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How are those two words different? Are they considered synonyms, especially when describing computer software?

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I can't speak specifically to the software world, but in general a functionality is an ability, while a feature is an aspect or a characteristic. There can clearly be some overlap, but they're not synonymous. –  onomatomaniak Sep 27 '11 at 12:08
    
Though I'd tend to say the functionality of something is its ability (singular). It seems that functionality means the overall ability of a product. –  Daniel Sep 27 '11 at 12:14
    
Mark (in an answer below) raised a question whenever "functionalities" is even a word - is it? :) Don't get me wrong, I'm not native, and even though "functionalities" sounds all right to me, it may be plain wrong to use it to (for example) list of things software is able to do. EDIT: So "functionalities" isn't correct in sense that there is no plural of "functionality" ? –  WTK Sep 27 '11 at 12:15
    
Both functionality and functionalities are words; a quick resort to the dictionary should confirm any such concerns.. –  onomatomaniak Sep 27 '11 at 12:19
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@ono, WTK, yes, functionalities is a word: it can (rarely) mean the functions of one product, but it would usually mean the differing functionalities of several products. See my answer. –  Daniel Sep 27 '11 at 12:32
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A feature is a prominent characteristic or something added as a special attraction. One product has many features which we can generally separate into two groups: the different things it can do, and the different UI attractions.

The functionality of a product usually means the extent of its overall ability:

2. The purpose that something is designed or expected to fulfill
- manufacturing processes may be affected by the functionality of the product

3. The range of operations that can be run on a computer or other electronic system
- new software with additional functionality

However, it can sometimes mean the same thing as function, (i.e. one ability, as opposed to overall ability). From the free dictionary, note definition 2:

  1. The quality of being functional.
  2. A useful function within a computer application or program.
  3. The capacity of a computer program or application to provide a useful function.
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What is a "UI attraction"? –  jwpat7 Sep 27 '11 at 16:04
    
User Interface. –  Daniel Sep 27 '11 at 17:00
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"It is important to remember the distinction between product functions and product features. Functions are the “product’s answer to the set of user tasks”; features are the “user tools” inherent in the product used to perform the functions (Wood, 1995). Placing a telephone call is a function; the dial tone and the touch-tone keypad are features used to accomplish the function. Product Types have different sets of functions, and each Model within a Type accomplishes its functions through potentially different features." http://inclusive.com/mmr/findings/functions_and_features.htm

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+1 for "Placing a telephone call is a function; the dial tone and the touch-tone keypad are features used to accomplish the function". It really clear things up. –  WTK Jul 28 '13 at 15:02
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Features is technically how something is done (a functionality). Functionality is the business value delivered. For example, a suggestion box on every page is a feature. A "consistent feedback mechanism" is the business function.

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Functionalities have to do with function, and I'm not sure it's even a word. Functions would be the plural noun of function and functionality has no plural. In any event, function is what it can or does do, while feature relates to all aspects of it - the look, sound, functions, etc.

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