< Nursing Informatics Glossary A to D: The BSN and BSN-AE Nursing Programs at Kwantlen Polytechnic University

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Glossary of Terms: A to D

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In Windows, this refers to the way memory is accessed. 32-bit application access memory in 32-bit "chunks" (4-bytes). Large portions of Window and other applications were (or may still be) 32-bit applications, and may run faster because it is more efficient to access chunks of memory.

In Windows, this refers to the way memory is accessed. 64-bit application access memory in 64-bit "chunks" (8-bytes). Many new applications, such as graphics and multimedia programs work best with 64 bit or higher access memory. Often applications now run at 128 bit or 256 bit rates.

A special key on most computer keyboards that allows users to access alternate features and keyboard "hotkeys". Alt is almost always used in conjunction with another key, such as "F4" or "Ctrl".

Refers to information processing techniques that send data as a directly representative electronic signal. (e.g. a voice is transmitted across a telephone line as an electrical signal with the same amplitude and frequency as spoken words.)

ANSI (AN-see)
American National Standards Institute. Publishes standards for various aspects of the computer industry.

Application Software
Software that is designed and written for a specific personal, organizational, or processing task, such as graphics software.

Arrow Keys
A set of 4 keys at the right of the computer keyboard that can be used to control the movement of the cursor on the screen up, down, left, and right.

American Standard Code for Information Interchange. The ASCII Character Set is the standard set of alphanumeric characters (letters and numbers) used by computers.

Linking a document with the program that created it so that both can be opened with a single command. For example, double-clicking a DOC file opens Word for Windows and loads the selected document.

Auto Arrange
In Windows 95 and 98 Explorer, auto arrange organizes the visible icons into a regular grid pattern.

Autoexec.bat (Auto-ex-ec-dot-bat)
In DOS and Windows based PCs, the file that contains a list of commands that are automatically executed on system start up.

Avatar (AV-uh-tar)
In multiuser internet environments and games, an avatar is a user's own graphical representation.

Background Operation
A job performed by a program when another program is in the active window. For example, printing, or creating a backup, can be done by Windows 98 as a background operation.

To create a copy of a disk’s contents on another location for safe keeping. Since hard drives are not infallible, it is recommended that you backup its contents regularly.

Maximum rage of signal frequencies, amount of data, or number of users a data carrier can handle.

A set of commands and operations that are executed in sequence without human supervision. In MS-DOS, a batch file is a text file—such as autoexec.bat—that consists of a list of DOS commands which the computer reads and carries out.

Baud Rate
The speed at which telecommunicated data is transmitted, measured in bytes-per-second (BPS).

Bulletin Board Systems. Users dial into the BBS or access it on the world wide web, and exchange information between users such as news, opinions, and information. Users can "talk" to other users who are on the BBS at the same time.

Refers to the ‘language’ computers speak. Binary code (or machine language) consists only of zeroes and ones (i.e. a choice is either on or off), called bits. Letters and other information have a specific binary representation, made up of up to 8 bits (one byte).

BIOS (BI-ose)
Basic Input Output System. Provides a way for software to access computer hardware. This contains important information about the computer, i.e. the type and location of drives, amount of memory, etc.

The smallest unit of information recognized by a computer and its related equipment.

A data presentation format in which every pixel of an image is stored as bits in a file, each "mapped" to a specific area of the total image.

To start a computer. A "cold boot" refers to the process of turning a computer on at the power source (switching it on). A "warm boot" (or "re-boot") refers to, basically, restarting the operating system.

 Boot Disk
The disk on which the operating system is stored.

To search through or examine a directory tree of files, directories, disks, workstations, workgroups, or domains. Often done via a "Browse" button in a dialog box.

A software program that allows users to view content on the Internet and World Wide Web.

A storage device, or area on a storage device, which holds data temporarily, until needed for processing or printing. A buffer can also be used to aid communication between two devices with very different processing speeds (such as two modems, or the CPU and the printer).

