I am not sure which term, cables or cabling (or other), would be more appropriate for the following context:

A new set of connectors, compatible with the metric ________, would eventually be installed.

My usual research method hasn't been fruitful because the search results are swamped with discussion of which cables are right for specific applications. Some searches for the definition of cabling even forward me to the definition of cable.

When should cable(s) vs. cabling be used, or are they always interchangeable?

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    Ditch the article and go with compatible with metric cables. The gerund form is more suitable for contexts where you're talking about things like routing (the path the cables take), rather than an actual cable and its connectors. – FumbleFingers Mar 17 '16 at 15:42
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    Practically, they are the same thing. I've been in manufacturing for 40 years and see the terms as indistinguishable. There may be a proper use of these terms but practically there is not. – user116032 Mar 17 '16 at 16:08
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    Good advise from FumbleFingers. The gerund is more commonly a mass abstraction (like 'heating') as opposed to a physical set (like heaters). – Egox Mar 17 '16 at 16:12
  • basically cabling is installed in the wall, whereas cables could be installed, on the floor, or still out in the van for that matter. – Born2Smile Mar 17 '16 at 23:33

Related Wikipedia article regarding cabling in telecommunications: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structured_cabling claims:

Structured cabling is building or campus telecommunications cabling infrastructure that consists of a number of standardized smaller elements (hence structured) called subsystems.

Coming from an engineering background, in my interpretation, cabling consists of cables, sockets, plugs, and all other basic, small elements needed to connect stuff. I'd even go farther and call the needed work to setup cabling a part of it, similarly to "do the electronics" when building or renovating a house.

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ANSI/TIA/EIA 568-B is the Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard; however, the Microsoft Manual of Style, 4th Edition (p.259) states


Do not use as a synonym for cable or cables. If necessary in a discussion of network connections, it is all right to use cabling to refer to a combination of cables, connectors, and terminators.

while the Apple Style Guide, April 2013 (p.27) states

cable Use cable to describe what physically connects two pieces of hardware. Don't use cabling even when you mean cable collectively; use cables.

While I agree with hauron's definition that cabling is the systemic combination of cables and components to connect devices, if you asked me to just fill in the blank I would agree with FumbleFingers that the best term here is cable(s).

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I believe both @hauron and @csperez are correct. The choice comes down to the OP's intent. If the sentence is in reference to the use of a one-off connector to a metric cable at a later date, then cables would be correct. If the sentence is meant to convey that a large scale project that entails multiple connectors to the cabling system at a multitude of locations then cabling would be used.

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Superior Essex is one of the largest wire and cable manufacturers worldwide.

They are a leading manufacturer in the cable industry (it's not called the cabling industry).

The word cabling is all but non-existent on Wiki's Cable page. One of the two mentions of cabling, directs you to the twisted pair page, where it is also used sparsely (the other mention is about mechanical cabling).

Here's an Ngram that shows cable dwarfing cabling. IMO, cabling is the installed product (and all its odds and ends). A cable is what you purchase to install. Note that according to most dictionaries however, they're largely interchangeable as both verbs and nouns.

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