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Common Software Terms

Last Updated: Friday, 09-Jan-2015 12:32:44 PST

Viewer vs. Editor

For many people, who create documents for e-mail or print, do things the old way and use a file format that is edited and viewed by the same application, so that they can make changes, and they just assume that every on else has that specific program. The Internet is based on the concept of open standards and on the idea of having file formats that don't require people to buy a specific program just to view the file.

On the Internet, you run into many read only viewing applications called web browsers, PDF readers, and Flash Player which are given away for free. Web pages and PDFs can both be created and viewed by any programmer that wants to write a program to do so, without paying any money and they work seamlessly, because the blueprints are available for free.

This is the direction the future is moving in. Sending Word documents that require people to pay hundreds of dollars to view your work is considered rude and outdated. Even on Windows there are many totally free ways to create PDFs from any document. You do not need to use any Adobe software to do so. Just as there are many free web browsers, there are also many free PDF readers as well.

What is a Beta?

Software is often released for testing at a variety of stages before it is the final release of a major or minor version. The first stage of testing is called Alpha and software at this phase of development may not even load, are usually not feature complete, and are only useful for advanced users to test. The next stage of testing is called Beta and this is a good time for a wider range of people to test, who are not depending on the application for any production work. The final stage of testing is called a Release Candidate and if there are no "show stopping" bugs (problems that cause the program to not offer basic functionality), the current release candidate becomes the final version, sometimes referred to as Gold Master. In open source software, there are many different numbering systems, so the only thing that holds true is that there are stable and unstable releases, where the stable releases can be used for real work, while the unstable should only be used for testing purposes.

Compatibility with Different Versions

Unless noted otherwise, you can almost always assume that if a certain version of software is compatible with a given piece of software, file format, website, etc. that later versions will be to. For example, if someone says that you have to have Firefox 3.5, Firefox 4.0 should also work as well.

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