Computer Dictionary


This dictionary could only fit in the most common definitions.  To look up a computer term that is not here, go to .




3 ½ Floppy (A:) – See diskette or floppy disk.


A: - The computer’s name for its disk drive.


C: - The computer’s name for its hard drive.


CD or CD-ROM – a shiny round disk containing data or music.


CD-ROM drive – a mechanism on the computer which accepts a CD-ROM or audio CD.  To insert your disk, press the drive’s button, which opens the drive door.  Set the CD in place with the words facing up.  To eject the disk, press the button again.


D: or E: - Possible names for the CD-ROM drive.


Boot – Whenever you turn a computer on, it has to boot, or “warm up”.  It is actually recalling the programs that tell it how to work.


Click – First move the mouse cursor so it is positioned on top of the object in question.  Press and release the left mouse button.  (If you accidentally click the right mouse button, a small box might show up.  To clear it, press the Esc key on the keyboard.)


Cursor – a flashing line.  It shows where the computer thinks you want to type.


Desktop – an area on the screen (usually green).  It is meant to look like a real desk: Any work you are doing is placed on top of it.  A computer’s desktop contains icons, each of which starts up a certain program if you double-click on it.


Diskette or Floppy disk – a small square computer disk that stores information.  Since it is portable, you can use it to copy files from one computer to another.


Disk Drive or Floppy drive – a mechanism on the computer which accepts a 3 ½ inch floppy disk.  Insert your disk with the words facing up and a small arrow pointed towards the computer.  To eject the disk, press the button on the drive.  Never eject a disk when the drive’s light is on.


Double-Click – Same as a normal click, except you should quickly press the left mouse button twice.  (Make sure that you don’t move the mouse while you do this;  If you do, the computer will think that you are clicking on something else.  Try not to click too slowly or just click once;  Doing so will activate other functions.)


DOS or MS-DOS – a very popular operating system up until the early 1990s.  It appeared as simple black and white text on the screen.  It was gradually replaced by Windows, but it can still be seen when some computers start up.


Drive – something in a computer to store files.  The hard drive is a large permanent drive inside the computer.  However, you can insert small computer disks into the disk drive.  This lets you move files from one computer to another.  The computer names the hard drive C: and the disk drive A: .


Exit – to close a program when you are done using it.  Quit” means the same thing.


Floppy disk – see diskette or floppy disk.


File – a group of information that is stored in the computer.  When you save and name a document, you are creating a file.  A file always must have a name.  A program itself is also a file since it must be stored on the computer.


Hardware – physical parts of a computer.


Icon – an item with a name and a small image.  Icons can be found on the desktop and if you double-click on one, it will start up a program.


Memory – electronic chips that remember what the computer is doing from moment to moment.  When you open up a file or program, it is copied from the hard drive to memory.  When you save a file, the computer copies it back onto the hard drive for permanent storage.  People often say memory when they mean “storage”.


Menu or Menu Bar – this means the line of buttons at the very top of the screen or window.  Usually there are at least the File, Edit, View, and Help menus.  You just have to click on the word and then click on one of the options that appear.  If there is “…” after the option, it means that you will be asked a question before anything is done.


Monitor – the name for a computer’s screen.


Mouse – the small device next to the keyboard.  When you move it, the pointer on the screen also moves.  You can use the mouse’s buttons, usually the left one, to “click” on something on the screen.

 Mouse Pointer – the white arrow on the screen that moves when you move the mouse.  Also called the mouse cursor.


Operating System – a large program that is almost always running.  Every computer has its own operating system.  It coordinates the computer’s main electronics, the appearance of the screen, and the other programs.  The most popular operating systems are Windows, Macintosh OS, and UNIX.  DOS was the predecessor to Windows.


Open – to view an existing file


Program – an operation of the computer that lets you do something, like typing out a letter or looking at the Internet.  Usually when you run a program, it opens up a window on the screen where you can click buttons and type.  Most programs have been created by many people during months of labour, writing special code for the computers.


Quit or Exit – to close a program when you are done using it.  To do this, most programs let you click on the File menu and then click the Exit option at the bottom.  Some programs have a Quit button somewhere on the screen.


Right-Click – same as a normal click, except you press the right mouse button.


Save – to permanently store a file.  When you have finished working on a document, image, etc., you should save it.  Technically, the file is copied onto the computer’s hard drive.  To save, click on the File menu and then click on Save.  You may be asked for a name to call the file.


Scroll up/ Scroll down – See scrollbar.


Scrollbar – a grey bar on the right side of the screen (or window).  It indicates that your entire document does not fit on the screen.  To see the rest of your document, you must Scroll up or Scroll down.  To view a lower area on the document, scroll down by clicking on the down button on the scrollbar.  The page will appear to shift up.  To view a higher area on the document, scroll up by clicking on the up button on the scrollbar.  (There are other ways of scrolling:  To scroll faster, click and hold on the darkened bar inside the scrollbar, and drag it up or down.  To scroll a page at a time, press the Page Up or Page Down keys on the keyboard.)


Software – a computer program.


Storage – a place to permanently store a file on the computer.  Usually this is the hard drive or a diskette.  You can tell that storage is being used when a light is flashing on the computer or if you can hear a fast clicking sound.


Taskbar – this is usually at the bottom of the screen.   Click on the Start button to carry out a function of the computer.  Click on one of the other buttons to move to a different program that is already running.  At the right side is the time and volume control.



Tool Bar – A row of symbols that some programs show.  If you aren’t sure what will happen if you click on one of these buttons, just hold the mouse pointer still on top of it, and a description will appear.


Window – any separate box on the screen.  Usually each program will have its own window.  At the top right corner of each window are 3 buttons:







Clears the window from the screen but you can get back to it by clicking on its button on the Taskbar.




Shrinks the window.




Makes the window fill the entire screen.




Clears the window from the screen or quits the program.




Windows – an operating system that is used on many computers.  Windows is known for its desktop (usually green), and the taskbar.  The popular versions have been 3.1, 95, 98, and 2000.