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Tool vs. Feature: What’s the Difference?

By Benjamin Haynes on November 29, 2022

Read any product marketing ad, datasheet, web copy or other deliverable, and you’ll see the word “feature” multiple times. Phrases such as “feature-rich” and “feature-packed” imply that the product offers a complete or innovative solution that is better than other available solutions with fewer features. “Tool” on the other hand, is often used interchangeably with “platform” or “solution,” to denote an individual, encapsulated “thing” that can be used to perform a specific action or set of actions.

At Directus, we beg to differ. In fact, we think it’s the other way around.

Think of a carpenter’s toolbelt. What’s in it? A hammer, screwdriver, pliers, untility knife, measuring tape and other tools that the contractor needs to use frequently. That way, they’re prepared for nearly any job required – without having to return back to the truck to carry something back to the jobsite.

A hammer is used primarily to drive nails into wood, and a knife is mostly used to cut material. However, hammers can be used for things other than pounding nails into wood – they can help pry nails out of wood, nudge boards into place or break up certain materials. A knife can be used to open packages or pry glue off of a surface. You get the picture: tools provide basic functions that are applicable across many scenarios.

Using the same analogy, let’s consider what a feature might be. A feature of the toolbelt may be the number of pockets or the desired material. It may have an adjustable buckle or a pouch for your cell phone. A feature of the hammer might be a longer handle, and the knife might have a clip so you can hang it on a jean pocket. While these features are useful, they don’t really help you build anything – the tools themselves do.

Directus has a lot of amazing features. It can be self-hosted or deployed in the cloud. It works with any SQL database and delivers blazing fast response times. There’s no vendor lock-in, and it’s fully extendable. But what really sets it apart is its broad set of tools that enable you to build any digital project you can imagine. That’s why instead of hyping up our capabilities as “features,” we prefer to call them tools.

Our Toolbelt is Stacked

Here are just a subset of the tools Directus packs in its toolbelt (you can find a more comprehensive list here):

Data/Content Management

  • Revision history to track all changes
  • A customizable form editor
  • Commenting and a built-in notification system
  • A multilingual app for full internationalization
  • Batch editing for editing multiple items at once
  • Custom dataflows to enable automation

Digital Asset Management

  • On-the-fly thumbnail generation
  • Nesting folders and archiving for better file organization
  • Storage adaptors to accommodate S3, local storage and more
  • An Image editor for in-app transformations
  • Drag & drop uploads to import content from the desktop
  • Private file keys to enable file permissions


  • Insight dashboards with the ability to tailor data charts
  • Full white-labeling that inherits your branding
  • User-configurable light/dark mode
  • Customizable user preferences, interfaces, displays, layouts and modules
  • Custom API endpoints and filters, and custom event hooks
  • Modular and extensible codebase for advanced customization

Connectivity and Logic

  • Data flows for task automation, alerting, and data transformations
  • Rest and GraphQL APIs, and Dynamic API references based on your schema
  • Event hooks and webhooks for dynamic data updates
  • Flexible data export options – JSON, CVS and XML
  • Vendor-agnostic schema migrations
  • Activity logs for access and change control

Security and Access Control

  • Two-factor authentication
  • Single sign-on support for OAuth2, OpenID, LDAP, and SAML
  • Granular permissions via rule-based access, with unlimited user roles
  • Parameterized queries to avoid SQL injections
  • Argon2 hashing for secure token storage

And the list goes on…

Most importantly, Directus’s intuitive, no-code Data Studio – the workshop, so to speak – democratizes your data by enabling technical and non-technical users alike to leverage all of these tools with ease, and a back-end-as-a-service data engine to power a limitless array of data-driven digital experiences.

With all of these tools in your toolbelt, just imagine the possibilities for what you can create!

Get started using Directus today with Directus Cloud.

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With over 23 million downloads, Directus is the world's first Open Data Platform for instantly turning any SQL database into an API and beautiful no-code app.

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