A combo box is a combination of a drop-down list and an edit control, thus allowing users to enter a value that isn’t in the list. It behaves like a drop-down list and allows the user to choose from a list of existing items but adds the option to type a value directly into the control. Newly typed items are usually added to the list and can be selected next time. Combo boxes are typically applied to provide auto-complete or auto-type functionality in a convenient way to the user.
The list provides auto-complete feature for the whole string, independently of the “editable” property. Given the items of “bike”, “boat”, and “car”:
- If one types “b”, the list selects “bike”.
- If one (rapidly) types “bo”, it selects “boat”.
- If one types “c”, it selects “car”.
The input field of the combo box (“editable” is true) marks the completed part of the item as selected, making it easy to change the completion.
Is this the right control¶
- Show a maximum of eight items at once.
- When possible apply changes immediately but do not initiate an action (like print, send, delete) when the user selects an item from the list.
- Do not add controls to the drop-down (e.g. checkboxes for each item).
- Place options that represent general options (e.g. all, none) at the beginning of the list.
- Sort list items in a logical order. Make sure sorting fits translation.
- Make sure the items are easily accessible via keyboard by moving distinctive letters to the beginning of each option. For example, in a list of countries on continents, write “Germany (Europe)” instead of “Europe/Germany”.
- Do not have blank list items; use meta-options, e.g. (None) instead
- Combo boxes are distinguished visually from drop-down lists (normally by the raised or lowered bevel). Do not override the common processing, e.g. by using a combo box and making it read only in order to simulate a simple drop-down list.
- If activating a choice affects the appearance or the enabled state of other controls, place them next to the combo box.
- If certain controls in a configuration dialog are only relevant if a certain item is selected (i.e. they are dependent controls), disable them instead of hiding.
- Label the combo box with a descriptive caption to the left (cf. alignment).
- Create a buddy relation so access keys are assigned.
- End each label with a colon.
- Use sentence style capitalization for items.