getting a bird's eye view of the document.


  • Bridges, Joe, An Internet Guide for Mass Communication Students, McGraw-Hill: Madison WI, 1997.
  • Christensen, Larry, Introduction to Statistics for the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Wadsworth, Inc., Belmont, CA, 1986.
  • Fetch 3.0 Help Folder definitions, an example of a good way to find answers quickly.
  • Norusis, Marija J., SPSS for Windows Base System User's Guide, Release 6.0, SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, 1993.
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