Using Computers in Education
v. SP13


While we won’t have a “vocabulary test” over the following terms, I will operate under the assumption you know these terms and can use them in a basic computer conversation.

Printable version of this vocabulary list is here.

align left, align right, center, justify

Terms that describe the paragraph format, or position of text, on a page.  Align left means the text lines up along a straight line at the edge, or margin, of the page, with the right-side edge uneven. This page is left aligned.  Align right aligns the edge of the text along the right margin, and leaves the left side uneven. Center positions the text evenly on both sides of an imaginary line down the middle of the page.  Justify spreads the text from one margin to the other and makes both edges even. Try typing several lines of text and applying the different paragraph formats to the text see what happens.  The paragraph format can be changed by highlighting the paragraph you want to change, and clicking on one of the formatting buttons in the toolbar.


Another word for computer program. See below


An on-screen user interface element that simulates the action of a push button. By clicking the button, a user initiates a command or action.

CD-ROM disk

A high capacity read-only optical disk that can store up to 680 MB of data. An acronym for Compact Disc-Read-Only Memory.

CD-ROM drive

A storage device that uses laser technology to read data from a CD-ROM.

check box

An on-screen box that allows the user to select options clicking the box.


This action is performed when you place your pointer on an icon, and press the button on the left side of the mouse, then release the button without moving the pointer.


Choosing this option from the File menu removes the document from the computer screen. If you have not saved changes to your document before closing it, the program will ask you if you would like to do so.

computer program

A set of detailed, step-by-step instructions that tells a computer how to solve a problem or carry out a task. See also application

copy, cut, paste

Text can be moved or copied from one document to another, or from one place in a document to another place, by copying or cutting it, and then pasting it. To copy and paste text, put your mouse pointer next to the letter on the leftmost side of the text you want to copy. click and drag the mouse pointer down to the rightmost point in the text you want to copy. The text area you have chosen will then become black, or highlighted.   Choosing Copy from the Edit menu means the highlighted text will be copied, and the original text will stay where it was. When you put your cursor at a new position, and choose Paste from the Edit menu, the text which you copied appears on the screen.  The same actions are performed when text is cut and pasted, but the original text is removed from the computer screen. To cut and paste text, highlight the text in the same way as when copying and pasting, but choose Cut from the Edit menu instead of Copy.


The blinking vertical line on the computer screen from which letters appear when you type. The cursor can be moved to different parts of your document by clicking the mouse pointer on text on the screen.

dialog box

An on-screen window that provides options associated with a command.

disk drive

A computer storage device that records and retrieves data on disks. Drive types include floppy, Zip, and hard disk drives.


A file created by a computer program. A document is usually a file that looks like a page of paper when opened, or activated, by a computer program.


This action is performed by clicking the mouse button two times in rapid succession. Some mouse actions, such as starting a program by clicking on its icon, may require a double-click.


This action is performed when you click on an icon or menu, then move the mouse without releasing the button.

drop-down list

A list of options that is displayed when the user clicks an arrow button.

DVD (digital video disc)

An optical storage medium similar in appearance and technology to a CD-ROM but with higher storage capacity. The acronym stands for “digital video disc” or “digital versatile disc.”

DVD drive

An optical storage device that reads data from CD-ROM and DVD disks.


When you save a file, the computer automatically gives the file name an extension, a period followed by three letters. For example, the program Microsoft Word gives the file name the extension .doc. This extension helps the computer identify the program that created the document.


A unit of computer information. A file can be a document (see above) or part of a computer program (see below).

floppy disk

A removable magnetic storage medium, typically 3.5” in size with a capacity of 1.44 MB.

floppy disk drive

A storage device that writes data on, and reads data from, floppy disks.


In order to organize files, “electronic folders” are used in which to place your electronic files, in the same way that paper folders are used to hold paper documents. To open a folder when saving or opening a document, double-click on the folder’s icon. Several folders may be located within one folder.


The letters that make up a computer document can be given a different appearance by choosing different fonts, or letters. Fonts come in different shapes and sizes, and can be given different styles, such as bold, italics, and underlining.

function key

The keys numbered Fl through F12, located at the top of the computer keyboard, that activate program-specific commands.

graphical user interface (gui)

A type of user interface that features on-screen objects such as menus and icons, manipulated by a mouse. Abbreviated GUI (pronounced “gooey”).

hard disk drive

A computer storage device that contains a large-capacity “hard disk” sealed inside the drive case. A hard disk is not the same as a 3.5” removable disk that has a rigid plastic case.


