Introduction:

Information Technology (IT) dominates both how we live and work. In most countries, it is impossible to find an office or business that doesn't have any computers. So, it is important to know how to talk about basic office/work IT in English.

In this online exercise on computers, we will look at the English vocabulary commonly used to talk about computers and IT systems in an office/work environment. We will also look at the names of the different devices (electronic machines) that are used there. Although the focus here is on business English, most of this vocabulary can be used for IT systems in schools, universities etc...


Exercise: Using computers at work

Read the following conversation between Jonathan (an operations manager) and Geoff (an external contractor who will be working for two months at the company). Jonathan is explaining to Geoff how to use the computer system in the company.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Jonathan:'This is your first day here. You already know what you have to do with the project. To do that, you need to have the information that we have on our computer network. So, I'll show how to use your network account on the computer, so you can do your work.'

Geoff:'Perfect.'

Jonathan:'The IT department set up your network account last week, so it's ready to use. Here's your user name and password. The first thing that you need to do, is to log in to your network account on the computer. So can you type in the user name and password.'

Geoff:'Ok, done that.'

Jonathan:'You're logged in ok. After you've logged in, you will always go to this screen where there are icons of all the applications you have. For example, there are icons for Internet Explorer, Word, email etc... You also have access to the Operations Department Database, which contains data on all the staff and equipment in the Company. You don't have access to the Customer Database, but you won't need that to do your job. You also have access to the company's procedures folder. It's the icon at the top right. If you click on it, it will take you to a folder containing lots of Word documents about the different procedures we have in the company. If you click on the file called 'disaster procedures', you can read the procedures we have in place if there is a fire or explosion in one of our factories.'

Geoff:'Where should I save files like Word documents or Excel spreadsheets?'

Jonathan:'It's your choice. You can save it to your hard drive on your computer. But you won't be able to access the file from another computer. So it's better to save it to a network drive. Your network account has a drive on the network to save files to. It's the L: drive. If you save files there, you can access them from any computer in the company's network. Also, there's a shared folder on the network for our team. It's called Operations Shared Folder and it's this icon on the screen. You should save any file or document here which other people in the team need to have access to. Some of the files here are password protected. So you can't open them without a password. If you need to access a file that is password protected, tell me and I'll give you the password. Do you have any questions?'

Geoff:'Yes, I do. Because I'll be visiting lots of factories to do my job, I'm not sure having a desktop computer is the best idea. I can't carry it with me, it's too heavy to move. Would it be possible to have laptop instead? They are designed so you can travel with them.'

Jonathan:'It was stupid of me not to think about that before. I'll request a laptop for you from the IT department. It'll take 5 days to come, so you'll have to work on the desktop for now. I'll also request a docking station for the laptop, so you can use a normal keyboard and a normal screen when you're using the laptop here at your desk. I forgot to mention that this computer is connected to the printer in front of us. So when you print any document, it will go there.'



Quiz: Vocabulary for using computers at work

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. A computer that is designed so it can be easily moved, is called a    

         

Laptop:
(noun) A 'laptop' is also called a 'notebook' (although this is the name for a smaller laptop). A 'laptop' is a compact (small) computer designed to be easily moved/travelled with. A 'laptop' has a built-in screen and keyboard. It is different to a 'desktop' computer which is bigger and designed to stay in one place, normally a desk. In Spanish: "portátil".

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Laptop:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2. A 'document' on a computer like 'report.doc', is also called a    

         

File:
(noun) A 'file' on a computer is like an electronic piece of paper that contains information and data in it. For example, Word documents, internet pages, excel spreadsheets etc... are all 'files'. A computer application/program is made up of hundreds or thousands of different 'files' each which controls different parts of it. The name of a 'file' is called the 'filename' (e.g. 'year_profit.doc') and is made up of a name ('year_profit') followed by a file extension (e.g. '.doc'), which is the type of computer code the file is written in. In Spanish: "archivo".

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File:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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3. A group of computers connected together, is called a   

         

Computer network:
(noun) A 'computer network' is normally just called a 'network'. It is a group of computers, servers, printers and other electronic machines/devices that can communicate data between each other. There are different types of 'networks'. Some are local, like in an office or a school (which is called a LAN or local area network) and others that connect computers in a whole multinational company (which is called a WAN or wide area network). A computer that isn't connected to the network in an office, is called a 'standalone'. In Spanish: "red informática".

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Computer network:

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4. A file/document that needs a password to be opened, is    

         

Password protected:
(verb) 'to password protect' means that a document, file or folder requires/needs a 'password' to be opened/read. It is used to restrict access for something which contains information/data that is sensitive or important. This verb is normally used in the passive 'to be password protected', e.g. 'the file is password protected'. In Spanish: "estar protegidos por contraseña".

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Password protected:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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5. The name of the place where a group of files/documents are stored/saved on a computer, is a    

         

Folder:
(noun) A 'folder' is also called a 'directory'. It is the place/location on a computer which contains multiple files or documents on the same subject/theme, e.g. 'documents', 'music', 'photos' are folders that are found on a computer. 'folders' are used to organise files/documents, so they are easy to find. For example, you would save all your photos from a holiday in the 'folder' called 'photos'. In an office, it is very common that departments and teams have a 'shared folder', which contains files and documents that the whole department or team can access and use. In Spanish: "carpeta".

