Feedback wanted: Windows equivalent of the gear icon?


We’re currently going through every aspect of the interface and tweaking the various elements, and one thing we’re looking at is ensuring that the Windows version uses Windows-style controls throughout. The only thing I’m a little stuck on is the gear icon used in certain header and footer bars. At the moment there is a gear icon in the footer bar beneath the binder, and that one’s not a big deal as it can probably go since all it does is bring up the right-click menu (it’s more of a Mac thing to provide gear icon equivalents of contextual menus I believe). However, the gear icon is also used in the header bars for keywords and references in the inspector. This icon is straight out of the Mac interface, so we’re looking to replace it with a Windows equivalent - if anyone has any suggestions or, even better, can point me to a screenshot of a Windows app that has something similar, I’d be very grateful. So far I’m thinking it might be best just to replace it with a downward-pointing triangle, as that seems to be the norm.


All the best,

For the record, most of the mac --> windows software that I have used doesn’t spend too much effort with this type of UI alignment. The most obvious is iTunes.

Once again you show the type of service that has set L&L apart.

My husband (Windows developer who uses a Mac at home) thinks that there isn’t really a Windows equivalent because things are more linked to toolbars or right-clicks, and there isn’t a standard equivalent for the row of icons at the bottom of binder-type areas in Mac apps. The closest he can think of is a sort of down-arrow symbol with a bar across it (for example, in VisualStudio, where the attached screenshot comes from); this button is sometimes used to offer context stuff, although it is not universal at all. Is this the downward-pointing triangle that you were thinking of?

I’m not sure that I know how to post an image, but if I get this right, you should see the icon just below the middle of the attached image, towards the right-hand side:


I’ve seen the symbol that Siren sent (say it fast, 5 times) in the Mac UI, where it usually means eject a disc. Or reversed, with triangle on top in iTunes, where it means detach a device.

For MS Office, Microsofts engineers are using a range of different signs and arrows to access some kind of context menu:


Well, as a distinctly anti-MS guy I would suggest that MS has not interface standards. L&L should use what ever they heck they want to use.

But then I am in a bad mood today. To many broken MS servers over here.

Yeah, I think consistency across platforms would be nice. There are some who use it on multiple platforms. (Hey, they’re ecumenical!) I, for one, hate having to hunt and peck for some menu, because it looks differently.

I agree.

Thanks for all the info, much appreciated. I agree that the one icon does look a little too much like an eject icon. The problem with making it exactly the same across platforms is mainly that the gear is an Apple icon - although I did create the icon myself so it shouldn’t be a copyright issue. I’ll ask our icon designer if he has any suggestions too.

Thanks again!

I’ve seen a wrench icon around, e.g. Chome uses such. Presumably indicating “settings” or “tools”, but I suppose it’s in the same category as a gear. Nicely mechanical and all that.

I have a stupid question: what is the button going to do?

Actually, quite a good question. It just provides additional drop-down menus for some of the inspector panes.

Looking at it in the Mac, though, Keith, it actually is only in the keyword pane, not the references–that uses a + with a little down arrow since it’s just a list of “add” options. (Same in the Windows version at the moment.) So it’s just in the keywords list and all it offers there is to show the HUD or to add a keyword by selecting it from the list–which the context menu also does. The Windows setup right now is a little different: it offers add (but not from the list), delete selected, and show HUD. However, the “add” button is right next to it, so it doesn’t seem necessary to give another offer of the same thing under the list. Likewise the “delete” button should probably be its own “-” button to match the setup in References and to parallel the “+” button (unless both of those are “too Mac”?), which leaves just “Show Keyword HUD”–could you perhaps replace the whole drop-down menu with a “show HUD” icon or button? And then if it’s doable, the “add keyword from list” sort of option that you get in the Mac (either via the gear button or from the right-click) could just be a right-click context menu, which I think is the standard Windows method anyway.

Okay! Normally (!) Windows machines don’t have these things, the exceptions I can think of are the MS Office triangles and Mac orginated software? The right mouse button usually does that sort of thing.

So, from a Window user familiarity perspective, I’d either use the downward triangle “twisty”, or the symbol printed on the key on a windows keyboard that does same job (context sensitive menus).

(The key on the right).

Other than that - make up your own. Nothing wrong with the gears, or maybe use the Scrivener “S” in a rectangle.

I think that, with the rise of iPhones and Android devices – both of which tend to use the gear as a “settings” icon, that’s becoming a bit of a standard. As other people have mentioned so has the diagonal wrench.

If the menu is for more features or viewing options in the Inspector, then I’m not immediately sure that a settings icon is the right match. For that sorta stuff, the “undifferentiated” menu icon from the last post might be your best bet.

All that said, if you’re already employing the settings gear for this on the Mac, I’d suggest continuing the existing style across the two platforms.

I think this depends entirely on what the icon is for.

In many programs, a triangle indicates: “More tools!”
We see this everywhere from programs for 3d modeling, art, blahblah and generally means that there are more tools hidden behind that little icon, or that you can click to modify the tool that it is next to.

Both the gear and the wrench bring to mind the word “preferences.” A person’s first thought (in my experience) is: “Oh, I can click here to change [something]!”

An icon showing a miniature context menu? it works for anything, really.

Having said all that, I think using gears is just fine :wink:

Concerning the keywords panel:
I don’t think having the + right next to the gear is redundant. It saves clicks, and saved clicks saves time! :mrgreen:
I think MimeticMouton is right about adding a - button as well.
In this case, the gear should probably be changed to an on/off “Show Keyword HUD” button, since it’s options are now redundant.

One vote for the downward triangle (non-eject variant). :slight_smile:

I just installed Internet Explorer 9, and it hides all it’s tools/menus below a gear.

Hey, if it’s good enough for a Microsoft windows program… :slight_smile:

Good catch!

I’m pretty much a lifelong MS Windows user and am not really aware of a standard Windows ‘settings’ button since typically it’s named or on a drop down. However; as a Blackberry User I had no trouble identifying the gear symbol in Scrivener and as someone else pointed out, the wrench symbol in Chrome drives the point home equally. (Actually due to the size of the icons, the wrench may more readily be visually identified on the UI.). So I’d vote Wrench first, Gear second.


If it’s familiarity to the majority of Windows users you are after, then I’m afraid to report that Windows XP and IE6/7 are still the benchmarks for the vast amjority of users.

If you’re not worried about familiarity… well do as you will!