Labels

Purpose

Common controls should behave ‘common’ and look like everyday controls. Therefore, it is much recommended to use standard font. Bold or italic font should not be applied to control labels.

Guidelines

  • Keep labels short; be aware that translated English text can expand up to 30% in some languages.
  • Do not shorten your labels to the point of losing meaning. However, a three-word label that provides clear information is better than a one-word label that is ambiguous or vague. Try to find the fewest possible words to satisfactorily convey the meaning of your label.
  • When the label is associated with another control, like a line edit, be sure to set the the line edit as the buddy of the label.

Dialogs

  • If a dialog is user-initiated, identify it using the command or feature name.
  • If it is application- or system-initiated (and therefore out of context), label it using the program or feature name to provide context.
  • Do not use the title to explain what to do in the dialog – that’s the purpose of the main instruction.

Buttons

  • Label command buttons with an imperative verb.
  • Do not use ending punctuation for labels.
  • Describe the action that the button performs in a tooltip.
  • End the label with an ellipsis if the command requires additional information to execute.
  • Assign access keys to all buttons (Alt+Letter).

Tabs

  • Label tabs based on their pattern. Use nouns rather than verbs, without ending punctuation.
  • Do not assign an access key. Tabs are accessible through their shortcut keys (Ctrl+Tab, Ctrl+Shift+Tab).

Checkboxes and Radio buttons

  • Label every checkbox or radio button. Do not leave checkboxes or radio buttons unlabeled.
  • Assign a unique access key to each label.
  • Labels must start with an active verb clearly defining the state to be enabled or disabled.
  • For a group, use parallel phrasing and try to keep the length about the same for all labels.
  • For a group, focus the label text on the differences among the options.
  • Use affirmative phrases. Do not use negative phrases such as “Don’t enable wifi”. Use rather “Enable wifi”.
  • Describe just the option with the label. Keep labels brief so it’s easy to refer to them in messages and documentation.

Group box

  • Use group labels to explain the purpose of the group, not how to make the selection.
  • End each label with a colon to show a relationship.
  • Do not assign an access key to the label.
  • For a selection of one or more dependent choices, explain the requirement on the label.

Using Ellipses in Labels

Ellipses are used to indicate that a button or menu item will perform an action that always requires additional user input before completing. Use an ellipsis at the end of a menu item or button’s label only when the following circumstances apply:

  • The menu item or button must perform an action. Actions always begin with a verb, (e.g. “Show”, “Configure”, “Adjust”) and have a definite start and end
  • That action must always require additional user input to complete

Here are examples of menu items and buttons whose labels typically have ellipses:

  • Find…
  • Find and Replace…
  • Open…
  • Print…
  • Replace…
  • Save As…
  • Send To…
  • Configure [something]…

Here are examples of menu items and buttons whose labels typically do not have ellipses, along with the reason why:

  • About — not an action
  • Advanced Options — not an action
  • Close or Quit — action does not always require additional user input
  • Delete or Remove — action does not always require additional user input
  • Help — not an action
  • Print Preview — not an action
  • Properties — not an action
  • Toolboxes — not an action