Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby thomthom » Sun Apr 18, 2010 9:14 pm

I'm curious of your take on the semantics of Options vs Settings vs Preferences.
In applications they often seem to be mixed. Some have a Settings section and a Preference section... Where's the semantic difference?
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby xrok1 » Sun Apr 18, 2010 9:22 pm

i think settings should be things like opengl or directx, hardware accel... whereas preferences should be mostly workflow related such as shortcut keys, interface layout, units (metric, standard)... options i would consider as add-ons just like when you buy a car :P
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby thomthom » Sun Apr 18, 2010 9:41 pm

hmm... "Configuration" another term often used with these...
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby xrok1 » Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:11 pm

on the most part they seem to be used interchangeably which seems to sometimes lead to confusion. which is why this thread appeared. :lol:
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby TIG » Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:33 pm

Configuration
Settings
Preferences
Options


All four are often used as interchangeable terms in English - however, they do have slightly different 'official' meanings...

Configuration - how you set up what an application does 'initially' - typically when you install it...
Settings - how you change what an application does after it's been installed...
Preferences - how you prefer an application to do things - after it's been installed [==settings]...
Options - how you change what an application does [after it's been installed] - including some things that it might not have done in the initial 'default configuration / settings': i.e. there might can be additional 'optional' settings that you can 'turn on or off'...
:?
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby honoluludesktop » Mon Apr 19, 2010 12:36 am

Tom, I think that when a function is assighed a catagory, it is done intuitively. Much like the way some of us do most things in life :-)
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby MartinRinehart » Mon Apr 19, 2010 4:18 pm

If there's no option to change a setting, you have no way to express your preference.

To be very technical, a "setting" is something that is "set." Your Ruby interpreter expects a ".rb" file extension. (One example of a setting that is not optional.)

If you can choose, for example, a level of indentation in your source code editor (please don't choose two!) you have an option. If you are writing Python, four spaces is mandatory so you don't have an option.

Preferences are probably best left to purely personal choices. I've set my browser's default background to an off-white color that I prefer; it's default font size to a my compromise between viewing more and reading easily. (And I dislike web pages, such as this forum, where the webmaster overrides my preference by specifying a pure white background. We should all respect our viewers preferences.)
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby August » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:10 pm

MartinRinehart wrote:If there's no option to change a setting, you have no way to express your preference. ...


Thank you, Martin. Eloquently put.

Another level of distinction is the choices that are program-wide and thus are saved by updating a configuration file or the Windows Registry, versus those that are model/file-specific and thus are saved with the document.

I used a program that had lots of this kind of customization and it called the system wide parameters "Preferences" and the file-specific ones "Settings". This resulted in lots of confusion on the part of users until they got the global vs. file distinction and then it was pretty easy to decide which category to look in.

Myself, I tend to think of "Settings" as things that have parameters and "Options" as things with toggles or a limited list of choices. I think of "Settings" as required to be set, to have a true default value, rather than a default state.

I think of "Preferences" as ideosyncratic, I cannot count on my preferences as being the same as someone else's. Default Save Directory would thus be a Setting while Click/Drag Drawing Method is a Preference. But Default Save Directory should certainly not be saved with the document and I cannot count on it being the same for another user. So the various aspects of distinction can conflict.

I hope this adds something,
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby Chris Fullmer » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:43 pm

I don't care what its called as long as its only called one thing. If you break it up and have a "preferences", "options", and "settings", then would ultimately just leda to confusion about what is where.
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby xrok1 » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:48 pm

Chris Fullmer wrote:I don't care what its called as long as its only called one thing. If you break it up and have a "preferences", "options", and "settings", then would ultimately just leda to confusion about what is where.

i agree if you're going to have options and preferences, at very least they should all be contained within a settings dialog. tabs would be nice. ;)
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby thomthom » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:06 pm

Seems that Preferences is the clearest of the terms here. While the distinction of Option and Setting is a bit fuzzy.

Chris Fullmer wrote:I don't care what its called as long as its only called one thing. If you break it up and have a "preferences", "options", and "settings", then would ultimately just leda to confusion about what is where.

I agree with this.

I find semantics interesting - and I've wondered about this before when I've been writing application. But ever felt I got a proper grasp of the distinctions.
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby thomthom » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:16 pm

Looking up the dictionary:

Preference
that which is preferred; choice: His preference is vanilla, not chocolate.


Option
an item of equipment or a feature that may be chosen as an addition to or replacement for standard equipment and features: a car with a long list of extra-cost options; a telephoto lens option for a camera.

So Option indicate additional feature.

Setting
For the definition of this word I could not find anything that fit the topic.

Configuration
the relative disposition or arrangement of the parts or elements of a thing.

Computers. the totality of a computer and the devices connected to it: A common microcomputer configuration consists of a computer, two disk drives, a monitor, and a printer.

This would be more of a fixed composition of a system. ?
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby August » Tue Apr 20, 2010 2:26 am

I think there is a need for different levels of terms.

"My SketchUp configuration is that I have it installed on my D: drive."

Out of "setting", "preference", and "option" I find none that replace "configuration" in that sentence.

The Ctrl, Shift, and Alt keys offer options in a tool's immediate behavior. Those options are not settings, preferences, or configuration.

The levels seem to be:
  • Installation
  • Application environment within the application (save directory, image editor, etc.)
  • Application startup (Template, active tool, etc.)
  • Tool default operations (Press-Move-Release, Click-Drag-Click)
  • In-Workflow changes (Wireframe Mode, Perspective On/Off, etc.)
  • In-Action changes (Ctrl, Alt, Shift options to a Tool's behavior, etc.)
While there seems to be a lot of overlap and interchangability in terms for the middle two, terms that apply to the top level make no sense when applied to the bottom level, and vice versa.

There is also a hierarch of where things are saved, but it does not exactly match the above list. None of the bottom-level options are saved anywhere. The top level can only be changed by re-installing. Some of the next level require restarting SketchUp. Some of the In-Workflow changes seem to be saved with the model, such as perspective and hidden-line mode.

I hope this helps,
August
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby TIG » Tue Apr 20, 2010 12:34 pm

"Setting" =
[noun] a assembly or collection of articles designed for use together in a particular operation...

we also forgot [ :roll: ] the similar
"Set up" =
[noun] an assembly or establishment of articles made ready for use...

:geek:
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Re: Semantic: Options vs Settings vs Preferences

Postby eneroth3 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 1:31 pm

Just the other day I read a Microsoft guideline stating which one was preferred in Windows, but I just can't find it anymore, and instead found my way back here (Hello everyone!). "Preferences" seem to be preferred on Mac. Config or configurations seem to be exclusively used in very technical contexts, not to what a user could change from a graphical UI.

Is any of the terms more used than others for SU extensions? I'm thinking about using Preferences as it matches SU's own phrasing, even though it might contradict MS guidelines.
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