An error in a computer program or system, or a malfunction in a computer hardware component. One of the final steps in writing a computer program is to debug it, or search and repair any obvious or common errors.

Byte (bite)
A basic unit of measurement for file sizes. A byte is made up of 8 bits of data.

Cache (cash)
A special type of computer memory that operates at very high speed. It is similar to RAM but is much faster. It is usually used by the CPU as a storage place for processing instructions. When the computer is shut down any information held in the cache memory is lost. An area set aside in RAM or on a disk to save frequently or recently used data.

Caps Lock
A key that toggles the keyboard between upper-case and lower-case modes. When caps lock is off, striking a key will produce a lower case letter, and holding down the ‘shift’ key while striking a key will produce a capital letter.

To arrange all the windows so that they are neatly stacked; only the title bars show behind the active window.

Cascading Menu
A submenu that appears (usually to the left or right of the main menu item) when a menu selection is made.

Compact Disc Read-Only Memory. Optical storage medium that uses the same technology as audio CD formats. CD-ROMs can hold hundreds of megabytes of data, but a CD-ROM drive can typically only read data from a CD, A writeable CD-ROM is needed to save or modify files on a CD-ROM.

The intersection of a column and a row on a spreadsheet or table that can contain data.

A feature of the internet that allows users to "talk" to one another in virtual real time. Users communicate by typing messages which are sent instantly to another person or group within the chat room program.

Check Box
A square dialog box item that takes an off or on value. Clicking in a check box adds or removes an X in the box, indicating whether the setting is on (checked) or off (unchecked).

To depress and release a mouse button quickly. (In Windows, the term "click" usually refers to the left mouse button).

Clip Art
A collection of images you can use in various documents. Clip art is often distributed on CD-ROM in large collections (thousands of clip art pieces) organized into categories, or available on the World Wide Web.

A temporary storage area in all versions of Windows used for storing various types of data (for example, text, graphics, sound, and video). The clipboard can hold one piece of information at a time for use in a program or to cut/copy and paste information between programs.

Control Panel
A program that comes with Windows that enables you to make settings for many Windows actions, such as changing network, keyboard, printer, and regional settings. Some programs (including many video card drivers) may add sections to the control panel for you to use to configure that program.

A command on the Edit menu that adds data (text or pictures) to the clipboard, while leaving the original data unchanged. Used often with the ‘paste’ command.

CPU stands for Central Processing Unit and is often, simply called, the processor. The CPU is a microchip that is installed on a motherboard and acts as the computer’s brain—performing calculations and coordinating the hardware components.

The failure of a hardware component, software application, or the computer itself. A crash can affect the program you are using, the operating system, or the entire computer, and often results in the need to restart the computer.

A special key on most computer keyboards that, when used in combination with another key, allows the user to easily access special controls. For example, Ctrl+S saves a file in most Windows programs.

A common PC hotkey combination. Pressing the Ctrl, Alt, and Del keys simultaneously in a DOS environment would automatically restart (warm boot) the computer. In Windows98, the combination brings up the "close program" dialog box which allows users the choice of shutting down a specific program (usually one that has crashed), or restarting the computer.

A blinking character that indicates the location of the next input on the display screen. The cursor indicates where you are working in a document or program.
A pointing element (usually an arrow or hand) in graphical user interfaces that is controlled by a mouse or some other pointing device. Also called a pointer.

A command on the Edit menu that adds data (text or pictures) to the clipboard by removing it from its original document or position in that document.

The raw material of information. Refers mostly to the information entered into, and stored within a computer or file.

A collection of data organized so that various programs can access and update the information.

Data Processing
Operations performed on data to provide useful information to users.

The process of testing a program in order to find mistakes and eliminating them, before the program is made available to users.

Settings or options the computer automatically adopts if the user does not specify any.

Default Directory
Found in programs that are required to save information to the hard drive or disk drives such as word processor documents or spreadsheets. This is the location the program will save the files in. Usually the default directory can be chosen by the user in the program options menu.

