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A tool bar is a graphical presentation of commands optimized for fast access. Typically, a toolbar contains buttons that correspond to items in an application's menu, providing direct access to application's most frequently used functions.

A good menu bar is a comprehensive catalog of all the available top-level commands, whereas a good tool bar gives quick, convenient access to frequently used commands.



Is this the right control

  • For standard applications, apply a tool bar by default.
  • Provide a tool bar in addition to the menu bar, but do not replace the menu bar.


  • A tool bar should contain only a few, frequently used operations. If the number of operations is above 5 they have to be grouped with separators. Not more than 3 of those sections should be implemented.
  • Do not abuse the tool bar to expose application's features. Only the most frequently functions should be add to the tool bar.
  • Execute operations immediately; do not require additional input from user.
  • Avoid using menu-, split-, and toggle buttons in tool bars. They do not fit well the concept of fast access.
  • Do not hide tool bars by default. If configurable, users should easily be able to make the tool bar viewable again.
  • Disable buttons that do not apply to the current context.
  • Consider to provide customization for tool bars in respect to position and content.


  • By default, represent tool bar buttons with icons only: Visual design should stay for itself. But consider to show captions as well in case of unusual functions or if users configure it.
  • Use and design tool bar icons with special care. Users remember location of an object but rely as well on icon properties.
  • A distinct association between the underlying function and its visual depiction is crucial. Follow the advices for icon design.
  • Use small icons in standard applications and larger icons for tool windows.
  • Do not simulate Microsoft's ribbon controls. KDE stays plain and simple.


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