Jan's Working with Windows:
If you don't see the term you are looking for, use your browser's Find command to search for it. Perhaps your term is used in a definition.
- 8.3 name
- A file or folder name in MS-DOS style, with 8 characters then a dot and then 3 more characters.
- active window
- The window which will receive keystrokes. The Title bar is normally a
different color from the inactive windows.
- Address bar
- In a browser-based window (including Computer and File Explorer), the Address bar contains the Address text box, where you enter the
URL or path to what you want to see. This bar may contain other buttons such
as Back and Forward or Go.
- Next to each other.
- A set of graphics features for Windows Vista & Win7, including transparent
glass effects and subtle animations for windows, Flip 3-D arrangement for
open windows, preview popups for task bar buttons.
- Align to Grid
- A feature of views of files and folders, except the Details view, which
lines up icons to the nearest invisible grid line. Not the same as AutoArrange.
- A tab on the Display Settings dialog which controls the look of the
Desktop and windows, including the colors and fonts used.
- app or application
- A software program
- Apply button
- In a dialog box, a command button that applies the changes you made but leaves the dialog box open
- The way the icons are placed on the desktop or in a window.
- A file format is associated with a program that can open that type of
file. Double-clicking a file in a files-and-folders window will open the
file in that program.
- Icons are automatically lined up in neat rows and columns. This is not the same as sorting, which arranges the icons based on a particular property, like file size or date.
Not the same as Align to Grid.
- Back button
- A button on the toolbar which returns the window to the previous page
- What shows behind/underneath text or icons.
- Using the BACKSPACE key on the keyboard erases the character to the left of the cursor.
- Making a copy of files is "backing up" the files. The copy is a "backup".
- A format for images which specifies the color of each pixel in the image separately.
- 1. A particular spot on a page that is marked with code so that a link
can jump right to that spot.
2. A shortcut in a browser that opens a web page. Internet Explorer calls
- To turn on the computer and start the operating system.
- bootable disk
- A removable disk which has on it the system files needed to start the computer. You can use such a disk to boot the computer when the hard disk has failed or
some other problem prevents the operating system from working.
- A portion of the folder tree which contains other folders and files
- A way to show you where you are in a set of organized pages, like Home > Products > Computers > Prices. Each level is usually a
link to make it easy to navigate back up to higher levels.
- To navigate through various parts of the folder tree or web pages.
- Cancel button
- In a dialog box, a command button that closes the dialog without applying any changes
- The area in which you can draw in a graphics program like Paint.
- One flowing out of another, such as menus within menus.
The Start menu and program menus can both cascade.
- Win8: Icons that slide out from the right of the screen when you swipe from the right edge or hover the mouse over the upper right or lower right corner of the screen. Charms include Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings.
- check box
- In a dialog box, an input box that is either checked or unchecked
- The action of pressing down a mouse button (usually the left one) and releasing it.
- A temporary area of memory that Windows sets aside for material that you copy.
- Close button
- The small button like on a window's Title bar which, when clicked, closes the window.
- color depth
- The number of colors that a monitor can display. Depends also on the video card being used. Values include 256, 64,000+ colors (called High Color or 16 bit color), 16 million+ colors (24 bit color), 4 billion colors (True Color or 32 bit color)
- To hide the nested folders in a branch of the folder tree.
- command button
- In a dialog box, a button like which, when clicked, executes a command.
- Vista, Win7: Name for the window that shows the drives, folders,
and files on the computer.
- In a Help dialog, the tab or pane with the list of topics.
- Contents pane
- In a Computer or Explorer view of drives, files, and folders, the pane on
the right is the Contents pane and shows the contents of what is selected on
the left in the Navigation pane.
- context menu
- A menu that opens with a right click of the mouse. What is listed depends
on what was clicked and what you were doing.
- Varies depending on the context. Used for right-click menus which show different commands depending on where the right click occurred.
- contextual tabs
- Win8: Tabs on a ribbon that show only when a particular type of object is selected. For example, Picture Tools: Manage appears only if a picture is selected.
- control icon
- An icon at the top left of a window which opens a menu of commands that control the window's size and position.
- control menu
- A menu that appears when you click the far left of the Title bar. It
contains commands to control the size and location of the window.