A key on the keyboard that erases information on the screen.

Refers to a diskette’s data capacity. Double density (DD) disks hold twice as much information as single density, and high density (HD—today’s standard) hold about twice as much as double density.

The main workspace in a graphical user interface such as Windows or Macintosh Systems. Users open and work with files and programs on the desktop, and can store files and shortcuts there as well. The user can also customize the look of the desktop with images or wallpaper and custom icons.

Dialog Box
An interactive message box; a temporary window on the screen that contains a set of choices whenever the executing program needs to collect information from the user.

Dial-Up Networking
A feature of Windows and UNIX based systems that enables the user to connect to other computers or the Internet over a phone line using a modem and a set of communication protocols.

Refers to information processing techniques that convert the actual data into binary (or machine language) code for more efficient transmission and storage. To retrieve the information, the binary code must be converted back to an analog signal.

In MS-DOS, an area set aside on a disk to organize files into groups. A directory can contain other directories, called subdirectories, which further organize data.
In Windows, a listing of all the files and directories on a drive or in a specified directory. Typing the "DIR" command at the DOS command prompt will give you a list of files in the current directory.

Refers to the most common form of data storage that uses disks of magnetized materials to save data.

The actual term for a floppy disk.

Disk Drive
A device used to read data from and write data to a disk.

A file created using an application. For example, you might create a text document using a word processing application (such as Word) or a picture document using a graphic application (such as Photoshop).

A name by which a computer connected to the Internet is identified. A typical domain name looks like this: www.ibm.com. The "www." refers to the fact that this computer is connected to the World Wide Web; the middle portion of a domain name is usually the name of the company that owns the computer—in this case,IMB ; the final portion of a domain name tells you what kind of site is served by this machine—in this case, ‘.com’ means this is a commercial site (other types of sites are: .edu—education, .org—non-profit organization, .net—Internet service provider).

Acronym for Disk Operating System.

Dot Matrix Printer
A type of printer that prints by striking wires or fine rods, within a matrix or array of dots, on an ink-coated ribbon against a piece of paper to form letters and numbers.

Dot Pitch
An indication of the image quality of a monitor, it is the measurement of the distance between two phosphor dots of the same color on a monitor. The finer the dot pitch, the better the image quality (a dot pitch of .28 or smaller is generally considered good).

Dots Per Inch
A measurement of resolution for printers and monitors. It refers to the number of dots these devices can produce in a linear inch. Also called DPI. More dots per inch means a better-quality output.

To depress and release a mouse button twice in quick succession. (In Windows, "double-click" usually refers to the left mouse button).

To copy or move a file from another computer or disk onto another.

The period of time a computer, or other piece of equipment is out of order or shut down for maintenance.

To move an object on the screen from one place to another by clicking it with the mouse, holding the mouse button down, and pulling it to where you want it to be.

Drag and Drop
"Drag and drop" describes a particular action you can make with the mouse. Click an object, such as a folder, then hold down the mouse button as you drag the object to a new location. You drop the object by releasing the mouse button. Drag and drop can be used to easily move, print, delete, or embed an object or file into another.

DRAM (dee-ram)
Dynamic Random Access Memory. The type of random access memory used in most PCs.

Drive Bay
A slot inside your computer where a disk drive is mounted.

A set of software that contains instructions that allows the computer to communicate with its peripheral devices.

Drop Down List
A dialog box item showing only one entry until its drop down arrow is clicked.

Slang term referring to the transfer of data from one location to another. (e.g., in order to print, a program may ‘dump’ a file to the printer buffer).

Digital Versatile Disc (also called Digital Video Disc and DVD-ROM). New data technology similar to Compact Discs and CD-ROMs, but with a much higher capacity and the ability to read and write data to discs.


Nursing Informatics Integration for the BSN and BSN-AE Nursing Programs at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Design & Content by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c) - 1999 - 2021
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