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Title Bars and Icons
Windows title bars have lots of uses for the users of our Applications in addition to the obvious ones of dragging and minimize etc they can be used to allow the user to easily identify which window out of a set of windows they require.

As developers we can help the users by using a strict convention for the text in those title bars. The most obvious first choice is to include the name of the function the window performs, this easily allows the user to find the type of window they require. When the user has multiple windows of the same type open as is frequently the case in MDI applications, the window name is not enough to identify which window they want.

Again we can help the users out by including one or two of the key fields from the data being displayed on the window in the title bar. When adding the data items to the window name there is a choice to be made, should the window name go first or last in the title.

For example Word 97 used the convention of:
Microsoft Word - C:\The\Name\Of\Your\Document.doc

Which is great and has both pieces of information but the problem being that when the text is truncated as is frequently the case all you see is:
Microsoft Word - C:\The\Name\Of\Y...

Which is not very useful if you have 10 document all open at the same time. We can see that Microsoft agreed as in Word 2000 they swapped the sequence around so that the Document name appears before the Application Title.

This works well in the case of Word but frequently in database applications the text of the key data items can get long and when concatenated with the window title can become unwieldy for the user. Therefore the ultimate solution is to use a combination of the title bar and the window icon. If possible choice a different icon for each type of window in your application. The users can then associate the icon with the function and you can remove the function of the window from the title bar. Leaving just the identifying data as the title bar.


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Ken Howe 2011