- Control Panel
- A special window that contains icons for a variety of tasks, such as
adding and removing programs from the computer, configuring hardware, and
changing the appearance of the Desktop and windows.
- To copy the selected material to the Windows clipboard to use it somewhere else without removing it from the original location.
- Copy Disk
- A command which copies an entire disk to another disk.
- A crashed computer has lost its mind. It can no longer function. Crashes can be caused by hardware failure and by software.
- The rules by which you judge or measure. Criteria for filtering set the characteristics that must be matched for that object to be included.
- Cutting off parts of an image to reduce its dimensions.
- A key combination. Hold the CTRL key and the ALT key down at the same time
and press the DELETE key. In old versions of Windows this combo restarts the
computer. In more recent versions, it opens the Task Manager, or a list of
options that includes the Task Manager.
- A symbol (usually a vertical line or I-bar) which shows where your typing will appear on the screen
- To change settings from the original (default) ones.
- To remove the selected material from the document. It is copied to the Windows clipboard and can be pasted somewhere else.
- The original setting; what happens if you do not change the settings.
- To remove something; erase.
- A demonstration, usually with animation and audio, of how something
works or of how to do a task.
- The area above the Taskbar on your screen.
- The disk or drive that you wish to receive what you are copying or
- Details pane
- In Windows Vista and Win7, a pane across the bottom of a Computer window. In Win8, a pane at the right of the File Explorer window. The pane
displays information (details) about what is selected.
- Details view
- Shows the file properties across the window, like Name, Size, Type, Date modified.
- diagonal resize
- The shape of the pointer, or , when dragging will resize the window in both directions at the same time.
- dialog box
- A window with command buttons and input areas like text boxes and radio buttons.
- dialog help button
- The button on the title bar of a dialog box which allows you to
find out what a part of the
dialog box is for by clicking on it.
- disc, disk
- A circle of recording material, which is metal for hard disks, Mylar
for floppy disks, a complex set of plastic and metal layers for CDs and DVDs. This word is sometimes applied generically to any
recording material, whether circular in shape or not.
- Display Settings
- A dialog that controls the look and behavior of many aspects of your
Desktop and windows, including the color depth, screen resolution, and
appearance of windows.
- Primarily what a word processing program like Word produces, such as a
letter or report, but can also be a spreadsheet, image, sound byte, or any
other file that provides information to the viewer/listener.
- Clicking twice quickly.
- Moving the mouse while holding down a mouse button.
- A device which contains recording material. A floppy disk is inserted
into a floppy disk drive. A hard disk is inside a hard disk drive. A USB
flash drive contains one or more flash recording chips.
- Part of drag-and-drop, which is a way to move or copy objects by
dragging with the mouse. When your object is in the location where you want
it, you release the mouse button to drop it there.
- drop list
- A dialog input which hides a list of options until you click on the arrow. Then the list appears.
- To make a change in an existing document. You might add to it, delete part, or move parts within the document.
- To make a removable disk like a CD or DVD come out of the drive. Also, to make a USB flash drive ready for removal.
- To show the previously hidden material, such as folders and files that are nested inside a branch of the folder tree or sections of an HTML page or a Help page.
- A window which shows the folder tree as well as the contents of what is
selected in the folder tree.
- The part of a file's name that follows the dot. filename.extension Most extensions are 3 characters long. Some are 4 characters, like .html for some web pages.
- Vista, Win7, Win8: A very large size icon for a file or folder.
Especially useful for images. Arranged alphabetically across the window.
- Favorite Links
- In the Navigation pane of a Computer or File Explorer window, the
section at the top holds shortcuts to drives and folders that you use often.
- A set of shortcuts to web sites, folders, or files that you use often.
- The first part of a file's name, which comes before the dot. filename.extension Under Windows
after Win95, this first part can be very long and can contain spaces.
- A file is a single item that can be stored or executed or opened with a program.
(Getting down to the most basic ideas here!)
- File Explorer
- Win8: The name for the window that displays disks, folders, and files.
- file type
- The file extension indicates what the file's type is - Word document
(.doc, .docx), Paint picture (.bmp, .png, .gif), executable that runs a program (.exe)
- To show only the objects that meet the criteria you have picked, such as
showing only image files or only files created on a certain date.
- Filmstrip view
- WinXP: A view in a My Computer or Explorer window that shows the contents as
a strip of film with a large view above the strip. Especially good for
folders of images.
