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What's the word (or phrase) for a product/system that presents several (probably unrelated) functions? Swiss Army Knife is a good example of such products. I'm looking for something other than multipurpose. In fact, it's a multidimensional and multiple-aspect system.

  • Something like kit bag or bag of tricks ? – Jim Mack Aug 20 '15 at 15:32
  • No, in fact it's a software product that could be used for several different purposes. For example, think of a word processing software that presents functionality for image manipulating and editing. – Eilia Aug 20 '15 at 15:37
  • 2
    You could say it's a versatile [toolkit] – FumbleFingers Aug 20 '15 at 15:43
  • Several specific different purposes (targeted), or different unidentified purposes (open)? – hatchet Aug 20 '15 at 16:09
  • @hatchet, several specific different purposes – Eilia Aug 21 '15 at 5:07

11 Answers 11

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+50

The OP hasn't explained why the term multipurpose is not appropriate for their needs, it seems a perfectly appropriate expression to describe any object that has more than one function.

There are; however, viable alternatives. I suggest: multifunctional and all-purpose

  • something that is multifunctional does several different things or has several different uses
    e.g. a multifunctional tool

  • able to be used in a lot of different ways
    e.g. an all-purpose stain remover

(Source: Macmillan)

A multifunctional piece of furniture: study desk/table/seat

enter image description hereenter image description here

EDIT

Thanks to @displayName who has pointed out that the OP needs this word for a software product. That type of clarification should be made or edited in the post, and not left in the comment section.

Multifunctional software” produces over 200 hits in Google Books

In today's world of increasingly integrated and multifunctional software programs, it seems particularly important to theorize and empirically examine the relationship between task and technology in the formation and influence of CSE.

Human-computer Interaction and Management Information Systems
By Yahong Zhang, Dennis F. Galletta

All-purpose software” produces fewer than seventy hits on Google books

Today, all-purpose software for microprocessors and other software tools determine technical progress in most fields …
source

5

If you want to shun multipurpose, you may consider calling your product multifaceted, to give the connotation that it has many sides, or solves a problem using multiple approaches:

: having many different parts : having many facets
Merriam-Webster

Where one of the usages of facet is:

: a part or element of something
Merriam-Webster


A note about the ultimate Swiss army knife: Just because you can build it doesn't mean you should:
enter image description here

  • The question isn't about whether the software should be built. It is about how to describe the already built software. – displayName Aug 26 '15 at 5:24
  • True, perhaps in a way that will attract more users. – jxh Aug 26 '15 at 11:50
5

Formal word - Multi-tool

Casual use word - Swiss Army Knife


Update 3-a: People are pointing to the fact that Swiss Army Knife softwares are bad softwares. That is not what this question is about. It is about how to describe a Swiss Army Knife like software. Please go to Update 3-b.


Since you have given the example of swiss-knife, I searched for the description of swiss-knife to see how do the manufacturers and users of swiss-knife actually describe it. The word they have used is multi-tool. Multi-tool is by definition a versatile hand tool that combines several individual functions in a single unit.

Here are other close synonyms:

  1. Adaptable
  2. Flexible
  3. Multifaceted
  4. Multitalented
  5. Handy
  6. Resourceful, and
  7. Polytropic (rarely used)

I'm expecting you to say that "multi-tool" is not essentially a word applicable to all systems and dimensions and is, again by definition, just a manual hand tool and not an automatic device. Perhaps, if you would tell us the sentence you are trying to make then maybe we can locate a better word.

I have realized that sometimes even very simple words explain our thoughts in entirety and that's the only purpose of languages and words. For example, To describe a robot that can do thousands of unrelated things like cook food, perform scientific simulations and calculations, rescue people in emergencies, guard home, regulate air conditioning, do yard work, buy groceries, tell bed-time stories, play carom with you and what not... the manufacturers will say that they have created a smart / intelligent / next-generation robot.

Update - 1: I just saw in the question's comments that you want to describe a software with the adjective for a 'Swiss army knife'. You know, you could even just say that This software is the Swiss Army Knife for x, y, z domains, if that brings home the point you are trying to make.

Update - 2: For the sake of correctness of my answer, here is a link which confirms that 'Swiss Army Knife' can be used as an adjective and it literally means exactly what you are asking for.

Update - 3b: If you have built a bad Swiss Army Knife or if was just want to shelter yourself from the bad connotations associated with the SAKs in softwares, then say that you have built a multi-tool (or use the other synonyms mentioned in the answer above, multi-functional included). If you have built a good Swiss Army Knife, then be confident about your claim that you have indeed built an exceptional Swiss Army Knife.

  • Well spotted, but if indeed the OP requires a word to describe a particular software program(me) then it must be included in the question, not in the comments. – Mari-Lou A Aug 24 '15 at 4:50
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    Yes, it is fairly common jargon among programmers and engineers to refer to some product/application/whatever as a "Swiss army knife". Especially older programmers recognize this because some of the early "structured programming" theorists used that knife as a paradigm for a poorly-designed interface. – Hot Licks Aug 25 '15 at 1:36
3

Perhaps "Versatile" is the word you're looking for.

2

Here are some ideas to get you free-associating:

all-in-one, six-in-one, etc.

compendium

treasury of ________

an omnibus ________ -- inspired by "an omnibus bill (piece of proposed legislation)"

two-fer (or three-fer) -- slang for two for the price of one

universal utility, or universal _________ tool

suite

quick-change -- inspired by the quick-change artists in the circus

potpourri

accordion -- inspired by the accordion folder

one-man band

suitcase

magician's hat -- since the magician can pull one thing after another out of his hat

The Master Manipulator

The Swiss Army Editor

package deal

ensemble

1

The most accurate word I can imagine for a product that does multiple things and does those things well is multifaceted.

1

I often see "feature rich" for software.

Depending on what the product does, you can use the prefix "cross" or "trans" to describe, respectively, the possibly different areas it helps connect or the main area from which it goes beyond. For examples: cross-reporting, cross-media, trans-gaming

1

The adjectival phrase all-singing, all-dancing may be what you're looking for.

Amusingly, in German the phrase is "Eierlegende Wollmilchsäue", or egg-laying, woolly milk pig.

0

It could be as a synthesis.

the combining of the constituent elements of separate or abstract entities into a single or unified entity.

'The brain combines elements of the body's five very different senses and synthesizes them into one experience.'

0

compound

  1. Having two or more elements
  2. Having or involving two or more functions

Integrated software or possibly "suite":

The old ClarisWorks or AppleWorks was a single software application with multiple functions (word processor, spreadsheet, draw), or "integrated software package" of the genre office suite. Perhaps your application is a "your domain" suite?

0

If it consists of more than one application/executable, then it would typically be referred to as a suite or bundle. If it's a single application/executable (including software that is a shell for other libraries or executables), then it might be referred to as a system or an environment, e.g. "operating system" or "integrated development environment".

Another word related to performing multiple tasks or solving multiple problems is solution, as in "the company purchased a network security solution". Such a solution might be software product(s) that acts as a firewall, scans files for viruses, monitors the network for abnormal communication (NIDS), etc. From a marketing perspective, adjectives commonly found in the names of software products that perform multiple tasks are complete and total.

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