"Strafe" (as used in the entity files anyway) is in the sense used in first person shooters, i.e. when ships move sideways, not in the direction of facing and do so without turning, not in the sense of fighters strafing some target.
You can order most ships to strafe in the former sense, especially caps and Orky if they are at a rest (fully stopped, no orders queued) and you click not very far from their current position (less than one grid length). They can even move aft with strafe (without having to wait for the insanely long 180 turn time). If you look at my recordings of Orky doing "flowerpower" or at some of my Corsev fights, you'll see strafing in that sense being used. E.g. Orky has:
I'm not sure what controls the maximum speed (rather than acceleration) for Strafing, but as you can expect from these numbers, strafing is done at a much slower average speed than normal movement. By the time it managed to pick up a bit of speed, the strafing movement is over because you can't plot it too far from the starting location.
I don't know yet what the Strafe-related stuff from user.settings does. It's possible that AutoStrafeAreaSize refers to how far you can send ships with a strafe movement before they decide to turn and do the regular one. That would make more sense as a global user setting than anything relating to corvettes or fighters. But I haven't tested this yet...
In the key bindings the word "Strafe" is used for the left, right, up, and down camera movements, so it's possible that AutoStrafe stuff might actually be related to camera control instead.
Update: yeah, that's what the user.settings AutoStrafe is about. AutoStrafeAreaSize dictates how many pixels from the edge of the screen you have to move the mouse for the camera to strafe. I tested by setting it to 200. And if you set EnableAutoStrafe to FALSE, then you can't strafe the camera using the mouse at all, you have to use the key bindings.
The ships' maximum strafing distance is unaffected by either of these user.setting (as you might expect by now.) I guess the game calculates how far it makes sense to strafe (a ship) by comparing the time it would get to destination by strafing movement compared to turning and moving normally.