- Find dialog
- A dialog which lets you search on a particular page for a specific word
- Find tab
- In a Help window, the tab which allows you to look for the places a word or phrase is used in the Help file
- flash drive
- A removable drive that connects to a USB port on the computer.
- floppy disk
- A removable storage medium. Consists of a Mylar disk with magnetic
properties inside a hard plastic case. Obsolete.
- A grouping of files in the folder tree
- folder tree
- A graphical display of the relationship of the folders and drives on a computer with collapsible sections.
- A set of characters with a similar look for creating documents.
- font size
- The size of the characters. Different fonts may show different physical
sizes for the same 'font size'.
- To prepare a storage disk for use. Formatting erases all previous data, sets up an area to list what is stored where, and checks for physical and magnetic damage.
- Forward button
- A button on the toolbar which moves to the next page in the History list
of pages you have visited. This button will not be available until you have
moved backwards in the History list.
- When a computer display is frozen, the computer ignores whatever you do.
Moving the mouse or pressing keys does not change the display. This can be
temporary if the computer's processor is busy with an intense task. Or, the
computer may be caught in a logical loop. In that case, restarting the computer may be the
only way to get the computer to pay attention to you again.
- full format
- A full format does all three tasks in the "format" definition.
- Vista, Win7: A small application intended to run in the Sidebar, such as
a calendar, calculator, or stock-ticker.
[July 2012 - Microsoft recommends remove this feature due to security risks. Windows 8 will not have gadgets.
Fix It solution]
- grayed out
- Dimming the colors to gray on a
menu, button, or icon for a command
that is currently not available.
- Group By
- A way of arranging icons in a Computer or File Explorer window by
putting objects with similar characteristics together. You can group by name
or date created or date modified or file type, for example.
- Graphical User Interface: a method for allowing users
to interact with a computer by using pictures instead of typing in text
- A small shape (usually square) at a corner or in the middle of an edge
which resizes the object when you drag it.
- hard disk
- A set of metal platters inside your computer which stores your operating
system, programs, and data files. A hard disk can be partitioned into
several logical drives, which appear separately in the folder tree. This is
necessary on some computers to get around the limitations that the operating
system puts on the size of a hard disk. It can also make it easier to
maintain the disk.
- A window which has explanations and tips about your operating system or application.
- A low-power state for a computer. Open documents are saved to the hard
- A list of actions taken or pages visited.
- The first page of a web site or other organized set of pages.
- horizontal resize
- The shape that the pointer takes when dragging will change the size of the window horizontally.
- When you let the mouse pointer stay over a particular object or location
- See link
- A small image that represents a program or action or document.
- Icon view
- WinXP and earlier: A view of files and folders that uses small icons,
arranged alphabetically across columns.
- inactive window
- A window which is open but which will not receive any of your keystrokes.
- The tab or pane in a Help window which has an alphabetical list of keywords and phrases
- Indexed locations
- Parts of your computer that Windows automatically indexes to speed
up searching. The Search box on the Start menu and at the top of a Computer
window look in Indexed locations by default. You can add other locations.
- insert disk
- To put a CD, DVD, floppy disk, Zip disk into its drive. Also used sometimes for
connecting a USB drive to its connector.
- The point of contact for communication or physical exchange between
different systems. A user interface allows people to interact with a computer
program or a machine.
- jump list
- Win7, Win8: A list of documents that pops up when you right click the thumbnail of an open application on the Task bar.
The illustration shows a MS Excel button on the Task Bar with its jump list
- Words which pick out the important ideas in a section of writing. Keywords
can be used in a search to find the document.
- Large Icon view
- An arrangement of icons in a Computer or File Explorer window that uses a larger icon.
Arranged alphabetically across the window. Images and some documents will display a thumbnail image.
- The arrangement of bars and panes in a window.
- left click
- Pressing the left mouse button and then releasing it.
- A group of folders of similar materials, especially documents, pictures, music, and videos. Such files can be stored in different locations but be listed also in a library. A custom library might group the files for a particular project.
- A word or phrase which can be clicked on in a browser to open another
page, document, or image. Also called hyperlink.
- list box
- In a dialog box, an input which lists all of the options that you can choose.
