I have seen a lot of articles in which they use the word granular. For example this one :

The site has granular authorization checks for pages and directories.

or this one :

Web controls, user controls, and resource access code are all partitioned in their own assemblies for granular security

What does this word mean in computer science ?

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    That the said feature occurs at a low level, that is at each of the constituting elements, rather than at the higher level. In the first case, authorization checks apply to individual pages and directories rather than the site as a whole.
    – Kris
    Feb 7, 2014 at 7:30
  • Yeah, at low-level as opposed to high-level
    – d'alar'cop
    Feb 7, 2014 at 7:32
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    @JohnLawler: Thanks for inviting us to that Wikipedia article. I have long been bothered by people saying X is more granular than Y when they mean that X is finer-grained. To me, it is the other way around. That article clears things up by pointing out that the direction is different in different contexts. In my mind I have the photography meaning: more granular means coarser-grained. So out of context the term is ambiguous. I now understand that others are not necessarily wrong when they use it to mean finer-grained. The ambiguity is unfortunate - makes me want to avoid it.
    – Drew
    Aug 14, 2014 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


granular in relation to permissions, authorization and security means many levels of permissions; ability to restrict specific actions while permitting others.

In low-granularity systems, users may be given permissions of read/write, read and no access. The file will be given three sets of permissions: for owner of the file, for users of group owning the file, and for all other users.

In fine-grained system you'll see permissions to create files, delete files, rename files, modify content, append to file, read file list, read file content, change file permissions, change file ownership, execute file as a program/script, copy file, override timestamps, create links, and so on, and so on. Specific sets of permissions can be assigned to specific users, terminals, access media, hours, groups, network interfaces used to access, etc.

For example, the administrator of a secure system may be allowed to create backups (copy) files between secure filesystems, but not read (view) their content. This requires a high granularity of permissions, as in most filesystems ability to read file is synonymous with ability to make copies.


I suspect this comes from traditional photography where continued magnification of a negative eventually results in the structure of the silver particles suspended in the gelatine becoming visible.

Here's a Wikipedia link with more detail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_grain

In computing we frequently use the word as a synonym for 'detail'.

Typically a 'high level' view of a database schema [design] would have low granularity as the information level is low. Zooming in to the schema give one greater granularity and therefore more detail about the contents of the schema - a greater degree of information.



technical characterized by a high level of granularity: a granular database.


technical the scale or level of detail present in a set of data or other phenomenon: the granularity of this war is not the sand that covers most of the country, but these details that have proved so elusive.

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