Electronic and mechanical devices used for input, output, processing, and storing data.


A graphical representation of an object such as a disk, printer, or program.


As a noun, "input" means the information that is conveyed to a computer.  As a verb, "input" means to enter data into a computer.

insertion point

A flashing vertical bar that appears on the screen, indicating where the user can begin entering text.

jump drive

AKA: USB drive, flash drive, thumb drive, travel drive, or other brand specific name.  These portable storage devices hold data in increments of 64, 128, 256, 512 Mb and 1 or more Gb. These devices have quickly replaced both 3½” floppy discs and ZIP drives as a preferred storage media because of their resistance to outside forces such as magnetic fields. 

An arrangement of letter, number, and special function keys that acts as the primary input device to a computer.

keyboard shortcut

A combination of keys, such as Ctrl+C, that allows the user to activate a program function without clicking a series of menu options.

Macintosh computer (Mac)

A microcomputer platform manufactured primarily by Apple Computer Inc. and based on a proprietary architecture.  See PC.


The computer circuitry that holds data waiting to be processed.


At the top of a the computer screen when a program is open is a list of words (File, Edit, etc.). A list of choices, or menu, appears when you click on one of these words with your mouse pointer. To choose an action from the menu, drag the pointer down to the choice you want. When you reach the choice that you want, release the mouse button, and that choice is activated.


A display device that forms an image by converting electrical signals from the computer into points of colored light on the screen.


An input device that allows the user to manipulate objects on the screen by moving the mouse on the surface of a desk.
operating system (os)

The program on a computer that allows you to manage and organize computer documents and to run programs. Windows is the name of a popular operating system. There are now several well-known versions of Windows; the most common is Windows XP.

option button

An on-screen control that allows a user to select one of two or more options in a dialog box. Also referred to as radio buttons.


The results produced by a computer (for example, reports, graphs, and music).


A special set of symbols used to restrict access to a user's computer or network.


1) A microcomputer that uses the Windows software and contains an Intel-compatible micro-processor.   2) A personal computer.  See Macintosh computer.

peripheral devices

Components and equipment that expand a computer's input, output, and storage capabilities, e.g., a printer or scanner.


A symbol on the computer screen, usually shaped like an arrow, whose movement corresponds to the movement of the mouse.


Allows you do perform tasks on a computer. To use document files, a program opens them. Microsoft Word is the name of a popular program for creating documents. See also: application, computer program.


A message displayed on the computer screen that asks for input from the user.


In Windows, some mouse functions are performed by clicking with the button on the right side of the mouse.  In MacOS, the same context menu can be accessed with Ctrl+click.


After a document is created, a copy of it can be placed on a floppy disk or on the hard drive by saving the document. You save a document by choosing Save from the File menu and giving the document a file name.  The computer creates an electronic version of the document and places it on the drive that you specify. You can open the document later to view, print or make changes.

save as
When you have made some changes to a document and want to save the original document without the new changes and the new document with the changes, choose Save As… from the File menu when saving your document. Then give the new document a name different from that of the original document.


The instructions that set up a computer to do a task, indicate how to interact with a user, and specify how to process data.

storage media storage medium

The physical material used to computer data, such as a floppy disk, a hard disk, CD-ROM, ZIP drive, or JumpDrive.


An additional menu of choices that appears when a menu option is selected.

toggle key

A key such as the Caps Lock key that switches a device back and forth between two modes.


At the top of a program are groups of pictures which look like buttons. The group of buttons collectively is called the toolbar. These buttons perform different actions when you click on them.

user id

A combination of letters and numbers that serves as a user's "call sign" or identification. Also referred to as a user name.

web browser software

Computer software, such as Mozilla Firefox, Apple, Safari, and Microsoft Internet Explorer, that allows users to view Web pages and follow links to jump from one document to the next.


A rectangular representation of a work area in a graphical user interface.


A sequence of dialog boxes that direct the user through multi-step software tasks, such as creating a graph.


Other important “spellings”; please use them . . .

the Internet
World Wide Web
the Web
a web site
a web page