A tool-tip is a small pop-up window that labels the unlabeled control being pointed to, such as toolbar controls without caption or command buttons. When providing more descriptive text the control is called info-tip. Tips are a form of progressive disclosure, eliminating the need always to have descriptive text on the screen. This time-delay mechanism makes tips very convenient, but it also reduces their discoverability. When tips are used consistently they support user’s expectation and foster predictability.
- Use tips to label unlabeled controls and to provide additional information.
- Don’t use tips for warnings.
- Keep tips brief, typically five words or less for tool-tips; whenever appropriate, provide keyboard short-cuts and default values.
- Format info-tips to make their content easier to read and scan by grouping and aligning the content. The information should be:
- concise: large, unformatted blocks of text are difficult to read and overwhelming
- helpful: it shouldn't be obvious or just repeat what is already on the screen)
- supplemental: important information should be communicated using self-explanatory control labels or in-place supplemental text)
- (in discussion) static: tips should not change from one instance to the next)
- (in discussion) If the control is disabled, add a short explanation about the reason to the tip. Do not add information beyond that.
- Consider to add small info buttons for use tips with a touch screen.