Terminology for child window?

Subject: Terminology for child window?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2001 10:41:08 -0500

Kristin Field wonders: <<What terminology would you use in an end user
manual when referring to a child window (a window that is accessed by
selecting a button, etc. from a main window). My end users are not
particularly computer savvy and they will not know what a child window is.>>

There are two possibilities, depending on what specifically you're
documenting, but both examine things from the user's perspective. If you
need to discuss child windows as a class, because all child windows have
similar behavior and your documentation applies to every child window, then
consider how the user reaches these windows: by clicking a button (from
within a dialog box or the icon/tool bar). Thus, you could write something
such as "For any window that you reach by clicking a button, ..." or "In the
window that you open by clicking the Example button, do..." If instead you
need to describe a specific window, refer to it by the name that the user
will see on the screen (in the blue bar at the top of the window): "In the
ThisIsAnExample dialog box, do..." In both cases, there's an important point
to note: if you can't come up with a single-word description of a concept,
describe what you need to say in several words instead. Words are
inexpensive, so you shouldn't feel obliged to economize on them. "Don't
worry; we'll make more." <g>

"Child window" is the correct technical term (because it's the descendant of
the "parent" window), but you noted that your audience isn't particularly
computer savvy. If you were instead writing for software developers, calling
these objects child windows might be perfectly appropriate, because you're
using terminology that's familiar to them.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy."--Goethe


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