Definitions for undocumented feature

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Freebase

  1. Undocumented feature

    Undocumented features are frequently found in software releases. Sometimes the documentation is omitted through simple oversight, but undocumented features are often elements of the software not intended for use by end users, but left available for use by the vendor for software support and development. Since the suppliers of the software usually consider the software documentation to constitute a contract for the behavior of the software, undocumented features are generally left unsupported, and may be removed or changed at will and without notice to the users. This makes using undocumented features a double-edged sword. Sometimes such a feature is included for compatibility or future-expansion reasons, but the software provider changes their mind or goes out of business; the absence of documentation makes it easier to justify the feature's removal. New versions of software might omit mention of old features in documentation but keep them implemented for users who've grown accustomed to them. In other cases, software bugs are referred to jokingly as undocumented features. This usage may have been popularised in some of Microsoft's responses to bug reports for its first Word for Windows product, but doesn't originate there. The first reference on Usenet that survives dates to 5 March 1984. Between 1969 and 1972, Sandy Mathes, a systems programmer for PDP-8 software at Digital Equipment Corporation in Maynard, MA, used the terms "bug" and "feature" in her reporting of test results to distinguish between undocumented actions of delivered software products that were unacceptable and tolerable, respectively. This usage may have been perpetuated.

The New Hacker's Dictionary

  1. undocumented feature

    See feature.

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