Window (computing)
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In computing, a window is a
graphical control element A graphical widget (also graphical control element or control) in a graphical user interface is an Human–machine interface, element of interaction, such as a Button (computing), button or a scrollbar, scroll bar. Controls are software compo ...
. It consists of a visual area containing some of the
graphical user interface The GUI ( "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ), graphical user interface, is a form of user interface that allows User (computing), users to Human–computer interaction, interact with electronic devices through graphical icon (comp ...
of the program it belongs to and is framed by a window decoration. It usually has a rectangular shape that can overlap with the area of other windows. It displays the ''output'' of and may allow ''input'' to one or more processes. Windows are primarily associated with graphical displays, where they can be manipulated with a pointer by employing some kind of
pointing device A pointing device is a human interface device that allows a User (computing)#End-user, user to input Three-dimensional space, spatial (i.e., continuous and multi-dimensional) data to a computer. Computer-aided design, CAD systems and graphi ...
. Text-only displays can also support windowing, as a way to maintain multiple independent display areas, such as multiple buffers in
Emacs Emacs , originally named EMACS (an acronym for "Editor MACroS"), is a family of text editors that are characterized by their extensibility. The manual for the most widely used variant, GNU Emacs, describes it as "the extensible, customizable, se ...
. Text windows are usually controlled by keyboard, though some also respond to the mouse. A graphical user interface (GUI) using windows as one of its main "
metaphors A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide (or obscure) clarity or identify hidden similarities between two different ideas. Metaphors are often compared wi ...
" is called a
windowing system In computing, a windowing system (or window system) is software that manages separately different parts of Electronic visual display, display screens. It is a type of graphical user interface (GUI) which implements the WIMP (computing), WIMP (Wi ...
, whose main components are the
display server In computing, a windowing system (or window system) is software that manages separately different parts of Electronic visual display, display screens. It is a type of graphical user interface (GUI) which implements the WIMP (computing), WIMP (Wi ...
and the
window manager A window manager is system software that controls the placement and appearance of window (computing), windows within a windowing system in a graphical user interface. Most window managers are designed to help provide a desktop environment. They ...
.


History

The idea was developed at the Stanford Research Institute (led by
Douglas Engelbart Douglas Carl Engelbart (January 30, 1925 – July 2, 2013) was an American engineer and inventor, and an early computer and List of Internet pioneers, Internet pioneer. He is best known for his work on founding the field of human–compute ...
). Their earliest systems supported multiple windows, but there was no obvious way to indicate boundaries between them (such as window borders, title bars, etc.). Research continued at
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Corporation's
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Research Center / PARC (led by Alan Kay). They used overlapping windows. During the 1980s the term " WIMP", which stands for window, icon, menu, pointer, was coined at PARC.
Apple An apple is an edible fruit produced by an apple tree (''Malus domestica''). Apple fruit tree, trees are agriculture, cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus ''Malus''. The tree originated in Central Asia, wh ...
had worked with PARC briefly at that time. Apple developed an interface based on PARC's interface. It was first used on Apple's Lisa and later
Macintosh The Mac (known as Macintosh until 1999) is a family of personal computers designed and marketed by Apple Inc., Apple Inc. Macs are known for their ease of use and minimalist designs, and are popular among students, creative professionals, and ...
computers.
Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporation producing Software, computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services headquartered at th ...
was developing Office applications for the Mac at that time. Some speculate that this gave them access to Apple's OS before it was released and thus influenced the design of the windowing system in what would eventually be called
Microsoft Windows Windows is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporatio ...
.


