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Motif and CDE 2.1 Style Guide

Elements of the User Interface

An element is a distinguishable part of the user interface that may or may not contain subelements. The elements in a user interface are:

The following sections describe each of these elements.


Data is an element whose visual representation denotes its value. For example, text is data that is denoted by readable numbers and letters; a binary file is denoted by 0s and 1s.


A graphic is an element that appears as an image. Graphic elements use a unique format that an application recognizes. XBM, GIF, and JPEG are common graphic formats.


An object is an element that visually represents items that have behavior and contents not revealed solely by their visual representation. Objects are often represented as icons, but could be list elements as well. An object generally has a pop-up menu associated with it through which its contents or behavior are accessed.


An icon is an object represented as a graphic, often with an associated label.


A control is an element whose behavior is predefined and that is generally supported directly by the Motif toolkit implementation. Types of controls include spring-loaded and tear-off controls.


A choice is a control that is selected by using the SELECT button (or keyboard) to initiate a user action or to toggle a value. There are three kinds of choices: action choices, modal choices, and toggle choices.

Composite Element

A composite element includes one or more of the following:


A workspace is a container where all elements reside. Workspaces generally contain the following elements:


A window is an element on the workspace that presents a view of an object or conducts a dialog with the user. Windows are used to present objects, messages, or menus, or to prompt for information. The two types of windows are primary windows and secondary windows.

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