User Stories Vs Use Cases

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User Story expresses one very specific need that a user has. It’s usually written out as a couple of sentences. Most user stories are written in the language of the users, so any user should be able to read a user story and immediately understand what it means.

Use Case is similar to a user story, because it also describes one specific interaction between the user and the software. It helps us find and write down all of the ways users interact with the software.

Looking at the above definitions, it may sound like both means the same. User stories and use cases are definitely similar; there are important differences between them. Each serves a distinct purpose.


Consider the feature “search and replace” of a word processor to understand the difference between use cases and user stories.


A user story may look like “A user realizes mis-capitalization of a word across the document, and wants the word processor to search for all the occurrences of it and replace them with the correction.”


UseCase Name Search & Replace
Summary All occurrences of a search text are replaced with the replacement text.
Scenario While editing a document, many users find that there is text somewhere in the file being edited that needs to be replaced, but searching for it manually by looking through the entire document is time-consuming and ineffective. The search-and-replace function allows the user to find it automatically and replace it with specified text.

  1. Sometimes this text is repeated in many places and needs to be replaced.
  2. At other times, only the specific occurrence(s) should be replaced.
  3. The user may also wish to simply find the location of that text without replacing it.
Users All Users
Pre-Condition A document is loaded and being edited.
Action Steps
  1. The user indicates that the software is to perform a search-and-replace in the document.
  2. The software responds by requesting the search text and the replacement text.
  3. The user inputs the search text and replacement text and indicates that all occurrences are to be replaced.
  4. The software replaces all occurrences of the search text with the replacement text.
Alternative Action Steps
  1. In Step 3 of Action Steps, the user indicates that only the first occurrence is to be replaced. In this case, the software finds the first occurrence of the search term in the document being edited and replaces it with the replacement text.
  2. {The post-condition state is identical, except only the first occurrence is replaced, and the replacement text is highlighted.}

  3. In Step 3 of Action Steps, the user indicates that the software is only to search and not replace, and does not specify replacement text.
  4. {In this case, the software highlights the first occurrence of the search term and the use case ends.}

  5. The user may decide to abort the search-and-replace operation at any time during Action Steps 1, 2 or 3. In this case, the software returns to the pre-condition state.
Post-Condition All occurrences of the search text have been replaced with the replacement text.

Note: In the above USECASE, only the actions performed by the user and the response of the software have been listed. Nothing about the user interface is mentioned because user interface is all about how the implementation of this usecase is going to be.

A simple differentiation

User Stories

Use Cases





User stories are about needs User story is describing raw user needs, and describes what needs to be done in his day-to-day job. Use cases are about the behavior you’ll build into the software to meet those needs It typically has a lot of clear and unambiguous detail, and describes everything that the developer needs to build in order to meet the user’s need.
User stories are easy for users to read User story should be understandable by anyone and is written in User’s language Use cases describe a complete interaction between the software (including sub-systems) and users It needs to be a functional solution that meets the users’ needs and feasibility for developers to implement.

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