Glossary of Computer Terms

Computer Terms Glossary

This page is meant to serve as a guide to the vast quantity of computer terms and acronyms in common use for the casual computer user. It is divided into two main sections, the first is dedicated to the basics and is meant more for beginners, while the second is meant instead to be used as a reference. In reality many of the terms in the second section are still quite common; the first section was deliberately kept as short as possible.

Terms in the second section may be looked up by either using the "find in page" function of your browser, or by appending "#term" (without the quotes and where term is the term of interest) to the "URL" or "go to" section of your browser, keeping in mind that case matters. The best method of searching for a term though is to use the Search Interface that will return not only the specific term sought but also other entries that reference it. Be aware that the terms referenced in the second part of this page will freely assume familiarity with the first part.

If you are instead actually trying to figure out what a particular filename extension means, you might instead try the filename extensions page.

If you want something added or see a problem with something already here (but keep in mind this guide is not meant to be overly technical) please send .


An organizer is a tiny computer used primarily to store names, addresses, phone numbers, and date book information. They usually have some ability to exchange information with desktop systems. They boast even better battery life than PDAs but are far less capable. They are extremely inexpensive but are typically incapable of running any special purpose applications and are thus of limited use.
The operating system is the program that manages a computer's resources. Common OSes include Windows '95, MacOS, Linux, Solaris, AmigaOS, AIX, Windows NT, etc.


While the specifics are well beyond the scope of this document, the term "object-oriented" applies to a philosophy of software creation. Often this philosophy is referred to as object-oriented design (sometimes abbreviated as OOD), and programs written with it in mind are referred to as object-oriented programs (often abbreviated OOP). Programming languages designed to help facilitate it are called object-oriented languages (sometimes abbreviated as OOL) and databases built with it in mind are called object-oriented databases (sometimes abbreviated as OODB or less fortunately OOD). The general notion is that an object-oriented approach to creating software starts with modeling the real-world problems trying to be solved in familiar real-world ways, and carries the analogy all the way down to structure of the program. This is of course a great over-simplification. Numerous object-oriented programming languages exist including: Java, C++, Modula-2, Newton Script, and ADA.
Objective-C & ObjC
Objective-C (often called "ObjC" for short) is a compiled object-oriented language. Based heavily on C, Objective-C is nearly as fast and can often be thought of as being just C with added features. Note that it was developed independently of C++; its object-oriented extensions are more in the style of Smalltalk. It is however related to Objective-C++.
Objective-C++ & ObjC++
Objective-C++ (often called "ObjC++" for short) is a curious hybrid of Objective-C and C++, allowing the syntax of both to coexist in the same source files.
office suite
An office suite is a collection of programs including at minimum a word processor, spreadsheet, drawing program, and minimal database program. Some common office suites include MS-Office, AppleWorks, ClarisWorks, GeoWorks, Applixware, Corel Office, and StarOffice.
open source
Open source software goes one step beyond freeware. Not only does it provide the software for free, it provides the original source code used to create the software. Thus, curious users can poke around with it to see how it works, and advanced users can modify it to make it work better for them. By its nature, open souce software is pretty well immune to all types of computer virus.
A free variant of Berkeley UNIX available for Alpha, x86, 68xx, PA-RISC, SPARC, and PowerPC based machines. Its emphasis is on security.
OpenDocument & ODF
OpenDocument (or ODF for short) is the suite of open, XML-based office suite application formats defined by the OASIS consortium. It defines a platform-neutral, non-proprietary way of storing documents.
A low-level 3D graphics library with an emphasis on speed developed by SGI.
OS/2 is the OS designed by IBM to run on x86 based machines. It is semi-compatible with MS-Windows. IBM's more industrial strength OS is called AIX.