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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

  • Have a clear vision what your application will achieve and what not.
  • Meet the needs of KDE's personas in your application.
  • Define a scenario where persona(s) interact with your application.
  • Specify requirements considering destinata and animata of users.

Design Vision and Principles

Task Flow

Organizational Model

  • Carefully consider the content structure and select an appropriate navigation pattern for the application.
  • Central configuration
  • Notification mechanism
  • Minimize to tray
  • Processing of passwords


Use-case based

Widget based

  • Implement a search as common pattern.


Baxley calls this section 'behavior'...

Viewing and Navigation

Access functions


  • Arrange associated controls by using a labeled group box or an unlabeled frame.
  • Allow users to resize aligned groups by placing a splitter between the groups.
  • Use tabs to show related information on separate pages.
  • Provide an accordion (aka tool box) for different views to content.

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.
  • If you really need to create your own widget follow the guidelines for custom controls.
  • Double check the guidelines about plotting diagram/charts.

Editing and Manipulation


  • Use radio buttons for selection of 1 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.
  • Use a table view to arrange data in rows and columns with inline editing feature.

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.


Become familiar with design vision and principles to understand how the visual design plays its role in fulfilling them.


The following style elements provide a palette to express your own unique vision while preserving the shared design vision.

Building blocks

  • Building blocks help make it easier to design applications that satisfy the design vision without needing to always create your own custom UI elements.

Visual Design Tools and Resources

  • Try the mock-up toolkit which includes UI controls stencils, color swatches and fonts to help create the visual design your application.
  • Ask for help and share your visual design ideas on the KDE Visual Design Group forum.


Didn't find what you were looking for?

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.

See also

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