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Important notice following the death of our web server administrator: new student accounts are not currently being created on the student web server, and no one is maintaining existing accounts. We are working as fast as possible on a solution but, until this is fixed, we do not require you to upload your site to the student server (though, if you do still have access, we highly recommend doing so). See Running a web server on your local machine for details of how to meet the requirements for the final unit, and my posts on the subject in the discussion forum for further information about the problem.

Prerequisites for COMP 266

Last updated July 9, 2020 - 12:27pm by Jon Dron

I often receive applications for COMP 266 from those that have not taken either COMP 200 or COMP 210 (technically not prerequisites as such, but one or other is highly recommended). This page is mainly for them, so that I do not need to re-type the same things each time I am asked.

We recommend these courses because they should give you a grounding in some of the basics needed for COMP 266, but it is quite OK to do without them if you have the general computing competences listed below.


You must be able to:

  • effectively manage files and directories/folders on your computer, including to be able to copy, delete, rename and move files, and to create, rename, copy and move directories/folders.
  • use a compression utility to zip and unzip files and folders, preserving the directory structure.
  • install applications and utilities on your computer.
  • use a text editor, including to save a file with a non-standard file extension.
  • browse the web, including use of browser features like direct entry of URLs into the address bar, copying and pasting of URLs or shortcuts, use of bookmarks/shortcuts, filling in of forms (including file uploads), and viewing the source of a page.
  • proficiently use the user interface, including resizing of windows, copy and paste, file opening and closing, application opening and closing, switching between open applications or windows, etc.
  • manage your own computer effectively, including network setup and management, backups and file transfers (e.g. to a USB drive), disk repair, starting and shutting down, managing disk space, dealing with common problems, and so on.

Very highly recommended

You should be able to:

  • upload and manage files and folders on a remote file system via FTP, SFTP or SCP
  • create a web page (perhaps using a WYSIWYG editor) and upload it and its supporting files to a web server
  • create and manipulate images using an image editor, especially to resize, change file format, alter compression, or adjust the colour palette of an image
  • Use styling features of a WYSIWYG editor (e.g. a word processor or the comment form on this page) including proper use of heading styles, aligning text, emphasizing words or phrases with italic, bold or underline, creating bulleted or numbered lists, inserting images and tables, etc.
  • explain and use client/server concepts, especially to recognize the differences between and typical uses of file servers and web servers. It is very helpful to understand how and why the ways files are retrieved from and saved to a file system differ from those used to retrieve and send files to a server. Ideally, you should know at least a little about the roles and purposes of protocols such as FTP, HTTP and SFTP.

Math skills

You are unlikely to need more than basic arithmetic for this course, unless you wish to perform complex calculations or graphic manipulation. However, the abilities to think logically and to deal with abstraction are extremely important. These are skills that we hope you will somewhat develop on the course itself (computational thinking is a useful outcome of learning to program), but it would certainly help to come prepared!

Test yourself

See for a couple of self-test quizzes that will help you self-assess your computing knowledge and math/logic skills. The math quiz is (mostly) a better test of the skills needed for this course than the computing quiz, because it (mostly) assesses your ability to translate between the specific and the abstract, as well as your logical thinking skills (both vital skills in programming), while the computing quiz just tests whether you know about some common tools and terms, only one or two of which are directly relevant to this course. However, if you don't know such things, it may be a clue that you might need to learn more about the basics!

If you don't have all the skills we recommend...

If you lack any essential competences, please ensure that you gain them before applying for COMP 266. If you don't have these skills you will be confused, you may make unnecessary demands of your tutor, and you will struggle to succeed. There are plenty of free online tutorials available, lots of 'getting started with computers' books and websites, as well as paid-for classes, online and not. An acceptable level of proficiency in these skills can be gained in just a few hours. The course is agnostic to which of the major operating systems - Windows, Mac, or Linux - that you use. If you use anything else, the chances are that you already know enough!

If you lack any of the very highly recommended competences, try to learn them before starting the course. It will save you a lot of time later and you will have more control over what you do during the course. Here are a couple of sites from which you can learn such basics for free (but you can find hundreds more with a quick Google search!): - a good range of simple tutorials for Mac and Windows, covering areas such as file manipulation, managing your computer, etc. See for a complete list of topics, including for some basic image editing advice. - a tutorial on using Filezilla (open source GUI available on most platforms) for FTP and SFTP

If you have any further questions or if any of this is confusing, feel free to mail me at for clarification or more information.

Jon Dron (course coordinator)


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