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Date: 7/22/96 12:20 PM
From: Alma Schipper
I guess that the terms "icons" and "buttons" have been used so often for so
many different things (as this thread has made obvious) that it's no longer
possible to provide complete definitions.
In my experience with Windows, I've come up with the following distinction:
to choose an icon (usually on the desktop), you have to double-click it. To
choose a button, you only need to click once.
Has anyone else noticed this? It seems a silly way to distinguish
Not bad, though, Alma, and not so silly. You're right that the
meanings have gotten stretched through time.
My practical rule of thumb (evolved as I've watched this thread evolve),
is that buttons and icons are metaphors. So let's go back to the source.
A button is something locked onto something else. You press it to
perform an action. You press a button to turn on your computer, perhaps.
(Most apps even actually show a software "button" being "pressed" in 3D.)
You usually can't move a button around on the object that holds it.
Icons are pictures that represent things--usually objects
"reduced" to icons. Icons can have menus or actions associated
with clicking on them. Icons can usually be moved around (but not always).
For the middle ground, the locked-in-place icons that you click to
perform an action--if it looks like a button, most people will think of
it as a button. If it looks like a picture, most folks will think of it
as an icon. Use the term that people will ordinarily expect.
Sorry for making a long discussion longer.
To the person with the original question--go by feel and be as
consistent as you can. Then finish the book and move on. Keep in
mind that no solution will be perfect, and none of what we
do is Shakespeare. (It one of us IS Shakespeare, writing in the
tech manual genre, I pity the English lit grad students of the
Hope this helps.
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