- Live Preview
shows the effect of changes while you are making choices. This allows you to see the effect of your
choices before actually applying them.
- List view
- An arrangement of icons in a Computer or File Explorer window that uses small icons and alphabetizes down the window
- 1. lock a computer: Puts a screen saver or other page on the
monitor. You must login to get access to the
computer again. The computer remain on and your open applications and
documents will be there when you log back in.
2. lock the Task bar: Keeps the Task bar from being moved and
does not allow sections like Quick Launch and the Notification Area to be resized.
- logical drive
- A hard disk can be divided into several logical drives, which the
computer treats like they were actually separate pieces of hardware.
Dividing a hard disk up like this is necessary when the hard disk can store
more data than the operating system can manage in one lump.
- log off
- Also log out. To exit a web site or a session on a computer or network
in such a way that to gain access again, you must log on again, entering
your user name and password.
- log on
- Also logon, log in, or login. To enter your user name and password to
gain access to something, such as a computer, a web site, a document, or a
- long file name
- A name for a file which has more characters than 8.3.
- A dashed or dotted box outline surrounding an object or objects. In some programs a marquee blinks.
- marquee select
- Dragging the pointer across several items selects them and surrounds them with a dashed box, the marquee.
- To make a window take up all of the available space. The Maximize button is on the window's Title bar.
- Medium Icon view
arrangement of icons in a Computer window that uses a medium size icon.
Arranged alphabetically across the window.
- A list of available commands.
- Menu bar
- A bar, usually across the top of a window below the Title bar, which
contains menu items, which may be menus themselves.
- Metro/Modern interface
- Win8: Initial interface. Uses tiles in various sizes instead of a menu of shortcuts to programs.
- To reduce a window to an icon on the taskbar or at the bottom of an application window.
The Minimize button is on the window's Title bar.
- A type of pointing device which fits under the user's hand and has buttons
- Change locations in the folder tree or on the screen.
- MS-DOS format name
- Another name for 8.3 format.
- My Computer
- WinXP or earlier: Name for the window that shows icons for
drives, folders, and files but does not show the folder tree.
- In a window that shows drives, folders, and files, the pane on the left
that shows the folder tree. In recent versions of Windows, this pane also shows Favorite
Links at the top. Files are not shown in the Navigation pane.
- One inside the other.
- Objects that are not right next to each other.
- Notification area
- On the Taskbar, the area at the right which holds the clock and icons for other background applications.
Also known as the Tray.
- OK button
- In a dialog box, a command button which, when clicked, accepts any changes that you made and closes the dialog.
- offline Help
- Help articles which are stored on the computer's hard disk and were
installed with the operating system or program.
- online Help
- Primarily, Help articles which are stored on a web server. You must have
an Internet connection to see the articles. Other kinds of help that require
an Internet connection may be considered online Help, such as help by email or
through a chat window or by remote control.
- 1. To start a program, like Paint or Notepad.
2. To make visible a window, like the Control Panel.
3. To display a document in an appropriate program.
- option button
- See radio button.
- Choices; settings that you can change
- Vista, Win7: A button on the Computer window's toolbar which opens a
list of commands, including New Folder and Layout.
- Page Setup
- A dialog in which you can set choose how a printed page will look,
including margins, page orientation, headers, footers.
- A set of options, like colors for a font or shapes for a drawing object.
- A portion of a divided window.
- To take material previously copied to the Windows Clipboard and put it in a document or, similarly, to place a whole file in a new location after copying it.
- The list from drive to file of the nested levels to a file, like
- A design that can be repeated across the desktop as a decoration.
- Another term for customize. Making changes from the defaults, especially to the way Windows or a program looks.
- To fix in place. When you pin a program to the Taskbar, its icon shows all the time. When
you pin a document to a jump list,
the name of the document shows in the jump list all the time.
- The symbol for the location which will receive your clicks.
- pointing device
- A device which controls the pointer, such as a mouse, glidepad, or graphics tablet.
- popup menu
- A menu which appears when you right click on something.
- 1. To see what something will look like before actually applying your
2. To see how a document will look before printing it
3. To see a small version of an image or document before opening it.
- 1. To put the file contents onto paper with a printer
- 2. A dialog which contains choices for how much to print, how many copies, color or not, which printer to use.
- Print Preview
- A display of a document as it will appear if you print it.
