Multiple selection in lists with more than a few items might become difficult because selected as well as available items are not visible at once. As an alternative approach, the dual-list pattern (also known as list builder, or paired lists) was introduced. It consists of two standard list boxes with the option to move items from one list to the other and back. Dual-lists are useful for extended multiple selection in general, especially for huge sets of items or in case of elaborate selections. The trade-off is the rather large amount of space that is needed to show two adjoining lists.
When to use¶
Use a dual-list pattern for multiple selection and in case of large lists.
In case of limited screen real estate, consider changing the workflow into repeated selections of smaller lists or by applying a hierarchy to the data.
Do not use a dual-list to show data primarily.
How to use¶
Label both lists view with a descriptive caption to the top. End each list label with a colon.
Use the left list to contain all available options. The right list should hold all currently active or in use items.
Ensure that the list boxes are of equal height and width.
Place move/remove buttons (right and left arrows) centered and in between the two lists. Disable a button if the list it is pointing away from is empty.
If an instance of one item can be repeated (such as a spacer), copy (rather than move) the item from the available pool of items to the list of current items.
If the list of current items can be reordered, place up/down buttons in between the two lists, above and below the left and right buttons. Only enable the up/down buttons when an item is selected and can be moved.
Do not have blank list items; use meta-options, (e.g. “None”) instead.
Place options that represent general options (e.g. “All”, “None”) at the beginning of the list.
Sort list items in a logical order. Alphabetical sorting should be able to change when the text is translated.
Allow the user to drag-and-drop items between lists, or re-order items within a list (if applicable)
Double clicking on an item should add it to or remove it from the current list, respectively.
Allow multiple selection of items within one list.
Make both list controls large enough that it can show at least four items at a time without scrolling.
If the lists appears in a dialog or utility window, consider making the window and the lists within it resizeable so that the user can choose how many list items are visible at a time without scrolling. Each time the user opens this dialog, set its dimensions to those that the user last resized it to.
Create a buddy relation so access keys are assigned.
Use sentence style capitalization for list view items.