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Frequently we see configuration options with a hierarchical structure, often shown in a tree view. When enabling a parent option, all of the child options are enabled. When disabling the parent option, all of the child options are disabled. A user may be able to enable a subset of child options without "fully" enabling the parent option.

I am writing instructions/documentation and would like to explain this behavior in a simple, concise manner.

"Enabling or disabling the parent option, by __________, enables or disables all child options as well."

I've thought of "by design," "by association;" but neither of these express my meaning as intended.

What would be an appropriate word to use here, or a proposed rewrite of the statement to accomplish my goal?

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1  
It sounds as though your intention is to indicate what happens in the normal case, when no special steps are taken to ensure that only a subset of the child options are affected by an action. In that case, I believe the standard phrase in that case would be "by default"—that is, by the ordinary operation of the program structure as designed. –  Sven Yargs Jul 31 '13 at 18:11
    
Might "by proxy" work here? The child options are not being disabled on their own, but through the acts (or actions upon) of another. –  acolyte Jul 31 '13 at 19:48
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"by inheritance" ...? –  Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jul 31 '13 at 21:18

10 Answers 10

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The nomenclature of a "parent" and a "child" implies that what affects the parent will influence the entirety of the children. Therefore, I would suggest eliminating any clarification.

"Enabling or disabling the parent option enables or disables all child options as well."

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Succinct. This is a case where less is more; thanks for pointing it out! –  JYelton Jul 31 '13 at 18:14

If your audience is technical users, most would consider this to be recursion. If you're operating on a directory and all of its subdirectories, for example, you would use a "recursive" command line option:

Enabling or disabling the parent option recursively enables or disables all child options as well

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To be precise, it recursively enables/disables all immediate children. Usually, "children" informally includes grandchildren (and etc), making "recursively" redundant, yet at the same time, slightly more accurate... –  Izkata Aug 1 '13 at 1:13

Enabling or disabling the parent option, enables or disables all related child options as well.

Also the word cascading comes to mind

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I would use recursively, although "cascading" does convey much of the meaning, that is used more often in user interfaces in my experience.

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I would assume you actually mean all children and grandchildren, etc. So I would use something like:

 "Any change to an option sets or resets all its sub-options too."
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"Enabling or disabling the parent option, enables or disables all child options as well, unless specifically overridden by the user"

This slight modification makes it clear to me.

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I would say perhaps you mean options, and the switches or arguments that relate to them? for instance you would run program X with the option /revert and the argument --all to the revert option?

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I like @mplungjan's suggestion of cascading, but would also suggest indirectly:

Enabling or disabling the parent option indirectly enables or disables all related child options.

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Perhaps:

   "Any change to the parent option, affects all its children"

And since you mentioned tree hierarchies, you could say something to the extent of:

   "All child nodes are enabled/disable based on the setting of the parent node."

(this might also imply that your tree acts as a filter as you travel down it)

In any case, I hope this helps.

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The correct technical term is "composition". Compare with "aggregation"

A "owns" B = Composition : B has no meaning or purpose in the system without A
A "uses" B = Aggregation : B exists independently (conceptually) from A
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