- A command on a menu which will open a display of the characteristics of the object. You may be able to change some of the
- quick format
- Formatting a disk without checking the disk for physical or magnetic errors.
- Quick Launch
- An area on the Taskbar, which holds shortcuts to frequently used programs.
- radio button
- In a dialog box, an input which is either selected or not. Only one radio button in a group can be chosen.
- A special area that saves objects that you have deleted until you empty
the Recycle Bin or it gets too full to hold anything else. Then objects are
deleted as needed to make space for the new deletions, starting with the
oldest objects. You can easily restore items that are still in the Recycle
- Forcing the computer to look again and display the most recent information. The F5 key is often assigned as a shortcut for this action.
- removable media
- Storage media that can be removed from its drive and taken to a different
computer or stored away safely. Includes writable CD or DVD discs, floppy disks, USB drives, Zip disks
and similar products.
- To change the name of a file or folder.
- To change the size of a window or image.
- The number of pixels that a monitor can display (width x height), such as 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768,
1280 x 1024. The higher the number, the finer the detail that can be shown.
- To close all programs and turn the computer off but then automatically
start the computer again.
- To return a window to its previous size. The Restore button is on the window's Title bar.
- Win7, Win8, and Office 2007+: Instead of the traditional menus and toolbar for
an application like MS Word or Paint, the commands are on a tabbed ribbon, which
combines buttons, drop lists, palettes, and dialogs to make commands easier to find
- right click
- To press and release the right mouse button.
- right drag
- Right click and then drag while still holding down the right mouse button.
- The top level for files and folders on a drive.
- Safely remove hardware
- A small program that closes down a removable drive or other USB hardware
so that it can be disconnected without damage to the files or the device.
- To record the current state of a file so that changes are not lost.
- Save As
- A command which brings up a dialog so that you can save the document with a new name, with a new file type, or in a new location.
- screen saver
- A sequence of images that appear when the monitor has been idle for a set amount of time. It's purpose is to keep old monitor screens from being damaged
by having the same image on the screen for a long time. For modern screens a screen saver is just eye candy.
- screen shot/screen capture
- An image of what is on a computer screen. Pressing the key PrtScn sends a copy of the screen to the Windows Clipboard. The key cobo ALT + PrtScrn captues an image of just the active window. You can paste this image into a document or into a graphics program like Paint for editing.
- screen tip
- A small message that appears when the mouse pointer hovers over
something like a button or icon.
- scroll arrow
- The arrow button at the end of a scroll bar. Clicking the arrow moves
the contents of the window by a small distance.
- scroll bar
- Used to change what part of a document is showing in a window when it is too large
for all of it to fit.
- scroll box
- The box on the scrollbar which you can slide to move the document in the window.
- scroll wheel
- A small wheel on a mouse, usually between the left and right mouse
buttons. Turning the wheel performs the same action as using the scroll box
in a window.
- 1. Win XP: The pane in a My Computer window which lets you enter parts of
filenames or other information to look for files.
- 2. Vista, Win7: The textbox at the bottom of the Start menu which will
search for names of programs or files containing which you type in the box.
Win8: Typing while showing the Start screen opens a Windows Search pane, with the Search results showing at the left. Win8 divides the results into Apps, Settings, and Files. Files is further divided into Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Other.
- 4. A textbox in a window in which you type keywords or
phrases in order to find documents that contain them.
- Search Help
- A search feature that looks only at Help articles, not at other kinds of
- To click on an object or a choice in a dialog to make it the object of your clicks or keystrokes.
- An icon or key combination which executes a command, such as to open an application or a document.
- shut down
- To close the running programs and turn off the computer.
- A low-power state for a computer. In most computers, open documents are
saved only to memory, not to the hard disk, while in the Sleep state.
- In a dialog box, an input which changes a value based on how you drag a sliding box.
- Small Icon view
Windows Vista and Win98, an arrangement of icons in a Computer window which uses smaller icons and alphabetizes across the window.
- snap window
- Win7, Win8: Moving a window to the top, left or right sides of the screen
will snap it in place. At the top the window will maximize to fill the whole
screen. At the left or right the window resizes to fill half the screen. The
same effect can be done by combining the Windows key and a directional arrow
- To arrange items in an order based on a property, like Name or Date modified.
