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Software systems undergo versioning when changes are made to them. E.g.: "Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows RT etc. are some popular versions of the Windows Operating System."

Similarly, some software also comes in different flavours. E.g.: "BOSS, Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint are some popular flavours of Linux."

I fail to understand whether version and flavor of a software mean the same thing, and can be used interchangeably. Or are there some not-so-subtle differences?

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'flavor' is a version of 'version' – Mitch Feb 1 '13 at 13:12
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Generally version can apply to any variety of something. With high tech products that undergo rapid improvement, it tend to refer to a sequential progression (Windows 8 being a later, more modern, version of Windows than Windows XP). They often have a numerical indication of their place in this sequence, but recently many marketing departments have favoured separating the brand under which something is sold from the numbering system used in developing it (this has resulted in the ironic situation where "Windows 7" is the brand name of what is internally "Windows 6.1" and "Windows 8" the brand name for "Windows 6.2).

Because version has this specific meaning in terms of high tech products, it can be confusing if you try to use version in the more general sense. For that reason flavour was first used as a slang word for this sense, metaphorically comparing to foods like ice-cream and confectionery which come in a variety of different flavours.

It's quite deliberately not strongly defined. For example, it might not just cover different distributions of Linux (distros as a common slang contraction), but even different options for the same version of the same distribution might be called a flavour.

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No offence but somehow m even more confused now. Could really use a gist of the story. – KeyBrd Basher Feb 1 '13 at 13:29
Version means "type of". In tech it tends to be specifically in terms of later versions improving on each other (version 1, version 2, version 2.1, ...). "Flavour" is used to just mean "type of" loosely. "Flavour" is slang or figurative in that use for anything other than such technologies, or something you would put in your mouth. – Jon Hanna Feb 1 '13 at 13:34
So you mean, version is sequential, whereas flavour necessarily isn't. – KeyBrd Basher Feb 4 '13 at 5:30
@KeyBrdBasher yes, though only in the context of high tech products. With foods available in different tastes we only use flavour and in other contexts we only use version and it doesn't entail any ordering. (The high tech case started as jargon and then became more widely uesd). – Jon Hanna Feb 4 '13 at 9:07
As far as I and my question here is concerned, I am interested only in usage of these words in relevance to softwares or hi-tech products, if you may. – KeyBrd Basher Feb 4 '13 at 9:46

You have different versions when the items are iterations of the same product, intended to replace the earlier one. e.g. Firefox 11, 12, 13 etc.

You have different flavours when the software shares a common base but diverges in some way, and they can be contemporaries. Each flavour can have its own versions.

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In software, version is used for iterations of the same product. Outsider of software, version is synonymous for flavor. if you say one of the Douay-Rheims version and the King James version of the bible superceded the other, it would be highly insulting to certain religions. – Peter Shor Feb 1 '13 at 13:57
The question was specifically about software, so I should have perhaps focused on that. I was trying to give a simpler answer than Jon's. Outside of software, I would disagree that they are synonymous. Occasionally they can be used interchangeably, but version can have a much more specific meaning, which flavour cannot. Versions of a paper, a film version of a book. These are cases which imply revision of some sort. Flavour does not work here. – deadly Feb 1 '13 at 14:12
I don't understand your bible example. – deadly Feb 1 '13 at 14:13
@deadly The christian bible is Judaism 2.0, the various different christian denominations are just like forks of emacs (although with less bitterness and recrimination) – mgb Feb 1 '13 at 14:18
@mgb I think we're getting off-topic now, but that did make me snort. – deadly Feb 1 '13 at 14:20

While they are similar, the two terms are not always synonymous:

  • In the context of operating systems, version is primarily used as a technical term. Flavour is always used informally or as market-speak.
  • Version is sometimes also used loosely in the same manner as flavour. However, flavour is never used technically. Personally, I don't hear flavour used at all.
  • Version can be very specific. You can use it to denote each of "Windows XP", "Windows XP Professional", "Windows XP-64", "Windows XP SP2", or even a specific build number like "Windows NT 5.1.2600". Flavour, on the other hand, does not extend to service packs, build numbers, and so on.

With Linux, distro (distribution) is far more common than flavour.

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