Do you know your Apps from your Extensions?

Within only the last couple of years, technology has advanced at such a tremendous rate that our whole vocabulary has evolved. Now that so many of us have access to smartphones, tablets and the internet through a range of portals, we also become bombarded with new terms and jargon to describe the variety of features available on our gadgets. Many of these ever-evolving tools can be utilised as part of your study at Sheffield Hallam University. This article will give a brief introduction to some of these terms, and is part of a series of articles explaining a range of tools and terminology useful in your education.

What is a web app?

You have probably been using web apps for a lot longer than you have been using the term ‘app’, which has grown in popularity since the release of the iPhone and Apple App Store in 2008. Web apps are simply functional tools used within the web browser, with no need to download and store them on the hard drive, and include examples such as webmail, interactive maps, auction sites and photo editors. Web apps can be accessed easily from any up-to-date web browser and, depending on your internet connection, you can quickly start using free and powerful tools; a few years ago this could only have been possible by investing in expensive software.

Examples: Picnik for easy photo editing; Google Street View and Hotmail.

What is a mobile app?

Mobile apps have become widespread since the development of smartphones, and more recently tablets such as the iPad. A mobile app is a simple interface which enables you to perform a particular task, such as accessing local cinema listings or playing a game of Scrabble, after being downloaded straight to your mobile device. Mobile apps are added as an icon to the phone or tablet’s home screen, so are always accessible and often functional without an internet connection. Apple’s App Store has over 500,000 apps, with Android’s App Market starting to catch up. Many apps are available for both the tablet and phone version of a particular operating system; for example, an ‘HD’ app for iPad is tablet-enhanced version of an iPhone app.

Read our series of ‘App of the Week’ posts¬†for our recommendation of mobile apps ideally suited to enhance your studying experience.

iPhone apps on home screen

by JimYounkin, Flickr

What is a browser extension?

Unlike a web app, which functions within a particular site, a browser extension is an add-on which can be present on or near the browser window regardless of which website you are visiting. In the recent move towards slimmer and less cluttered browsers, such as Google Chrome, these tools are designed to enhance the functionality of your browser and personalise it to your own needs. Many extensions can be useful with a variety of different websites, such as currency convertors which exchange amounts on any site at the click of a button; some are specific to certain sites, such as the Facebook Photo Zoomer. Other gadgets can work outside the browser window and synchronise to an online tool, such as a webmail notifier. Browser extensions are available through browser sites such as Chrome Web Store and Firefox Add-Ons Gallery, as well as individual developers’ websites.

Examples: Markup, which lets you annotate directly onto websites; Monster, which highlights advertised jobs relating to the sites you view.

What are Mac Apps?

A Mac App, available from the Mac App store, is simply a piece of software available to download directly to your Apple computer. Based on the format of Apple’s iPhone and iPad App Store, this portal gives access to a wide range of tools and programmes including graphics software, exercise and fitness journals and To-do list creators.

Examples: Keynote, the Apple equivalent of Powerpoint; Compartments, a home inventory organiser ideal for tracking your possessions as they move around Sheffield during your degree.

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