Re: Icons vs Buttons

Subject: Re: Icons vs Buttons
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Jul 1996 14:50:59 -0700

At 05:08 PM 7/18/96 +0100, <Joy Switzer> wrote:
>I have a new question the new documentation for a piece of software
>my co has developed we are confused on the use of the words "icons" and
>"buttons". We feel that an icon is a graphical representation of the action
>that will take place when you click it. A button has text on it to describe
>what it will do.

>Are we right in our assumption...what standard have some of you used in your

Not quite right, Joy. An icon is a graphic representation of an idea, but
it isn't necessarily clickable. For example, you've got icons next to all
filenames in the Windows 95 Explorer to indicate file types and you can
also have icons in the margins of a book to indicate the type of information
provided on that page. But, I'll grant you, most of the icons on your
virtual desktop are clickable.

Buttons, however, come in both text and graphic flavors. For an example
of a graphical button, look at a toolbar. Those buttons use icons as

In general, an icon may have an irregular shape and has a single state
(i.e., its appearance does not change when you click it). A button, OTOH,
usually is regular in shape, be it square, rectangular, or round, and has
at least two states--down and up. Additionally, it can have an unavailable
state--dimmed or greyed.

Buttons are generally used to provide command execution, routing choices,
and branching operations within programs. Icons, OTOH, can be used to
label almost anything, whether it's a program, a file type, or a button.

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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