- The disk from which you want to copy or move files or folders. You move
them to a destination disk.
- spin control box
- In an dialog box, an input which shows only one value at a time. To change values you use up/down arrows.
- In Windows Vista only, a new method of arranging icons into stacks, based on
one of the properties, such as name or date modified.
- Stand by
- A low-power state for a computer, usually a laptop.
- Start menu
- A button on the Taskbar which displays a list of commands or other menus.
- Start screen
- Win8: The opening screen which has tiles for apps (programs).
- Status bar
- A bar at the bottom of a window which shows text or icons that reveal
the status of various processes. For example, the Status bar of a word
processing program might show the position of the cursor by line and
character position. An icon might show whether the CAPS LOCK key was on.
- Resizing an image to fit the space, such as to cover the whole screen as wallpaper
- A folder contained in another folder.
- Switch User
- One of the options in the Shut Down menu. If you just switch to a
different user account, when you switch back, all of the programs and
documents that you left open are still open.
- system disk
- A bootable disk, which is one that can be used to start up a computer.
A section of a window which acts like the tabs on file folders. Clicking on a tab label brings that portion of the dialog or ribbon to the front so you can see it.
- Task bar
- At the bottom of the Windows screen, it contains the Start button, icons for open applications, the Quick Launch area, and the Tray
or notification area.
- Task Manager
- A dialog which lists all the currently running tasks on the computer. You can terminate each one or reboot the computer from this dialog.
- text box
- In a dialog box, an input in which you must type.
- text editor
- A simple program for writing basic text-only documents.
- A small image file that is used as a background pattern and is repeated
across the screen. A texture can create the illusion of fabric or metal or
grass, for example.
- A collection of appearance choices, including background, font, font size,
colors, pointer shapes, etc.
- A view of files and folders in WinXP which shows a small version of an
images (a thumbnail).
- A view of files and folders that shows some details about the object beside
the icon for it.
- An explanation or other information which appears when the pointer hovers over an object.
- Title bar
- The bar at the top of a window which shows the title of the current
document, the name and icon for the program, and window control buttons
(Minimize, Maximize/Restore, Close).
- A button in a program like Paint that changes the behavior of the pointer. For example, the text tool in Paint changes the pointer to draw a box for writing text in the picture.
- A bar of buttons for commands, usually grouped by use. For example, the
drawing tools for Paint are all on one bar. WordPad has a toolbar which
is primarily for formatting text.
- In a Help window, a category for Help documents
- See notification area.
- unavailable command
- A command which cannot be used at this time. Usually this means that the command cannot be applied to what is currently selected or has the focus.
- To undo a deletion, returning everything back to the way it was before you deleted.
- To reverse an action. Undo applied to typing would erase the characters you typed. Undo applied after deleting a folder would restore the folder.
- user interface
- The way people interact with the software. A graphical interface uses images like buttons and windows. A text interface uses typed commands.
- vertical resize
- The shape that the pointer takes to change the size vertically of a window.
- A particular way of arranging the icons in a window that shows drives,
folders, and files.
- A button on the Computer toolbar in Windows Vista which opens a list of
- An image which is used as a decoration on the desktop.
- Welcome Center
- Vista: A window which opens when Vista starts. It contains icons
to areas that Microsoft thinks new users would find helpful.
- A character that is a placeholder for any other character. Used often in searches. For example, the wildcard * stands for any character and any number of characters. The wildcard ? stands for any single character.
- A rectangular area on the desktop, with a border and usually with a title bar. It may also have a menu bar, toolbar, and status bar.
- Windows Classic
- WinXP, Vista: A theme which makes WinXP or Windows Vista look and behave more like
earlier versions, especially the Start menu and appearance of windows.
- Windows Media Player
- A program which can play or show a wide variety of video, image, and audio
- Windows Search
- A search feature which looks for files and folders that match the keywords
that you enter. It does not include Help files in the results, but in some
versions of Windows it can
include Internet files.
- Windows Sidebar
- Vista: An area on the right in the Desktop which can display
one or more gadgets.
- write protect
- To prevent data from being written to a device.
- Zoom In
- To make the display of a document larger. You see less of the document but what you see is bigger.
- Zoom Out
- To make the display of a document smaller, as though you had stepped back further from it. You can see more of the document, but it is smaller.