How to indicate window needs saving

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Fri Mar 21 11:51:14 EDT 2008

mfstuart wrote:

 > Richard Gaskin wrote:
 >> BTW: What does the Win HIG recommend for indicating unsaved changes?
 > Did a google search with "windows hig". Didn't find anything relevant.
 > But what I do in an edit-record type form, (built in another language
 > for Windows) is place the following 3 buttons at the bottom right of
 > the form:
 > Save and Close, Save and New, Close
 > The first 2 buttons are disabled at opening of the form.
 > When the user starts editing values on the form (changing field
 > values), I then set a variable to TRUE.
 > If this variable is TRUE, then the first 2 buttons become enabled.
 > The text on the Close button is changed to Cancel.
 > First up, this is a visual sign to the user that they need to respond
 > to the system, because they changed values.

That seems as good an approach as any other, clear enough.

Ken and I talked about this last night, hunting around in the Win Human 
Interface Guidelines for the recommended way to indicated unsaved 
changes in a document.   We couldn't find one, and at this point it 
appears they have no such recommendation at all.

The pessimist might respond to that saying, "With no standard there's no 
right way to do it!".

But as an optimist, I say, "With no standard there's no wrong way to do it."

One of the things I enjoy about developing for Windows is the lack of 
consistency, the ambiguous and sometimes contradicting HIG, and the 
frequent variance (common to all OS vendors it seems) between what they 
recommend and what they do themselves.

This might be frustrating for HIG Police types, but I see it as freedom, 
the freedom to do whatever the hell I want and know that even the 
wildest, most insane designs won't seem out of place among the 
hodge-podge of UIs across the Windows world. ;)

While searching the Win HIG for the answer on indicating unsaved 
changes, I stumbled across this gem:


It describes many different ways to make toolbars.  The first two types 
(a toolbar used in conjunction with a menu bar, and a toolbar used in a 
simpler app which has no menu bar) seem reasonable enough, but the third 
recommends considering using a toolbar to replace the menubar in some 
sort of weird hybrid of functionality and appearance.  We've seen this 
sort of thing with the Ribbons in Office 2008 but this is very different 
from a Ribbon, so we have yet another widely-varying recommendation 
while their HIG doesn't mention Ribbons at all.

The message I got from that was: "We really don't care what you do.  Go 
on, knock yourself out, play and explore and if the user can figure it 
out it doesn't matter that it looks and behaves like nothing they've 
ever seen before."

Freedom. :)

  Richard Gaskin
  Managing Editor, revJournal
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