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Folder:

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6. A machine that makes paper copies of files/documents, is called a    

         

Printer:
(noun) A 'printer' is an electronic machine that is used to make paper copies of a file or document from a computer. The verb is 'to print', e.g. 'can you print me a copy of the email?'. In Spanish: "impresora".

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Printer:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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7. To use a company's computer system, you need to have a    

         

Network account:
(noun) 'network accounts' are used by companies, school, governments etc... to give access to their computer systems to their staff and other authorised people. Normally, a 'network account' has a 'user name' and 'password' which must be typed in correctly to enter/access the computer system. One of the main reasons for having 'network accounts' is security. In Spanish: "cuenta de red".

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Network account:

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8. The name of the part of a computer where all programs, folders and files are stored, is the    

         

Hard drive:
(noun) A 'hard drive' is also called a 'hard disk' or 'local drive'. A 'hard drive' is the part of the computer which is used to store/keep all of the computer's data and information (its files, applications and programs). Because the information/data is stored on the actual computer, you don't need a network or internet connection to open or access it. With a 'network drive', files or applications are stored on a server. To access/open them, the computer needs to have a network or internet connection. In Spanish: "disco duro".

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Hard drive:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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9. A phrasal verb that means 'to create' and is used with network accounts, is    

         

Set up:
(phrasal verb) 'to set something up' has many different meanings. In this context, it is commonly used to mean 'to create' a new network account for somebody, e.g. 'can you set up a new network account for Jeff?'. It is a transitive phrasal verb (it has an object), e.g. 'he needs it by Friday. Can you set it up before?'. In Spanish: "crear".

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Set up:

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10. A formal way to say 'to ask for' something new, is    

         

Request:
(verb) 'to request' means to officially 'ask for' something. In the context of information technology in a company, you would 'request' the IT department for a new computer, access to an application etc..., e.g. 'I requested a replacement mouse last week'. Every company has a procedure for making 'requests'. In Spanish: "pedir/solicitar".

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Request:

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11. Computer 'programs' like Word or Excel, are commonly called    

         

Applications:
(noun) An 'application' is a type of computer 'program' like Internet Explorer, iTunes etc... Although there is a technical difference between an 'application' and a 'program' (a 'program' is in fact computer code which can do one or more functions or actions), most people use them with the same meaning. In Spanish: "aplicación".

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Applications:

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12. A piece of equipment that you enter a laptop into, so you can use the laptop with a normal keyboard and screen, is a    

         

Docking station:
(noun) A 'docking station' is a piece of equipment or device for laptops that is commonly used in offices. A 'docking station' means that a person can use a normal desktop computer screen and keyboard with their laptop. It works by putting the closed laptop into the 'docking station'. Most companies use 'docking stations' so they don't have to buy a member of their staff two computers (a desktop computer for their desk and a laptop for when they are travelling). In Spanish: "estación de acoplamiento".

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Docking station:

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13. A word that means 'the ability to open or read' a file or document, is    

         

Access:
(noun) 'access' is a commonly used noun in information technology in companies. It means 'to be able to use or read' information on the network, applications, folders or files, e.g. 'I don't have access to the reports application'. This noun is often used with the verbs 'to want', 'to have', 'to need' or 'to require'. It is generally followed by the preposition 'to' and the object they need to use, e.g. 'I need access to the sales folder'. In Spanish: "acceso".

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Access:

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14. A computer that is designed to only be used on a desk, is called a    

         

Desktop:
(noun) A 'desktop' is the common way to call a 'desktop computer'. A 'desktop' is a computer that is not designed to be moved or travelled with (unlike a 'laptop'), but to be only used at a desk. A 'desktop' has a separate screen (which is called a monitor) and keyboard. It is also used with a mouse. In Spanish: "sobremesa".

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Desktop:

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15. To use your network account, you first have to    

         

Log in:
(phrasal verb) 'to log in' means to enter a user name and password to use a network account on a computer network. Although some people use 'to sign in' with the same meaning, 'to sign in' should be used for entering a user name and password for an application (e.g. gmail, facebook etc...) and not for a network account. When you want to close your access to a network account, you use 'to log out'. The phrasal verb 'to log in' is intransitive (it doesn't have an object), e.g. 'I'm going to log in'. In Spanish: "entrar".

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Log in:

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16. When a person's files and applications are stored on the computer network and not on their local drive/computer, they are on a    

         

Network drive:
(noun) A 'network drive' is also called a 'remote drive'. It is place on a server or something connected to a server on a computer network. 'network drives' are very common in companies because it not only means that you can access these files or data from more than just one computer, but because it is less likely that you'll lose the file (they are backed up every day) than if it is stored on the computer's 'hard/local drive'. 'network drive' are commonly used for 'shared folder', where a department or a team have access to the same files. In Spanish: "unidad de red".

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Network drive:

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.