Properties

Windows are two dimensional objects arranged on a plane called the
desktop metaphor In computing, the desktop metaphor is an interface metaphor which is a set of unifying concepts used by graphical user interfaces to help users interact more easily with the computer. The desktop metaphor treats the computer monitor as if it is t ...
. In a modern full-featured windowing system they can be resized, moved, hidden, restored or closed. Windows usually include other graphical objects, possibly including a menu-bar, toolbars, controls, icons and often a working area. In the working area, the document, image, folder contents or other main object is displayed. Around the working area, within the bounding window, there may be other smaller window areas, sometimes called panes or panels, showing relevant information or options. The working area of a single document interface holds only one main object. "Child windows" in
multiple document interface A multiple-document interface (MDI) is a graphical user interface in which multiple windows reside under a single parent window. Such systems often allow child windows to embed other windows inside them as well, creating complex Hierarchy#Nested hi ...
s, and tabs for example in many web browsers, can make several similar documents or main objects available within a single main application window. Some windows in
Mac OS X macOS (; previously OS X and originally Mac OS X) is a Unix operating system developed and marketed by Apple Inc. since 2001. It is the primary operating system for Apple's Mac (computer), Mac computers. Within the market of ...
have a feature called a drawer, which is a pane that slides out the side of the window and to show extra options. Applications that can run either under a
graphical user interface The GUI ( "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ), graphical user interface, is a form of user interface that allows User (computing), users to Human–computer interaction, interact with electronic devices through graphical icon (comp ...
or in a text user interface may use different terminology.
GNU Emacs GNU Emacs is a free software text editor. It was created by GNU Project founder Richard Stallman, based on the Emacs editor developed for Unix operating systems. GNU Emacs has been a central component of the GNU project and a flagship project of ...
uses the term 'window' to refer to an area within its display while a traditional window, such as controlled by an X11 window manager, is called a 'frame'. Any window can be split into the window decoration and the window's content, although some systems purposely eschew window decoration as a form of
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.


Window decoration

The window decoration is a part of a window in most
windowing system In computing, a windowing system (or window system) is software that manages separately different parts of Electronic visual display, display screens. It is a type of graphical user interface (GUI) which implements the WIMP (computing), WIMP (Wi ...
s. A windows decoration typically consists of a title bar, usually along the top of each window and a minimal border around the other three sides. On Microsoft Windows this is called "non-client area". In the predominant layout for modern window decorations, the top bar contains the title of that window and buttons which perform windowing-related actions such as: * Close * Maximize * Minimize * Resize * Roll-up The border exists primarily to allow the user to resize the window, but also to create a visual separation between the window's contents and the rest of the
desktop environment In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computer, computing machinery. It includes the study and experimentation of algorithmic processes, and development of both computer hardware , hardwa ...
. Window decorations are considered important for the design of the
look and feel In software design, the look and feel of a graphical user interface comprises aspects of its design, including elements such as colors, shapes, layout, and typefaces (the "look"), as well as the behavior of dynamic elements such as buttons, boxes ...
of an
operating system An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common daemon (computing), services for computer programs. Time-sharing operating systems scheduler (computing), schedule tasks for ef ...
and some systems allow for customization of the colors, styles and animation effects used.


Window border

Window border is a window decoration component provided by some window managers, that appears around the active window. Some window managers may also display a border around background windows. Typically window borders can be used to provide window motion enabling the window to be moved or resized by using a drag action. Some window managers provide useless borders which are purely for decorative purposes and offer no window motion facility. These window managers do not allow windows to be resized by using a drag action on the border.


