What does "Einstellungen", "Konfiguration", "Optionen" mean in an app or program, what is the difference and where does it come from?

Edit: Sorry, I wrote this question with my mobile after some disappointment with my dictionary yesterday evening. So I improve my question now:

Starting point and question

A program/app is a unit of (mostly compiled) software that offers functionality to the user for a (usually) specific coherent scope of application (usage) ["usually": especially the word app(lication) stresses that - program tendentiously stresses the predescribed process - we mostly use those words equally because due to order precepts it is useful for a program/app to concentrate on one application area].

The program/app mostly has (multiple) main applications within that application area. E.g. a music program/app for the area of music playing which let's you control the main applications

  1. organize your titles (search, albums organisation, playlist,...)
  2. play a title (volume control, equalizer, fast-forward, ...)

[Note that in this example additionaly the main applications are not just connected by their similiar area of usage, but of the functionality itself: "playlist" e.g. is connected to 1) and 2)].

Running the main (sub)applications of that application (almost ever) results in variable states due to the sequence of the advancing process and due to variable/changeable decisions (the ifs,... in the programming language). The (last named) variance of the variable/changeable decisions is caused by:

  • no human (not directly, in the end nearly everything is caused by human): E.g. a cover is loaded from the web using a cover site, because that cover was available, a track could not be found, because of the system environment on which the app is running,...
  • human (in detail: that's what I'm interested in)
    • in advance of starting the main applications to control how the main applications should work in my personal special subcase of the application area: E.g. login into an music service account (better example: or setting parameters of an http server, e.g. how big the thread pool is),... .
    • while the application is used (interactive - the user is actively acting in between ("inter") the program sequence advances)
      • to use the main applications interactivly, e.g. to select an mp3 by tapping and so on
      • to control how the main applications should work in my personal special subcase of the application area, e.g. which bass amplifier I want to use

I'm particularly interested in the part "to control how the main applications should work in my personal special subcase of the application area", which can be set in advance before starting the application and (if interactive) even while the application is used [for appps the first part doesn't really happen , so that "login example" is a bit problematic ]. Sometimes these "controls" are necessary to be specified by the user (e.g. login) and sometimes they can be set with an standard value.

These "controls" are what I'm interested in my question.

Question: So how does "Einstellungen", "Konfiguration", "Optionen" organize these "controls" terminological?

What I already found out


  1. Programs use those terms partly interchangeably.
  2. The german wiki uses those terms partly interchangeably ("Konfiguration (Computer), der Aufbau und der Einstellungen (Optionen) beim Bau von Computern und der Administration von Software" ).

Result: No satisfying answer.

Going to wiktionary:

  • "Optionen" comes from "free will" and stresses the possibility of choice.
  • "Einstellungen" Possibility to change the manner of behaviour of the program. It comes from "einstellen" (so maybe metaphorical, we place the parts as we want them - engl. "setting" fits here nice).
  • "Konfiguration" form/shape (figure) together (con). Setting from program parameters (says nothing else, then to change the manner of behaviour).

Result: So what do we have: "Optionen" says, we have a choice. "Einstellungen" says, shape/form we chose. "Konfiguration" is similiar to "Einstellung", just latin.

All three say imply we have a choice, and the last two stress we coordinated our choice. So in other words: The etymology I found, isn't much helping here (but maybe I'm wrong?).

That's why I was asking the question here.

Responding to the proposal of advert2013 (first answer)

[As it seems appropriate I just add the term (operational) "Parameter" (plural). To me it seems to be that this term is the (technical) equivalent of my "controls" (control focuses on the user perspective). A single "control" is a single "parameter".]

  • Einstellungen/ settings means the same as my "controls" (collection/class [in the sense of order] of parameters)
    • Konfiguration/ configuration is that subcase of controls, that are configured in advance of starting the application.
    • Interactive "Einstellungen"/settings is that subcase of controls, that can be configured after application starting.

(I'm good with that.)

Options are the concrete (alternative) values I can set for a specific parameter.

Not completely satisfying: With this last point I'm not satisfied, because I nearly never saw this used in that way in programs/apps. Any other ideas?

Added question: Properties ("Merkmale"?) and preferences ("Präferenzen"?) are not used in german concerning programs/apps?

(Main order criteria for that "controls" until here are: 1. time of controlling [while using the application or before]. Maybe we could add 2. necessity of user specifying [no standard value] or 3. impact [effecting only one subapplication or the whole application])


I subjectively think, that this question is quite interesting, because we use programs/apps frequently nowadays and this question wasn't raised yet in this community.

  • @userunknown Note my edit. Apr 4, 2017 at 14:44
  • @userunknown I improved my post, anything else I can do now against that "on hold"? Apr 5, 2017 at 19:39
  • Now it seems you found out in detail, what you were looking for. Now it's unclear, what you're asking. Apr 6, 2017 at 10:00
  • @userunknown Answers which propose terminal taxonomies for that "controls" (with clear criteria). Apr 6, 2017 at 11:52

1 Answer 1


They're just the same as the distinctions made in English:

Einstellungen = Settings: General functions that alter the way the program operates.

Optionen = Options: The range of choices you have within an individual setting (e.g. black and white, colour, sepia).

Konfiguration = Configuration: Often used to refer to settings chosen during installation that alter the way the program operates, or determine what parts of the program are installed.

  • If only every software developer knew about these differences and would adhere to them … Apr 4, 2017 at 4:39
  • @advert2013 I like your definition of "Einstellungen" and "Konfiguration". About "Optionen" I'm not sure, I don't remember any program using that. Do you have an argument, using that definition? Do you know, if equivalents of "preference" and "properties" are used in german refering to programs/apps? Apr 4, 2017 at 14:49
  • The only time I really see 'optionen' written in a program is with search options. Here's an example: static.giga.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/… . Otherwise it's just a word used to describe the range of choices in a manual or whatever, while not normally being stated in the app itself (which will just state the setting – 'Farbe' or whatever). Preferences are just 'Einstellungen' I believe. No doubt they have all been used in totally different ways to the general outline I gave, but that looseness is just a feature of natural language in general.
    – advert665
    Apr 5, 2017 at 3:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.