Dialog (user interface)

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A question, a simple form of dialogue

A dialog , dialog box , dialog window or dialog box is an element of the graphical user interface .


Dialogs are displayed to obtain input from the user, for example:

  • During the software installation , the user is asked whether the installation should run according to the standard specifications or whether the user would like to specify the modules and target directories to be installed.
  • With a print job, the user can specify which printer should be used, how many copies he would like to receive and whether only certain pages are to be printed.

Properties of dialog windows

An installation dialog with various controls

Usually dialog box are form-like set up. These are controls such as text boxes and check boxes used. Usually at the bottom they contain buttons such as OK or Cancel , with which the user can confirm or reject his entries and close the dialog. Simple dialog windows, so-called messages , only contain a question or information text and one or more buttons, such as yes and no, to answer a question.

If a dialog window contains several input elements such as text fields or buttons, only one of them is active at any given time. You can activate another field by clicking with the mouse. For user interfaces that work without a mouse, i. H. can only be operated with the keyboard (such as Windows): If you press the tab key on the keyboard , the next input element within the window is activated in a programmed sequence. Together with the Shift key , you can go through this sequence backwards. If, on the other hand, you press the line switch (Return) or the Enter key , the currently active button is recognized as being pressed or a text entry is recognized as completed and the dialog window is closed.

Modal and non-modal dialogues

Modal dialogs lock the rest of the application (or even the user interface) as long as the dialog is displayed.

Non-modal dialogs also allow entries in the application outside of the dialog.

Standard dialogs

Standard search dialog under Windows 7

Today , the programmer usually creates dialogs with graphic editors ( GUI designers ), such as those integrated in Microsoft Visual Studio , Apple Xcode or NetBeans . As a rule, the respective GUI toolkit offers standard dialogs that can be used by simply calling up a function; This has the advantage for the user that he will find familiar dialog windows in different applications, for example:

  • Messages with text and various combinations of buttons,
  • File selection dialogs with which the user can select one or more files or a directory,
  • Color selection dialog with which the user can select a color from a palette or define it himself.


  • Charles Petzold: Windows programming . Microsoft Press Germany, Unterschleißheim 2000, ISBN 3-86063-487-9 .

Web links

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