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Human interface guidelines (HIG) are software development documents that offer application developers a set of recommendations. Their aim is to improve the experience for users by making application interfaces more consistent and hence more intuitive and learnable.

Learn more about the philosophy behind the KDE HIG


Conceptual Model

  • Real World, Vision

Task Flow

  • Core usability goals, Use cases / User requirements, Task aggregation
  • Personas, Scenarios, Usability criteria, Feature list

Organizational Model


Viewing and Navigation

General navigation

Access functions

  • Apply a menu bar to every standard application.
  • Provide a context menu for controls with implicit functions.
  • Use a push button to initiate an action when the user clicks it.
  • Use a [[Projects/Usability/HIG/Toggle_Buttons|toogle button to indicate a state, preferably in toolbars only.
  • Use a command link to navigate between pages.
  • Support keyboard access by accelerators and shortcuts.


  • Use a group box to arrange associated controls.
  • Use a panel for arrangement of controls without a caption.
  • Allow users to resize aligned groups by placing a splitter between the groups.

Complex views

  • Use a list view to show some items out of one category.
  • Use a tree view to show items with a single, natural, hierarchical categorization.
  • Grids
  • If you really need to create your own widget follow the guidelines for custom controls.

Editing and Manipulation


  • Use radio buttons for 1 selection out of a few items.
  • Use one or more check boxes for clear options or to select items out of a small number of options.
  • Use a drop-down list for selection of 1 out of a small number of items.
  • Use a combo box to select 1 out of a small number of items where users should be able to add items.
  • Use a list view to select 1 singular item out of a potentially big list.
  • Apply the dual list pattern for several selections out of a large number of (multiple) items.

Unconstrained input

  • Provide a line edit to enter one line of text.
  • Provide a text edit to enter multiple lines of texts.
  • Consider to provide inline editing with complex views.

Constrained input

  • Use a spin box for numerical input within a range and with fix steps.
  • Use a slider for arbitrary changes within a defined range.
  • Apply the slider and spin box pattern for numeric input with both large changes and precise control.
  • Use date and time pickers for formatted input of datum, time of day, or periods etc.

User Assistance

User-driven information

  • Provide tool-tips for user driven information.

System triggered notification

Disruptive messages

  • Show a modal message dialog if the processing has reached an unexpected condition that needs interaction.

Help system

  • Support the user by an elaborated interface or per help system.



  • Resizing
  • Default and minimal size
  • Spacing
  • Carefully place control according the KDE alignment style.
  • Do not use color as primary method of communication.
  • Icons



See also:


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A guide to the guide can be found at the about page.

Our Human Interface Guidelines are a work in progress and we need your help. Visit the Contributing page to report problems or get involved.














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