Titlebar

The Titlebar is a
graphical control element A graphical widget (also graphical control element or control) in a graphical user interface is an Human–machine interface, element of interaction, such as a Button (computing), button or a scrollbar, scroll bar. Controls are software compo ...
and part of the window decoration provided by some window managers. As a convention, it is located at the top of the window as a horizontal bar. The titlebar is typically used to display the name of the application or the name of the open document, and may provide title bar buttons for minimizing, maximizing, closing or rolling up of application windows. These functions are typically placed in the top-right of the screen to allow fast and inaccurate inputs through barrier pointing. Typically titlebars can be used to provide window motion enabling the window to be moved around the screen by using a drag action. Some window managers provide titlebars which are purely for decorative purposes and offer no window motion facility. These window managers do not allow windows to be moved around the screen by using a drag action on the titlebar. Default title-bar text often incorporates the name of the application and/or of its developer. The name of the
host A host is a person responsible for guests at an event or for providing hospitality during it. Host may also refer to: Places *Host, Pennsylvania, a village in Berks County People *Jim Host (born 1937), American businessman *Michel Host ( ...
running the application also appears frequently. Various methods (
menu In a restaurant, the menu is a list of food and beverages offered to customers and the prices. A menu may be à la carte – which presents a list of options from which customers choose – or table d'hôte, in which case a pre-established seque ...
-selections, escape sequences, setup parameters, command-line options – depending on the computing environment) may exist to give the
end-user In product development, an end user (sometimes end-user) is a person who ultimately uses or is intended to ultimately use a product. The end user stands in contrast to users who support or maintain the product, such as sysops, system administrato ...
some control of title-bar text. Document-oriented applications like a text editor may display the
filename A filename or file name is a name used to uniquely identify a computer file in a directory structure. Different file systems impose different restrictions on filename lengths. A filename may (depending on the file system) include: * name &ndas ...
or path of the document being edited. Most
web browser A web browser is application software for accessing websites. When a User (computing), user requests a web page from a particular website, the browser retrieves its Computer file, files from a web server and then displays the page on the user' ...
s will render the contents of the
HTML element An HTML element is a type of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) document component, one of several types of HTML nodes (there are also text nodes, comment nodes and others). The first used version of HTML was written by Tim Berners-Lee in 1993 ...
title in their title bar, sometimes pre- or postfixed by the application name.
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and some versions of
Mozilla Firefox Mozilla Firefox, or simply Firefox, is a Free and open-source software, free and open-source web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation. It uses the Gecko (software), Gecko Browser engine, rend ...
place their tabs in the title bar. This makes it unnecessary to use the main window for the tabs, but usually results in the title becoming truncated. An asterisk at its beginning may be used to signify unsaved changes. The title bar often contains widgets for system commands relating to the window, such as a ''maximize'', ''minimize'', ''rollup'' and ''close'' buttons; and may include other content such as an application icon, a
clock A clock or a timepiece is a device used to Measurement, measure and indicate time. The clock is one of the oldest Invention, human inventions, meeting the need to measure intervals of time shorter than the natural units such as the day, t ...
, etc. In many
graphical user interface The GUI ( "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ), graphical user interface, is a form of user interface that allows User (computing), users to Human–computer interaction, interact with electronic devices through graphical icon (comp ...
s, including the
Mac OS Two major famlies of Mac operating systems were developed by Apple Inc. In 1984, Apple debuted the operating system that is now known as the Classic Mac OS, "Classic" Mac OS with its release of the System 1, original Macintosh System Software. ...
and
Microsoft Windows Windows is a group of several proprietary graphical operating system families developed and marketed by Microsoft Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational corporation, multinational technology company, technology corporatio ...
interfaces, the user may move a window by grabbing the title bar and dragging.


Titlebar buttons

Some window managers provide titlebar buttons which provide the facility to minimize, maximize, roll-up or close application windows. Some window managers may display the titlebar buttons in the taskbar or taskpanel, rather than in the titlebars. The following buttons may appear in the titlebar: * Close * Maximize * Minimize * Resize * Roll-up (or WindowShade) Note that a
context menu A context menu (also called contextual, shortcut, and pop up or pop-up menu) is a menu In a restaurant, the menu is a list of food and beverages offered to customers and the prices. A menu may be à la carte – which presents a list of opt ...
may be available from some titlebar buttons or by right-clicking.


Titlebar icon

Some window managers display a small icon in the titlebar that may vary according to the application on which it appears. The titlebar icon may behave like a menu button, or may provide a context menu facility. OS X applications commonly have a proxy
icon An icon () is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Catholic Church, Catholic churches. They are not simply artworks; "an icon is a sacred image used in religious devo ...
next to the window title that functions the same as the document's icon in the file manager.


Document status icon

Some window managers display an icon or symbol to indicate that the contents of the window have not been saved or confirmed in some way:
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displays a dot in the center of its close button;
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appends an
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to the title.


Tiling window managers

Some
tiling window manager In computing, a tiling window manager is a window manager A window manager is system software that controls the placement and appearance of window (computing), windows within a windowing system in a graphical user interface. Most window ma ...
s provide title bars which are purely for informative purposes and offer no controls or menus. These window managers do not allow windows to be moved around the screen by using a drag action on the titlebar and may also serve the purpose of a status line from stacking window managers.


In popular operating systems


See also

* Client-Side Decoration *
Display server In computing, a windowing system (or window system) is software that manages separately different parts of Electronic visual display, display screens. It is a type of graphical user interface (GUI) which implements the WIMP (computing), WIMP (Wi ...
*
Graphical user interface The GUI ( "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ), graphical user interface, is a form of user interface that allows User (computing), users to Human–computer interaction, interact with electronic devices through graphical icon (comp ...
* Human interface guidelines * WIMP (computing) *
Window manager A window manager is system software that controls the placement and appearance of window (computing), windows within a windowing system in a graphical user interface. Most window managers are designed to help provide a desktop environment. They ...


References

{{Authority control Graphical control elements Graphical user interface elements