GUI elements - how do you format them in your docs?

Subject: GUI elements - how do you format them in your docs?
From: "Martinek, Carla" <CMartinek -at- zebra -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 07:52:22 -0600

I'm wondering what other people, especially those with usability
experience, have to say about formatting of window/dialog titles,
buttons, menu item selections, and such. We're discussing standards
within our group, but it's always nice to get other people's opinions
and see how you're doing it.

I've included some example text, but because of the plain text
formatting restrictions on the list, I put in coding tags to show where
styles were being applied.

Option 1 is formatting from a legacy document, and doesn't conform to
any style guide I'm aware of.

- Standard font is Times New Roman.
- Window/dialog box names are TNR italic. <TNR-I>
- Buttons and menu items are changed to Arial Blue <AB>.
- Tabs and panels get no special formatting.

1. From the <AB>Administration</AB> menu, select <AB>Add User</AB>.

The <TNR-I>Add User</TNR-I> dialog displays.
2. In the Add Multiple Users tab, select the names to add from the
3. Click <AB>OK</AB>.
4. To accept, enable the <TNR-I>I accept the terms in the license
agreement</TNR-I> option button, and click <AB>Next</AB>.

>From the MS Manual of Style:
Use bold for dialog box titles, labels, options, and buttons. The
following example shows typical procedure wording for these elements.

<b> = bold
<i> = italic

1. Click the <b>Start</b> button.
2. On the <b>Tools</b> menu, click <b>Options, and then click the
<b>View</b> tab.
3. Select the <b>Bookmarks</b> check box.

>From the Sun Style Guide for the Computer Industry
Do not use special text formatting such as an alternative font or bold
type for GUI element names such as menu names, menu options, or field
names. In documents with a large number of GUI procedures, such text
formatting can be distracting and confusing for the reader.

1. From the File menu, choose New.
2. Click the OK button.
3. Dismiss the Add Users window.
4. Double-click the File Manager icon to open the program.

My personal preference is to simplify as much as possible, which has me
leaning towards the Sun style of using just initial caps with no special
formatting. The one problem I see here is with some radio buttons,
which often do not use initial caps on the entire string. These could
be difficult to separate from the rest of the surrounding text. Perhaps
in that case I can see using italics, without any kind of font change.
My second choice is Microsoft's option of using Bold with no color or
font change for all GUI elements.


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