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 .


A keyboard on a computer is almost identical to a keyboard on a typewriter. Computer keyboards will typically have extra keys, however. Some of these keys (common examples include Control, Alt, and Meta) are meant to be used in conjunction with other keys just like shift on a regular typewriter. Other keys (common examples include Insert, Delete, Home, End, Help, function keys,etc.) are meant to be used independently and often perform editing tasks. Keyboards on different platforms will often look slightly different and have somewhat different collections of keys. Some keyboards even have independent shift lock and caps lock keys. Smaller keyboards with only math-related keys are typically called "keypads".


The K desktop environment is a popular free window manager (and much more -- as its name touts, it is more of a desktop environment) that runs under X-Windows.
Kerberos is a network authentication protocol. Basically it preserves the integrity of passwords in any untrusted network (like the Internet). Kerberized applications work hand-in-hand with sites that support Kerberos to ensure that passwords cannot be stolen.
The very heart of an OS is often called its kernel. It will usually (at minimum) provide some libraries that give programmers access to its various features.
kHz & kilohertz
One kilohertz is equivalent to 1000 hertz. Some older computers have clock speeds measured in kHz.